Nature is not natural and can never be naturalized — Graham Harman

Friday, October 31, 2014

You Made Me Realise

The essay is a close reading of this.

Well, actually, more like this one:

Beauty Is Death

First few paragraphs of me new essay:

Beauty Is Death
Timothy Morton

I base this essay on Kant's “Analytic of the Beautiful,” the first part of his Critique of Judgment. In the introduction to the Critique of Judgment, Kant outlines the three basic properties of the beauty experience in a sentence whose twists and turns, and mirror-like inversions, are a masterpiece of hiding something in plain sight:

  • That object the form of which (not the material aspect of its representation, as sensation) in mere reflection on it (without any intention of acquiring a concept from it) is judged as the ground of a pleasure in the representation of such an object—with its representation this pleasure is also judged to be necessarily combined, consequently not merely for the subject who apprehends this form but for everyone who judges at all. The object is then called beautiful.

In this sentence is the key to the threefold Kantian theory of beauty. It is nonconceptual: when I try to isolate what is beautiful either in the object or in my experience of it, I can't grasp it. First, beauty gives me the feel of thinking, in a paradoxical membrane between what Kant calls pure reason and what he calls practical reason. This feel is not directed at a particular object of thought, but is rather directed by thought at itself, in a loop that Kant here calls “mere reflection.” Secondly, beauty is virtual. It is as if the feel of thinking reveals something in the object itself, as if I were magically capable of grasping the ungraspable thing-in-itself, what in the thing is distinctly itself, not its data, its phenomena. I see a duck: the duck's wings and feet are not the duck, yet they are part of the duck. I can't grasp the duck as such. But in the beauty experience, it is as if I am able to touch the unicity of a thing itself, by analogy with the way I can feel thinking, or reason, as an indivisible quantum. Secondly, the beauty experience is universalizable—be careful to see the “izable” suffix here, because it means that this universality is non-coercive. I feel like putting speakers on the Empire State Building so that everyone can hear this beautiful tune. But I shan't, because the coercion would ruin the beauty experience. In this respect, beauty vividly shows me the rush of cognition, and the nonviolence of democracy (pure and practical reason), in a strange mixture.

An analogy might be love. When I love someone, it is as if I have always loved them, that they were destined for me, from beginningless time. I feel this vividly even though I know very well that we just met last Thursday. It is as if cognition doesn't spoil beauty. I can know everything about the historical, social, economic and ecological (and geological, even) context of a poem—and it's still beautiful. Contextualization doesn't destroy it, despite the intentions of some forms of contextualism, which are to demystify beauty. The mystery remains, indestructible.

Moreover, the beauty experience is an attunement (German, Stimmung). The beauty experience tunes up my cognition and my feeling of freedom.

But what is Kant hiding? Kant is hiding how, in order for this experience to happen, there is always already an object, not related to me at all, an object that doesn't depend on my transcendental subjective ability to turn on the lights and see it, or think it. This object is emanating a force field that holds me in its tractor beam. The object tunes me. My cognitive tune-up is possible because there is already a tractor beam, described by some philosophy as givenness.

The object compels me, just this object, this painting. This object is positively tricksterish, as in the culture of a Paleolithic human, insofar as it is vivid and real yet ungraspable. Its appearance is itself, and not itself, at the very same time. It is as if Kant, the gatekeeper of modernity, one of the thinkers who allows humans to do anything to anything because things are just mirrors of (human) thought and desire—the Kant whom Lacan pairs with the Marqus de Sade—has somehow discovered a tiny place in the human universe that is decidedly shamanic.

Why? Because Kant was obsessed with mesmerism, animal magnetism: the idea that objects emanate energy fields, whether they are living or non-living. The bowdlerized child of mesmerism is hypnotism and telepathy. The bowdlerized child of this bowdlerization is the Freudian psyche. Freud himself was also fascinated by the paranormal, a physical yet “impossible” realm, impossible if all there can be is only (gross) body and (pure) mind. But the very experience of beauty shows me that there is at least a membrane between body and mind, a membrane that some cultures (Chinese, Indian, Tibetan and so on) are happy to call the subtle body. This kind of body is in me but it isn't me, yet it has sensations, moods, feelings. It is accessed in yoga, in “spiritual” or religious experiences that are idealized or demonized (or just plain old taboo), and in the “paranormal.” This paranormal—the experience of a non-agricultural human—is what is discovered at the very start of modernity with its eventual global warming and mass extinction. Discovered, and repressed, hidden away at birth.

"I"m Not a Scientist"


Thursday, October 30, 2014

Brilliance of Phenomena versus Ego

People are usually very nervous about fully experiencing the bright and colorful world. Nobody can see this level of relative truth without having cut through all the aspects of ego, because there is still a little attachment. People may see blue as blue, but at the same time, they use that to reinforce their idea of how blue affects their state of mind. Whether they regard things as powerful, good, nice, or threatening, there are always psychological implications behind the colors, forms, noises, and physical sensations they perceive. There is always some implication behind the whole thing. So the relative truth, is very difficult to experience fully, although it is very ordinary. --Trungpa Rinpoche

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Best Eco Anthem

Well, this pretty much sums it totally up, doesn't it?

And it has nothing to do with apocalypse. And yet...the intensity...

I always liked how the word “emergency” sounds like “emerge and see.”

