Friday, 7 December 2012

Departitioning AUFS and OOO [UPDATE]

I’ve finally added AUFS to my list of Favourite Blogs. Why should such a minor event warrant comment? Well, bizarrely, this decision has been rather a long time in the making. On the one hand, I have been reading and lurking around AUFS for three or four years, typically checking in several times a day to follow the latest posts and comments (so much so that it has been pinned to my browser toolbar for more than a year). It is, therefore, fair to say that I find it interesting, stimulating and intellectually challenging. There is also an academic rationale for this. My educational biography is grounded partly in theology. While my undergraduate studies straddled Religious Studies and Philosophy, I subsequently went on to a Masters in Feminist Theology and then a PhD on a topic that combined religious studies, philosophy and theology in a somewhat volatile cocktail. Moreover, I undertook my doctorate at an institution that was, at the time, almost entirely oriented towards Biblical Studies and Theology, and where I was the only postgrad with any interest in religious studies (never mind feminist paganism and contemporary Goddess religions, which were the focus of my doctoral research). So, I have a relationship with theology, albeit one that I have trouble labelling, and my interest in AUFs is relatively straightforward in this regard.

On the other hand, though, a few years ago I also began to immerse myself in Speculative Realism and Object Oriented Ontology. I found that I liked a lot of Graham Harman and Levi Bryant’s materials and then I progressed to the works of Morton, Latour, DeLanda, Bogost, Bennett and many others. It was also at this time that I started blogging. Now, to be honest, this blog has never become quite what I intended; it seems that children/family, online laziness and an ‘interesting’ teaching workload have intervened rather too often to prevent this. But, despite this, in my own mind at least, the site has retained some affinities and sympathies with SR and OOO, despite its drifting towards climate, ecological and crisis of civilization related content more recently. What is the relevance of this with regard to AUFS? Well, in one respect, I have kept many of my interests off blog, and one of those bracketed guilty pleasures was AUFS (‘lets not complicate the Favourite Blogs list with a theological outlier’, I thought). However, another more substantial issue has been the amount of online heat that OOO has generated. I have watched with morbid fascination, and a wide range of other emotions too, the various attacks, barbed comments, discursive conflagrations, flamewars and other supercharged online interactions that have arisen around OOO in recent years.  For much of my time my sympathies have been with the OOO crowd, but I’ve also witnessed reactions and responses from them that have seemed odd, overblown or ‘dickish’ too. In all of these circumstances one could psychologize and theorize the behaviour. The recent discussions about the ‘psychopathology of blogging’, the ‘victimology of groups’, the ‘masochistic joys of the internet’ are representative of some of these explanatory possibilities. Moreover, one can deploy one’s personal experiences with the various parties to some effect too (e.g. I’ve had very happy interactions with Graham, Ian, Levi and Tim, online and in person), while recognising that other people will have had different encounters with them. Trivially, people are pretty multi-faceted and can rub against each other in whole range of ways; and I’m generally convinced that online media do indeed amplify, exacerbate and distort these interactions in various awkward ways. None of this really gets us anywhere useful, though, and I’m starting to ramble a little here.

To be blunt, the point I arrived at during the last week is one where I have simply stopped giving a damn about some of these divisions and spats. When I read Graham Harman’s recent post on Laruelle I had a very similar response to the one initially mentioned by Anthony Paul Smith in his reply to said post, namely: “tiredness”. I had a view about what had sparked the initial post, I was pretty confident of the likely reaction to the post, and, my sympathies were on the AUFs/APS side this time, just as they have been elsewhere on other occasions. But the main point with this is that I was tired of it. Some disagreements matter to me, but these ones no longer do. I may lament that Levi and Anthony are frequently talking at cross purposes (or unproductively), especially as an outsider who can see the parallels in their writings on ecology. But it is probably for third parties to draw out those commonalities, rather than unreasonably expecting them to sort it out. In most ways that are important to me, I believe the OOO and AUFS crowds are composed of decent people; there are personality quirks, historical disagreements and theoretical differences aplenty that have them bashing heads, and they may continue doing so for years to come, but I’m tired of it. Any partitioning of AUFs at this backwater of the blogosphere, then, is over, and it can now sit shoulder-to-shoulder with Climate Progress, Larval Subjects, and the F-Word, just as it does it in the rather less well managed and convoluted contours of my mind.

