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humankind_notes [2017-09-18 10:03]
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humankind_notes [2018-10-25 13:57] (current)
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-==== Humankind ====+==== Humankind — Timothy Morton====
  
 ([[reading notes]] for Humankind: Solidarity with Nonhuman People, Timothy Morton, 2017.) ([[reading notes]] for Humankind: Solidarity with Nonhuman People, Timothy Morton, 2017.)
  
  
- +====Things in Common: An Introduction====
-====Introduction====+
  
 <blockquote>In symbiosis, it’s unclear which is the top symbiont, and the relationship between the beings is jagged, incomplete.</blockquote> <blockquote>In symbiosis, it’s unclear which is the top symbiont, and the relationship between the beings is jagged, incomplete.</blockquote>
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 <blockquote>We require another holism if we are going to think at a planetary scale without just upgrading or retweeting the basic agricultural theological meme</blockquote> <blockquote>We require another holism if we are going to think at a planetary scale without just upgrading or retweeting the basic agricultural theological meme</blockquote>
  
-<blockquote></blockquote> 
  
 <blockquote>The symbiotic real is necessarily ragged and pockmarked.</blockquote> <blockquote>The symbiotic real is necessarily ragged and pockmarked.</blockquote>
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-===Chapter 1===+====1. Life====
  
 <blockquote>actual “life” as opposed to Life with a capital L inhabits this excluded middle zone. What is called “life” is a hesitancy between two different kinds of death: blind machination and total nonexistence.</blockquote> <blockquote>actual “life” as opposed to Life with a capital L inhabits this excluded middle zone. What is called “life” is a hesitancy between two different kinds of death: blind machination and total nonexistence.</blockquote>
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 <blockquote>A shimmering, undead, spectral being—an electron, a mouse, a skyscraper, a social movement—is an X-being, intrinsically endowed with superpowers. We can comprehend this precisely through the X that Kant himself uses to describe the one thing he allows to be withdrawn: transcendental synthetic judgments a priori. He calls them the “Unknown = X.”</blockquote> <blockquote>A shimmering, undead, spectral being—an electron, a mouse, a skyscraper, a social movement—is an X-being, intrinsically endowed with superpowers. We can comprehend this precisely through the X that Kant himself uses to describe the one thing he allows to be withdrawn: transcendental synthetic judgments a priori. He calls them the “Unknown = X.”</blockquote>
  
-<blockquote>"Yes, the whole world is haunted! Only is haunted? Nay, it itself “walks,” it is uncanny through and through, it is the wandering seeming-body of a spirit, it is a spook.</blockquote>+====2Spectres====
  
-<blockquote>—Max Stirner, The Ego and Its Own"</blockquote>+<blockquote>"Yes, the whole world is haunted! Only is haunted? Nay, it itself “walks,” it is uncanny through and through, it is the wandering seeming-body of a spirit, it is a spook. —Max Stirner, The Ego and Its Own"</blockquote>
  
 <blockquote>I’m out of the loop! I’m out of the loop! I’m out of the loop!</blockquote> <blockquote>I’m out of the loop! I’m out of the loop! I’m out of the loop!</blockquote>
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 <blockquote>Humankind is humankind, not some abstract being but a very specific one. Yet this doesn’t mean we can point to it directly. Humankind is specific and spectral. The quality of humankindness floats spectrally like a halo around humans, precisely because of the specificity.</blockquote> <blockquote>Humankind is humankind, not some abstract being but a very specific one. Yet this doesn’t mean we can point to it directly. Humankind is specific and spectral. The quality of humankindness floats spectrally like a halo around humans, precisely because of the specificity.</blockquote>
 +
 +====3. Subscendence====
  
 <blockquote>‘‘The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.’’ This truism is one of the most profound inhibitors of world sharing.</blockquote> <blockquote>‘‘The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.’’ This truism is one of the most profound inhibitors of world sharing.</blockquote>
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 <blockquote>In a solar economy, the economic whole will subscend the parts. In an oil economy, oil subsumes everything in its explosive-holistic wake. In a solar economy, the question of who siphons and sells the solar power is a different type of question than the question of who owns the oil. In many more senses than we can now enact, humankind will have seized the productive forces, which is different from saying that nonhuman lifeforms will continue to be exploited. This is because humankind is a fuzzy, subscendent whole that includes and implies other lifeforms</blockquote> <blockquote>In a solar economy, the economic whole will subscend the parts. In an oil economy, oil subsumes everything in its explosive-holistic wake. In a solar economy, the question of who siphons and sells the solar power is a different type of question than the question of who owns the oil. In many more senses than we can now enact, humankind will have seized the productive forces, which is different from saying that nonhuman lifeforms will continue to be exploited. This is because humankind is a fuzzy, subscendent whole that includes and implies other lifeforms</blockquote>
 +
 +====4. Species====
  
