“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, December 5, 2015

But But But

But I simply cannot accept statements such as: “The object is already there. Before we look at it. Global warming is not a function of our measuring devices.” (49) What’s missing here is the proper sequence via which knowledge is produced. A theory of global warming is confirmed, by computer modeling based (in part) on measuring devices, which then retrospectively comes to describe a state prior to the result of this praxis.   (McKenzie Wark)

...that's exactly the basis on which I argue for hyperobjects. Of course science lets us see them retroactively. Unless you are some kind of idealist, you think there are phenomena that are pointing to something real, that these aren't just fictions. You simply aren't allowed to say exactly what the are, because Hume, who founds modern causality theories, doesn't let you.

The theory of global warming confirms the reality of global warming. The difficulty of pointing directly to global warming without all this jiggery pokery is what makes it so illuminating of our contemporary ways of thinking and seeing. (And not-seeing.)

But if it helps, you can imagine an invisible sentence about a whole lot of sciency stuff showing us things we can't directly point to, in between the second and third sentences of that quotation from Hyperobjects.

Still, there's something there--why else would a scientist herself care to start looking?

Mind you: I'm blown away when anyone reads me at all.
But unlike him I think this may mean more, rather than less attention to molecular flows, be they of oil or oil-based polymers...

Wait..where do I say we need to stop doing science? Or thinking? Or trying to do political stuff?

Isn't that misprision just an aesthetic preference: He seems to like moles, whereas I like molecules...er, hmm, futurality is just one dimension of a thing. And it's not about some vague cloud of unknowing...there is also a very very specific appearance, which we need to think and explain and cope with and suffer under and overthrow (if it's oppressing us).

And I don't mind the aesthetic. Nowadays a lot of humanistic scholars have no time for it. I remember my teacher Terry Eagleton and his lectures that became that book, The Ideology of the Aesthetic. Eagleton was the typical Oxford don insofar as he was really mad at typical Oxford dons. But even he had and has time for art. Of course he does. And I think he kinda says something I like to say, which influenced me a lot, from The Eighteenth Brumaire: the workers must borrow their poetry from the future...

How come we all turned into aura-stripping poetry police? It's funny (aka really sad) how we in the aesthetics business (media studies, for instance--go on! admit it! we get paid to study pixels, paint, words and their mediation and and and, not to accelerate things around Geneva), can use the aesthetic as a way to put people down. “It's a lovely poem, but it's not practical.” That's what they said about Shelley--Marx's favorite poet.

But the hyperobject is still a theory of nature

No. Once you've stretched the term Nature that far, it just means reality, which is fine. But Nature has to be normative in order to mean anything, and that's why I think we need to drop the term.

Morton thinks we have to abandon the category of nature, which he takes to mean something like environment, a background, a thing apart. Hence his famous slogan ecology without nature. I appreciate the rhetorical gambit here, but I don’t know if in the long run this is a good tactic. One would have thought that ecology was an even more troubling term: oikos plus logos, as if there could be a logic or truth to metabolism within which the satisfaction of human social needs is achieved. I actually take the theory of the hyperobject to mean: there is no ecology. There is no homeostatic cycle of life that could be restored through the withdrawal of human interference.

But that's what ecology doesn't mean. That's a certain ideological speech that is Nature language underwritten by ecological factoids. Oh sure, it calls itself ecology. You can call yourself anything. Ecology is the study of interrelated lifeform systems (hey Mr. Science lover! We're talking about a mode of knowledge here!).

If you look at my stuff, you'll see I'm super hard on harmonious bigger-than-parts holism. And getting even more fierce as I go on...

I so much prefer the term “coexistence” for that very reason.

And pretty much everything I've done has been about staying with the poo (scroll to penultimate paragraph).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Who is missing from this post? Could it be that Civil War has broken out between agential realists of Santa Cruz (they do not actually say Global Warming or fetuses do not exist until one measures) aka not! OOOers and the Media people uncomfortably close to Clan Cricthley have split in two and we are all environ(mental) flotsam in the Giaour of that other Romantic poet who unwittingly described the shape of hyperobjects to come? It needs not. The best word in today's post is 'coexistence' not ecology which can not even be understood in this language. Or the Tardis and their wormholes.

Or maybe we need a different and more desperate Gyre of the Yeats variety for Parishagen and beyond:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight; a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?