[UPDATE: *#!! I take a fence down and O M G]

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

24 Hours of Reality: The Dirty Weather Report

Just a quick nod to the global media event aiming to draw attention to global warming between 14th November and 15th November. Check out the Climate Reality Project here for more details and live feed.

Join us on November 14 for 24 Hours of Reality: The Dirty Weather Report. Broadcast live on the Internet, it’s an event that anyone can attend. And it’s your chance to join millions around the world to demand real solutions.
Taking place over 24 hours, this event will put a spotlight on every region of the globe — featuring news, voices, and multimedia content across all 24 time zones. Every hour will be different. You’ll hear from experts, musicians, comedians, and everyday people about the impacts of climate change on their lives and homes.

Leading the event will be our Chairman, former Vice President Al Gore, who will conclude with a presentation on November 15 at 7 p.m. Eastern Time.

Most of all, we want to hear from you. During these 24 hours, we’ll ask you to sign a pledge and join a global movement to demand action. You can join the social media conversation, make connections, and send us your ideas. Find out how we can, and we must, solve the climate crisis — and how you can help.

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Happy Samhain!

Just done the Trick or Treating with the kids and now listening for the door. So far we are up to seven eight groups of assorted ghouls, ghosts, witches and zombies, and will have to see if we can beat last year's total of fourteen. Slightly more relaxed than the last couple of years, though, when we hosted large Halloween parties. Some great costumes this year.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

CFP: Weaponising Speculation

In the same week that I started to make some creative use of the term 'weaponising' in my teaching (after enjoying its deployment at AUFs for some time) comes news of this Speculative Realist conference at Dublin. This is likely to be a great event, especially given the para-academic emphasis, which I am thinking about a lot at the moment. It particularly struck me, while preparing a new  lecture on the Enlightenment yesterday, that some rather important historical periods of European philosophy have been shaped by thinkers outside the university. This certainly isn't news to many, but the following passage by Copleston resonated with me when I read it, reminding me of what could be the role of the para-academic in the future. 
The modern philosophers in the pre-Kantian period ... were in the majority of cases unconnected with the work of academic teaching. Descartes was never a university professor. Nor was Spinoza, though he recieved an invitation to Heidelberg. And Leibniz was very much a man of affairs who refused a professorship because he had quite another kind of life in view. In England Locke held minor posts in the service of the State; Berkeley was a bishop; and though Hume attempted to secure a university chair, he did not succeed in doing so. As for the French philosophers of the eighteenth century, such as Voltaire, Diderot and Rousseau, they were obviously men of letters with philosophical interests. 
Of course for this to work, I would expect future history to note of the early twenty-first century philosophers that X was a copywriter, Y was a postal worker and Z was long term unemployed, perhaps adding that they were women and men of blogs with philosophical interests.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Romm's Guide to Global Warming Impacts

A quick link to a post from Joe Romm's Climate Progress that presents an accessible synthesis of the scientific literature on and likely consequences of continuing on our "business as usual" emissions path. The impacts of which include:

•Staggeringly high temperature rise, especially over land — some 10°F over much of the United States

•Permanent Dust Bowl conditions over the U.S. Southwest and many other regions around the globe that are heavily populated and/or heavily farmed.

•Sea level rise of some 1 foot by 2050, then 4 to 6 feet (or more) by 2100, rising some 6 to 12 inches (or more) each decade thereafter

•Massive species loss on land and sea — perhaps 50% or more of all biodiversity.