 <blockquote>Utilitarian holism sets up a zero-sum game between the actually existing lifeform and the population. One consequence is the trolley problem: it is better to kill one person tied to the tracks by diverting the trolley than it is to kill hundreds of people on the trolley who will go off a cliff if we don’t divert the trolley. There’s the left-wing variant: talk of wholes is necessarily violent (racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic and so on) because what exists are highly differentiated beings that are radically incommensurable. In this leftist thought mode, there’s as little chance of imagining you’re a member of a group as in neoliberal ideology!</blockquote> <blockquote>Utilitarian holism sets up a zero-sum game between the actually existing lifeform and the population. One consequence is the trolley problem: it is better to kill one person tied to the tracks by diverting the trolley than it is to kill hundreds of people on the trolley who will go off a cliff if we don’t divert the trolley. There’s the left-wing variant: talk of wholes is necessarily violent (racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic and so on) because what exists are highly differentiated beings that are radically incommensurable. In this leftist thought mode, there’s as little chance of imagining you’re a member of a group as in neoliberal ideology!</blockquote>
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 <blockquote>Which comes first, racism or anti-environmentalism? This has to do with a deep philosophical issue: which subtends the other, racism or speciesism? Does racism exist because we discriminate between humans and every other lifeform? Or does speciesism exist because we hold racist beliefs about people who don’t look exactly like us?</blockquote> <blockquote>Which comes first, racism or anti-environmentalism? This has to do with a deep philosophical issue: which subtends the other, racism or speciesism? Does racism exist because we discriminate between humans and every other lifeform? Or does speciesism exist because we hold racist beliefs about people who don’t look exactly like us?</blockquote>
  
