Wisdom is not a mind-hack or life-hack or any kind of hack. It’s not a way of cutting through life’s difficulties with tips or tricks. It’s not a set strategies or operations that can be adopted in piecemeal or applied in pertinent situations. It’s more of a path than a hack. It’s a way of life. As a practice, wisdom demands a total change of lifestyle, or it is nothing at all. What is that lifestyle? With characteristic Judeo-Platonic-Stoic syncretism, Philo of Alexandria gives an exemplary description of the practice of wisdom in this passage from On the Special Laws [trans. F. H. Colson. (Loeb Classical Library), 2.44-49].
In his Theses on Feuerbach, Karl Marx includes eleven statements expanding on the materialist philosophy of Ludwig Feuerbach. Marx does not mention the material burning within the German name Feuerbach: the elemental materiality of fire (Feuer). More than 150 years later, Jacques Rancière’s Ten Theses on Politics proposed an aesthetic definition of politics as dissensus (not consensus), a distancing of the aesthetic from itself: a partition, distribution, or sharing of the sensible (partage du sensible). Between these materialist and aesthetic political philosophies, there are cinders, remnants of another politics: sharing fire (partage du feu). Theses are burning down, from Marx’s eleven theses, down to Rancière’s ten theses, down to the following nine theses on Feuerpolitik.
Schedules are getting finalized for the upcoming ecological civilization mega-conference, Seizing an Alternative. I’m delighted to be participating in a philosophy of religion track with a lot of great people. I already posted my abstract for my presentation in that track. I’m also participating in another track, which focuses on the Journey of the Universe project and related approaches to situating human history in the evolutionary epic. Again, great people are involved. In particular, I’m presenting on a panel with two dear companions, Kimberly Carfore and Adam Robbert, each of whom is involved with other tracks as well. Our panel is “Cosmopolitics and the Big Journey.” Below is the abstract. Continue reading
It looks like I’ve got my conference engagements lined up for the second half of the year. I’m only doing a few things, and they’re all in California, which isn’t entirely incidental, as I try to avoid travel scenarios that involve high financial and environmental costs.
First, I’m delighted to be presenting on a panel with two close companions, Kimberly Carfore and Adam Robbert. We’ll be at the IBHA (International Big History Association) conference in San Rafael, CA, August 6-10. Our panel is “Cosmopolitics and the Big Journey: Resolving Nature-Culture Dualisms.” The title of my paper: “Concepts for Collective History: Cosmopolitics and the Journey of the Universe.” I’ll give an overview of three distinct approaches to collective history (i.e., approaches that integrate human and natural histories), including the approach called Big History, the approach of “universe story” advocates like Thomas Berry, Brian Swimme, and Mary Evelyn Tucker, and the approach of theorists associated with the “cosmopolitics” proposed by Isabelle Stengers (e.g., Gilles Deleuze, Bruno Latour, Donna Haraway). Adam has a summary of our panel available HERE.
Next, I’ll be in Los Angeles for the annual meeting of PACT (the Pacific Association for the Continental Tradition), October 2-4. I’ll address questions of narrative and image in relation to the work of Peter Sloterdijk, specifically his philosophical theory of globalization, which is an extension of his sphere theory. My argument is that his general spherology provides a context for understanding the planet Earth as the locus of a grand narrative that overcomes the hegemony of previous metanarratives and the intellectual defeatism of postmodern prohibitions against metanarratives. My paper title: “Earth: Spherological Imagination and the New Grand Narrative.”
Finally, I’ll be at the annual meeting of the AAR (American Academy of Religion) in San Diego, November 22-25. I’ll be involved in a couple events. I will be a panelist in a Roundtable discussion focusing on the excellent new book by George James, Ecology is Permanent Economy: The Activism and Environmental Philosophy of Sunderlal Bahuguna. I’ll also be presenting a paper in a panel on “New Materialism, Religion, and Climate Change.” I’m representing Tim Morton’s object-oriented perspective, specifically in light of his proposal for an updated version of animism. My paper title: “Feeling for Hyperobjects: Animistic Affects in the Anthropocene.” I posted a version of my paper proposal HERE.
Still thinking of bodies, remembering Spinoza’s point that no one has yet determined what a body can do. This is a crucial point for ontological accounts of bodies as well as for ethicopolitical interactions with bodies. Don’t just create new determinations of what bodies are. Create open situations for the activation of the virtual capacities harbored in the unfathomable indeterminacy of bodies.
Still thinking of bodies, colliding and colluding with the “participatory ecologies” of the distributed, complex, relational body articulated in Erin Manning’s new work of philosophical choreography, Always More Than One: Individuation’s Dance (Duke, 2013), p. 110-122.
More-than its taking-form, “body” is an ecology of processes (and practices, as Isabelle Stengers might say) always in co-constellation with the environmentality of which it is part. A body is a complex activated through phases in collision and collusion, phasings in and out of processes of individuation that are transformed—transduced—to create new iterations not of what a body is but of what a body can do. What we tend to call “body” and what is experienced as the wholeness of a form is simply one remarkable point, one instance of a collusion materializing as this or that. [..] Continuity and discontinuity commingling to activate the singular in a field of difference. (p. 19)
The inventive task of the ecology of practices that Stengers calls “cosmopolitics” is not simply to map relations of difference, but to activate virtual singularities….
Singularities of the cosmos unite!
Yesterday, I had the pleasure of attending a Sawyer Seminar Lecture at UC Davis featuring Isabelle Stengers and, responding to Stengers, Donna Haraway. Although they’ve been influencing one another’s works for years, this was one of only a handful of public appearances they have made together. Adam Robbert of the world renound Knowledge Ecology posted recordings of the lecture HERE, and for a good overview of the topics covered, check out his notes HERE.
Following the other lectures in this Sawyer Seminar series, the topic of the lecture was the problem of indigenous cosmopolitics. I say problem because they were note proposing answers or uncontested definitions, but were opening a series of questions. How do cosmopolitical proposals for a global or universal collective of humans and nonhumans relate to indigenous lifeways, for which politics is embedded in local places? Is “indigenous cosmopolitics” an oxymoron? If it exists, how? And so what?
Stengers focused on indigenous cosmopolitics by way of an encounter with “the challenge of animism,” which she connected with the challenges of magic, sorcery, and witchcraft, citing Starhawk on withcraft (feel the smoke of witches burning) and citing David Abram’s sense of an “ecology of magic.” The main point for Stengers is simply this: ideas are actual participants in the craft of cosmopolitics. They are, as Haraway put it, “cosmopolitical critters,” actors in the risky “speculative fabulation” (sf) that defines the craft of cosmopolitics.
Our challenge is to learn the craft of building lures, the craft of animating and being animated by abstractions. Indigenous cosmopolitics enrolls narrative and memory in practices of reclaiming (not to restore, but to reformat and reactive) the metamorphic power of ideas, bringing them into an open space of participation where humans and nonhumans can (just maybe) co-constitute a world where, as Zapatistas put it, “many worlds will fit,” including the worlds that we call “ideas.”