Here is the position “paper” I delivered earlier this month at the Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts (SLSA) conference, After Biopolitics. The paper tile is “Vegans Mock Humans Who Don’t Eat Gods.” Thank you so much to Tim Morton, Randy Honold, all the organizers, and all the participants for a great conference. (See below the call for next year).
The human species is a set that defines itself through multiple and diverse acts of self-reflection. Among these acts is regarding ourselves in other species, though we also see through, or don’t see through, our misconceptions of ourselves and others. One technology we tend to elide, of late, is the comparison of humans and gods. We’re embarrassed by the association. If self-definition is multiple and diverse, however, why would we dismiss a category of non-human beings by which many human beings define themselves?
And maybe we protest too much. I wonder if we don’t secretly carry a torch for gods. Whether or not humans are particularly creative or destructive, many of us still feel inspired, at times, and at other times, possessed. Gods, archetypes, ghosts, emotions, and unconscious drives—I don’t meant to collapse these species into one another, but I do see common threads—alien invasion, alien intimacy, alien birth. (Thank you Dirk Felleman at synthetic zero for suggesting gods as emotions.) Few of us would deny that we have unconscious drives, but if so, then, could it be that we are still attached to gods?
Is belief in the reversibility of global warming and an infinitely sustainable society like belief in a coherent god? (This is Stoekl in Pettman’s Human Error). I think it is. Some of us are credulous in this sense. But sustainability, like balance, need not be universal. We don’t have to be Modern, monotheistic, or dogmatic in our attachments. Self-defining “right action,” including cultivating good habits and “gracious relationships” (thank you Bill Jordan at Environmental Prospect), may have some intrinsic value and broader influence.
P.S. I really like the trope of gods as tools or machines. I find it genuinely persuasive and productive. Gods, demi-gods, and idols are surely products of metallurgy and alchemy. I do believe we fashion gods. But this doesn’t preclude the possibility that we are tool-making tools, also fashioned, by industrious monkey gods (for example).
Call for Papers: Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts. Atalanta, November 3 – 6, 2016. Creativity.