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The Ecological Thought Hardcover – Apr 15 2010

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 184 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press (April 15 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674049209
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674049208
  • Product Dimensions: 24.8 x 15.6 x 1.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 386 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #710,757 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


Morton writes from inside the ecological thought, not as its cheerleader or architect but as a latter-day Romantic. The great strength of this book is its genre inventiveness, and its main contribution is its performance of a thinking keyed to our time and place, a thinking with clear and immediate ethical implications. The Ecological Thought is crucial right now.
--Marjorie Levinson, University of Michigan

Picking up where his most obvious predecessors, Gregory Bateson and Felix Guattari, left off, Morton understands mental ecology as the ground zero of ecological thinking, as that which must be redressed before anything else and above all. Morton goes beyond both his forebears, however, in repairing the rift between science and the humanities, which the Enlightenment opened up and against which Romanticism reacted. Perhaps most pleasantly surprising, given its erudition, is that in its stylistic elegance The Ecological Thought is as satisfying to read as it is necessary to ponder.
--Vince Carducci, College for Creative Studies

Timothy Morton has a unique take on ecology that challenges much of the alternative consciousness that floats around on the periphery of environmental circles. He offers a profound take on human possibilities. To Morton, human society and Nature are not two distinct things but rather two different angles on the same thing. (Tikkun 2011-06-29)

By suggesting imaginative ways to resolve other crises, could humanities scholars stave off the crisis engulfing their own subjects? Morton proposes a future in which the venerable ideas of "nature" and "environment" are so much detritus, useless for addressing a looming ecological catastrophe. His book exemplifies the "serious" humanities scholarship he makes a plea for. My head's still spinning.
--Noel Castree (Times Higher Education 2011-09-08)

Morton's The Ecological Thought rejects the romantic concept of nature as a passive foil to human action. The natural world, as it turns out, is not something outside of us; or, put another way: there is no difference between humans and our environment...He asks us to engage in "radical openness" as a way of practicing "radical coexistence," a state of being that we live even when we do not think much about it...Morton's book allows us to see our stirrings of sympathy for nonhuman beings such as strawberries as the beginning of a recognition that we have all--people and plants alike--lost long ago our presumed roots in an imagined natural world.
--Natania Meeker and Antónia Szabari (Los Angeles Review of Books 2012-05-09)

About the Author

Timothy Morton is Rita Shea Guffey Chair of English at Rice University.

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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
The Quest to Overcome Dualism Oct. 22 2012
By Robert Greenway - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
For anyone concerned about the human-nature-relationship, and why it is going so terribly wrong, or for those coming from an ecopsychology perspective -- this is a tremendously exciting book. It most reminds me of John Dewey's attempt to articulate a non-dualistic stance ("Experience and Nature"), and more recently with Gregory Bateson's writings (especially "Mind and Nature -- the Pattern That Connects"). Morton's book articulates that pattern, which of course is "ecology" -- but in this case, he expands the meaning of ecology (as many now do) to encompass the interactivity of "mental processes" and one's environment. The view that "nature" is "over there" (apart from us) somewhere is dropped, and the exploration of the human-nature-relationship begins with the assumption of an already existing interactivity -- which, of course, when one "thinks about it" -- is obviously accurate. The book is at times dense, but the main difficulty is, in my view, a healing difficulty -- and that's the startling perspective it presents, a perspective that to the attentive reader can reveal just how deeply embedded the Romantic and/or Cartesian and/or materialistic-reductive viewpoint is permeating our culture and thus our thinking. I recommend this book, along with any and all books on "ecocritiism" -- another source of human-nature relationship insight that both precedes and currently engulfs the attempts to create an ecopsychology with legs! Having said that, the issue still remains (whether from a dualistic or non-dualistic perspective): just how does this interactivity take place. For that I'd turn to the recent Joseph Dodds book, "Psychoanalysis and Ecology at the Edge of Chaos", as well as to the book "Integral Ecology" (Sean Hargen and Michael Zimmerman). Both attempt to "reach" that point of interaction between mind and nature, and both use the concept of "intersubjectivity" to do so. But Morton's book is a gift to this whole field of exploration, and I recommend it highly.
10 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Too Many Words, Too little Meaning Jan. 14 2014
By Truth Seeker - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It is not easy to determine what this book is about: The author does not provide us with a clear summary. After much thought, I have concluded that it is about Professor Morton’s hypothesis that a global ecological crisis will be averted or mitigated if sufficient people adopt a perspective that the author calls “The Ecological Thought”. This perspective involves a realization that humans and their environment are interconnected; these interconnections the author calls “The Mesh”. In this context, the environment has no boundaries; it comprises all things that mutually influence one another, whether physical or intellectual. Examples include humanity, all life forms, the atmosphere, the oceans, the landscape and geology of the Earth, science and technology, and human artifacts, ideas, and history. The author even extends the mesh to include the galaxy and the universe because of their influence on our perspective of ourselves and our world. Their vastness compared to Earthly scales and their age compared to the human lifespan make us realize our insignificance in relation to the universe in which we live. The author believes that an acceptance of our insignificance is essential to achieving the mindset for effective ecological thinking: Only by stepping outside our immediate surroundings can we obtain a realistic picture of ourselves.

