January 2010

I started to write this post in response to Paul Ennis’ recent remarks about correlationism and the ethico-politico place of animals, but it quickly turned into a diary of its own so I’ll post it here. Ennis writes:

One argument was that anti-correlationism has a deflationary effect on the special status usually assigned to humans by continental thinkers such as Hegel and Heidegger. The anti-correltionist stance shows that such a status is a fabrication or at least not as evident as usually portrayed. This is one way to open up the critical animal debate.

Rather than restricting the question of the ethico-politico implications of non-correlationist thought to questions of the ethical and political status of animals, I’d like to situate the question (I don’t have any answers here, so all this is exploratory) within the framework of the ethico-politico status of nonhumans in general. Here the issue isn’t one of excluding the human, but of asking how the domain of value might be extended beyond the human, without humans being at the center, or all questions of value pertaining to nonhumans being questions about the relationship of humans to nonhumans. In other words, the litmus test of whether or not something fits the bill of a non-correlationationist ethico-politico theory revolves around whether that domain of value would continue to be a domain of value even if humans cease to exist. That seems to be a pretty tall order or very difficult to think, though Lingis has certain proposed on such ethical system that meets this litmus test in his book The Imperative.

read on!

From AP:

WASHINGTON—Speaking for the millions of principled American liberals who believe in the government’s fundamental ability to best address the republic’s ills, left-wing favorite Howard Dean took the podium today in Washington to announce a “freeze” of support for the Obama Administration and its policy agenda.

Howard Dean at today’s event, speaking on behalf of liberals everywhere:

“By cutting all discretionary support for the Obama Administration over the next three years, liberals in America will save up to 250 billion hours of wasted time and energy on mid-term campaigning and voting in 2010 alone. Not to mention the millions of dollars we can save withholding campaign contributions. I know this all sounds radical, even crazy, but I don’t see liberals as having much of a choice. If we continue to let the president think he has our support, there’s no telling which atrocities he may perpetrate to win over independents. It must stop here.”

Read the rest of this breaking story here.

UPDATE: Further details of this important developing story can be found here.

In comments Perc has provided a link to a discussion between Roy Bhaskar (Critical/Transcendental Realism) and Ernesto Laclau. I haven’t gotten to read through the whole thing yet, but it looks very good. Enjoy!

Okay, I admit that I’m prone to dark pessimism and apocalyptic thought, but with today’s Supreme Court decision I can’t help but feeling that we’re witnessing the beginning plot points of some dark, dystopian cyber-punk novel coming to life. In effect, the Supreme Court has now granted corporations the freedom to use unlimited money to support and oppose candidates and legislation of their choice. Tell me I’m over-reacting here. With this decision it is now going to become exceedingly difficult for individuals and small activist groups to get any representation whatsoever as they simply do not have the economic means to compete with these forces.

But the situation is worse than this. Many, I’m sure, will grant that Obama has been a tremendous disappointment in this first year of his presidency. On just about every issue he has advocated center-right policies that disproportionately benefit large moneyed interests. Many are feeling as if he was a Trojan horse, but I’m not sure this is entirely the case. The issue seems to be less about Obama the person and whatever ideology he advocates (who knows what that might be at this point), but about certain constitutive structural issues organizing Washington. Reflecting on the failure of Hillary Clinton’s attempts at health care reform during the 90s, this administration and congress, I suspect, have felt as if they’ve had to walk on egg shells and make crap deals with the private sector lest they unleash the dogs of war in the form of ad campaigns that destroy any legislation whatsoever they attempt to pass. This is a good deal of what happened under Clinton’s watch with the notorious anti-healthcare ads.

read on!

