October 2012

The concept of “mansplaining” is one of the best terms to appear on the internet for quite some time.  It is, I believe, a term that crosses gender boundaries in many circumstances; though men, and particularly academic men, seem to be particularly guilty of it.  I just had someone patiently mansplain to me that the concept of a warp drive is not a warp drive and does not make a real warp drive come into existence.  Thank you, Captain Obvious!  This has to be one of my biggest pet peeves among academics.

At any rate, from the Urban Dictionary:

1.  Mansplain

To explain in a patronizing manner, assuming total ignorance on the part of those listening. The mansplainer is often shocked and hurt when their mansplanation is not taken as absolute fact, criticized or even rejected altogether.

Named for a behavior commonly exhibited by male newbies on internet forums frequented primarily by women. Often leads to a flounce. Either sex can be guilty of mansplaining.

2.  Mansplaining

To explain something in an unnecessarily long winded way, so as to dominate the conversation, and to make statements that are not based on facts, assuming that people will believe and agree with him because he is male.

3.  Mansplaining

Despite claims of superior strength in avoiding over-emotional reactions, when a man encounters even one iota of criticism of men on the internet, he must then mansplain why women suck by comparison or must be radical feminists.

Don’t be a mansplainer!  If something seems obviously stupid to you, chances are you’re the one who has missed something.  If you find yourself holding forth in a discussion, you’re being a bore.  I hasten to add that I’m often guilty of mansplaining and need to stop it as well!

I cannot express how gratified I am by this.  Apparently there’s a New York art show that’s been partially inspired by my work.  This, for me, is the highest possible complement.  Rather than simply providing commentary on a work, I feel like my work has been most valuable when it’s put to use and creates projects that I would have never thought of.  From the website:

Resonance at the Goethe-Institut Wyoming Building joins artwork and contributions by Agency, Diedrich Diederichsen, Faivovich & Goldberg, Anselm Franke, Christoph Keller, and weareQQ. This exhibition and discursive program, organized by curatorial office Rivet, engages with object-oriented thinking and probes a range of temporalities through a variety of contributions that give different formats of experience.

Taking its key term from philosopher Levi Bryant, Resonance ponders the specificities of change within systems and entities. The project suggests viewers and participants to pause and consider contemporary questions about interaction and autonomy, rights, and the relation between objects and environments. In its entirety, Resonance shows how understandings of community, ideology, law, and even the division between nature and culture become perturbed once the mark of distinction between subjects and objects is suspended.

For the exhibition, Agency brings in Thing 000789 (Prince Charming) to focus on the legal category of “fixation” that aims to prevent resonance. Faivovich & Goldberg‘s work manifests how international art systems, local politics, indigenous rights, and questions about scientific procedures all of a sudden come to resonate with each other. This contribution continues and comments upon the artists’ recent dOCUMENTA (13) project. weareQQ charts a reflexive and dynamic relation between film, environment, and event to think about community in terms of affect and ephemerality.

The exhibition is accompanied by an active program: Agency hosts an assembly with local concerned people on Sunday, October 28; Diedrich Diederichsen will present a talk on Thursday, November 1; and Christoph Keller holds a lecture-performance on Tuesday, December 4. On Saturday, October 27, McNally Jackson Books hosts the launch of Faivovich & Goldberg’s latest volume from The Campo del Cielo Meteorites series published by dOCUMENTA (13). For the closing of the exhibition, Anselm Franke will contribute a written response to Resonance, which will be published on Rivet’s website.

Simultaneous to Resonance, Rivet organizes Resonance and Repetition at the Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts, which investigates the particularity of repetition and its relevance in thinking about attractions and perturbations between systems. A talk resonating with the topics of both exhibitions will take place at the New School for Social Research.

Resonance is made possible thanks to the generous support of Friends of Goethe New York and Spain Culture New York—Consulate General of Spain.

