A Reckoning for Our Species

Timothy Morton wants humanity to give up some of its core beliefs, from the fantasy that we can control the planet to the notion that we are ‘above’ other beings.

[Morton’s terminology is “slowly infecting all the humanities”, says his friend and fellow thinker Graham Harman. Though many academics have a reputation for writing exclusively for their colleagues down the hall, Morton’s peculiar conceptual vocabulary – “dark ecology”, “the strange stranger”, “the mesh” – has been picked up by writers in a cornucopia of fields, from literature and epistemology to legal theory and religion. Last year, he was included in a much-discussed list of the 50 most influential living philosophers. His ideas have also percolated into traditional media outlets such as Newsweek, the New Yorker and the New York Times….

Morton’s theories might sound bizarre, but they are in tune with the most earth-shaking idea to emerge in the 21st century: that we are entering a new phase in the history of the planet – a phase that Morton and many others now call the “Anthropocene”.]

Read the full story here | The Guardian

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A Paean to Reality | Blue Life

“As a moral claim, ‘Blue Lives Matter’ is predicated on the existence of blue life. And yet blue life does not exist prior to the articulation of that moral claim. Blue life is merely constituted through the anticipation of violence and the projection of criminality. Blue life is not a personhood but rather a spectral legal identity that mimics vulnerability. Blue life is no more than a figuration … It is impossible to inhabit the ‘I’ of blue life. No one can be on the side of blue life. It is merely a conceit that simulates a threat in order to justify the expansion of state power.”

Blue Life | The New Inquiry

Epic Battles of Words. In Rhyme.

“Racist bars and jokes are known for creating shock value and major crowd reactions, and to be on the receiving end of those lines will trigger emotions not only for a battler but for the people who those lines are referring to. I chose to embrace the stereotypes and I guess you can say, ‘take it back, take away the power.’ Those words hold and in, I turn flip it on my opponents.

I incorporate a lot of Native schemes, references, jokes and use it to my advantage. I always expect the them to come and me with the same material as they should since it’s a battle, and I’ve recently learned to sway myself from using  stereotypes against my opponents because, for me to do so would be defeating the point I’m trying to accomplish when I battle.”

Meet Phrase vs Pyrex

On Ableism and Animals

[We need to crip animal ethics, incorporating a disability politics into the way we think about animals. It is essential that we examine the shared systems and ideologies that oppress both disabled humans and nonhuman animals, because ableism perpetuates animal oppression in more areas than the linguistic. To me, far from proving that animal justice is impossible and silly, the complexity of sentience and the vast array of mysterious life and nonlife on this planet show that we need a nuanced understanding of different abilities and the different responsibilities those abilities engender.

The problem is not reason itself but rather the ways in which reason has been held up as separate from and more valuable than emotion, feeling, and other ways of knowing and being. This definition of reason stems from a history of patriarchy, imperialism, racism, classism, ableism, and anthropocentrism, and too often carries these oppressions within it. These issues are particularly important to keep in mind when theorizing liberation for those who do or may lack “reason,” such as nonhuman animals and individuals with significant intellectual disabilities.

Intellectual inferiority has been so easily animalized because animals themselves have long been understood as intellectually inferior. The association of animals with cognitive deficiency must be challenged, not only because many species exhibit signs of human intelligence and because animal minds are complex in their own right (in ways that often cannot easily be compared and contrasted with human capacities), but because intellectual capacity should not determine a being’s worth and the protections they are granted.]

On Ableism and Animals | An excerpt from Beasts of Burden, which was published by The New Press in February 2017

Reckoning with What is Owed — and What Can Never be Repaid — for Racial Privilege

Nietzsche’s “guilt”, whiteness, and what the real cost is to live in the land of another | Oh, and the difference between freedom and liberty

[I once feared buying a house because I didn’t want to be owned. I had saved money with no purpose in mind other than the freedom to do whatever I wanted. Now I’m bound to this house, though I’m still free to lose it if I choose. But that isn’t the version of freedom that interests me at the moment. I’m more compelled by a freedom that would allow me to deserve what I have. Call it liberation, maybe. If debt can be repaid incrementally, resulting eventually in ownership, perhaps so can guilt.

What is the condition of white life? We are moral debtors who act as material creditors. Our banks make bad loans. Our police, like Nietzsche’s creditors, act out their power on black bodies. And, as I see in my own language, we confuse whiteness with ownership.]

 

The Eternal Greek Debt to Islam | The Abbasid Caliphate, al-Kindi and Philosophical Nuances

[European antiquity, philosophers largely wrote in Greek. Even after the Roman conquest of the Mediterranean and the demise of paganism, philosophy was strongly associated with Hellenic culture. The leading thinkers of the Roman world, such as Cicero and Seneca, were steeped in Greek literature; Cicero even went to Athens to pay homage to the home of his philosophical heroes. Tellingly, the emperor Marcus Aurelius went so far as to write his Meditations in Greek. Cicero, and later Boethius, did attempt to initiate a philosophical tradition in Latin. But during the early Middle Ages, most of Greek thought was accessible in Latin only partially and indirectly.

