Saturday, July 1, 2017

Why Object-Oriented Ontology is Beautiful in the First Place

The Real and Reality are not the same. Re-ality is only the environmental experience one has because of our tendency to experience the things around us as background, merely existing, just there. But nothing is just there, and therefore Reality is like an illusion. It is like an illusion because, although what you encounter may be correlated to a real object that is there, the encounter itself is not with that object, but its sensual representation to your perception. It follows that although your reception of the object may be a very good index of it, you can never be quite sure that this is the case. Nevertheless, we hold that there must be something there in the Real, beyond Reality, because the correlation is the best evidence we will ever find of our own existence—not as subjects, but as Real, existing objects ourselves. Real objects—including ourselves—elude our direct contact or understanding, but provide endless opportunity for aligning ourselves in search of better understanding, and this is the motivational impetus of Object-Oriented Ontology: simply the love for, and wish to gain a better understanding of, the Other...of which oneself, ironically, is an example. 

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Zappan Conceptual DisContinuity

I've been listening to a lot of Frank Zappa lately, and it's helped a lot––particularly with dispelling the normative illusions of the Great Society. (Anybody remember the late 60s? I don't, maybe because I was there.) But...

I disagree that everything in the cosmos is a single note, and that everything in the universe is just a derivative vibration. As the girl's voice states, "that one note makes everything else seem so insignificant."

Precisely! If you say that it's all one note and every thing is just an echo of that, then you've made the Note more important than you or I, or that suffering being over there. It's ironic that Zappa hated the idea of Populist mediocracy, because that kind of holistic view––that we're all derivative of one essential meta-note––is precisely the same kind of holistic dis of individuation. The left-wing snake bites the right-wing tail.

I don't pretend to know the crux of the biscuit myself, because realistically I can't do that. But I suspect this paradox comes from Materialism: the big M tends to lead people in circles like that. You get to thinking that everything is made out of one thing (Matter, or a Note or a Tree or something). And you can't even think that without first thinking that there is someone capable of knowing what everything is.

It's really not easy being Real.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Nature Vs. Locality

This is coming up as a serious dichotomy in eco-ontological studies lately, as Morton (Dark Ecology) I think rightly points out that localistic eco-movements have nothing to say about how we're supposed to deal with things like Fukushima, macroeconomics, international relations and global warming. But...

I was just noticing how even though "natural" and "local" aren't supposed to mean literally the same thing, yet they do mean the same thing in terms of the images and the warm, fuzzy feeling of reliance and belonging they conjure. Even though knowledge of a local area can include knowledge of things like ecosystems, herbalism, fishing, etc., what "local knowledge" is usually said to mean are things like directions to places, which people to talk to about what, local customs, etc...

When did we get to be a society where it's required to assume that knowledge of "nature" is so different from "local" knowledge? Was it 200 years ago with Kant? Was it 12,500 years ago with Mesopotamia? Just yesterday? Hasn't even happened yet?

I think the answer to that may be up to us.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

I'm an Immaterialist!

It's a way of avoiding idealism and materialism at the same time, without thinking that the essence of things is identifiable by some proprietary human observation. It's a brand new thang, and I'm proud to be inhabiting it!

The paper I wrote for the IJZS conference in May is all about this, and I hadn't even read Graham's new book yet, so I didn't use the word. But in a recent interview, right after the conference, he said he wanted to abolish matter: I still hadn't gotten the book, but I crowed in delight.

Down with matter! Long live the object-body!

In other news, the paper is currently being considered for publication in the IJZS special edited book, and it's now called Things, Not Stuff. I'll probably upload it to soon here, if I can get a few other writing projects done sooner.

Speaking of uploading things, I recorded a not-too-bad track of Graham's talk at the conference, and now here it is on! I think it's one of his best that I've heard. I don't think the digital sound processing does it justice at all, but you get used to the compression if you listen for a couple minutes.

Another thing! Another thing! The magnificent people who set up the conference are doing it again in two years, and they're thinking of having it in the clubs in Athens, style!!!

Every time I get low on how miserable and hopeless our predicament is, I want to remember things like this. Just when I thought those folks couldn't get any cooler...

Monday, June 6, 2016

The International Zizek Studies Conference at the University of Cincinnati

This happened last weekend, and I went and presented a paper. It ranks among the absolute best experiences of my life, and I am still wrapping my head around it for a serious piece of writing.