•Unexpected impacts — the fearsome “unknown unknowns”

•Much more extreme weather

•Food insecurity — the increasing difficulty of feeding 7 billion, then 8 billion, and then 9 billion people in a world with an ever-worsening climate.

•Myriad direct health impacts

...  these will all be happening simultaneously and getting worse decade after decade. Equally tragic, a 2009 NOAA-led study found the worst impacts would be “largely irreversible for 1000 years.”

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

The Will-To-Truth and Weather Reporting

If only weather reporting was like this. From Deep Rogue Ram.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

She's Alive ... Beautiful ...Worth Dying For

I'm re-blogging this from Jason Heppenstall's 22 Billion Energy Slaves here.  Not much to add except turn off the lights, crank up the volume, watch it full screen and immerse yourself. 

Rapid Ice Melt

Plenty of news of the extreme melting of the Greenland ice sheet during this month, see here, here and here for some coverage. As Suzanne Goldenberg, the Guardian's US environment correspondent notes:
The Greenland ice sheet melted at a faster rate this month than at any other time in recorded history, with virtually the entire ice sheet showing signs of thaw.

The rapid melting over just four days was captured by three satellites. It has stunned and alarmed scientists, and deepened fears about the pace and future consequences of climate change.
In a statement posted on Nasa's website on Tuesday, scientists admitted the satellite data was so striking they thought at first there had to be a mistake.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

The New Normal

Global warming driven extreme weather events are, it seems, becoming the new normal (although the speed of the changes may soon render any sense of the terms "normal" and "extreme" provisional at best).  I was pawing through James Hansen's Storms of My Grandchildren yesterday, after viewing the short film above, and was struck by the rather obvious point that it should probably now be our Grandchildren who will be able to enjoy the turbulent and volatile weather events.  It is still rather early to state with confidence, but increasingly it seems to be the case that it is the extreme IPCC scenarios and climate change predictions that are proving to be the ones that are unfolding.  As Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson notes in the clip: "Welcome to the rest our lives."  See Joe Romm's Climate Progress here for my original source of this film.

Friday, 6 July 2012

Against Ecological Sovereignty

I've recently completed Mick Smith's (2011) Against Ecological Sovereignty: Ethics, Biopolitics, and Saving the Natural World, Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press and felt compelled to heap some praise on it. What Smith develops here is a scintillating project that aims to hold ecological thinking together with politics, ethics and a sustained anarchist critique of sovereignty. Smith mobilises such figures as Agamben, Arendt, Bataille, Levinas, Murdoch and Nancy in order to promote an open radical ecological politics and a non-prescriptive, non-normative ethics that opposes sovereignty in all its forms. Some quotes from the stockpile I've garnered give a fair sense of the aims and direction of the book:
‘In opposition to a biopolitics that reduces the more-than-human world to material for resource management and political beings to a matter of bare life, [radical ecology] suggests a provisional and constitutive ecological politics as such. This ... necessitates a political and ecological critique of the principle of sovereignty in all its forms. This must include any temptation by environmentalists to champion the “sovereignty of nature,” the idea tha nature itself should be what decides our politics.’ (xvii)

‘Instead of looking for the divine in Man (the metaphysics of the anthropological machine), we might instead try to divine, sense something (as a water diviner does), the flows and depths of diverse worldly existences happening beneath their surface appearances.’ (63-64)

‘To save the whales is to free them from all claims of human sovereignty, to release them into their singularity, their being such as it is – whatever it is – quodlibet ens, and into flows of evolutionary time, of natural history, just as they release themselves into the flows of the world’s oceans. This “saving” is an ethicopolitical action.’ (103)

There is thus a real and devastatingly ironic possibility that the idea of an ecological crisis, so long and so vehemently denied by every state, will now find itself recuperated, by the very powers responsible for bringing that crisis about, as the latest and most comprehensive justification for a political state of emergency, a condition that serves to insulate those powers against all political and ethical critique.’ (126)

