Audio from Apple 6: “Is the City a Machine for the Making of Gods?”

For those interested Kester Brewin has posted the audio as well as a pdf of the handout I refer to in my talk. I was really encouraged by the event (despite the World Cup induced low turn out), which sees people outside the walls of academy coming together to talk about ideas in a very serious manner. I think you’ll see from the Q&A that the audience was quite engaged and did not shy away from challenging me on a number of issues. I wish I could have spoken with more who attended the event and hope that these events continue and grow.

13 thoughts on “Audio from Apple 6: “Is the City a Machine for the Making of Gods?”

  1. Your thoughts on Bergson, I think, are helpful for me to think about violence, conflict, and peacebuilding, especially in terms of John Paul Lederach’s “authentic communities” which on the one hand seem to be informed by the same school of thought as Wendell Barry & Co. I have a sense of background for your critiques of my essay now, and some tools with which to take your concerns more seriously, because I do. Most recently I’ve also been paying attention to scripture around “seeking the peace of the city” (in which we are in exile–Jeremiah 29:7).
    Additionally, in terms of Christianity in both its apocalyptic and diasporic character (Heidegger and apocalyptic, Bergson and diasporic, to place them quite crassly, and I definitely don’t know enough about either to do this to them, but bear with me in this heuristic dualism (if I understood that correctly)). I’ve been paying attention to Foucault’s and Deleuze’s notions of immanence in terms of the Gospel–for example, the notion that the Kingdom is immanent and that the peace of Christ is immanent, this is inaugurated apocalyptically, that is, through the cross.
    My question is, therefore, are there ways in which Heidegger’s and Bergson’s “solutions to the problems” can be thought of together? Perhaps paradoxically if necessary?

  2. It’s interesting to me that you consistently meet resistance by those who think you too optimistic. I.e., those who seem far more intent to trade in apocalyptic doom scenarios. Not to say such people are prats about it. Just seems an underlying current in these conversations. Is this rearticulation of human complicity in its own destruction ‘pastoral’, in the sense of trying to change things in the here and now; or is it some residual religious impulse that appeals to/looks for objects of guilt and shame?

  3. Kampen,

    I’m very OK with taking on aspects of Heidegger and it would be silly to think that Bergson in and of himself has the answer to such a global, ecological problem. I hope the talk made it clear that I don’t want to treat them as fetish objects and that I know people who have suggested really interesting ways of using Heidegger’s ideas in a way that doesn’t fall into the mistakes I think he himself did (and other philosophies that share a similar localist vision). The way to go about doing that is to relativize these ideas by placing them within an ecological context. So things like dwelling can be very helpful, but only if we realize that his discussion of “rootedness” doesn’t make good ecological sense without a massive die off of human beings.

    Thanks everyone for taking time to listen to engage with this though.

  4. There are two books I think are his most interesting in terms of social and political questions and then the Introduction to Metaphysics is a great essay that captures his approach to thinking in general:

    Creative Evolution

    Introduction to Metaphysics

    The Two Sources of Morality and Religion (sorry couldn’t find a link).

    Good secondary sources:

    John Mullarkey’s Bergson and Philosophy should do most everything you need. (Again no link, I assume they can’t sell Notre Dame’s books?)

    Gilles Deleuze’s Bergsonism is good.

    Those should really be enough.

  5. Thanks Anthony. This is good work. I find it somewhat necessary for those of us working in continental thought to be mindful of the social/political ramifications–sexism, racism, speciesism, etc.–of continental metaphysics/anti-metaphysics. I’m appreciative of your work here for three reasons: (1) I simply have an abiding interest in Bergson and those in the wake of his influence, and (2) you have made explicit the consequences/productions/implications of two great philosophers in regards to the environment, and (3) you have wisely chosen against fetishism. To simply pit Bergson vs. Heidegger for its own sake is absurd. [I remember that, at my first SPEP, most of the talks were of the “Derrida vs. Deleuze” sort. I hated it.] The wise approach, the one you have taken, is to see these two philosophers in their own rights and unpack both the thought and unthought in their philosophies, to see how they deterritorialize and reconstruct in a new way, albeit different from one another.

    In your last comment, you have suggested Deleuze’s Bergsonism. While I highly esteem this book, I don’t think it appropriate as an introduction to Bergson. It seems to me that Bergsonism is more about Deleuze’s own thought then Bergson’s. [I’d make the same claim about the Spinoza book.] Having said that, it is my favorite text on Bergson.