-<blockquote>+====5. Kindness ==== 
 + 
 +<blockquote>Being kind means being-in-solidarity with nonhumans: with kind-red. This includes acknowledging the spectral dimension of existence that is a necessary aspect of the symbiotic real.</blockquote> 
 + 
 +<blockquote>Reductionism wants to eliminate the possibility of finding anything outside the narrow bandwidth of beings already defined as people. It’s not surprising that the current state of agricultural society has spawned the most violent version yet, called eliminative materialism. What really needs to happen is that we need to get to a place that when we hear the word “materialism,” we don’t hear the words “reduce” or “eliminate.”</blockquote> 
 + 
 +<blockquote>Style exceeds intentions. A character trying not to execute their style is funny because, as Stirner observes, “toil[ing] to get away from [oneself]” is what one can’t do</blockquote> 
 + 
 +<blockquote>Style as such is species-being, a non-intended, “nonhuman” and unconscious aspect of ourselves. If humankind exists, then humankind has a style: being kind.</blockquote> 
 + 
 +<blockquote>Consumer products are a place where nonhumans are found inside social space, which means that social space was never exclusively human. Consumer products are made from the symbiotic real: they act as an interface between human reality and the symbiotic real. Consumer products count as nonhuman beings in their own right. It’s simply a matter of the amount of nonhuman styling of ourselves to which we are susceptible; nonhumans constantly impinge on our world.</blockquote> 
 + 
 +<blockquote>Let us now define kindness as acknowledgment of nonhumans in the terms I just described, whether acknowledgment is in its quantum or ground state (what is conventionally called “aesthetic experience”), or whether acknowledgment is in its more classical state (what is conventionally called “ethical or political action”). Again, we are going to need to modify “active” and “passive.” Forging solidarity links is a matter of always already having been caught in the general solidarity mode of the symbiotic real.</blockquote> 
 + 
 +<blockquote>Acknowledging ourselves to be –morphized by a nonhuman means acknowledging that the nonhuman is sharing its world with us.</blockquote> 
 + 
 +<blockquote>Access modes are modes of pleasure. The realms of access are necessarily limited by object withdrawal, and consumerism has a determinate shape to it—it’s a set of these but not those performance styles. There must be pleasure modes that can’t be co-opted, yet we can only discover them by embracing consumer pleasure modes that “say” something true, namely that access is in a loop with what is being accessed—a loop commonly referred to as desire rather than as need.</blockquote> 
 + 
 +<blockquote>Kindness means including nonhumans in our social designs, not because it’s nice or because we need to condescend to things and make them ersatz humans with rights. Not for any reason involving good or evil at all, because that’s an artifact of agricultural-age religion. We need to include nonhumans because it’s fascinating. Because we can’t help it. Because we know too much. We’re not trying to be kind. It’s that this is our kindness in the sense that this is how we are. We want to be maximum chameleons.</blockquote> 
 + 
 +<blockquote>The fascinating is one of two aspects of the numinous, along with the tremendous: the fear-inducing or awe-inspiring. The numinous is a displacement of human-kindness into a lordly, divine dimension. The capacity to be fascinated by the numinous is aesthetic appreciation restored to its wider-bandwidth, subscendent version, the one fringed with an aura of the sexual and erotic, with disgust, or horror, or excess. Our capacity for fascination is what fuels solidarity, not some pre-theoretical, prefabricated concept of need. Fascination is the aesthetic gravitational pull of entities toward one another, the dynamics of solidarity, within a forcefield-like matrix of sensitivities.</blockquote> 
 + 
 +<blockquote>Human-kindness goes beyond tolerance, which is based on an emotional economy of need, to appreciation, appreciation for no reason, based on an emotional economy of desire. This entails the possibility not of refraining from pleasure (which is simply displaced pleasure, or pleasurable restraint as such), but of allowing other beings to have pleasure.</blockquote> 
 + 
 +<blockquote>Kindness means being kinda-sorta, because one is permeated with other beings, physically and experientially and everything else.</blockquote> 
 + 
 +<blockquote>Motivations for ecological ethics and politics can no longer be trapped in theistic discourses of good and evil, or biopolitical discourses of sickness and health, or petrocultural discourses of efficiency and sustainability.</blockquote> 
 + 
 +<blockquote>We live in a world in which the past is trying as hard as possible to eat the future as efficiently as possible. Every year the past gets better at eating the future. Keeping the future open, refocusing humankind on the specter of futurality: this is a key task of ecological politics.</blockquote> 
 + 
 +<blockquote>Here’s a new twist on the Kantian injunction. Not you must because you can, nor you can because you must. In terms of ecological politics that acknowledges the symbiotic real, it’s you must because you can’t.</blockquote> 
 + 
 +<blockquote>This is not a compromise position between activity and passivity, but a whole new dimension that we might call wiggle room</blockquote> 
 + 
 +<blockquote>This new form of action has a necessarily silly component. It’s interesting that the silly is the one affect we never ever think of as politically or ethically effective. Indeed, we might usually regard it as a nuisance or a waste. But silliness appears to be a pathway toward finding the wiggle room that joins us to nonhumans, including our pre-Severed actually existing symbiotic selves.</blockquote> 
 + 
 +<blockquote>Any good author will tell you that they do not in fact have authority, that they are involved in a hopeless chase of the wild goose of themselves through the necessarily temporal medium of narrative: “I am not wherever I am the plaything of my thought. I think of what I am where I do not think to think.”8</blockquote> 
 + 
 +<blockquote>Paranoia, the feeling of being haunted and watched, becomes a possibility condition for solidarity</blockquote> 