I am eternally grateful to everyone who organized, participated in, or in any way influenced this event over the last quarter million years or so. Clifton, OH is in many ways a living embodiment of ecosynthesis.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Noam "Horse's Mouth" Chomsky

He said this on Democracy Now!:

"We should recognize—if we were honest, we would say something that sounds utterly shocking and no doubt will be taken out of context and lead to hysteria on the part of the usual suspects, but the fact of the matter is that today’s Republican Party qualify as candidates for the most dangerous organization in human history. Literally. Just take their position on the two major issues that face us: climate change, nuclear war. On climate change, it’s not even debatable. They’re saying, "Let’s race to the precipice. Let’s make sure that our grandchildren have the worst possible life." On nuclear war, they’re calling for increased militarization. It’s already way too high, more than half the discretionary budget. "Let’s shoot it up." They cut back other resources by cutting back taxes on the rich, so there’s nothing left. There’s been nothing this—literally, this dangerous, if you think about it, to the species, really, ever. We should face that."

You don't want to think of an organization (especially a barely organized one) like the Republican party as more dangerous than global warming or nuclear proliferation, but since it operates in a way that feeds both of those things, it becomes part of the resource base for them. This is an ecosynthetic manifold, a composite of bodies that are possibility conditions for each other. What I find it hard to wrap my head around is thinking of the GOP as a body at all, because of how fractured it is, but bodies just are fractured anyway (even the solid-looking ones). 

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Dark Ecology

Toylike people make me boylike
Toylike people make me boylike
They're invisible when the trip it flips
They get physical way below my lips
And everything you got hoi-paloilike
Now you're lost and you're lethal
And now's about the time you got to leave all
These good people...DREAM ON

That's what popped into my head while I was reading the third thread of Tim Morton's Dark Ecology. If there is justice, Tim will use Massive Attack's "Risingson" as the title theme if he gives us an audio version of the book. Ah, but there is no justice...not one. But there may be many.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

New York Primary

It's the kind of thing the American media doesn't hesitate to call "rigged" when it happens in other countries.

Can someone tell me if the United Nations even recognizes elections like this one? If they don't, then don't we have to redo it?

Democracy Now! calls it "chaos"; that's generous. It stretches the meaning of the word, for me. Really? Something we knew was going to happen for years, and the problems are put down to "chaos"? If chaos is deliberately engineered, isn't that a paradox?

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Heat Up the Pan First, then worry about what to put in it

Back to the basics, and the origins of this blog: hunger.

Just heat up the cast-iron pan when you get up, and the rest will fall in. It's hard to know what you're hungry for when all the yesterdays are giving you a sour belly. Sometimes it's best to let your belly lead you: when your brain is mainly a source of indigestion.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Rasta Specul-Itive Reality

Ites! And now for something much less linguistically precise.

Iman have trod the darkest academic caves and stuffy tunnels at the heart of Babylon, and likewise explored the smelly neglected places on the underbelly of the movement for Icological Signing (or Ecological Design as some Babylonians call it), and the things Iman find only cry out the words from the Bible, quoted already enough by Jah Prophet Bob Marley (living!), that "the stone that the builder refuse shall be the head cornerstone".

Truly, it is what nobody wants to talk about that is always the most important thing.

The Rasta reshaping of language inspired me that "de-sign" is really better thought of as "signing". Like, signing your name on something that you helped make. In this here Ira of the I'm-a-throw-up-a-scene (or the Anthropocene as the baldheads call it), it is not only I&I human beings a look fi a sign, but I&I&I&I beings at all a look fi a sign, to guide and help them survive. It is not just human artists, but all a we, who must get to throw up a scene on the very walls of Babylon and walk into the landscape I&I have co-designed, or code-signed. Jah, I wonder if Zion is not to be found in a far off land across the sea after all, but in the very signing of I&I&I code upon the walls of where we now dwell? But, didn't Ile Selassie I say I&I must get it together in the lands where I&I live, before I&I can ready to leave to Zion?

How you feeling, Jamdown? I love Bob Marley, and I love you, and I really hope I get to see you, soon come.


Towards an Eco-Design of the Anthropocene

Hi folks! Below is the intro blurb for the talk I'm giving in Cincinnati in May. I'm very pleased with it. It all came out in a flurry of 3 AM insomnia. Enjoy.

Nick Guetti Intro: Towards an Eco-Design of the Anthropocene

I come from ecological design, in terms of education: the design and life sciences basically, with just a smidgeon of the humanities—enough to glue it all together with a sociopolitical analysis and an ethical imperative, while little enough to allow it to neatly sidestep any issues of critical philosophy pertinent to these. 

My mother and father were both philosophy teachers. She taught at Yale in the seventies, and was a Derridean, so the effect of deconstructionism on my world began when I was about eight. 

My interest in philosophy has only lately intensified, however, as a result of my acquaintance with Timothy Morton’s object-oriented take on ecological criticism, and his perhaps even more fascinating (but, in my opinion, terribly overlooked) post-Derridean take on object-oriented ontology (OOO) itself. 