    I’d also recommend Len Lawlor’s The Challenge of Bergsonism, which contains as an appendix Hyppolite’s “Aspects divers de la memoire chez Bergson.” Also, for anyone needing a better grasp of 20th c. French philosophy, I recommend Len’s Thinking Through French Philosophy.

    After thinking of these two, I now recall that Len’s two more recent books focus on the concept of life and animality. Anthony, have you read Len’s The Implications of Immanence or This is Not Sufficient? I think these would be of help to your project.

    Thanks again. I’m passing on the Apple6 link to several colleagues.

  6. Thanks for the kind words. I think Deleuze’s book is helpful in bringing out the way that Bergson uses dualisms, but I take your point. I agree that Lawlor’s book is very good and only didn’t include it because it focuses on Matter and Memory, though his appendix on TSMR is really good. I have read his Implications book, which I reviewed on the blog when it first came out, and while I thought it was good on a number of levels, I felt a bit disappointed with it overall. I want to check out his new one, but haven’t had time as of late. Will try to move it up the queue. Thanks again.

  7. Just wanted to say thanks ‘in public’ as it were to Anthony for delivering brilliant material. I’m still cogitating on the implications of what’s he’s said, and will be for some time.

    And if anyone has any names of people they think would like to speak at Apple, do let me know on – we’re going to be taking a break in August and may be September, but will be back for more diversions into the interface between technology and theology.

    Thanks again Anthony.

  8. Thank you, A.P.S. for putting this onlline: I found this genuinely lluminating.

    In addition, it also gave me something like the joy that I get from Zizek’s public appearances (as opposed to his books, which, with a few notable exceptions, I often find disappointing by the end): platitudes laid out, platitudes exploded, then amidst the burnt out husks of ‘what everyone knows to be the terms of the debate” the real thinking begins…

    Good stuff….”smells like…philosophy…”

    Also, I’m especially grateful for the (in retrospect, but not previously obvious) idea that having the whole planet literally and figuratively rooted in the (literal and figurative) ‘soil’ of authentic, goat-killing, rural communities who would presumably make decisions on the basis of the silent head-shake of a local farmer is actually LESS ecologically sustainable than the urban jungles which are the stuff of so many Heideggerian nightmares.

    I actually hope that you get a chance to make this in more (and larger) public forums because so much environmental consciousness seems to me to be instinctively ‘Heideggerian’ (in regards to its localism &c.) with or without actual reference to the guy who wrote “Sein und Zeit.” Thus, to speak sincerely and passionately about ecology, without raising the spectre of ‘soft fascism’ would be, I think, a real service to the public debate on ecology.

    I also liked how (if I read this rightly) the Bergsonian notions allow you to suggest, that, contrary to popular wisdom, the cliches of ‘urbanism’ and even of a detached, inauthentic, stupefied, “urban mentality” might be…something like a conditio sine qua non for ecological consciousness rather than an eternal stumbling block to its emergence.

    This last point, I admit , wasn’t something that you actually said (always a bad sign, I know) as much as a thought that occurred to me while I was listeneing: it seemed to me that you (Bergson?) were suggesting that only with sufficient distance from our ‘roots’, might we have the ability to overcome the dualisms/aggression/selfishness which, while -expedient- for our purposes (given our “natures” in one sense of the word) nonetheless obscure the truth (‘nature understood in a different sense, as fundametnal reality).

    It’s as if the mystical must pass through the mechanical in order to become the mystical again. And this is genius, not only for sounding cool to me (which is a perfectly good reason) but for its way of pointing to a genuine ecological consciousness that would circumvent the voelkisch, reactionary elements that are so often apart of anti-urbanism…

    More “Grey Ecology” please.

    P.S. I know that is largely a positive comment, and thus unlikely to earn me too much ire, but I have just overcome not only my inveterate fear of the comment policy in order to write this, but also my even greater fear of Adam’s ‘don’t be afraid of the comments policy’ post.

    So whatever you do please don’t….

    …Hmm…I now realise that anything I say after that ellipses will and probably should be visited upon me with furious vengeance…I’ll leave that hanging.

    But, again, thank you for this.



  9. […] The almost-hagiographic treatment of greenness allows for a dialectical swing away from its opposite—grey, which is the city. Reactionary guilt and misanthropy become the driving forces in creating a myth that finds its fullest expression in deep ecology: humans are the enemy. Anthony Paul Smith of AUFS explains the problems with this view well here, here, and here. […]

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