‘ethical and political responsibilities emerge through a realization of the ultimately unrepresentable and unexchangeable singularity, the infinity of Other beings (their continual questionability) – a recognition of Earth and its inhabitants’ excessive nature (physis) and their wildness. And this infinity is tempered only by the finitude of each being’s existence, by its mortality, the fact that their world ends, that my world will end, sooner or later. Our sharing in this world is based, then, on having nothing in common in both senses of this phrase: there are no essential commonalities that can define an ethical/political/ecological community, only differences and diversity, only our singularity and our being together in the face of nothing, of death (which is not a part of life), of ceasing to exist, an end that comes to us all’ (209).

Monday, 2 July 2012

Post-Absolute Reflections

Some disjointed thoughts on the Association for Continental Philosophy of Religion Conference, June 29th–July 1st, titled Thinking the Absolute: Speculation, Philosophy and the End of Religion.  This was, as the name suggests, centered on the recent speculative turn in philosophy and anything that might relate to ‘Thinking the Absolute’.  In practice this meant that there was a main course of Meillassoux and Hegel, mixed through with some good servings of Malabou, Laruelle and Schelling and a rich spicing of such diverse elements as Lucretius, Luhmann, mysticism and Black Metal.  Overall, there were thirty or so papers, four plenary sessions (with Levi Bryant, Ray Brassier, Francois Laruelle and Scott Wilson) and a pretty nice vibe to the event.  Congrats to Steven Shakespeare, Patrice Haynes, Katherine Moody and everyone else who helped organize, run and make the conference such a great experience.  In what follows I won’t try and give a comprehensive review of the conference, just a few notes that I jotted down on the train back from the event.

I’m Getting Old
I had a strong sense of getting old at this conference.  Twelve years earlier I had attended a Continental Philosophy of Religion conference at Lancaster (I think), organized by Philip Goodchild.  I was then at the end of the funded part of my PhD, prior to it dragging on for another couple of years part-time, self-funded, and it was a strange sensation to see my younger self well-represented at this conference.  Back then I was one of those asking the incisive (or not) questions at the panels and sessions, fired up by my reading and immersion in doctoral research; twelve years on, though, and the mental cogs were turning rather more slowly. 

It was a very great pleasure to see so many excellent independent scholars at the conference.  With the Humanities and Higher Education generally under assault in the UK (and, increasingly, internationally too), I have a real hope that good scholarly work can be preserved and flourish outside the academy.  Fortunately, the quality of thought produced by the likes of Paul Ennis, Richard Fitch, Michael O’Rourke and others gives me a sense of considerable optimism.  And hope and optimism aren’t words that I use very often these days (except in order to give them a good kicking). I wonder how many of those currently in academic positions at universities could, or else would, continue to deliver the scholarly goods in very different economic circumstances.

There were many great papers and panels, but some personal favourites were: Jessie Hock’s piece on Lucretius, Anthony Paul Smith’s paper on Taqiyya, Robert Jackson’s on Undecidability and Francis Halsall’s on an occult reading of Luhmann.

I also met some really nice people and enjoyed some excellent conversations.  It was great to finally cross paths with Levi Bryant, who has been very generous in the past, and particularly good fun to put him in the uncomfortable position of talking about his work in my paper.

Typically, that I hadn’t read X, Y and Z.  This isn’t anything new, just the usual academic regret: ‘Why didn’t I read Hegel when I was an undergraduate?’  ‘Why didn’t I read Schelling last summer?’ ‘I must get around to reading …”  A similar regret would be that I’m not multi-lingual.  At this point fantasies of one’s consciousness going back in time enter the picture, paying more attention in French and German lessons at school, and making a whole series of different life decisions based on what one knows now.