Elsewhere, the situation was better. In the eastern part of the Roman Empire, the Greek-speaking Byzantines could continue to read Plato and Aristotle in the original. And philosophers in the Islamic world enjoyed an extraordinary degree of access to the Hellenic intellectual heritage. In 10th-century Baghdad, readers of Arabic had about the same degree of access to Aristotle that readers of English do today.

This was thanks to a well-funded translation movement that unfolded during the Abbasid caliphate, beginning in the second half of the eighth century.]

alkindi

[Muslim intellectuals also saw resources in the Greek texts for defending, and better understanding, their own religion. One of the earliest to embrace this possibility was al-Kindī, traditionally designated as the first philosopher to write in Arabic (he died around 870CE). A well-heeled Muslim who moved in court circles, al-Kindī oversaw the activity of Christian scholars who could render Greek into Arabic. The results were mixed. The circle’s version of Aristotle’s Metaphysics can be almost incomprehensible at times (to be fair, one could say this of the Greek Metaphysics too), while their ‘translation’ of the writings of Plotinus often takes the form of a free paraphrase with new, added material.

It’s a particularly dramatic example of something that is characteristic of the Greek-Arabic translations more generally – and perhaps of all philosophical translations. Those who have themselves translated philosophy from a foreign language will know that, to attempt it, you need a deep understanding of what you are reading. Along the way, you must make difficult choices about how to render the source text into the target language, and the reader (who might not know, or not be able to access, the original version) will be at the mercy of the translator’s decisions.

Here’s my favourite example. Aristotle uses the Greek word eidos to mean both ‘form’ – as in ‘substances are made of form and matter’ – and ‘species’ – as in ‘human is a species that falls under the genus of animal’. But in Arabic, as in English, there are two different words (‘form’ is ṣūra, ‘species’ is nawʿ). As a result, the Arabic translators had to decide, every time they came across the word eidos, which of these concepts Aristotle had in mind – sometimes it was obvious, but sometimes not. The Arabic Plotinus, however, goes far beyond such necessary decisions of terminology. It makes dramatic interventions into the text, which help to bring out the relevance of Plotinus’ teaching for monotheistic theology, repurposing the Neoplatonic idea of a supreme and utterly simple first principle as the mighty Creator of the Abrahamic faiths…]

Full article here | AEON

 

To the Anemic Pedants Amidst Our Pseudo-Progressive Academic Narrows | Or… Someone has a Beef with Slavoj

Hamid Dabashi draws a sharp line in the sand between European and post-colonial philosophers in this provocative introduction to Can Non-Europeans Think?

[Other people are also entitled “to recapture” – as, of course, is Žižek – a world beyond their imagination. Žižek is correct that “In no way does my basic vocation have to be drawn from the past of peoples of color.” But those very “people of color” (as he categorizes them, according to his prerogative) do not only have a past; they also have a present, and a future. Žižek is blinded to that present unless he assimilates it backward into his present, and is indifferent to that future unless he gets (singularly) to define it. He is unconditionally correct that “In no way do I have to dedicate myself to reviving some black civilization unjustly ignored.” But a “black civilization” unjustly ignored is peopled by other people, by other thinking people, kicking people, people who talk, and talk back, and talk past Žižek. He is entirely entitled to say “I will not make myself the man of any past” – and he should not, as no one should. But the people of color he just buried alive in their past are also living and breathing a present of which he seems to be blissfully ignorant. He is, of course, pulling my colored beard when he says, “My black skin is not a repository for specific values.” But mine is, and I am a living repository of not just “values” but universes, emotions, words, sentiments, rebellions that he and all his Horatios have not yet dreamt of in their philosophy.

Žižek and his fellow philosophers are oblivious to those geographies because they cannot read any other script, any other map, than the colonial script and the colonial map with which Europeans have read and navigated the world; conversely they cannot read any other script or map because they are blinded to alternative geographies that resistance to that colonialism had written and navigated. The condition is exacerbated any time people around the world rise up to assert their geography as the ground zero of a world historical event. At these times Žižek and his followers are all up and about trying to read the world back into what they already know. There is a new condition beyond postcoloniality that these Europeans cannot read, hard as they try to assimilate it back into the condition of coloniality. The task is not a mere critique of neo-Orientalism, which always is commensurate with immediate and short-sighted political interests, but to overcome “Europe” as an idea and make it behave as one among any number of other exhausted metaphors, neither less nor more potent, organic, or trustworthy. Europe was “the invention of the Third World,” as Fanon fully realized – both in material and normative senses of the term. I have already argued that we need to change the interlocutor with whom we discuss the terms of our emerging worlds. We should no longer address a dead interlocutor. Europe is dead. Long live Europeans. The Islam they had invented in their Orientalism is dead. Long live Muslims. The Orient they had created, the Third World they had crafted to rule and denigrate, have disappeared. If only those who still see themselves as Orientals would begin to decolonize their minds too.]

Fuck You Žižek!