These days I find myself feeling deeply weary where discussions about ethics and politics are concerned. I reflect on this, I wonder why. Why is it that I grow so tired, so jaded, whenever discussions of politics and ethics come up. I’m divided between two tendencies, two orientations. On the one hand, there is my desire for justice, equity, and fairness. On the other hand, there is my Lucretian and Spinozist desire for peace of mind and beautitude. Ethico-politico desire, the first orientation, is a desire to transform the world, to render it just, and to denounce injustice; injustice that we see all about it. The desire for beautitude and peace of mind is something quite different. It is a desire to simply delight in the machines of the world, the beings of the world, taking them for what they are. The person who has what Spinoza called an “intellectual love of God” does not desire to change things, but rather takes delight in understanding what they are. It is a desire without telos, without aim, without purpose, that simply delights in things for their own sake: rigid machines, octopi, tanuki, storms, and shifting tectonic plates. The Spinozist does not wish to change things because she knows that she cannot. She knows that everything that is results from the causes that preceded it and therefore could not be otherwise. She understands that her rancor and despair arises from believing that things could be otherwise than they are, and understands that if she just knew the causes of things she would no longer experience this despair because she would know that things can’t be any different. Consequently, the only thing she wishes to transform is her own psychology, her own mind, so that she might delight in how things are rather than in willing them to be otherwise. I’m too much of a Lucretian– which is to say, I believe too much in freedom and the aleatory –to adopt this sort of Spinozism, but I certainly see the appeal. I do think there’s a wisdom in this Spinozism.

Why this ethico-politico weariness, then? I think maybe because I’m keenly aware of political and ethical psychology. Here the issue is not so much about the correctness of ethical and political positions, but rather in how our ethical and political zeal affectively transforms how we experience ourselves and the world. When I go through periods of ethical and political zeal, I do not like myself or the world. When I encounter people filled with political and ethical passions, I do not like these people. In my normative attunements I become ugly. When my intentionality is primarily structured around ethico-politico considerations, my internal world becomes one filled with rage and despair. Everything appears as if it is falling short, as if it is unjust, as if it is horrible. I develop a mania for judgment and denunciation. Like the man on a personal mission to show that everything we enjoy is bad, I become intoxicated with a hermeneutics of suspicion that finds something in every project, in every form of human relation, in every positive proposal, suspect. It’s as if everything– every love, every formation of a collective, every work of art, every movie, every novel, every scientific discovery comes to be seen as harboring a dirty secret. Everything must be denounced, everything is suspect, everyone is a servant of an ugly ideology. My lived inner face becomes transfigured like the faces in painting to the right above. I become puritanical and filled a self-righteous zeal. I don’t like how I feel in these moments of zeal, nor how I relate to others. I don’t like how I come to see the entire world as broken. I don’t like the others I encounter that seem filled with this zeal, who always seem to accuse you of being guilty, who always seem to ask you for your papers. Here there is a deep performative contradiction in so much critical ethical and political theory. Our aim is to change the world, but we make ourselves so unpleasant, we relate to others with such puritanical intolerance, that we end up driving people away rather than forming collectives. We end up doing more to advance conservative and reactionary causes, rather than advancing emancipatory causes. The best friend of the economic and social conservative is the leftist kill-joy who finds everyone impure and who sees every enjoyment as suspect and worthy of condemnation.

read on!


In the open to Process and Reality, Whitehead writes that,

All relatedness has its foundation in the relatedness of actualities; and such relatedness is wholly concerned with the appropriation of the dead by the living– that is to say, with ‘objective immortality’ whereby what is divested from its own living immediacy becomes a real component in other living immediacies of becoming.  (xiii – xiv)

I have been haunted by this passage ever since I first read it.  What Whitehead is, in effect, saying is that all things live from death.  While I would not go as far as Whitehead in claiming that all things live from death– I don’t think this is true of rocks, hydrogen atoms, and stars –it is certainly true of organic beings.  To live is to live from death, because to live is to eat.  With the exception of sunlight and chemicals used in photosynthesis and chemosynthesis, eating is the transformation of other organic matter into the patterned matter of the organism.