I was a little worn down by the end of the conference by the pervasive Judaeo-Christian theological narrative.  Yes, I know the reasons for this.  If one is talking about Hegel, Meillassoux, Schelling, Spinoza etc. it is difficult, per impossible, to avoid Judaeo-Christian concepts and theology. Yes, I was also expecting it. But, nonetheless, all the talk of the Messianic, the Incarnation and ‘good old God’ still dragged me down a little by the end.  The last part of the title of the conference was ‘the end of religion’ and I did leave with the feeling that, while not the end of Christianity, certainly much else of the religious was under effective erasure.

The Black Mass for Quentin Meillassoux
The final plenary session of the conference was by Scott Wilson with Edia Connole (MOUTH), entitled The Number and the Beast: A Black Mass for Quentin Meillassoux.  This was an engaging multi-media presentation and culinary event that drew together a number of themes from the conference, most notably Meillassoux’s hyper-chaos and The Number and the Siren, and combined these with such other elements as a meditation on mouths and orality, capitalism, the economic crisis, the philosophies of Reza Negarestani and Nick Land, Black Swans, Black Metal and Black Sabbath, and concluding with the culinary climax of the stylized Black Mass for Quentin Meillassoux.  It would be a little difficult to try and summarize this, aside from listing the aforementioned materials, especially as my participation only went so far.  But why only so far?  This was the question posed by Charlie Gere to those of the audience who didn’t go forwards and accept the food and mass.  It was also the main impetus for putting pen to paper on the train, in order to try and lay down my thoughts about the conference. 

Why didn’t I go forwards?  There are several reasons that I can articulate (obviously there may be others, and I may ultimately be misleading myself here, but we can skip the psychoanalysis and other hermeneutics of suspicion).  First, there was a certain boredom with such rituals.  I’m no stranger to participation in pagan, pseudo and real occult, and many other religious rites and performances, and, to go with the culinary metaphor, I’m a little overstuffed with such activities.  To risk an obvious conceit, some of what was novel for many in the room, elicited the ‘yawn’ of the talk for myself. The food, admittedly, looked glorious; but I would not want to separate it from the rite/performance as a whole. Second, I seem to be getting rather anarchic in my aforementioned old age;  rather awkwardly, if the social onus is on participation, I will increasingly make an effort not to do so these days. Thirdly, there was a malformed theological reason shuffling around in my mind too. As mentioned above, the Judaeo-Christian focus was getting me down a little by this point in the proceedings and I decided that I was unwilling to actively engage with a performance that was parasitic on those traditions.  While I’ve practiced more than my fair share of epoche in ethnographic work and participant observation in the past, at that particular point in time it meant more not to make that effort.  I tend to avoid Christian ceremony, except in the context of teaching Religious Studies, so the ritual mass for God-Meillassoux-Satan was one that I didn’t want to engage with.  Like Mr. Creosote in Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life, just one more bit(e), particularly in wafer thin form, might have caused me to explode. 

But, hey, I may be hungry for some in the future.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Vital New Matters: The Speculative Turn in the Study of Religion and Gender

I just realised that I hadn't done any self-publicising for my article 'Vital New Matters: The Speculative Turn in the Study of Religion and Gender' which appeared several months ago in the first issue of the online journal, Religion and Gender.  The article is available here through Open Access and as a pdf download. 

Friday, 13 April 2012

Accelerating into the Dark III: the Titanic as Metaphor for Civilization

Continuing with the theme of metaphors and analogies for the unfolding crisis of civilization, Joe Romm has a great post on the hundred year memorial of the sinking of the Titanic.  This is a modern morality tale that has much to tell us about our attitudes to threats such as global warming and ecological degradation.  The best part is probably the transcript of James Cameron's talk on the National Geographic Channel that makes some remarkably strong links between the Titanic and our current climate situation.  [Addendum: In fact, the more I read Cameron's quote, the better and better it seems as a little piece of mereological and systems analysis, I'm writing a lot about momentum at the moment, plus operational closure, as I wrestle with The Democracy of Objects.  This is getting filed away for inclusion in the current book project.  One wonders what descending to the bottom of the Mariana Trench does for one's perspective?]
Part of the Titanic parable is of arrogance, of hubris, of the sense that we’re too big to fail. Well, where have we heard that one before?