Over at Pagan Metaphysics Paul Reid-Bowen has his abstract up for the upcoming Dundee conference:

Thinking Sex(es)/Object(s): Feminist Metaphysics as Object Oriented Ontology

Three main claims are advanced and defended in this paper, albeit with some brevity and increasing gradations of tentativeness. First, it is noted that feminist philosophers, in both analytic and continental traditions, have been reluctant to engage with metaphysics, or, far more commonly, they have been active critics and opponents of it. This attitude may be explained, in part, by the masculinist and misogynist use of “essentialism” in the history of women’s oppression, although a number of other reasons can be mobilised with relative ease. Second, contra these considerations, I propose that the marginalisation of metaphysics by feminists has been overly hasty. Indeed there are good reasons to move the discipline of metaphysics towards the centre of feminist philosophy. Third, I identify some feminist philosophers whose work may be read as metaphysics and whose commitments mark them out as holding realist ontologies (e.g. Christine Battersby, Donna Haraway and Luce Irigaray). I then bring to the table of continental metaphysics some concepts developed by those selfsame philosophers and propose that an Object Oriented Ontology may be the most appropriate means of developing and exploring these ideas. The irony and/or perversity of proposing this alliance, given the history and weight of feminist analyses of sexual objectification, is not lost on me. However, I contend that an Object Oriented Ontology does not run afoul of ethical, political and social feminist critiques of objectification; rather, it delivers fertile resources and research possibilities for tackling a pre-existent feminist interest in the status of objects.

Personally I do not like the idea of feminist metaphysics as I think there’s just metaphysics, but I do think Paul is on to something here (which comes as no surprise as I recently suggested something similar in comments to my post on Inhuman Ethics). In the world of cultural studies and the humanities, I think there have been a number of privileged sites that have been directed towards bucking the primacy of anti-realist or correlationist thought than other disciplines by virtue of the nature of the objects that constitute their object of investigation. These theorists have not, of course, in most cases baldly stated their work as a debate between realism and anti-realism, but their work has nonetheless inevitably led them to thinking being in such a way that it is not simply a discourse, language, or a correlation with the human.

read on!

Well folks, it looks like it’s time to throw in the towel on the possibility of anything like democracy in the United States.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Corporations can spend freely to support or oppose candidates for president and Congress, the Supreme Court ruled on Thursday, a landmark decision denounced by President Barack Obama for giving special interests more power.

The only way I can keep myself from crying is to recall this clip from The Simpsons.

Jacob Russell, who for me is a model of both what the artist and the activist should be, this friend of mine whose hands and lips have become life giving, loamy mulch borne of compost, making inhuman adventures and other becoming that can be scarcely understood– one of these days I’ll live up to that model of my gray, bearded friend, to this strange vital energy and affect, in more than writing and will enact what he somehow manages to live all the way down to the fiber of “insignificant” acts such as his cooking and gardening like a strange sort of animated fractal –is reminded of a poem he wrote in response to my recent post on the possibility of an “inhuman” or maybe better yet, “a-human”, or perhaps “poly-actant” ethics and politics I’m very gropingly trying to think and articulate (Lingis– nods to Harman –is going to be crucial here). At any rate, a toast to my inhuman Philadelphia virtual mentor from afar. Here’s the poem (where the poem, coming from poeisis, is among the only artforms that ever existed and is, sadly and ominously, perhaps a dying praxis: This does not bode well for the future of collective existence):

We cannot begin without taking leave
He said when he turned us away
Fire leapt from his tongue

Instead, we gathered the names, leaving the animals
Speechless in the forest brakes, the river’s course.
Only now do we understand the nature of our loss

We cannot begin without taking leave
They were more than we could bear, these words.
They grew fruitful and multiplied

We hung them on every bough.
There were not enough trees to hold them.
They fell to the earth like leaves

We cannot begin without taking leave
Our lips are dry with trying
Our fingers sign what we cannot say

How can we leave
What was never ours to begin with?
How can we ever return what we found
in their burning, silent eyes?

Like Nothing in the World

The world is filled with gods
They are like nothing else in the world
This is how you know they are gods

The gods did not make the world
The gods were made by the world
They are more helpless then they have ever been

I asked them if they were once
Like the gods of our storied past
But they did not answer

Their tongues were made of stone
And their teeth of wool
They neither sing nor speak

I found them one day searching
For change, but my pockets were empty
Everything now must remain as it was

Only the world changes
As stars withdraw to the beginning of time
As we found ourselves at the edge of the forest

Following the animals over the plains
Listening to their lies, their endless
Stories of gods who will not let them be

And here’s the link.

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