April 14th, 2012 | daybook
Expressing strong sympathy for panpsychism, (Graham) Harman proposes a new philosophical discipline called "speculative psychology" dedicated to investigating the "cosmic layers of psyche" and "ferreting out the specific psychic reality of earthworms, dust, armies, chalk, and stone"
Finally, subjects for philosophy that can’t argue back. If you ignore armies. And the ethical considerations around terming an army an “object.” Which I won’t ascribe to sophomoric political naivete because I don’t know the man. Elsewhere in the piece, this approach is described as “metaphysical realism,” as different from “Speculative Realism,” the latter term presumably being considered too on-the-nose as descriptor for the practise of sitting around and wondering what makes stones sad.
Anyway. I was reminded of something someone else said once, and found a fair approximation of the notion in a piece he wrote:
Perhaps the Sun can think in a way barely imaginable to our more limited power of thinking, its thoughts interfacing with its ever changing patterns of vibratory activity. In this way, it is scientifically imaginable that the Sun could be conscious.
That is, of course, Dr Rupert Sheldrake, most recently the author of a book entitled in this country THE SCIENCE DELUSION. The “Trialogue” discussions he had with Terence McKenna and Ralph Abraham, in which he speculates about the specific psychic realities of suns, have been floating around the net as mp3s for years. Dr Sheldrake, much like David Icke, presents as a perfectly nice and deeply committed man who wears terms like “deluded crank” with a degree of self-aware equanimity. It strikes me that he could make a killing in philosophy today.
I’d been reading about it again because object-oriented ontology (short version: “how dare you wave your human privilege over stones”) and metaphysics had reared their Vitamin-D-deficient heads in relation to various discussions about The New Aesthetic. And by “discussions” I mean, in most cases, people standing up and blustering a lot, frequently from the position that they wish they’d thought of it first or want you to believe they thought of it first. Or, as an anonymous wit put it the other day, “that person who stands up in Q&As and goes “I don’t really have a question…”” Lots of philosophising, often using these recent tools.
And mostly missing the point (especially when calling it “an art movement”): it’s already happened. Bruce Sterling termed the NA tumblr a “gaudy, network-assembled heap made of digitized jackstraws,” which is a very Bruce Sterling way of handling James Bridle’s flat declarative “(it’s a) series of artifacts,” But it surrounds the actuality, which is that it’s raw reportage. It’s an unsorted Wikileaks dump of evidence that The New Aesthetic has been here for years, and it slid into view so insidiously that we didn’t even notice it. We were all looking at tiny bits of it. Everyone (in the fringe-y design-y tech-y circles that I exist on the outermost edges of) has gone nuts about it because so few people had had the massed raw evidence presented contextually to them like that.
The New Aesthetic may indeed have an ever changing (or at least oscillating) pattern of vibratory activity, but I don’t think whole thrust of the NA aggregation really supports the notion that it’s conscious. And ferreting out a specific psychic reality may lead you down the path of machine awareness and cosmic layers of psyche, but I would suggest that that gets you only a few years of fun in a Weimar Cabaret bierkeller while your neighbourhood’s been marked up for drone vision.
I would go maybe this far down that road, if you want another quote to play with. Here’s Charles Fort: “A tree cannot find out, as it were, how to blossom, until comes blossom-time. A social growth cannot find out the use of steam engines, until comes steam-engine-time.”
Well, that got out of hand, for a ten-minute thought dump. Not Fully Baked.