There was this big machine, this human system, that was pushing forward with so much momentum that it couldn’t turn, it couldn’t stop in time to avert a disaster. And that’s what we have right now.

Within that human system on board that ship, if you want to make it a microcosm of the world, you have different classes, you’ve got first class, second class, third class. In our world right now you’ve got developed nations, undeveloped nations.

You’ve got the starving millions who are going to be the ones most affected by the next iceberg that we hit, which is going to be climate change. We can see that iceberg ahead of us right now, but we can’t turn.

We can’t turn because of the momentum of the system, the political momentum, the business momentum. There too many people making money out of the system, the way the system works right now and those people frankly have their hands on the levers of power and aren’t ready to let ‘em go.

Until they do we will not be able to turn to miss that iceberg and we’re going to hit it, and when we hit it, the rich are still going to be able to get their access to food, to arable land, to water and so on. It’s going to be poor, it’s going to be the steerage that are going to be impacted. It’s the same with Titanic.

I think that’s why this story will always fascinate people. Because it’s a perfect little encapsulation of the world, and all social spectra, but until our lives are really put at risk, the moment of truth, we don’t know what we would do. And that’s my final word.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Accelerating into the Dark II: The Crisis of Civilization

A particularly apt introduction to the notion of civilization accelerating into the darkness can be found in this recent film version of Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed's (2010) A User's Guide to the Crisis of Civilization.  Ahmed's book is one the most succinct and well-researched introductions to the multiple and converging crises confronting civilization and life on earth that I have read in the last year.  This 1hr 17min film version is a useful condensed version of his analysis and argument, which encompasses climate catastrophe, energy scarcity, food insecurity, economic instability, international terrorism and the militarization tendency.  Another excellent documentary, dealing with most of the same issues, is Tim Bennett's (2007) What a Way To Go: Life at the End of Empire.  Bennett's documentary can be located here and a version of the accelerating into the unknown image can be found running throughout this, in this case it is a high speed train on which we awaken.  A realism that is grim and an ecology that is black awaits.

I'm a Climate Scientist

It's long past time that I included this wonderful little piece.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Accelerating into the Dark I

Levi Bryant has an excellent post here (and follow ups here and here) developing his black ecological position and what it may have to say about the ongoing socio-economic and ecological crises confronting us. His conclusions, he notes, are pessimistic ones, and he pushes forwards with a proposal that he thinks will attract little if any agreement from most of his readers. The posts warrant a close reading themselves, so go to it. Suffice it to say, though, I am in agreement with most of what he says. For example, most of the crises confronting us may be intractable because of the structure of the governmental, corporate and industrial systems – or hyperobjects, to appropriate Morton – within which we are embedded and enmeshed. A couple of quotes below are representative of some of Levi's thinking and they point towards what I want to offer some comment on:

Given the way in which government and corporations are today intertwined, I don’t think there’s much we can do to avert the coming catastrophe. As Morton says, referring to logical time, “the catastrophe has already happened”. So what would it mean, I wonder, to take Morton’s thesis seriously?
I just don’t see how there’s any feasible way we can get governments and industry to respond to these problems given the current governmental and economic ecologies. This seems to suggest that the only possible solution is to push ourselves over the ledge where fossil fuels are no longer available and where governments and industry are thereby forced to change. That’s my pessimistic thought for the evening.
To summarise Levi, his argument is an accelerationist one. The crises unfolding around us are largely inescapable because of the systemic features of the governmental and economic objects and ideologies surrounding us, so, the best that we can do is accelerate some of the processes that comprise them to the point at which these unresponsive systems must respond to their dramatically changed circumstances. Interestingly, this example is sufficiently close to a number of popular analogies in the  collapse and peak oil communities to warrant some consideration.

