Nature is not natural and can never be naturalized — Graham Harman

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

To the "Outraged" Labour MPs

No Democrat would get behind the constant Republican pressure to pass a “balanced budget amendment.” It would be the end of progressive legislation for the rest of time.

So why would Labour want to get behind a budget surplus amendment???

And BBC, this is not “unconventional.” There is no earthly reason to maintain a budget surplus. Unless you are a deficit scold, i.e. unless you want to get rid of “welfare” aka benefits.

Monday, October 12, 2015

A New Book

My friends Alan and Tim, ranking superb Shelley scholars of the world, are about to publish another book, The Neglected Shelley, and it has an essay by me in it on Spinoza and so nice to revisit my PhD topic.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

What Is Agrilogistics?

It's an agricultural program that has been running without much change--only upgrades to more intense versions of itself--since about 10 000BC, when it began at the start of the (warmer) Holocene.

The basic elements of the program are: settle down (stop hunter gathering), farm grains.

There is an implicit logic to this program. Sometimes it's directly stated, sometimes it emerges from how the program executes:

1. The law of noncontradiction is inviolable.
2. To exist is to be constantly present.
3. More existing is better than any quality of existing.

When left to run for 12 000 years, agrilogistics successfully illustrates the flaws in this logic: it generates the global warming that it was designed to avoid, causing mass extinction.

A survival paradox emerges: the attempt to survive at any cost no matter what the appearances are (how the logical axioms pan out) is precisely the dynamic of murder-suicide. Agrilogistical machination is an example of what Freud calls death drive.

Exhibit A: in the New York Times. We've successfully bred the bitter taste out of grains, with the result that they are supremely unhealthy. The breeding of the biggest, juiciest, sweetest grains has eliminated biodiversity and has resulted in a more-than-ironic unintended consequence. Thanks Cliff (again!).

We know from food science that newborn babies make the “bitter” wincing face when they taste something bitter.

“Bitter” is a warning light: this substance could be poisonous in sufficient quantities. Think of how hard wired that is. Cyanide, which is required for life to evolve, tastes bitter in its common form (just try an almond or an apple pip).

Bitter is the taste of tannins. In small quantities, tannins are very helpful at diminishing cancer, cardiovascular disease, dementia, and diabetes.

The attempt to avoid death results in death: precisely, the death drive, a maniacal urge to live (to diminish stimulation) that ends up being self-destructive.

It's like: you eat McDonalds to avoid the taste of bitter or sour. Then you die more quickly.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Olafur Eliasson and Tim Morton talk in Stockholm about Art, Space, Politics and Religion (and no one got hurt!)

Olafur, it was a real pleasure doing this. Sometimes one can open one's big mouth and nice things come out. This was one of those times.

Actually I'm going to go out on a limb and say, thanks to the kindness of Olafur and his team (hi everyone!) and the Moderna Museet (hi Daniel! Karin! Matilda! and everyone!) and say, it was an exquisite pleasure doing this.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Funny, True and Lovely to Read

My mate Ian Bogost in The New Yorker. I've read what he's talking about oh, 50 000 times, and I'm feeling his argument. As my Californian hairdresser used to say.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015


Daniel Birnbaum, awesome curator of the Moderna Museet in Stockholm (what a collection), told me that when Graham Harman showed up, 1000 people showed up to listen. Just wow.

Relativistic Jet

My friend Alan, who used to be party of Andy Warhol's crew, and is now an awesome, awesome Buddhist and DJ and dancer and best buddy of your truly, has been waiting patiently since 1990 for me to go all hardcore with the techno.

Finally that moment has just arrived, hahaha.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

At the Conservative Party Conference Today

“Immigrants who can't work are coming over here. And they are taking jobs away from qualified English workers.”

Voted #1 End of Life Town in End of Life Care Center UK

Eastbourne. It will now be renamed Deceasedbourne.

Hanging on in Quiet Desperation

“Welcome to End of Life Care Center UK. We'll help you feel nice and cozy while you die. Please deposit your £100 in the Charon Box at the front of the jetway. We've decided that instead of trying to rip you off sneakily, thinking that you, the ignorant American, have no idea what's going on, you should just open your pockets as you exit the plane. All taxis and trains have been fitted with trembling lace curtains for your morbid convenience.”

Monday, October 5, 2015

And this is where Buddhism scores big

Regarding the Legacies post, Buddhism inverts the rule beautifully.

A positive result from a negative intent is net positive.

A negative result from a positive intent is negative.

It's worse than useless to keep beating up on the guy who transformed healthcare. It's reinforcing agricultural-age ontology. How's that been working out for the last 12 500 years?


"Barack Obama only acts with regard to his legacy. He doesn't act morally."

Naomi Klein said this today, on Democracy Now, and I've heard it elsewhere.

Moral actions are judged good or bad after they have been done.

Acting morally means you act with a regard to how the action turns out.

One way an action turns out is that it is judged.

So there is no functional difference between acting morally and acting with regard to your legacy.

The only way I can make them different is to bring in something monotheistic such as the strictures against pride (can't have people aping the god-King).

In this case acting with regard to your legacy is acting proudly.

What is being said here is not left wing. It is only a monotheism retweet.

What we are probably dealing with (North American thinkers) is Puritan rubbernecking.

Democracy Now was encouraging people to rubberneck puritanically.

So as I've often said, this isn't progressive. This is a bad case of beautiful soul syndrome.

Anti-STEM Death Ray

I just figured out, for the second time in my life, but this time using Word instead of paper and pencil, how to solve simultaneous equations. It was like riding a bike after not having ridden for a while. Then the following thought sequence occurred.

All the math you learn in school isn't math. It's computation.

All STEM subjects boil down to computation.

So humans are now being told that learning to compute is the most important (the stem). (Care to analyze that ideologically, someone?)

But computers (the clue is in the name) can compute at least trillions of times faster than humans. (Care to analyze the weirdness of being told you need to ape a computer, only trillions of times slower.)

So learning this way is worse than useless, because what we have learned is that computation isn't the same as math (e.g. set theory, number theory...). And computers do this already. (Thanks to 150 years of computational machination.)

So STEM subjects are worse than useless. (NB not the actual disciplines, but the subjects as conceptualized by the government. Chemistry is awesome.)

So STEM is not the stem.

What is number? What is math? At some point, you're going to have to ask a philosopher.

The core, or stem indeed, is in the humanities.

I propose an alternative model: core learning, and things you can do with things you've learned. The latter is computation. It is secondary to the core. NB "core" is not an acronym (hooray).

To compute, you need something to compute. You can't get this from computation. You get this from the core.

Add to this, of course, the fact that science (when it's not just computation a la engineering or math-as-computer-aping) is about appearance: data.

While the humanities are about reality: the ungraspable nature of things.

We do reality. They do appearance. If the STEM/non-STEM distinction is a reality/appearance distinction (of course it is), it's totally upside down.

But you don't need this second set of moves. You just need the first. STEM isn't the stem.

So Thoughtful

This has never happened before. Receiving a copy of your book wrapped in wrapping paper--Chicago University Press wrapping paper.

Alan Thomas it's been a pleasure. What an impeccable set of procedures we went through.

I'm so happy to be in this book with my mates Eric and Marcus. Mashing up Buddhism and theory so you don't have to.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Pre-Order Nothing

It never gets old, does it? You can now pre-order the book I did with Marcus Boon and Eric Cazdyn, our contribution to Buddhist scholarship. It's really really worth reading, I think.