“Was not their mistake once more bred of the life of slavery that they had been living?—a life which was always looking upon everything, except mankind, animate and inanimate—‘nature,’ as people used to call it—as one thing, and mankind as another, it was natural to people thinking in this way, that they should try to make ‘nature’ their slave, since they thought ‘nature’ was something outside them” — William Morris

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Show Us Your Papers! (PDF)

My MP3 recorder didn't work! So I have taken the unusual step of uploading the actual talk text. Let's see, to give you an idea of the atmosphere. There were about 200 people in the room. There was a long and lively Q&A. People laughed.

One question was about acts--why do I flatten them out so that they are indistinct, allegedly? To which I replied, it's quite the opposite, for me, acts are highly differentiated, and action is intrinsic to what an object is. Another question was about the dreaded narcissism--how to avoid it? I said don't avoid it, it's great! Just read Derrida on narcissism! What is required is that we extend narcissism to include more and more beings. Getting rid of it would destroy the relation to the other in advance. Another question was about the imminence of disaster--to which I responded that the disaster had already occurred, “we are already dead” etc. Another question was about people--are they singular or can they be groups or sets, collectives in other words?

Fantastic group of people on a fantastic day. There were many points of connection between my talk and others'. For instance, to name just a few: Kali Rubaii on dying-with (I invented that phrase in a chat afterwards but it really works to describe what she does); Jonathan Wald on orchids vs. corn (me: flowers vs stems); Emilie Dionne on the ethics of physical vulnerability and susceptibility; Joan Roughgarden on affiliations of humans and nonhumans; Hector Hoyos on individuals vs. people.

Show Us Your Papers! by Timothy Morton


cgerrish said...

Wish I'd been able to make the trip across the Bay to hear the talk. The question I was going to ask had to do with Harman's recent book on Latour. In the book, there's a lot of talk about Hobbes, Rousseau and the social contract.There are two aspects of this that are interesting.

1. The idea that the social contract is not only between humans. This is similar to the critique of correlationism.

2. The contrasting ideas of what exists before the contract. A war of all against all, or a peaceful state of nature. These ideas seem to also have purchase when discussing accerlationism, and what might obtain after the contract -- humans, as the main signatories, would no longer be a party to the deal.

So, one can imagine a social contract (one among many) of limited duration between a human, some polar bears, this cat and those trees as an ethical and political project.

But there's also the sense in Harman's book that there is no before and after social contracts. Once you get used to the idea that there's not a single contract and that any object can (and is) a signatory, the visions of pre-contract nature evaporate.

And certainly a contract could be thought of as a set of rules for playing this particular game until we're done playing.

Anonymous said...

I liked reading your words about altruism and the car, which you formulated whilst driving with me in Winnipeg:).

Dr. KAS said...

Dr. Morton, which essay from Critical Inquiry were you referencing specifically at the start of this talk? As someone that fits your category of a deconstructionist that is also faithful to ecology, I was quite curious.

Unknown said...

I'd guess he's referring to the Alex Galloway essay that appeared there a year or so back.