“Any real change implies the breakup of the world as one has always known it, the loss of all that gave one an identity, the end of safety.” – James Baldwin, “Faulkner and Desegregation”
At the end of this book event I wanted to offer a final reflection. It isn’t clear to me if such a work is a token of my gratitude or an imposition that people read yet more of my words. But I hope here to express my gratitude for all the care each of the respondents showed in their posts. Anyone who has ever published knows that it is an event laden with anxiety. Will they hate it? Will they mock me? Will they understand me? Will anyone even read it?! So to be read in such a kind way by so many friends was truly humbling and I am thankful to all of them for taking time to pay me this honor. Perhaps more importantly were the challenges that they put forward to me. These remind me again of the perversity of nature as present in our thinking. Nothing is ever finished, nothing is ever done, but neither does nothing need to be finished or done. So I can go about the work of thinking again and again, with the knowledge of a kind of salvation given in the secret that there is nothing to save. Only, instead, is there a World to breakup and in that breakup we may find a kind of fidelity to the earth, a kind of uncovering of the earth that lies beneath the World, and upon that earth we may find each other and the grace that exists there even amidst the violence that will remain. Continue reading ““We still don’t know if it is a joke or not”: Final Reflections on A Non-Philosophical Theory of Nature Book Event”
Allow me, in the stumbling attempt to respond to Joshua’s difficult provocation to just for a moment put on my best Rust Cohle mask. To stay outside of Carcosa for just a moment, even though the World is already Carcosa, I want to push it off for a moment through a pessimistic fabulation. I was a child when green consciousness first took hold of me. The first Earth Day and shows like Captain Planet made very clear to me the precarity of living on this planet, to say nothing of the general anxiety I had about geopolitics after I first became aware of the massive violence being held back by even more violence. That anxiety was first fostered when I saw the word “coup” on TV and watched tanks rolling through Moscow. I understood that this country was like ours and yet it was radically transforming. I didn’t understand much more than that, but the very fact that such a radical transformation could take place frightened me. Then it cemented when my step-father was sent to Kuwait during the First Gulf War and I watched every night as the green light of night-vision cameras captured the reigning down of death upon Baghdad and as they trumped up the threat of Scud missiles killing “our boys”, that is, my step-father.
I was born, like everyone, into a violent and stupid World.
Continue reading “Collapse Is the Name for the Collision Between Economy and Ecology: A Response to Joshua Ramey (A Non-Philosophical Theory of Nature Book Event)”
Adam’s post brings to the fore a question I was asked repeatedly when I would present papers based off my research or when I would go in for the doctoral annual review process. More than once I was surprised to find a theologian ask, “but isn’t your use of ecology just metaphorical?” I always wanted to say back, “Is your discussion of the Trinity or work on the bodily resurrection just metaphorical?” And, as Adam rightly deduces, my suggestion that it isn’t a mere metaphor has nothing really to do with the current trend in theory to prostrate before some chosen science or as Laruelle sums up the history leading to this moment: “After the reading of philosophical texts (Derrida), of Marxist texts on history (Althusser), of Freud (Lacan), and then of the Human Sciences (Foucault), the interpretation of great mathematical texts is invited to take up the baton. It is decidedly the case that here, philosophy (and in particular, French philosophy) falls back into its habitual, pusillanimous mistakes, refusing to experiment with philosophy itself in its being, rather than just its objects, languages, and intra-philosophical becomings. This philosophical immobilization by way of history (as obligatory as ever, if often denied) is consummated, paradoxically, in a philosophy ‘without history’ (Althusser and Badiou). A philosophy that ends up as a lazy queen, who hitches her carriage up to a pack of scientists, and can only get going by riding in the wake of the history of sciences (Anti-Badiou, p. ix).” This is a strange continuation of what is perhaps most damning in Continental philosophy where students used to be encouraged to spend their life explicating Heidegger (a figure to whom, like Adam, I find I keep returning to), but are now encouraged to dedicate their intellectual talents to explicating the science that gets everything right. My attempt at a unified theory is a failure if that is what the engagement with ecology ends up being just as much as if it were a mere metaphor. Continue reading “Metaphor and the Ecological Transfer of Energy: A Reply to Adam Kotsko (A Non-Philosophical Theory of Nature Book Event)”
