On the Verge of a Planetary Civilization: A Philosophy of Integral Ecology

This book is the first in a series of works in which I explore the dynamics of planetary coexistence.  You can get it from from the publisher (Rowman & Littlefield International) HERE.

Verge

Below you’ll find the summary and a few blurbs: Continue reading

Cosmopolitics of Bodies: Participatory Ecologies

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!

Stengers and Haraway on Indigenous Cosmopolitics

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.”

Contra Deleuze: Latour’s Disputes

While I have read everything of Deleuze, I am not always convinced he is so useful in my empirical enquiries. I am impatient in this otherwise beautiful book, What Is Philosophy?, with the way philosophy’s role is exaggerated beyond any recognition, and also by the fact that on religion he has nothing much to say.  Deleuze is not my all-purpose philosopher.  Also, and that’s a disagreement I have with Isabelle [Stengers], I don’t see him as a good writer, and for me the writing is very important, the crafting of books with very specific literary strategies that embody very specific theories.
Bruno Latour, “Interview with Bruno Latour,” in Chasing Technoscience: Matrix for Materiality, eds. Don Ihde and Evan Selinger (Indiana University Press, 2003), p. 24.

I agree with Latour’s assessment of Deleuze’s writings, and more than that, I agree with his problems regarding Deleuze’s lack of attention to religion.  Although much has been written lately appropriating Deleuze into theological and religious discourses, Deleuze himself did an extremely poor job of accounting for religious truth.  Accordingly, it’s easy to say almost anything about Deleuze’s religion.  Is it a this-worldly Hermeticism (Joshua Ramey), a helpful source for Christian liberation theology (Kristien Justaert), or a Gnosticism that is neither this-worldly nor helpful for concrete emancipatory practices (Christopher Simpson)?   

I couldn’t agree more when Latour says, “I consider that philosophies that don’t deal with the truth production of religion are as incapable of dealing with real thought as those who can’t deal with the truth production of science or the truth production of techniques.  This is why the whole current of anti-religious thinking, which is very strong in much French critical thought, I find unhelpful” (ibid.).

That Latour said those words over a decade ago is an indication that he has been concerned with religion long before the “new enquiry into natural religion” that he is presenting in the current Gifford Lectures…even long before his work on Iconoclash or his articulations of “factish gods.”  Indeed, as he says in the interview I’m quoting here, “I started with religion and was a theologian first, exegesis more exactly” (ibid.).  I’m sure a book of Latourian theology is forthcoming.

Testing the Boundaries of Reality

A few weeks ago, I gave a presentation at the Philosophy, Cosmology, and Consciousness Forum at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco.  I spoke about some of the research I used for my dissertation (Philosophy for a Planetary Civilization: On the Verge of Integral Ecology), which I defended last March.  A video of the talk is available HERE.  I was introduced by Matt Segall, who recently posted some summary reflections on the talk.

Like many talks I give, the style is mostly improvisational.  Nonetheless, my meandering musings elicited some thoughtful questions and comments from the people in attendance, making about half of the video Q&A.  I’m not going to summarize the presentation here, but I will state my gratitude for the various criticisms I’ve received.

Those criticisms include the following:

1) My critique of AT&T’s “Rethink Possible” slogan didn’t account for the full history of AT&T.  This was by far my favorite criticism.  AT&T is a weird entity with a complex history.

2) My interpretation of Platonic dualism didn’t do justice to the elements of Plato’s writings that subvert dualism and pervert the very idea of Platonism.

3) My espousal of rhizomatics might not be effective in countering the interconnected flows of global capitalism.

4) Aside from an injunction to tarry with complexity and uncertainty, my philosophical experiments do not give very specific guidance on questions of ethics, politics, and practical action.

5) My focus on the humor of truth (Isabelle Stengers’ concept for a critical standpoint from which to recognize the limits of one’s theories) did not adequately account for the many other ways of recognizing the limits of one’s theories (e.g., humility, imagination).

6) Perhaps the strangest criticism I heard is that my emphasis on humor makes me impervious to criticism or somehow difficult to criticize.  I’m happy to accept that criticism, especially insofar as I sometimes tell jokes instead of responding directly to questions.  However, I think I’m generally quite vulnerable and available to criticism.  Indeed, humor (following Stengers) was presented precisely as a means to stay open to criticism, not as a hipster strategy for being ironic and, like, whatevs.  Furthermore, as indicated by each of these six criticisms, some people found it quite easy to criticize my points and positions.