Consider, a frequent account of civilization’s current situation via an analogy with a car or train that is travelling at high speed, albeit with remarkably poor visibility (e.g. through darkness or thick fog). The driver proceeds with the knowledge that there are probably some hazards out there, that is, there are limits, such as the road or track ending, or else objects suddenly appearing in the path. However, so far the journey has been uneventful. The road or track continues ahead, indeed the journey has been so untroubled that the driver is drifting off at the wheel. All is well, business as usual, full throttle, full steam ahead. Civilization, it is claimed, is like this. Many are aware that the road or track must end or encounter some other limit. So far we have been lucky. But for how long? Increasing numbers of people are starting to shout for someone, anyone, to hit the brakes before civilization crashes and burns, probably taking unimaginable numbers of other beings with it. Indeed, there are already some signs that we have left the road or tracks ('it's getting bumpy'), or else that something can be dimly perceived ahead of us ('is that a hyperobject emerging from the fog?'). But can we be sure? What can be done?

The most common response here is that we should slam on the brakes. Don’t hesitate, calculate or debate, just brake! Even if it is too late to avoid a crash (i.e. "it’s inevitable, already happened”), braking is better than not braking; one hits with less velocity, has a greater chance of survival, and will do less harm to whatever is in one's path (never mind the unnoticed roadkill in your wake).

It is at this point, though, that Levi’s argument enters the picture. To what degree can we apply the brakes? Are we travelling in a vehicle where there is little provision for stopping built into the system? Is there some structural resistance that is difficult to overcome? I am with Levi entirely here, as with most of his points: stopping is hard and, as he notes, there’s not ‘much we can do to avert the coming catastrophe.’

Where I differ from Levi, however, is with regard to an assessment of the limits and obstacles that may produce this catastrophe. Many of the favoured analogies select the image of civilization impacting with a wall or other object (global warming), transmitting severe damage to both and usually resulting in social collapse as one outcome of this collision. In this analogy, braking is advantageous because it lessens the severity of the impact.  It is recognised that the crash cannot be averted, but its severity can be mitigated and lessened.  Some other analogies, however, point toward the limit being rather more like those imposed by a cliff, one leading to an incredibly deep abyss/ravine.  In this circumstance, reducing one's velocity doesn’t matter one iota because, whether 10mph or 60mph, we are still going to reach terminal velocity once we plunge over the cliff.  The point here may be linked with the crossing of various non-linear tipping points and encountering such phenomena as runaway climate change.  Once a certain horizon is passed, there is simply no turning back.

Another form of accelerationist argument can be located in the writings of some anarcho-primitivists and radical eco-activists. Here, though, it runs along the following lines: if the collapse of civilization is inevitable - which it is argued that it is – and if this collapse will have many negative outcomes (e.g. loss of human and nonhuman life, ecological degradation etc), then it is desirable that civilization collapses sooner rather than later. This is because more beings will be left alive, fewer species will go extinct, more resources will remain for future generations than if civilization’s crash is long and protracted. Therefore: end civilization sooner rather than letting is collapse catastrophically later.

I'll continue with some of these thoughts and my own evaluation later, for the moment some teaching, tutorials and admin needs to be attended to.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Conference Talks

Conference talks forthcoming over the next few months:

‘Ecological Philosophy and Transitioning to a Post-Peak (Post-)Humanities.’  Nature and the Natural in the Humanities: Teaching for Environmental Sustainability, University of Birmingham, 27th April 2012.

