I often find myself thinking with Alfred North Whitehead. I recall that today is his birthday, Feburary 15 (1861-1947). I don’t remember many birthdays of philosophers, but that is one of them. It’s Galileo’s birthday too, so maybe that has something to do with this date sticking in my memory.
I recently finalized revisions for “A Place for Ecological Democracy in Whitehead’s Philosophy of Religious Entanglements,” which is a chapter for an anthology, Greening Philosophy of Religion: Rethinking Climate Change at the Intersection of Philosophy and Religion (edited by Jea Sophia Oh and John Quiring). In a couple of months I’ll be presenting on Whitehead’s ontological principle for the American Philosophical Association. I keep thinking with Whitehead, but I wouldn’t consider myself Whiteheadian. I continue drawing on his philosophy for a variety of reasons, one of which is that I am often inspired by other contemporary writers who engage with Whitehead in new ways that are relevant to contemporary problems. It is the community of those who think with Whitehead who really make Whitehead interesting to me. In other words, the secondary sources are often more interesting than Whitehead’s primary texts. So maybe I’m a secondary Whiteheadian, if that’s a thing. Not just any secondary Whiteheadian. A Deleuzian Whiteheadian. Continue reading
Graham Harman and other proponents of object-oriented ontology (OOO) follow Whitehead in taking up the task of articulating a speculative metaphysics, which is a relatively untimely task, situated amidst multifarious post-Kantian prohibitions against metaphysics. In particular, OOO follows Whitehead’s “ontological principle,” affirming the irreducibility of actual entities. The relationship between OOO and Whitehead looks mutually beneficial. OOO benefits by getting support for its metaphysical orientation toward entities, things, i.e., “objects.” [Does it need to be reiterated that this is a general sense of object as entity, not the modern sense of object in opposition to (or participation with) subject?] Whitehead benefits by getting a boost in popularity, making Whitehead more relevant and interesting for contemporary thought. Despite this opportunity for mutual benefit, both partners aren’t totally into it. Harman refers to Whitehead regularly (including in his latest, Immaterialism), acknowledging Whitehead’s unique contributions to metaphysics. How do Whiteheadians respond? Let’s face it. It’s not the mutual admiration club. Guess what, OOO? Process philosophers just aren’t that into you. Continue reading
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.
Below you’ll find the summary and a few blurbs: Continue reading
I found the cutting-edge of the creative advance of Whitehead studies. It’s in the new anthology edited by Jeremy Fackenthal and Roland Faber, Theopoetic Folds: Philosophizing Multifariousness (Fordham, 2013). It takes its cue from Whitehead’s philosophy, particularly on two points.
“Philosophy may not neglect the multifariousness of the world—the fairies dance, and Christ is nailed to the cross” (Whitehead, Process and Reality, 338).
Theology is most effective and interesting when it is theopoetics, not only in the sense that poetic speech about God is more accurate than prosaic or formulaic speech, but also in the sense that God is “the poet of the world” (ibid., 336).
This is a must-read book for anybody dealing with Whitehead studies. Even if you aren’t interested in poetics or radical theology, the book contains a lot of other discussions relevant to metaphysics, cosmology, ecology, and the history of philosophy. My favorite essays in this collection are in the penultimate section, “The Pluriverse,” which focuses on the cosmological/ecological dimension of Whitehead’s theopoetic philosophy, including pieces from Catherine Keller, Luke Higgins, and Roland Faber.
The piece by Faber presents an “eco-theopoetics” that synthesizes Whitehead and Deleuze in a radical affirmation of wild multiplicity after the “ecological death of God.” Moreover, “wild” does not refer to any identity or opposition of nature or culture, but is about the necessity of our constitutive contingency in the chaosmos. Nature and humanity are put back in their place (khora), becoming “eco-nature” and “becoming intermezzo.”
The Whitehead Research Project released a new volume in its book series on Contemporary Whitehead Studies. This anthology develops a creative contrast between Whitehead and a philosopher rarely if ever associated with Whitehead: Judith Butler. It features a couple essays from Roland Faber and a couple from Catherine Keller: two of the most interesting and important Whitehead scholars alive today.
The book, Butler and Whitehead: On the Occasion, is based on a conference that happened a few years ago at Claremont Graduate University (in Claremont, California). Audio of Butler’s presentation of her paper, “On this Occasion,” can be found HERE.
Whitehead’s philosophy is at its most relevant and effective when situated in dialogue with contemporary thinkers, so I’m quite happy about this new book and about all of the various efforts of the Whitehead Research Project to bring Whitehead into poststructuralist, queer, and ecological milieus.
Butler: Let’s face it. We’re undone by each other. And if we’re not, we’re missing something. (Precarious Life)
Whitehead: In this way immediacy of finite existence refuses to be deprived of that infinitude of extension which is its perspective. (Modes of Thought)
How many books on Deleuze are coming out in the next year? A lot. The Deleuzian trend is far from waning. However, the trends is transforming, growing rhizomatic offshoots.
There are a couple lines that I see developing in new Deleuze scholarship. One is indicated by the name of Clayton Crockett’s forthcoming work, Deleuze Beyond Badiou: Ontology, Multiplicity, and Event. Badiou’s reading of Deleuze has been very influential, yet it misses and misrepresents a lot of Deleuze’s thought (including Deleuze’s work with Guattari). Deleuze isn’t necessarily the monistic thinker that Badiou portrays. With the work of Crockett and many others, I think that Deleuze scholarship will continue to move “beyond Badiou,” and there is a multiplicity of directions available for such a move.
Along with the move beyond Badiou, another growing edge in Deleuze scholarship is a turn toward the religious and spiritual folds of Deleuze’s thought, which could also be framed as an appropriation of Deleuze by fields of theology and religious studies. Again, Clayton Crockett’s work is indicative of this turn, as he’s been using Deleuze to do political theology (see Crockett’s Radical Political Theology). I’ve been interested in the spiritual/religious implications of Deleuze for years, and there has been relatively little written about it, with some notable exceptions, including works of process theologians (e.g., Catherine Keller, Roland Faber, Luke Higgins), the anthology Deleuze and Religion (ed. Mary Bryden), and an issue of the journal SubStance (39.1) on “Spiritual Politics after Deleuze.”
There are three books coming out soon that focus on Deleuze’s work in terms of theology, religion, and spirituality.
Deleuze and Theology, by Christopher Simpson
Theology after Deleuze, Kristien Justaert
The Hermetic Deleuze: Philosophy and Spiritual Ordeal, by Joshua Ramey