Eating is a set of operations that de-forms another organic being and re-forms that being into wood, leaves, bark, muscle, bone, blood, and nerves.  Even trees and grass are a kind of carnivore in the way they eat the microbes of the soil.  However, because there is no such thing as an unformed matter, a matter that does not have an intrinsic structure of its own, the deformation of organic beings and their reformation into cells for another organic being is never simply the unilateral or hylemorphic imposition of a form upon these materials.  That which is eaten contributes something of its own to the machine that eats, contributing form to the organization of the vampire.  I will be different depending on my diet.  My cells will have different powers, different capacities, depending on whether I live from the death of these organic beings or those organic beings.  I will even think differently depending on the death that I live from, this food affecting my moods and ability to cognize in this way, those foods affecting my moods and ability to cognize in that way.  Those who suffer from depression and anxiety disorders are advised to maintain a particular diet.

read on!


In response to my talk on flat ethics, noir realism raises some interesting questionsabout my defense of the existence of incorporeal machines.  As noir realism writes:

The only question I have is in your division of incorporeal/corporeal.  I guess I have a conflict with this dualistic approach of incorporeal/corporeal… i don’t see any separation between these two types of entity. The reason I say that is simple, even as I write this sentence I’m interacting with physical material objects that then through math and logic are manipulated through physical hardware and transformed into binary code that is translated into bits that are trasnported to the servers on the web from my own machine conveying the very material thoughts that I’m now about to publish. Are these incorporeal or corporeal? Is there a difference? What makes something incorporeal or corporeal? Is it a kind of object? Why not admit that all objects are material and have effect/affects within the physical? I think we have divided things because of their types, and through some need of linguistic habit rather than admiting the logical truth that thoughts are material as well, which means math is productive of material activation, language too.

I confess that I am myself surprised by my recent defense of incorporeal machines.  As those who have followed my blog and work, I have been a pretty staunch defender of strict materialism, arguing that only material entities exist.  In the past, this has led to some pretty heated debates throughout the blogosphere.  To be honest, although incorporeal machines figure heavily in the book I’m now writing, Onto-Cartography, my commitment to them is still soft and I’m still working through just what they might be.  Here I hasten to add that I am not the first materialist that has affirmed the existence of incorporeals:  Marx occasionally talks about incorporeals, and certainly incorporeals are a key concept in Deleuze and Guattari.  So what set of considerations motivates my recent defense of incorporeal machines given that I was so staunchly opposed to them in the past?

read on!


For anyone who is interested, here’s the text for my talk on flat ethics at UTA this Thursday: bryantutaflatethics.  I do not yet arrive at any determinate positions regarding flat ethics, but do feel that I’m getting a better sense of what a flat ethics might be and what problems or ethical questions it might generate.  There’s also a sneak peak at the revised ontology of machines I’m developing for Onto-Cartography:  An Ontology of Machines and Media here.  The concept of machines is far more elaborate than is suggested in this text (the chapter on Machines takes up around 60 pages in Onto-Cartography), but this gives a sense of what I’m getting at.  I’ve found the concept of machines to be extremely productive for analytic purposes, leading to a whole host of interesting questions and analyses of the various different types of objects of the world.  I’ve also introduced incorporeal machines into my ontology, much to my surprise.  In the paper above you’ll find discussions of flat ontology, ethical machines, why I think humanist critiques of OOO and flat ontology are misguided,  anthropocentric flat ethics, and posthumanist flat ethics.  At any rate, I’d love to hear what others think.

Apologies for not posting much lately.  I’ve been busily writing Onto-Cartography:  An Ontology of Machines and Media for Edinburgh University Press, giving talks, and preparing the first issue of O-Zone for publication.  This hasn’t left much time for blogging.

For anyone who is interested and who happens to be in the area, I will be giving a talk on Flat Ethics at the University of Texas at Arlington on Thursday (October 18th) of this week.  I’d like to thank the Philosophy and English department for generously hosting me and, especially, the hard work Stacy Alaimo has done in organizing this event.  The details of the talk can be found here: flatethics.

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