‘Contesting Capitalist Sorcery: “Peak Everything” as Apocalyptic Prophecy.’  Don’t Panic!: The Apocalypse in Theory and Culture, University of Kent, 25th-26th May 2012

‘The Size of God Revisited: Object-Oriented Ontology and the Aporias of Pantheism.’  Thinking the Absolute: Speculation, Philosophy and the End of Religion, Liverpool Hope University, 29th June-1st July 2012

Bentham, Satan and Sartre

It’s often surprising how one’s teaching commitments throw up unusual combinations of topics and thinkers during any given week.  The last week felt particularly odd with six hours of first year seminars on Bentham’s Utilitarianism, an introduction to modern Satanism for my second and third year New and Alternative Religions module and concluding with a two hour workshop on Sartre’s concept of nothingness with my third year Life and Meaning module.  Oh yes, and a two hour first year lecture on Kant and the categorical imperative too.  I find myself formulating strange connections between them and one can easily imagine some academic variant of the Kevin Bacon Six Degrees of Separation party game, although six certainly seems excessive for the purposes of linking figures of academic, philosophical and religious interest.  Rather worryingly I can use Ayn Rand as a bridging figure between most of these (Anton LaVey notably claiming that the Church of Satan was simply Ayn Rand’s philosophy with some ritual and ceremony bolted on).

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Patriarchy Rising

Just as I’d been reflecting that my feminism had been in abeyance for several months, not gone so much as displaced by concerns about ecological degradation, peak oil, species extinction etc., along comes a major kick in the gut from the U.S. It has been a while since body politics and incursions into women’s reproductive rights have provoked a visceral reaction in me, but the news that Virginia is set to become the seventh state to require women to undergo ultrasounds prior to an abortion left me reeling. See Feminist Philosophers for some discussion and commentary.

Once again the Onion has a wonderful reductio ad absurdum of this, with the proposal that women be required to paint the nursery and name the baby before undergoing an abortion. Terrifyingly, as with many Onion stories, one can imagine it being true.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

There's No Tomorrow (2012)

A majestic thirty four minute animated film from Incubate Pictures.  This is undoubtedly the most concise introduction to peak oil and the limits of growth I have ever come across.  Beautifully clear and terrifying. 

Friday, 10 February 2012

In Memoriam: John Hick (1922-2012)

Dr. Yujin Nagasawa of the University of Birmingham reports the death of Professor John Hick, who died peacefully yesterday.  An influential figure in analytic philosophy of religion and a nice, humble guy too.  I had the pleasure of seeing him speak a couple of times while I was an undergraduate at Lampeter in the 1990s.  Nagasawa reports:
John was Danforth Professor of Philosophy of Religion at Claremont Graduate University and H. G. Wood Professor of Theology at the University of Birmingham. He delivered Gifford Lectures in 1986-7 and he was awarded the Grawemeyer Award for Religion in 1991. He was best known for his work on the problem of evil, religious pluralism, eschatology and Christology. He published numerous books including Faith and Knowledge, Evil and the God of Love, Death and the Eternal Life, An Interpretation of Religion, The Metaphor of God Incarnate and Between Faith and Doubt. John was also highly respected in Birmingham for his community service in the areas of civil rights and inter-faith/inter-race relations.

Friday, 6 January 2012

Disasters and Business Models

The Guardian has a nice short piece on the inability of the UK to cope with any kind of major disaster for more than a week; and by cope it means, supply food and water and maintain basic amenities.  This is the result of a number of factors, but in terms of business modelling it is part of the efficiency, 'just-in-time supply' and profit-driven logic of neoliberalism and particularly market globalisation, which has resulted in the creation of a remarkably fragile socio-economic system.  This isn't news to anyone with any level of familiarity with peak oil, the limits of growth, ecological economics etc.  However, it is certainly pleasing to see this knowledge slowly percolating into the mainstream media.  The comments are very reasonable too (no knee-jerk denialists).  I agree with several of the commentators that a week is rather optimistic; the supermarkets would probably empty within a few days; and the problem is not unique to the UK, the suburban US would be hit harder.  Unfortunately the twenty-first century will be one of resource scarcity, increasing ecological degradation and climate chaos, so there will likely be no shortage of such disruptions and disasters.  Welcome to the anthropocene and the peak of industrial civilisation, a long descent beckons.