Tag Archives: Tim Morton

Tim Morton: Chants and the World

6 Aug

From Timothy Morton. The Ecological Thought. Harvard UP 2010, p. 104:

What’s wrong with the “re-enchantment of the world”? There’s nothing wrong with enchantment. It’s the prefix “re-“ that the source of the problem. This prefix assumes that the world was once enchanted, that we have done something to disenchant it, and that we can, and should, get back to where we once belonged. We simply can’t unthink modernity. If there is any enchantment, it lies in the future. The ecological “enchants the world,” if enchantment means exploring the profound and wonderful openness and intimacy of the mesh. What can we make of the new constellation? What art, literature, music, science, and philosophy are suitable to it? Art can contain utopian energy. As Percey Shelley put it, art is a kind of shadow from the future that looms into our present world.

The fact is, enchantment is as more about us than it is about the world. It is WE who are or are not enchanted by the world. But what good does our enchantment do the world?

Not much.

What need does the world have of our enchantment?

Not much.

If there’s disenchantment, that too has more to do with us than the world. If we want to we can get over it. If we can’t, well, no sense it looking to the world. Its got its own problems. It could care less about our disenchantment.

The world, like Old Man River, just keeps rollin’ along. And we can learn to chant anytime we so wish.


Tim Morton: “Ain’t Natural” Ain’t Reasonable

21 Jul

From Timothy Morton. The Ecological Thought. Harvard UP 2010.

Here’s a tricky passage, p. 86:

Okay, deep breath—it just isn’t right to criticize genetic engineering as unnatural, as if decent people should ban horses, dogs and cats, wheat and barley. It isn’t sound to call “technological” gene manipulation wrong, as if stud farming wasn’t technical manipulation. Crossbreeding is a form of technology. Fields and ditches are technology. Apes with termite sticks are technological. And what is barley if not a queer plant? Biological beings are all queer. All food is Frankenfood. The ecological thought might argue, provocatively I know, that genetic engineering is simply doing consciously what was once unconscious. My DNA can be told to produce viruses—that’s how viruses replicate. There isn’t a little picture of me in my DNA: hence the swine flue, which evolved from viruses affecting three different species. Genomics can use a virus to tell bacterial DNA to make plastic rather than bacteria.

So for so good. I think.

The assertion “it’s unnatural and therefore wrong” is loaded with ideological freight and thus fraught with risk of self-contradiction. Just what about us humans and our ways IS natural, anyhow? Fruit may grow on trees, but loin cloths, no matter what they’re made of, the DON’T grow on trees, or anywhere else. We make them out of stuff of one kind or another. They are un-natural. But not wearing one—or a similar garment—is generally considered to be a bit too, um, err, natural. Continue reading

Politics is Life: Tim Morton explains the Mesh

13 Jul

Politicians give politics a bad name. That’s not how politics is, deeply, it’s just what it’s become in this money-driven death trap we saddled ourselves with in the last century or so. We need to rehabilitate our sense of politics so we can pursue it with joy.

Let Professor Morton begin the rehabilitation.

* * * * *

From Timothy Morton. The Ecological Thought. Harvard UP 2010, p. 29:

The ecological thought does, indeed, consist in the ramifications of the “truly wonderful fact” of the mesh. All life forms are the mesh, and so are all dead ones, as are their habitats, which are also made up of living and nonliving beings. We know even more about how life forms have shaped Earth (think of oil, of oxygen—the first climate change cataclysm). We drive around using crushed dinosaur parts. Iron is mostly a by-product of bacterial metabolism. So is oxygen. Mountains can be made of shells and fossilized bacteria. Death and the mesh go together in another sense, too, because natural election implies extinction.

If that isn’t politics, I don’t know what is. Not politics in the sense of Democrats and Republicans, Socialists and Tories, nor feminists, plutocrats, and anarchists. But politics as negotiation, coalition, and competition. We’re all trying to survive here, make our nut, live and die with grace.

There’s the math: game theory. The great John von Neuman—and he was great, believe me, the Einstein of the 20th Century—invented it as World War II—the great political maelstrom that also gave us the atomic bomb and the digital computer, both of which had von Neuman’s fingerprints all over them—came to a close. Game theory is a mathematics of rational agents in interaction, generally competitive, but not necessarily purely. And the rationality, that’s a peculiar abstract notion not quite the same as the ordinary language word of the same pronunciation and spelling.

Game theory quickly became a tool of economists and political scientists. Pentagon planners used it in war games and plotted strategy against the Russkies, who, I am sure, returned the favor. No mere abstract mathematical exercise that, not when it was that close to the finger poised above the Hot Button to nuclear disaster. And if game theory had urged the finger to depress that button?

BOOM! Massive environmental impact event. Some live, some die, life goes on. Continue reading

Tim Morton: Beyond Apocalypse

11 Jul

From Timothy Morton. The Ecological Thought. Harvard UP 2010, p. 19:

The ecological thought must transcend the language of apocalypse. It’s ironic that we can imagine the collapse of the Antarctic ice shelves more readily than we can the collapse of the banking system—and despite this, amazingly, as this book was written, the banking system did collapse. The ecological thought must imagine economic change; otherwise it’s just another piece on the game board of capitalist ideology. The boring, rapacious reality we have constructed, with its familiar, furious, yet ultimately state whirl, isn’t the final state of history. The ecological society to come will be much more pleasurable, far more sociable, and ever so much more reasonable than we imagine.

Yes. By all means, transcend apocalypse, transcend capitalism. The future CAN be better.

At the same time I want to imagine the worst. Climate change: Whooossshhhhh and crunch. Billions will suffer and die. Humans, but not only humans. Other flora and fauna as well. Trillions upon trillions.

We humans may well climate-change ourselves to extinction. But the earth will survive. Life will survive. And thrive. Not the same life that was here a billion years ago, a million years, ten-thousand, one-hundred, yesterday. But life will go on, and flourish, without us. Continue reading