Tag Archive: object-oriented philosophy


Lava lampy Whitehead?

While I find much to admire in Tim Morton’s writings (and in him personally, as I’ve recently related), I’m sure he knows that his writing on what he calls “lava lampy materialism” leaves me unconvinced. (I’ve discussed that topic here, here, and elsewhere.)

I haven’t read his Realist Magic yet, so I can’t comment on the book’s arguments as a whole. But I’ve read some sections of it, including those which reiterate Morton’s critique of Whitehead’s “lava lampy” process philosophy. And, as before, I have trouble following these arguments. I would have eventually articulated a response to them, but Nathan Brown has spared me that trouble with his review (pdf warning) of Realist Magic in the latest Parrhesia.

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NT7: Beatnik brothers…

For what it’s worth, here’s the Power Point that went along with my talk. I changed the title to “Beatnik Brothers? Harman’s Objects and the Becoming-Whiteheadian of Deleuze.” I meant “of Deleuzians” (some of whom were in the audience: Manning, Shaviro, Massumi and Hansen I think). The first two slides are the original title (slide) and the revised one.

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“Ultimately, the thinking of speculative pragmatism that is activist philosophy belongs to nature. Its aesthetico-politics compose a nature philosophy. The occurrent arts in which it exhibits itself are politics of nature.

“The one-word summary of its relational-qualitative goings on: ecology. Activist philosophy concerns the ecology of powers of existence. Becomings in the midst. Creative change taking place, self-enjoying, humanly or no, humanly and more.”

These two short paragraphs close the Introduction to Brian Massumi’s recent, and thoroughly Whiteheadian, book Semblance and Event. They serve as a good epigraph to what I’d like to discuss here, which is the “neo-Whiteheadian wave” I see arising in cultural theory and its connections to ecology and to “speculative realism” (which, in Massumi’s hands, becomes speculative pragmatism; the differences are worth exploring).

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The preliminary schedule is out for The Nonhuman Turn in 21st Century Studies.

The list of speakers reads like a “who’s who” of the neo-ontological, speculative-realist crowd in cultural and media theory: Steven Shaviro, Jane Bennett, Brian Massumi, Erin Manning, Mark Hansen, Ian Bogost, and Tim Morton are among the keynotes, while lesser mortals like myself, Mackenzie Wark (not so lesser last time I checked), and others known to the philoso-blogosphere (Woodard, Stanescu, Denson, et al.) are also scheduled to present.

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Morton’s poetry

Tim Morton writes beautifully. His “Objects as Temporary Autonomous Zones,” published in the most recent issue of Continent, is a beautiful illustration of this. I could say he writes poetically, but that would be suggesting that his writing is not itself poetry, but only looks and feels like poetry — which would mean succumbing to a distinction between the essence of Morton’s writing and its appearance, and to a rift between the two, that I’m not prepared to commit to (though I think that Morton is).

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Democracy of Objects

Levi Bryant’s The Democracy of Objects is finally available and readable on-line, courtesy of a wonderfully innovative relationship between Open Humanities Press and the University of Michigan Library’s Scholarly Publishing Office. The book is part of OHP’s New Metaphysics Series, edited by Graham Harman and Bruno Latour.

As regular readers know, Levi has been a longtime philosophical companion and frequent sparring partner to this blog. On occasion that sparring has gotten enflamed, but the heat has always, in the end, generated much light — which is what philosophical sparring is all about. I’ve read parts of the book in an earlier version and strongly recommend it; it’s an important contribution to contemporary efforts to carve out a post-anthropocentric metaphysics.

Life outside the lava lamp

Over at Naught Thought, Ben Woodard (sorry, Ben, for the earlier misspell) wants “to know what the Process/Relational folks think” of his thoughts about philosophies of process versus philosophies of objects or substances (or something like that). What follows is one quick and dirty way of thinking of a certain key difference between these two approaches.

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Differences are starting to emerge in our group reading of Integral Ecology, with Tim Morton taking a grumpy stance from the back of the car while others are measured but generally more positive in their assessments. Tim’s main criticism seems to be the Object-Oriented Ontological one that E/Z’s categories “map perfectly onto normal everyday human prejudices,” and specifically prejudices against non-sentient beings. Tim writes:

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Levi Bryant has a wonderful post up in response to my announcement of Stengers’s book. If mine was “less appealing” to him, as he puts it, this may not be a bad thing, as it seems to have elicited a shimmering cascade of resonating strings in his thinking. (Perhaps appeal has a devilishly indirect manner of working…)

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This post continues from the previous in this series, which looked at integral ecophilosopher Sean Esbjorn-Hargens’s writing on the ontology of climate change. Here I examine the relationship between leading integral theorist Ken Wilber, integralist Esbjorn-Hargens, and process philosopher Alfred North Whitehead.

It’s a little difficult to separate Wilber’s and Esbjorn-Hargens’s views on Whitehead. I will  simply refer to “IT” (Integral Theory) in speaking of both their views, though these are generally ascribable to Wilber. (And I should note that identification of the term “Integral Theory” with Wilber himself is not uncontested.) I will use “KW” (Wilber) or “EH” (Esbjorn-Hargens) when quoting from specific written sources. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes attributed to EH will be from his article “Integrating Whitehead: Towards an Environmental Ethic,” which is found online, undated and unpaginated, at the integralworld.net website. Most of the Wilber references are either from “Appendix A: My Criticism of Whitehead as True but Partial,” found here, or from printed sources, especially The Eye of Spirit: An Integral Vision for a World Gone Slightly Mad (1997) and Sex, Ecology, Spirituality: The Spirit of Evolution (orig. 1995, revised 2000).

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