Posts tagged philosophy

What Is Plant-Thinking?: Botany’s Copernican Revolution

botany, plant-thinking, Michael-Marder, philosophy, plants, LARB, 2018

The intelligence of plants is not merely a shadow of human knowing, and their behavior is not a rudimentary form of human conduct. After all, unlike animal and humans, for whom behavior is most often associated with physical movement, plants behave by changing their states, both morphologically and physiologically. An honest approach to the capacities of plants thus requires a simultaneous acknowledgement of the similarities and differences between them and other living beings. In scientific circles, there is certainly no consensus on the implications of new research data drawn from the behavior of plant cells, tissues, and communities. On the one hand, the opponents of the Copernican Revolution in botany claim that the data do nothing but exemplify what has been known all along about plant plasticity and adaptability. This is the position expressed in the open letter to the journal Trends in Plant Science, signed in 2007 by 36 plant scientists who deemed the extrapolations of plant neurobiology “questionable.” On the other hand, we have the investigations of kin recognition in plants by Richard Karban and Kaori Shiojiri; of plant intelligence by Anthony Trewavas; of plant bioacoustics by Stefano Mancuso and Monica Gagliano; of the sensitivity of root apices as brain-like “command centers” by František Baluška and Dieter Volkmann; of plant learning and communication by Ariel Novoplansky; and of plant senses by Daniel Chamowitz, among many others. Their peer-reviewed research findings no longer fit within the scientific framework where plants are studied as objects, rather than living organisms. Leaving aside the provocative analogies they suggest between plants and animals, doesn’t the drastic change in approach (from plants as objects to plants as subjects) amount to a veritable Copernican Revolution, or Kuhnian paradigm shift, in botany?


Accelerationism: how a fringe philosophy predicted the future we live in

accelerationism, Hyperdub, CCRU, Zelazny, Nick-Land, Mark-Fisher, capitalism, politics, philosophy, The Guardian

At any one time, there have probably only been a few dozen accelerationists in the world. The label has only been in regular use since 2010, when it was borrowed from Zelazny’s novel by Benjamin Noys, a strong critic of the movement. Yet for decades longer than more orthodox contemporary thinkers, accelerationists have been focused on many of the central questions of the late 20th and early 21st centuries: the rise of China; the rise of artificial intelligence; what it means to be human in an era of addictive, intrusive electronic devices; the seemingly uncontrollable flows of global markets; the power of capitalism as a network of desires; the increasingly blurred boundary between the imaginary and the factual; the resetting of our minds and bodies by ever-faster music and films; and the complicity, revulsion and excitement so many of us feel about the speed of modern life. “We all live in an operating system set up by the accelerating triad of war, capitalism and emergent AI,” says Steve Goodman, a British accelerationist who has even smuggled its self-consciously dramatic ideas into dance music, via an acclaimed record label, Hyperdub. “Like it or not,” argues Steven Shaviro, an American observer of accelerationism, in his 2015 book on the movement, No Speed Limit, “we are all accelerationists now.”


Why Do We Believe Anything, Anyway?

Medium, belief, religion, philosophy, reality, perception, worldviews

navigating the limited piece of physical reality we encounter in life, and remaining mentally and emotionally secure enough to survive, find mates, and propagate the species, requires an unquestioning, and when you think about it, strikingly unreasonable confidence in ourselves and in the world. Since full awareness of reality as-it-is was not an option for our ancient ancestors (as the overwhelm caused by so much data would have diminished, rather than enhanced, their chances of survival), evolution equipped them –and, as their descendants, us too — with brains capable of generating a convincing illusion of the reality of our own small words.


“Nothing is Forbidden, but Some Things are Good”

Medium, ethics, morality, preference, vegetarianism, philosophy, choice, taoism

“Nothing is Forbidden, but Some Things are Good” So morality may be a mirage, but it’s a useful mirage that helps us find life-giving meaning in what would otherwise be a desert of pure perception. I found de to be a helpful bridge towards holonic integration, but you might prefer Sharia law, act utilitarianism, or any number of moral or ethical ideas. Whatever your choice, in this way morality serves as an oasis that will sustain you on your journey to find meaning, especially when all meaning seems lost to the harsh winds of an uncaring world.


Deleuze’s Becoming-Molecular

Medium, deluxe, philosophy, verbing

So, how do we think beyond the maps with their static regions (being)? A hook Deleuze uses in The Logic of Sense is to get us thinking of verbs as primary. Verbs are often seen as less substantial than nouns, or adjectives, because their mapping is more chaotic (if you’ve studied a foreign language you will know this oh-so-well). He transforms the proposition “The tree is green” to “The tree greens”. He argues that greening is more fundamental than green (referring to an unfurling event from which we derive the static theme “green”), and that making this shift makes certain metaphysical problems about objects and their properties become less problematic. By A Thousand Plateaus we’ve gotten to “a-treeing greens”. That is, we are turning static “beings” (regions on the map with their properties allocated by definitions that demarcate their edge points), to “becomings” “doings”, “transpirings”, the molecules squiggly shifting under the molar territories on the map.


Philosophy and Psychedelic Phenomenology

Peter, Sjöstedt-H, psychedelic, phenomenology, philosophy, prohibition, taboos

Due to the general legal prohibition and modern cultural taboo against psychoactive chemicals, the academic discipline of Philosophy has left a potentially bounteous field of enquiry virtually unharvested. The aim of this text is to introduce readers to an unimaginable universe of cognition to which ingestion of such molecules will open the portal. This universe can modify and augment Philosophy itself: psychedelic phenomenology is fuel for Philosophy.


What Pragmatism Means

WIlliam James, pragmatism, philosophy, 1906

It is astonishing to see how many philosophical disputes collapse into insignificance the moment you subject them to this simple test of tracing a concrete consequence. There can be no difference anywhere that doesn’t make a difference elsewhere – no difference in abstract truth that doesn’t express itself in a difference in concrete fact and in conduct consequent upon that fact, imposed on somebody, somehow, somewhere, and somewhen. The whole function of philosophy ought to be to find out what definite difference it will make to you and me, at definite instants of our life, if this world-formula or that world-formula be the true one.

on Nicolescu’s Manifesto of Transdisciplinarity

Nicolescu, transdisciplinarity, philosophy, education, knowledge

Transdisciplinarity “concerns that which is at once between the disciplines, across the different disciplines, and beyond all discipline,” and its aim is the unity of knowledge together with the unity of our being: “Its goal is the understanding of the present world, of which one of the imperatives is the unity of knowledge.” (44) Nicolescu points out the danger of self-destruction caused by modernism and increased technologization and offers alternative ways of approaching them, using a transdisciplinary approach that propels us beyond the either/or thinking that gave rise to the antagonisms that produced the problems in the first place. The logic of the included middle permits “this duality [to be] transgressed by the open unity that encompasses both the universe and the human being.” (56). Thus, approaching problems in a transdisciplinary way enables one to move beyond dichotomized thinking, into the space that lies beyond.

Can Hydras Eat Unknown-Unknowns for Lunch?

pessimism, optimism, resilience, taleb, knowledge, unknown, philosophy

The general idea behind the Hydra narrative in a broad sense (not just what Taleb has said/will say in October) is that hydras eat all unknown unknowns (not just Taleb’s famous black swans) for lunch. I have heard at least three different versions of this proposition in the last year. The narrative inspires social system designs that feed on uncertainty rather than being destroyed by it. Geoffrey West’s ideas about superlinearity are the empirical part of an attempt to construct an existence proof showing that such systems are actually possible.