Alex’s focus on the question of the secular that runs throughout Ecologies of Thought brings out a question of the relationship between naturalism and secularism. To get at that I want to spend a little time engaging with the work of Christian critics of the secular, before I lay out the framework from which a fuller exposition of the generic secular would have to arise. Even when I had more sympathy for John Milbank’s project I was always stuck with the theocentric misanthropy (and assuredly this involves a kind of misogyny) present in the opening to Theology & Social Theory: “Once, there was no ‘secular’. And the secular was not latent, waiting to fill more space with the steam of the ‘purely human’, when the pressure of the sacred was relaxed.” You may not see it, but I remember when I first read this passage I couldn’t help but think, upon first reading in 2005, of “the steam of the purely human” alongside of Agent Smith’s remarks about the stink of human beings. Later on, when I began to give more attention to theories that attended to anti-racist and anti-colonial struggles, I began to think of the human steam as the pressure cookers that are prison cells or the open cages before the sun on Guantanamo or the holds of ships that human beings hide in when trying to escape one space for another or the tiny apartments that the poor throughout the world cram themselves into after working too many hours on too many days. Continue reading ““Jail Was Heat”; Or, From the Empty Space of the Secular to the Generic Time of Suffering: A Response to Alex Dubilet (A Non-Philosophical Theory of Nature Book Event)”
[This post had to be re-posted for formatting reasons. Readers interested in more of Joshua’s work on economics and philosophy should check out his blog Absolute Economics, where this post is also posted. -eds]
How much sense does it make to think of nature as a gigantic system of exchanges? Why does it seem so intuitive, so obvious, that what goes on in ecosystems can be mapped through economic language, through the language of opportunities, optimization, equilibrium, management, interests, investments? Is it just because Darwin was reading Malthus when he penned The Origin of the Species? Or is it because, as Philip Mirowski has been detailing for years, there is a long and complicated history of “transferred metaphors” between economics and other sciences (especially physics, biology, and cybernetics)?
One of the implications I take from Anthony’s advocacy of “unified theory” is that if ecology mutates philosophy, non-philosophy must also mutate ecology. Continue reading “Fabulous Gnosis, or How to Not Think Ecology as Economy (A Non-Philosophical Theory of Nature Book Event)”
It is interesting, though it says something in part about the abstract nature of Ecologies of Thought, that one could not really craft a bestiary of my book. I really am less concerned with the relationship of what ecology normally studies, and more interested in using ecology’s concepts to think thought. But that thought is always, I claim, creatural. I make this claim knowing that there is a whole host of literature that I should be engaging with and that this concept is not without its problems. But I prefer it to the simply human because of the ways it stretches theological engagement to its limits (to Francis and Attar, harbingers of a kind of apocalyptic) and because the ways it emphasizes a common set of capacities to finite entities (creatures are not the creator). Of course, in this way, I am following many of the thinkers of finitude like Heidegger (who I will pick up again in my response to Adam), but in reality I picked up this notion from, of all people, St. Thomas and felt it a more radical version was found in Francis and Ikhwan al-safa. But both the “Brethren of Purity” and Francis are only engaged with towards the end of the book and are not given the amount of space they should (perhaps that remains for me to write). Basit’s response touches on this relationship with Islam in the book and I wanted to spend my response reflecting on that relationship a little more. But as I do so, I want to emphasize, as his post also hints at, that I don’t see a “we” and an “I” when I reflect upon Islam, any more than I do when I reflect upon Christianity, secularism, or paganism (these terms, of course, being said in many ways). But I also am aware of a separation between my “I” and these three domains or forms of life. Continue reading ““If my Beloved would raise the veils/you’d see only the pious at the tavern”: A Response to Basit Iqbal (A Non-Philosophical Theory of Nature Book Event)”
A unified theory — though not a theory of everything. Not philosophy of, with all its implications of dominance and omnicompetence (a philosophy of religion, of law, of fashion are all equally plausible), nor even simply philosophy and — but a unified theory of philosophy and some science. What is the status of this “theory,” this strangely undefined entity that is not a philosophy (or is it a non-philosophy?) and that seems strangely comfortable asserting the dread philosophical omnicompetence, indeed in an exaggerated form that claims not simply to account for the facts adduced by some other discipline but to provide the means precisely of unifying them?