My thesis is basically that ecological design fails—both as a collection of tools and as a social movement—to the extent that it pretends direct reference to Nature and the real that its own idealism flatly denies. And indeed, by many measures within the movement itself, it is failing, and failing badly. To use the parlance of many people schooled in the design art of permaculture, the “visible structures” of landscape design, architecture, horticulture and animal husbandry are easy enough to build, given the resources; meanwhile, the “invisible structures” of socioeconomic and political arrangements are much more difficult. Yet, the invisible structures are at least as much a precondition for the existence of the visible as vice versa! 

This is why I point to the wealth of options that OOO offers design arts such as permaculture. These arts have traditionally been unwilling to admit any intellectual criticism of their Johnsonian take on realism (as if getting one’s hands dirty were proof of connection with the soil), and has quite stoically avoided treating invisible structures as extant bodies in an interobective ecology. Graham Harman’s temporary allowance of flat ontology is one among many possible keys for this lock on the door to an ecological design of the Anthropocene.

My passion for ecological design-art has proven more “sustainable”, ironically, than the youthful idealism which started it, and is the reason for my rejection of substance ontologies (informing terms such as “nature” and “matter”) in favor of the realism which informs my current work. I hope it may be of use in the arts and humanities as well as the ecological design movement, and that it may bring these two sadly estranged worlds closer, if only a little.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Know Your Song Well Before You Start Singing: Developing Politics from Philosophy

Things are really getting intense in this year's electoral race. I've never seen both main parties have quite this much internal conflict: we have all the Republicans trying to rein in Trump, with apparent futility, and then a very lively split between Clinton and Sanders, the latter of whom just took Michigan yesterday despite predictions that Clinton would beat him by 20 points. This goes to show that in such an uncertain political environment, your bet can win big, but the risks are high.

This goes double for political bets made by philosophers. If you try too quickly to force-fit your candidate (or agenda or ideology) into some association with any particular philosophical position currently being developed, you risk not only your own disappointment, but the defamation of your philosophical movement. This is not because your candidate might not win, or because your agenda might not rise in the public estimation...

It's because everyone associated with your philosophy might be made to look like the superficial and fraudulent pandit that you are.

Look, philosophy moves in time scales that go on for something like 200 years. A good American president's administration will tend to last 8. I have studied the history of North American social movements and social change quite extensively, as these and agriculture (and therefore ecology) are interconnected for me, and the time scale of the average modern sociopolitical movement tends to be about 12 years in my rough estimation. So you are not going to find a philosophy developed within the last two decades that is ready to meet the demands that the popular political environment will make on its integrity and consistency, and on those of its authors. This is something that Graham Harman, primary author of Object-Oriented Philosophy (to an ecologist, one of the most interesting things to come out of philosophy in the last couple of centuries) has suggested as well, though I am not certain whether or not he takes it to the extent I do, or if he draws a harder or softer line.

To Harman, a philosopher may also be a politician (and perhaps no one can avoid being one!), but it is important to remember that these are two different hats that do not look good on the same head at the same time. He points to examples like accelerationism, where the prevailing ultra-left political culture of academic philosophical society has generated ideas that are so moronic and yet so deviously convoluted that only their authors can fail to see how dangerous and risibly counterproductive they are. Those are my words, not his; beating industrial capitalism by accelerating it (causing it to self-destruct, maybe, but definitely also causing the intensification of every single human-caused ecological catastrophe) is a nonstarter for any ecologist or ecology-knowledgable politician who shines the light of day on the idea.

Other prominent Object-Oriented philosophers are not as careful as Harman, who is actually pretty sharply criticized on the philo-political left: they like to call him a typical bourgeois non-politicist. I happen to know that he's probably the most working-class individual they've ever set eyes on, but whatever.

An OO thinker whom I consider a great friend and an inspiring eco-critic, but who shall remain nameless for the moment, recently informed me that although he understands my intensity and my regard for ideas, he can't be friends with someone who insists on name-calling in online fora. I can respect that, although I'm not sure where the name-calling occurred. At such a politically intense time as we currently inhabit, many relationships sail into rocky waters. These things pass, and we should remember that.

But to a long-lived hyper-body like a philosophy, it is not just those things that pass: we pass also. Not a single philosopher in 12,000 years has lived long enough to witness the real political implications of everything he/she said/did/wrote/proposed. Forget it. May my friend live a long life, but not that long. It follows that trying to couch support for the candidate you like in some hastily cobbled together argument connecting them to the philosophical movement you have lately joined is a very irresponsible thing to do. Because the political winds blow much harder and faster than the philosophical, despite the superficiality of this strident display, it is almost never the case that the politics are altered to fit the philosophy. Instead, the philosophy is too often altered to fit the politics. This reduces the philosopher to something much cheaper and almost universally unreliable: someone who heaps blessings upon a king or queen because everything they do carries the favor of this great philosophy.

