Ennis on Morton’s Ecology Without Nature

Here. Commenting quickly, Ennis notes he’s puzzled with why nature would be transcendent. I think the most prosaic answer is one I offered in my class. Nature is like the carrot in the old Bugs Bunny cartoons: it’s put on a stick and it’s held out in front of Bugs to keep him running, though he’ll never get the carrot. We get to the Wild West and nature is gone. We go camping, nature is gone. We travel to the moon and nature is gone. Thus, for the anthropocentric model, nature always flits away in its purity from the human. And this holds, I should say, equally for those who want to hold that there is no nature because it is a linguistic/cultural construct. Morton’s approach, as I see it, is to try two things at once: to note that the latter view is in a sense right while arguing that it remains anthropocentric since it’s a move to keep us from the “ecological thought.” (Thus you see the analogue to much work in speculative realism.)

Interestingly, too, arguing for a materialist, non-transcendent ecology, Morton turns to Levinas as a counter to Heidegger, which is usually the reverse move in the ecological literature.