 + 
 +<blockquote>There is a thing called humankind, and we can access it, albeit in an anthropomorphic way, yet strangely in an anti-anthropocentric way. This is because humankind is a heap of things that aren’t humankind.</blockquote> 
 + 
 +<blockquote>Ecological awareness is claustrophobic. You find yourself surrounded, permeated, composed of not-you beings. And you are phenomenologically glued to Earth. Say we do travel to another planet. We will need to recreate a terrestrial biosphere, possibly from scratch—we will have the same problem as we have down here on Earth, only magnified.</blockquote> 
 + 
 +<blockquote>Ecoclaustrophobia means that we can be more cynical than cynical reason. Think about another sentence: All tactics are hypocritical. This must mean that the sentence is also hypocritical. Something is always missing from the ethical and political ecological jigsaw, which means that there can be no top-level political form to rule them all. How to exit from a trap in which expected exit strategies are just different ways of reinforcing it?</blockquote> 
 + 
 +<blockquote>Stranger-logic means that the whole that is the biosphere is subscendent: it is tattered and jagged, it has pieces missing, it’s less than the sum of its parts. It might then be the case that there can be no totality to rule them all, and that if this is only what communism means, we cannot think communism without metaphysical universalisms concerning the human. If, however, it is possible to imagine a host of communisms then we will be able to include nonhumans in communist thought. Interdependence (the basic fact of ecology) means that one lifeform is always excluded from a group: caring for rabbits means not caring for rabbit predators. Communisms can only be contingent, fragile and playful.</blockquote> 
 + 
 +<blockquote>not only Kropotkin, but also Stirner.</blockquote> 
 + 
 +<blockquote>The frenzied decisionism of correlationist action theory has led to an overemphasis on the death drive: “Standing in the place of the death drive,” as Lacan puts it, maniacal blind machinating, as opposed to the pleasure orientation we are exploring here</blockquote> 
 + 
 +<blockquote>If solidarity is the noise that the symbiotic real makes, we could imagine that mutual aid is just a paraphrase of the term symbiotic. Mutual aid is the slogan of the anarchist Peter Kropotkin. We need to haunt Marxism with another specter: the specter of anarchism. Anarchism split from socialism after the First International, in 1872. But what if Marxism only thrives when it is ghosted by its spectral halo, anarchism?</blockquote> 
 + 
 + 
 +<blockquote>What Kropotkin helps us to think through, however, are the issues around altruism, anthropomorphism and anthropocentrism, because the last two need to be disambiguated in such a way that we can rewrite “altruism” to mean something that could actually work.</blockquote> 
 + 
 +<blockquote>"It is not love to my neighbour—whom I often do not know at all—which induces me to seize a pail of water and to rush towards his house when I see it on fire; it is a far wider, even though more vague feeling or instinct of human solidarity and sociability which moves me. So it is also with animals. It is not love, and not even sympathy (understood in its proper sense) which induces a herd of ruminants or of horses to form a ring in order to resist an array of wolves."27 [Kropotkin]</blockquote> 
 + 
 +<blockquote>Peter Kropotkin, Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution (The Anarchist Library, 1902)</blockquote> 
 + 
 +<blockquote>Brilliantly, Kropotkin takes the burden off the individual lifeform while allowing species to be thought as groups and collectives. We don’t have to look for “love” or “even sympathy.” What we are after is much more basic: solidarity.</blockquote> 
 + 
 +<blockquote>Kropotkin goes so far as to say that our own human tendency to solidarity is inherited from nonhumans:</blockquote> 
 + 
 +<blockquote>I have tried to indicate in brief the immense importance which the mutual-support instincts, inherited by mankind from its extremely long evolution, play even now in our modern society, which is supposed to rest upon the principle: “every one for himself, and the State for all,” but which it never has succeeded, nor will succeed in realizing.</blockquote> 
 + 
 +<blockquote>Kropotkin takes play to be deeper than parenting. Solidarity is a possibility condition for play. Because entities are structurally incomplete, they require solidarity to play themselves out. If play is a deeper category than reified notions of work or labor, then what does that say about how we act? What is political action, taking humankind into consideration? A communism that allows for nonhuman beings requires nothing less than a strongly de-anthropocentrized rewriting of action theory.</blockquote> 
 + 
 +<blockquote>Political action theory tends to be deeply anthropocentric. This depends on current concepts of event. There are two main types of event concepts: the cutting-into-a-continuum type, and the continuum type. The latter is the new Whiteheadian kid on the philosophical block. The former is the Badiou-style theory of the Event, or indeed the Deleuzian theory of desiring machines, or the structuralist theory of language. The problem is, there is no such thing as this continuum! Instead, there are actually existing lifeforms.</blockquote> 
 + 
 +<blockquote>why do humans have any tendency to undermine mutual aid at all? Unions keep reconstituting themselves even when suppressed. The violence of neoliberalism is necessary to break through mutual aid to the extent that mutual aid is intrinsic to humankind. Kropotkin is not sentimentalizing working-class people when he writes, “For every one who has any idea of the life of the labouring classes it is evident that without mutual aid being practised among them on a large scale they never could pull through all their difficulties.”30 What is meant is that cooperation is the zero-degree, cheapest coexistence mode, something you rely on when all else fails. Mutual aid is not teleological. Symbiosis cannot be thought teleologically.</blockquote> 
 + 
 +<blockquote></blockquote> 
 + 
