A friend of mine, who presumably didn’t realize I was witnessing the discussion, recently wrote the following:

Nah, he’s (Timothy Morton) a sort of post-modern shaman of the academic treadmill: he was a Romantic Scholar originally at Rice University doing the Shelley thing… Then got into Ecology, then attacking Nature, then found Harman and OOO, then Dark Ecology, and Hyperobjects, and finally Techno-Magic – Technic and Magic: The Reconstruction of Reality, then Non-Human Buddhism…  I know I have the same issue with Levi Paul Bryant whose gone from Deleuze to OOO to Machines to Folds to? It’s like this OOO crowd can’t quite figure out exactly what philosophy is yet…
I confess that I felt a little hurt by these comments, though there’s certainly truth to them.  I shift and I change.  At the level of character or my psychology, the simple reason for this is that I get bored.  I can’t imagine a philosophical life where I develop a philosophical doctrine or position, and then spend the rest of my life repeating that set of positions in talk after talk, article after article, book after book.  I think that we should undergo becomings and transformations through the things that we think and the adventures in ideas we endure.  And we do endure these adventures.  This is the reason for the title of this blog:  larval subjects.  In a variety of places, Deleuze remarks that there are becomings and adventures that only an embryo, only a larvae, can undergo.  If there were a primary affect of my thought– or maybe a primary telos –I’m always seeking, it is those unbearable torsions that you undergo in trying to think.  Artaud says that the main thing is to think anything at all.  Thinking is painful.
read on!

Perhaps I’m a masochist, but I thirst for those torsions.  It’s always been my curse.  I become fascinated by something, throw myself completely into it, explore that terrain and that cartography, and then grow weary and move on.  Every mathemagician knows that there are only so many times that you can solve the same equation; there are only so many times you can repeat the same pattern.  You need to discover new and different topologies; new and different theorems.  In my personal intellectual relationships I’ve left paths of ruin behind.  I speak forcibly about Hegel and someone else is convinced and becomes Hegelian.  I speak forcibly about Lacan or Luhmann or Deleuze or Derrida or semiotics or semiotics or the early American pragmatists or cybernetics or structuralism or– yes, that too –object-oriented ontology and someone else becomes convinced.  And then I move on.  I advocate fully and completely, and then it’s not enough.  I have to move on.  I grow tired with myself and I have to think something different.  There are many friendships in ruins as a result of this.  My friend, who wrote the above, has sometimes suggested that I suffer from a sort of Oedipus complex, a Bloomian anxiety of influence.  Maybe so.  I detest feeling trapped in shadows, so I move on.
At a more profound ontological level– I hope –I have always been committed to the thesis that being is creative.  Being creates new forms.  It creates new forms of matter.  It creates new forms of life.  It creates new forms of life.  It creates new forms of society and relating.  Well, if you’re really committed to that thesis, then you can’t develop an ontological framework that itself remains the same.  No.  Your ontological framework itself must become and undergo transformations.  There must be new species of thought and being that you generate within thought– and that’s the magic of thought, that it can think beyond both the nature of the being that thinks and the “nurture” that one has experienced –and you must seek out new spaces of thought.  This is one of the reasons that I think in such a public way.  I need that alterity to think, that difference, that otherness.  I have literally done this for decades.  I’ve been a letter writer, a participant on discussion lists, a commenter on threads, a blogger, and all the rest.  This is not a glitch.  It is a feature.  In this respect, I feel profound sympathy for Leibniz and Socrates.  In seeking out those differences, that alterity, one becomes and changes.  I simply can’t think alone.  I need to think together.  This post and these reflections would not have occurred in the absence of my friend’s observations.  Solitary thought, I think, is solipsistic thought.  This is also why I value my encounters with people in different disciplines over encounters with philosophers.  Philosophers exhaust me.  They set up their cults, their territories, their sacred cows and, far too often, endlessly meditate on their own discipline.  It’s far more interesting to encounter a novelist, a carpenter, a civil engineer, an architect, an archeologist, an activist, an administrator…  At least then you have a chance of encountering a different space of thought.  I count the greatest fortune of my career– such as it is –that I’m seldom invited to philosophical conferences, but am often invited to speak among scientists, artists, archeologists, architects, designers, creators of media, and all the rest.  What a gift to encounter all these differences where I feel disoriented and unsure of what I am thinking and saying!  What a gift to feel provoked– or, better yet —invited to think.  My fantasy is the Macy conferences.
But finally, to my friend, I would say that there continuity of thought across this Jacob’s ladder of what I’ve written.  The core of my obsession with Deleuze in graduate school was his mysterious theory of individuation or how beings emerge from a broader field of relationships, creatively producing something out of those relations.  The core obsession I had with Hegel when I had my Hegelian flirtation was his doctrine of essence, which pertained to the relationality of beings expressive of a broader world.  The core idea of The Democracy of Objects was not the idea of the object, but rather the relationship between what I then called “virtual proper being” (potentiality) and “local manifestation” or actualization, which always takes place in a world or systems of relation.  In Onto-Cartography, I formalize this idea and look at how beings operate on the geography in which they’re situated, taking on the properties or features that they have.  I wanted to create a framework for looking at beings ecologically or “in context”.  And now, with the fold, I take that idea one step further and am trying to think how beings pleat the world in which they dwell.  Yes, I’ll change and move on to other things.  However, I think this is because I have an intuition, something that I’m striving to express, and that language is always inadequate to such things.  If that means I haven’t understood what philosophy is, my response is that that’s so much the worse for philosophy.  I’d prefer to think, even if it means I don’t know where I’ll end up.  I’d prefer to be a larval subject.