Anthony’s book gives us a unified theory of philosophical theology (a pre-packaged combination that I won’t quibble with, given that I live it every day) and ecology. It adopts the “stance” of ecology, which is a thinking from the Real guided by the ecosystem concept. Within this unified theory, we learn that philosophies have varying degrees of biodiversity. Badiou’s particular ecosystem, for example, has room for four primary species of truth-procedures, but is dominated by mathematics. Thoughts occupy niches and respond to their environment. Sometimes the claims are very concrete and empirical, and sometimes they seem more or less metaphorical. Sometimes we are at the very physical level of needing to eat in order to think — and sometimes it turns out that the scholarly literature on given figures represent narrow niches. Yet none of these claims, we are assured, are mere metaphors. It is not a metaphor to say that books of philosophy are dead thoughts that need to be consumed to produce living thoughts, any more than it’s a metaphor to say that human thought is situated within a wider ecosystem or that the academic publishing industry produces certain over-specialized populations with narrow niches.
In a unified theory, then, we are not dealing with mere metaphor. I grant this. What I would like to ask, however, is precisely what we’re saying when we say it’s not a mere metaphor. Continue reading “A Unified Theory (A Non-Philosophical Theory of Nature book event)”
Rather than offering an overall perspective on A Non-Philosophical Theory of Nature in this post, I wanted to highlight several moments that I found particularly insightful to think and wrestle with.
1. The most viscerally powerful moment for me in the book was the image it offered for the possibility of what a generic secular might look like. Anthony recounts a dual act of solidarity that occurred between the Muslim Community and the Coptic Orthodox Christians in Egypt. The first was the act of solidarity by Egyptian Muslims who, in the wake of a suicide bombing against the Coptic community, encircled a Coptic Christian Church to provide the worshippers a human shield that would allow them to safely celebrate Christmas. The second image is likewise an encircling of protection. During the Tahir square occupations, a number of protestors carried out their religious duty and prayed during the calls for prayer, and in so doing, left themselves vulnerable to police harassment and brutality. This time it was the Coptic Christians who encircled the Muslims, constructing a human shield and allowing prayer to continue free of harassment and intimidation. Continue reading “Some thoughts on secularity-without-secularism and non-philosophy more generally (A Non-Philosophical Theory of Nature Book Event)”
In our society there are individuals, found often amongst black youth, who are told that their dissatisfaction with the World is unreasonable and expressive of their defiance. Is it unsurprising that a group of people subjected to the long lingering effects of social death constitutive of the World would seek to defy that World? That they would seek to end it through the overburdening of its space and time with niche spaces that, to the World, look only like death but for the moment they can be sustained are experienced as a moment of the lived-without-life? I want to frame my response to Dan in reference to the singular suffering expressive of the primary antagonism of anti-black racism, in part because Dan has helped introduce to my a number of important authors on this problem and because Dan and I both share a sense that thought must respond to suffering. The problem of suffering–and do not let the coldness of this term lull you into thinking that the problem of suffering isn’t a crying out that we hear–is what I hear behind Dan’s question to me: “Is the “non” about the enactment of baselessness, which can also be enacted in the neighborhood philosophy claims to possess, or is the “non“ about finding a different use for philosophy?” This question, if it is to matter, must regard something more than a question regarding Laruelle or Meillassoux or debates in philosophy proper. This question, for it does matter, is one regarding what kind of weapon non-philosophy may be. Not just in the hands of Laruelle, and it is in a very serious way a weapon for him, but as a weapon that another may learn to use (albeit in some small way, but smallness matters in an ecology of thought) for the overturning of the World. Continue reading “The Defiance of Baselessness and Mutation: A Reply to Daniel Colucciello Barber (A Non-Philosophical Theory of Nature Book Event)”