This does not elevate the politics: it corrupts the philosophy, and makes its proponents look like quacks. It turns them into quacks, at least some of the time. My friend has shoe-horned President Obama's feckless pandering to oil giants into a very multiple back-flippy theory that the President is playing some kind of "long game" to undermine the tycoons he's pandering to. My friend bases this on the idea that Obama "gets it", somehow, in terms of applying the new realist philosophy to political economics. My friend also pathologizes those who support Bernie Sanders, reducing their political concerns to various infantile neuroses he comes up with, and accusing them of Puritanism, sexism and too-Marxist classical Socialism, which doesn't respect nonhumans enough and so can't be object-oriented. Apparently he thinks this is better than calling people names. I didn't grow up that way.

This story on Democracy Now! pretty well shows how mean, Puritan and sexist we Sanders' supporters can be. Seriously, can you even think those words when confronted with the sun-faced, eloquent, thoughtful, gap-toothed and ever-loving universal pure funk of Dr. Cornell West? Hear the man: "We gonna git ya on the Bernie Sanders Love Train!" I'm on board, Bro! How about West for President in 2024, while we're at it!

I like Bernie Sanders. I like his policy ideas, and I like his workmanlike, realist attitude. He is the first left-wing candidate in a very long time to exemplify the value of the job that is to be done over the superficial, media-visible qualities of the person trying to get the job. Presidents are not like English kings and queens: they are government employees, albeit ones we provide with a lot of respect and fanfare for the executive work they do, and I think Sanders wants us to be aware of that. Clinton, a typical 20th-century politician, surely wants to obscure it. It's how they do politics.

What does this have to do with object-oriented philosophy? Zero: literally nothing, positive or negative, that I know of. It is not my job, as a philosopher and sometimes a politician, to tell you how Sanders is the best OO candidate: as far as I know, he isn't. It is my job as a citizen, if I am to support Sanders, to use everything I know about my concerns for ecological welfare, including philosophy, to inform the candidate and his party and constituency in whatever capacity I may, so that the philosophy will become a basis for political development. It isn't yet, for a very simple reason: nobody knows about us! In my opinion, until we well know what we're doing, we should hold off on supporting politicians on the grounds that our ideas support them, and instead call on and challenge the politicians to recognize that they win our approval to the extent that they support our ideas. That is how progressive agendas with staying-power are structured by philosophers who are also maintaining their integrity and that of their movement.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Satoyama Forests

Right after my first ecological design workshop the mid 90s, I went to an Earth First! meeting at Evergreen and tried to introduce this very notion to the deep ecologists; they shunned me, of course. It just wasn't a strong enough idea to compete with "No compromise! Not one single tree more!"

Well, the trees were cut, of course, so the deep ecologists moved on to the next crisis. Meanwhile, the very community-managed forests I was suggesting are thriving wildlife homes and cultural nodes in Japan today, while the forests that have been "let be" are dying  from erosion.

I've been writing a lot lately about how weak ideas trump strong ones over time. Strong ideas tend to be mostly drama, and tend to require a lot of energy despite being very simple and easy to iterate. This energy quickly burns out, at which point the weak ideas that had already been around forever (and take no energy at all to follow) are still going strong, working quietly away.

Satoyama are historically peasant-managed forests. Peasants bow low before nobles and present themselves as vulnerable, weak and poor, because they are. So why does the practice of Japanese peasant forest management outperform all other methods (both in total yield and aesthetically: our Northwest USA national forests are mostly horribly pitiful in comparison), this long after the Japanese nobles have vanished from the landscape?

Meanwhile, the people making the wisest use of our forests here in the northwest are peasants, if not called by that name. They are foragers: mushroom pickers, primarily, but also others. Most of these are refugees from other countries, with exceptions. People with their lives so sliced and diced, on the average, that most of the time they feel like aliens on a strange planet...but aliens with a certain kind of freedom you don't get in the rural areas of other nations, or even here in the city. These folk don't tend to get much respect, either from forest management (aka government logging) people or from environmentalists.

And where are the big, strong, respectable loggers and their opposition, the brave, strong, uncompromising deep ecologists? Where have these noble figures gone? They're wherever there's big timber to be cut for big companies. Deep ecology is as out of its depth as an out-of-work logger. Khmer, Mien and Hmong tribesmen from SE Asia, Japanese Americans and rural American Vietnam vets are used to being fish out of water, because they've always had to operate in environments where they couldn't be sure of anything, including their next meal.

Nobody here is idealizing poverty; satoyama forests are not poor environments. Our American national forests, in contrast, are the most miserable shambles you've ever seen: neglected, dirty, eroding, overgrown and full of disease. Also, our economy sucks.

Most of this insight is coming from Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing and her new book, Mushroom at the End of the World, but I've been a forager all my life and an eco-designer for about 21 years, and I've been waiting for someone else to be saying this stuff with me for a long time.