We Are Undead

Other scholars tune in to the fact that species is not metaphysically present at all, but rather an uncanny awareness that despite my conscious intentions and my tiny meaningless actions, I am part of a zombie that just functions (at least at this point) according to long established algorithmic procedures.

Ecology and Philosophy

I'm teaching this graduate class next term. 

ENGL 591
Ecology and Philosophy
Timothy Morton

The current ecological crisis (maybe “crisis” is far too limited a term) means that humans are undergoing an upgrade in how they think and feel about nonhuman beings. An upgrade, whether they like it or not, and whether they are aware of it or not: even Rush Limbaugh needs to wear sunscreen.

The crisis in ecological awareness is thus also a crisis in philosophy. For the last two hundred years, a very interesting movement and counter-movement has evolved within philosophy. This dynamic is about how we allow lifeforms into thought, into our ethical and political concern, and into social space.

Furthermore, it's quite clear that we live in a set of overlapping, often contradictory, philosophies embodied in fields, food, energy, the way we talk to cats, how we make art and what we do (or don't do) about toilets, meat, and ice (and so on). These embodied philosophies make up a 12 000-year pattern.

This class will complicate and clarify your ability to engage with nonhuman beings.
You will improve your ability to think and reflect, and allow yourself to be wrong, or puzzled, or curious.

You will understand a living tradition that deeply affects the biosphere, of which theory is a somewhat narrow bandwidth. And make ideas about what to do about it.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Climate Depression / Eco-Therapy

First, learn about climate depression.

Then here is ecotherapy.

Another IPCC Anthem

Play it loud

Anthem of the Intra-Planetary Concerned Critters

One of them, anyway. Turn it loud.

How the IPCC Conducts Itself

The basics:

This website says that you should say FUCK in capital letters. Like THIS PLANET IS FUCKED.

I get the article's main point about depression, biospheric depression. I suffer from depression, I get it.

Depression is a freakin trap, ladies and gentlemen.

Just ask someone who suffers from clinical depression, for reals.

You shouldn't put that on other people by shouting FUCK.

The trouble is, scientists, you are indeed pushing dogma here. Sorry, but you are. It's not because of the science, but because of the attitude (scientism). The anti-global warming public sees the threat. Sorry, but it's true. You are trying to force them to change their belief.

The mixture of “We're not sure, this is just statistics, 95% accurate etc” plus scientistic table thumping, now with FUCK to add to the mix, is a killer.

Just ask anyone who knows anything about art. Anyone.

The point is to amaze people. To assume you're right. To speak from a warrior position of total outrageous confidence. You don't need to say FUCK. You just need to blow people's mind.

It's only tricky if you need to find the inspiration. But it's coming from a place of devotion and passion, not aggression.

This planet has had enough human aggression.


IPCC: The Rules

The Intra-Planetary Concerned Critters abide by the following rules, when they hold press conferences in tandem with the official IPCC, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. 

The initial tasks for the IPCC will be a series of press conferences, just like the IPCC hold. 

At these press conferences, possibly held in the lobbies of the places where the IPCC is holding theirs, the following will be the case: 

Anyone can be on the IPCC panel. Philosophers, artists, scientists, normal people, anyone. 

There can be many IPCCs. 

Members of the IPCC wear animal hats. The human face should be visible and audible but other lifeforms should be present in some way. 

The sillier the hat, the better. The Council of All Beings is a Deep Ecology practice created by Joanna Macy. One makes an animal mask and speaks to the other animal mask wearers about the pain of the planet. This is very moving but it's preaching to the choir. And it needs a bit of humor. 

Enough with the apocalypse already! 

Okay, so here are the rules I've been drawing up. Feel free to discuss and modify them here. 

1. Keep it as gentle as possible. That doesn't mean you can't be outrageous. On a meek platform, be perky, outrageous and inscrutable. Aggression and shouting facts won't work and will deplete your mojo.

2. The main thing is to amaze, bedazzle and otherwise be miraculous.

3. Don't argue. You are not trying to persuade people, you are trying to instill a sense of wonderment, laughter, surprise and compassion.

4. Comedy is deeper than tragedy. You can be tragic but within a more profound comic frame. Don't fan the flames of doom!

5. You are not trying to stop the end of the world. It has already ended. Instead, work with the surprise, uncanniness and ultimately relief that "we are already dead."

6. Try to speak as your chosen lifeform as much as you can but you can always break out of role. This is silly, confusing and fun.

7. Be a trickster. 
Your view: we never left the Paleolithic, as human bodies and as anxious beings who can be scared and paranoid and hysterical with laughter. This there is no need to return anywhere or progress into the future. All we have to do is notice where we are really at. 

8. If someone in the audience challenges you don't fight them. Join them. Admit as much as you can the silliness of the situation and agree with their ridicule. 

Monday, October 27, 2014

Extinction Marathon

This is part of my contribution to Hans Ulrich Obrist's brain child at the Serpentine, an event featuring all kinds of people including Yoko Ono.

Ragnarok with Me

Jón Gnarr told me this fascinating thing:

When Jörmungandr, the Midgard Serpent, stops sucking its own tail, this is the beginning of Ragnarok, the apocalyptic battle.

Agrilogistics has been a constant process of trying to un-loop the loop form of things.

Sunday, October 26, 2014


This is the first communication of the Intra-Planetary Concerned Critters.

If you wish to join us, link to this post.

More soon.

Snaggle snaggle