Monthly Archives: March 2013

Earth Stories

I’ve been thinking about Bruno Latour’s term, “geostory” (from his Gifford Lectures), which refers not just to stories that humans tell about Earth but refers to the implosion of the categories of the semiotic and the material, the sign and the thing in itself, history and geology.  If geostory is a story of Earth, “of” should be read as a double genitive, both objective (story about Earth) and subjective (story belonging to Earth, i.e., the narrative unfolding of Earth itself).  In any case, what really strikes me here is how many people have already proposed concepts that resonate with Latour’s proposal for geostory.

Consider an example from Gregory Bateson’s Mind and Nature: A Necessary Unity (New York: Dutton, 1979).  “Now I want to show you that whatever the word ‘story’ means […], thinking in terms of stories does not isolate human beings as something separate from the starfish and the sea anemones, the coconut palms and the primroses.  Rather, if the world be connected, if I am at all fundamentally right in what I am saying, then thinking in terms of stories must be shared by all minds, whether ours or those of redwood forests and sea anemones […], the evolutionary process through millions of generations whereby the sea anemone, like you and me, came to be—that process, too, must be of the stuff of stories.” (p. 12).

I’m also reminded of one of the working notes from Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s The Visible and the Invisible (Evanston: Northwestern UP, 1968).  “In fact it is a question of grasping the nexus—neither ‘historical’ nor ‘geographic’ of history and transcendental geology, this very time that is space, this very space that is time, which I will have rediscovered by my analysis of the visible and the flesh” (p. 259).

Finally, I’m reminded of The Universe Story (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1992), by Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry: “There is eventually only one story, the story of the universe.  Every form of being is integral with this comprehensive story.” (The Universe Story, p. 268)

Inhuman Perspectivism: A Truth of the Relative

Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari distinguish between the relativity of truth and the truth of the relative in their concept of partial observers.  Unlike claims of a relativity of truth, for which truth is relative to different subject positions of human observers, the truth of the relative is inhuman, constituted by the experimental/experiential forces of the things themselves.   Consider their conceptualization of perspectivism in light of quantum physics. 

Heisenberg’s demon does not express the impossibility of measuring both the speed and the position of a particle on the grounds of a subjective interference of the measure with the measured, but it measures exactly an objective state of affairs that leaves the respective position of two of its particles outside of the field of its actualization, the number of independent variables being reduced and the values of the coordinates having the same probability. […]  Perspectivism, or scientific relativism, is never relative to a subject: it constitutes not a relativity of truth but, on the contrary, a truth of the relative, that is to say, of variables whose cases it orders according to the values it extracts from them in its system of coordinates. […]  In short, the role of a partial observer is to perceive and to experience, although these perceptions and affections are not those of a man, in the currently accepted sense, but belong to the things studied. […] Partial observers are forces. […] Partial observers are sensibilia.  [What is Philosophy? (1994) pp. 129-131]

African American Environmental Thought

[C]ontrary to conventional wisdom, black Americans have not been indifferent to environmental values; there is, in fact, a rich tradition of black environmental thought.  Du Bois and many other black writers–including Henry Bibb, Martin Delany, Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, George Washington Caver, Alain Locke, Jean Toomer, and Langston Hughes–had a great deal to say about how slavery and racial oppression affected black Americans’ relationship to the land, and their arguments offer valuable insights into humans’ relationship to nature in general.  Their works belong in the canon of American environmentalism.

Kimberly Smith, African American Environmental Thought: Foundations (University Press of Kansas, 2007), p. 3.

Whitehead and Merleau-Ponty

HERE is a pdf of a recently published review that I wrote on Nature and Logos: A Whiteheadian Key to Merleau-Ponty’s Fundamental Thought, by William Hamrick and Jan Van Der Veken (SUNY, 2011).   This is one of multiple reviews I’ve written for one of my favorite journals, Worldviews: Global Religions, Culture, and Ecology (published through Brill).


Tool, Deleuze-Guattari, Dionysus

For about a year, I’ve been slowly developing a pop analysis (Deleuze and Guattari) of the music of Tool, particularly with reference to Nietzsche’s hope for a Dionysian future of music.  The good people at Nomos Journal have published a short piece I wrote on that topic (thanks, Seth).  You can find it HERE.