“Jail Was Heat”; Or, From the Empty Space of the Secular to the Generic Time of Suffering: A Response to Alex Dubilet (A Non-Philosophical Theory of Nature Book Event)

Alex’s focus on the question of the secular that runs throughout Ecologies of Thought brings out a question of the relationship between naturalism and secularism. To get at that I want to spend a little time engaging with the work of Christian critics of the secular, before I lay out the framework from which a fuller exposition of the generic secular would have to arise. Even when I had more sympathy for John Milbank’s project I was always stuck with the theocentric misanthropy (and assuredly this involves a kind of misogyny) present in the opening to Theology & Social Theory: “Once, there was no ‘secular’. And the secular was not latent, waiting to fill more space with the steam of the ‘purely human’, when the pressure of the sacred was relaxed.” You may not see it, but I remember when I first read this passage I couldn’t help but think, upon first reading in 2005, of “the steam of the purely human” alongside of Agent Smith’s remarks about the stink of human beings. Later on, when I began to give more attention to theories that attended to anti-racist and anti-colonial struggles, I began to think of the human steam as the pressure cookers that are prison cells or the open cages before the sun on Guantanamo or the holds of ships that human beings hide in when trying to escape one space for another or the tiny apartments that the poor throughout the world cram themselves into after working too many hours on too many days. Read the rest of this entry »

The theodicy of ethical consumerism

I wrote a few weeks ago about the ideological function of free will: we don’t blame people because they have free will, we say they have free will so we can blame them. In the theological realm, the goal of granting us free will isn’t to enhance our dignity or the meaningfulness of our life, but to make sure God has someone to blame for all the bad things that happen — and I believe we can apply the principle of a homology between the theological and the political realm here as well.

A perfect example of this is dynamic is ethical consumerism. It often strikes me as bizarre that we’re even given a choice between the gross processed food and the healthy organic food, or between the hideously wasteful product and the ecologically conscious product — much less that the “price signals” are invariably tilted toward the bad option. Wouldn’t it be better to remove the bad option in the first place? Why is something so important left to arbitrary individual choice?

Here I think the fact that we know consumers will generally make the wrong choice is not a bug, but a feature of ethical consumerism. The political class and business elites have already collectively decided that ethical farming and environmental sustainability are not important goals — and so they have left them up to individual consumer choices so that they can disavow responsibility and blame all of us for not choosing correctly.

Whenever we’re offered a free choice, we’re being set up.

Philosopreneurs: Thoughts on labor at the Exciting New Grad School

Is the Exciting New Grad School an inherently anti-labor institution?

First, as Adam has already pointed out, perhaps one reason for the apparent excitement for the Global Center for Advanced Studies is the hunger for an alternative to the increasingly neoliberalized world of U.S. higher education. It is, of course, incontrovertible that higher education is under attack from a number of directions, and that, particularly from the perspective of students, skyrocketing tuition costs are one of the most troubling trends. After one reads past the alarmingly fantastic rhetoric on the GCAS website and facebook page, it appears that one of their primary marketing strategies is to present the school as a low-cost, easy alternative to traditional schools. Read the rest of this entry »

Agamben events at Northwestern

On the 15th anniversary of Giorgio Agamben’s Northwestern lectures the Paul of Tarsus Interdisciplinary Working Group presents with support from the Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities, the Program in Critical Theory, and the German department.

Friday, April 18, 12.30-3pm, Kaplan seminar room (Kresge 2-380)

Alessia Ricciardi – The Highest Poverty as Form of Life: Agamben’s Franciscanism and the Contemporary

Virgil W. Brower – “High Use”: Martin Luther as a hidden protagonist in Giorgio Agamben’s Homo Sacer series

Wednesday, April 23, 2-3.30pm, German seminar room (Kresge 2-500)

Samuel Weber (in conversation with Peter Fenves and Anthony C. Adler, Yonsei University) – Politics of Singularity: Ontology, Theology, Economy

Fabulous Gnosis, or How to Not Think Ecology as Economy (A Non-Philosophical Theory of Nature Book Event)

[This post had to be re-posted for formatting reasons. Readers interested in more of Joshua's work on economics and philosophy should check out his blog Absolute Economics, where this post is also posted. -eds]

How much sense does it make to think of nature as a gigantic system of exchanges?   Why does it seem so intuitive, so obvious, that what goes on in ecosystems can be mapped through economic language, through the language of opportunities, optimization, equilibrium, management, interests, investments?   Is it just because Darwin was reading Malthus when he penned The Origin of the Species?  Or is it because, as Philip Mirowski has been detailing for years, there is a long and complicated history of “transferred metaphors” between economics and other sciences (especially physics, biology, and cybernetics)?

One of the implications I take from Anthony’s advocacy of “unified theory” is that if ecology mutates philosophy, non-philosophy must also mutate ecology.  Read the rest of this entry »

“If my Beloved would raise the veils/you’d see only the pious at the tavern”: A Response to Basit Iqbal (A Non-Philosophical Theory of Nature Book Event)

It is interesting, though it says something in part about the abstract nature of Ecologies of Thought, that one could not really craft a bestiary of my book. I really am less concerned with the relationship of what ecology normally studies, and more interested in using ecology’s concepts to think thought. But that thought is always, I claim, creatural. I make this claim knowing that there is a whole host of literature that I should be engaging with and that this concept is not without its problems. But I prefer it to the simply human because of the ways it stretches theological engagement to its limits (to Francis and Attar, harbingers of a kind of apocalyptic) and because the ways it emphasizes a common set of capacities to finite entities (creatures are not the creator). Of course, in this way, I am following many of the thinkers of finitude like Heidegger (who I will pick up again in my response to Adam), but in reality I picked up this notion from, of all people, St. Thomas and felt it a more radical version was found in Francis and Ikhwan al-safa. But both the “Brethren of Purity” and Francis are only engaged with towards the end of the book and are not given the amount of space they should (perhaps that remains for me to write)Basit’s response touches on this relationship with Islam in the book and I wanted to spend my response reflecting on that relationship a little more. But as I do so, I want to emphasize, as his post also hints at, that I don’t see a “we” and an “I” when I reflect upon Islam, any more than I do when I reflect upon Christianity, secularism, or paganism (these terms, of course, being said in many ways). But I also am aware of a separation between my “I” and these three domains or forms of life. Read the rest of this entry »

Two New Journals

As I continue to think through my responses to the excellent latest posts on A Non-Philosophical Theory of Nature, I thought that I should point readers to two new journal ventures. The first is a reviews journal that comes out of the Society for Contemporary Thought and the Islamicate World.

The other is a student-run journal coming out of UWO’s Centre for the Study of Theory and Criticism. The journal, named Chiasma, features a number of strong articles touching on themes that AUFS readers will be interested in (the range present between Eileen Joy’s article on hope and Roland Boer’s discussion of Kautsky speaks to the openness of the journal’s focus). Of special interest, however, may be the two articles on Laruelle (one that connects his work up with Audre Lorde) and a short piece by Laruelle himself on deconstruction.

Also, as a side note, NDPR just posted a very strong review of Principles of Non-Philosophy(translated by Nicola Rubczak and myself).

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