 +<blockquote>How do we come back down to Earth? By a spectral pathway. We need to reintroduce what is called passivity into our theory of action. Not the radical passivity of the Levinasians, but a spectral passivity that must haunt what is called activity as a condition of its possibility.</blockquote> 
 + 
 +<blockquote>I am going to define rocking as spectral action, namely an action that subscends hardcore correlationism and hardcore materialism and includes the spectral, the spectral nonhuman</blockquote> 
 + 
 +<blockquote>Spectral action will look spooky, or like nothing at all, or impossible, or magical, depending on what kind of a person you are. The revolution will not be televised, but that’s not all: it won’t be possible to point to it in any way whatsoever, because quantum action can’t be located in one region of space-time, nor can it be reduced to smaller, easier-to-identify bits.</blockquote> 
 + 
 +<blockquote>Ecological awareness means that in any political grouping something is necessarily excluded—there is a fundamental fragility and inconsistency about any set of political beings. This necessary exclusion is the locus of violence, such that solidarity is always in the structural position of wishing it could encompass more, encompass everything. But this wish is just exactly the feeling of compassion, in its most default, least hyped-up state, a passion-to-coexist, a striving-to-be-with.</blockquote> 
 + 
 +<blockquote></blockquote> 
 + 
 +<blockquote>If we pay attention, we can glimpse something very strange in these resonances: a whole new theory of action. This theory of action has to do with a highly necessary queering of the theistic categories of active versus passive, categories that are deeply caught in the way we think sexualities and the cultures and politics of those sexualities. These are categories that, going further, violently interfere with the way humans have treated nonhumans in social, psychic and philosophical space. Only consider how sexuality and in particular queerness in rock music has been expressed and policed, since its inception, to begin to intuit how urgent and quiveringly sensitive this issue is. It is high time to retire the concepts active and passive as we commonly think them, and time to start rocking.</blockquote> 
 + 
 +<blockquote>We are wary of letting rocks do things because we are wary of letting agency be about doing things. We talk about distributed agency, or emergent agency, as a way to signal our discomfort, but this is the merest hint. Calling agency “distributed” means that one doesn’t really need to claim that this rock is acting. It is part of a network of actants, instead, acting insofar as it has effects on other things. It would be indecorous to pin the acting down to any one part of the network. There is an unspoken prohibition on appearing a philistine in these matters; to acknowledge distribution is an aesthetic preference in an age of anxiety about authority.</blockquote> 
 + 
 +<blockquote>Philosophers should never be allowed on the dance floor. Or maybe they should only be allowed on dance floors, because that’s where their intellect might become confused enough to say something of significance.</blockquote> 
 + 
 +<blockquote>MDMA or ecstasy seems to enhance awareness of what some Asian medical and spiritual systems call the subtle body, which is not exactly physical in a crude (as those systems say, “gross”) sense, but not exactly mental either. The drug appears to operate “between” these categories, although between is also the wrong word, because the sensation of subtle body awareness is not unlike becoming aware of an alien entity, yet an alien that is more intimate than one’s concept of oneself or one’s sense of physical embodiment, aptly named, with its associations with that dreaded notion of property and propriety, proprioception</blockquote> 
 + 
 +<blockquote>Western scholarship can now say “mindfulness” (a term originating from the discourse of Buddhist meditation) because neoliberalism loves mindfulness. This is for a reason, however, far from that which Žižek assumes, namely that it turns the practitioner into a blissed-out, passive person (like other theorists of the Event, Žižek is averse to passivity). Mindfulness turns the practitioner into a maniacally active worker who now has a whole new job to do both at work and at home, namely to remain calm. Scholarship continues to be incapable of saying “awareness,” by which meditation manuals mean something effortless, something the practitioner is not “doing” at all, something that occurs more as a self-sustaining flash. This is a shame, because mindfulness is in Buddhist meditation manuals a tool that can allow awareness to happen—at which point the meditator is supposed to drop the mindfulness.</blockquote> 
 + 
 +<blockquote>Ecological awareness is knowing that there are a bewildering variety of scales, temporal and spatial, and that the human ones are only a very narrow region of a much larger and necessarily inconsistent and varied scalar possibility space</blockquote> 
 + 
 +<blockquote>On an inhumanly large timescale, rocks behave like liquids, coming and going, moving, shifting, melting. Rocks fail to sit there doing nothing. Humans aren’t caught in anthropocentrism without an exit, because they can discern rocks to be liquid, attuning to the timescale on which that liquidity operates, letting it affect them, becoming excited or horrified. Furthermore, on an inhumanly small spatio-temporal scale, tiny slivers of rock vibrate all by themselves. As we observed earlier, they do something much worse for the active–passive binary. They vibrate and not-vibrate at the same time.</blockquote> 
 + 
 +<blockquote>Philosophy requires a new theory of action, a queer one that is neither active nor passive nor a compromised amalgam of both, to help us slip out from underneath physically massive beings such as global warming and neoliberalism, to find some wiggle room down there so we can wriggle or rock our way out of the hyperobjects.</blockquote> 
 + 
 +<blockquote>Love is not straight, because reality is not straight. Everywhere, there are curves and bends, things veer.</blockquote> 
 + 
 +<blockquote>It’s not just that you can have solidarity with nonhumans. It’s that solidarity implies nonhumans. Solidarity requires nonhumans. Solidarity just is solidarity with nonhumans.</blockquote> 
 + 
  
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