“The safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato.”
–Alfred North Whitehead

Thoughts on Tim Morton on the Ecological Emergency

HERE is a recent interview of Tim Morton I found over on Knowledge-Ecology. I’ve made some notes while listening:

I absolutely love what he is saying. Really, I dig it. His ontology has style, and I don’t just mean he is rhetorically skilled and so persuasive to us as subjectivities, I mean he has tapped in to the semantic subtext of reality itself. He’s plucking the harp strings of the world. He is speaking as earth’s flower, from the inside of this thing being whatever reality is becoming. He is not outside the world pondering nature, thinking about it without feeling as it. He thinks nature as nature thinking. His metaphors (metapherein in Gk.). express a sense of thinking with and through nature, a nature no longer hidden from itself beneath the traumas of collective human history but conscious of its own destiny. That destiny, even if we learn to live with the earth through the current geological transformation, is still ultimately individual death and collective extinction. Even if life on earth survives for another 5 billion years, at that point, the sun will commit cosmic suicide, taking all the planets with it into the dark abysses of elemental gravitation. In those dark spaces, what once were the metals of mars, earth, venus, and mercury will  re-center themselves around a new spinning orb of nuclear light. The atoms who escape the death of our solar system will shine again as the life of some future system. Thinking this transformation of the substance of our being through deep cosmic history is perceiving hyper-time. Death no longer represents a problem in need of a solution, it is simply a return to oneness with the world we only thought we’d lost while alive. Only getting over the death anxiety that drives modern industrial civilization will get us through this ecological emergency.

It’s not that history has already ended, says Morton; its that it is just beginning. If it didn’t start in 1790 when the first layer of carbon was laid down over the crust of the planet, then it was on July 16, 1945, when the first atomic bomb was detonated.

Cause and effect are spooky. We don’t know how they connect because there is a crack in the universe. Contradiction seeps in through this crack in the real to give it life. This isn’t a life opposed to death, it is the undying and ever-born becoming of things themselves.

Reason isn’t necessarily human. Philosophers knew this in the 1790s. Politicians and capitalist have been slower to catch on. Icy reason, for its own sake, makes atom bombs and Vicodin. The human is not special. The whole universe is in a human situation, not just our species.

“Ecology must mean making friends with death.”

An overwhelming conversation indeed.



3 responses to “Thoughts on Tim Morton on the Ecological Emergency”

  1. climateanalyst Avatar

    Hey, that was a good interview. Apparently they cut it down by more than half for the actual show. Do you know where you can get the raw footage? I was trying to get into my WordPress but it keeps kicking me off.

  2. rachael boice Avatar

    What an amazing interview. I have been working out a number of these issues in my own work, research, and life. I think the key to understanding what Dr Morton is getting at is precisly the overwhelming sensation of reality and our inextricable and contant participation in it. The aquiecense feels much like letting go of the need to fully understand and accepting that we have fuzzy boundries between what we call “me and my body”, my society, humanity, the earth, and everything beyond it. To just sit in that uncertainty for one moment a day-like Dr. Morton explained in the begining of the interview- is profoundly humbling. To empty yourself of your ego, your delusions of being all powerful and/or totally powerless. It is an emotional and physical experience. Also, I beleive that he is exactly right when he exlpains that some of the most profound ecological and social justice problems are broken down by a life filled with simple acts of pre-rational compassion and intimacy. To act in such a way is to build a virus against the plauge of individualism, centrism, reason, and even nihilism. It acknowledges that we are vulnerable and finite and that our existance is empty and meaningless without coexistance. Anyhow, Thank you for this great gift of conversation.

  3. Looking ahead to IWC2015 – Religion in the Making: On the Possibility of a 2nd Axial Age | Footnotes 2 Plato Avatar

    […] (about when the atom bomb and LSD were first detonated before or behind human eyes), at least according to Tim Morton. In naming the period after ourselves, we are also sentencing our species to extinction, placing a […]

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