In this book, the author chooses not to demonstrate that adoption of The Ecological Thought will be successful in mitigating a global ecological crisis which he believes is already upon us: Rather, he assumes it to be self-evident that success will be the result. The majority of the book is spent in exploring the nature and interconnections of the Mesh. In particular, the author introduces a concept of “The Strange Stranger”, which he does not define but which emerges from his discussions as one or more aspects of The Mesh to which we are interconnected and that we may find disconcerting or frightening. Professor Morton appears to believe that it is very important that, as part of The Ecological Thought, we learn to accept (even love) these initially unwelcome Strange Strangers. Professor Morton also believes that The Ecological Thought will (or should) lead to new directions in scientific research (such as consciousness and suffering in animals and artificially intelligent systems), in the philosophy of ecology, which he believes must move from seeing a division between Nature and humanity to seeing the two as a holistic system within The Mesh, and ultimately in politics.

The two paragraphs above are my summary of the book. What else is there? What have I left out? The most solid underpinnings are the passages, drawn from evolution, in which the author illustrates the connections between earthly life forms, including humans. He occasionally quotes from poets such as Shelley, Milton, and Coleridge: Their relevance is much less easy to see. He also spends considerable time in one-sided debates with other humanist writers, most of whom he disagrees with. This may be of interest if you are a professor of the humanities but it is too arcane for those of us who are not. There is little else. The author offers no reason to believe that, even if it is widely adopted, The Ecological Thought will result in the mitigation of ecological catastrophe. The book gives no detail of what The Ecological Thought will look like, very little idea of what policies or actions may emerge, and no glimpse of what an “Ecologically Thought” future will look like.

What, then, of the concept of The Ecological Thought itself, to the extent that any picture of it emerges from the book? The name is new but the realization of the interconnectedness of humans, other earthly life, and the planet itself has probably occurred to all those who have seriously studied evolution, and the earth sciences. In studying those disciplines together with cosmology, it is impossible not to also grasp the fragility and insignificance of planet Earth and its living cargo. However, for most of us, the realization has not been developed into an explicit attitude towards ecology. Nor does this book undertake that step.

The intended audience for the book is not clear. The author does say that he hopes that people who are not specialists in critical theory will read the book. If it is intended for non-specialists in the humanities in general, it would seem that the author has lost touch with the rest of the world. Certainly as a non-specialist, I found the book to be very difficult to read. The writing is incoherent: Key terms (The Ecological Thought, Strange Strangers) are used extensively but not defined; there is no close reasoning and careful argument; the style comes across as pretentious, self-indulgent intellectual exhibitionism. The result is that meaning is obscured. In much of the book the author seems to believe that, if he tosses a heap of words onto the page, meaning will spontaneously emerge. An example of the book’s style is the following passage: “Environmental rhetoric is too often strongly affirmative, extraverted, and masculine; it privileges speech over writing; and it simulates immediacy (feigning one-to-one correspondences between language and reality). It’s sunny, straightforward, ableist, holistic, hearty, and “healthy”. Where does this leave negativity, introversion, femininity, writing, mediation, ambiguity, darkness, irony, fragmentation, and sickness?”. The only reasonably lucid passages are those where Professor Morton is drawing on Darwin; apparently his feet are held to the ground by Darwin’s own admirably clear writing.

The global ecological crisis requires stronger treatment than intellectual froth.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
connected to everything July 5 2013
By Gretchen Scharnagl - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Funny serious amazingly broad in reference from Gould to Derrida to Margulis Darwin and more I want to read more by this author!
4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
a book that makes you think deeply - Roman Luo Feb. 21 2011
By Roman Luo - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The prequel of Ecology without Nature, The Ecological Thought, written by Timothy Morton, is a book that essentially talks about an idea of thinking ecologically towards any beings, matters or objects that exist in a gigantic, entangling "mesh". The central viewpoint behind this book is the idea that everything is interconnected. It also elucidates its intricate contexts through the aspects of philosophy, biology, ecology, nature, art, logic, and polity, etc. Writing only three chapters, "Thinking Big", "Dark Thoughts" and "Forward Thinking," Morton clarifies the distinction between Nature and Ecology, while explaining the essence behind interconnectedness. If you are the person that likes to think deeply and differently, then I think that you will love to read this book.

Two things that I can tell about this book, fantastic idea and extremely complicated explanation. Morton's idea of ecological is really worth people to think deeply and differently but the problem is just that it is really difficult to understand the way how he explans in the book. He uses so many profound evidences and data to support his arguments and it seems like he is trying to confuse his readers. In order to comprehend the ecological thought, the reader needs to have general knowledges as much as he/she can. However, once you get a sense of what Morton is trying to say, then you will probably be amazed about his opinion and idea.
1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Thought-provoking... Oct. 26 2012
By H. Moritz - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I've just recently encountered Morton and I will certainly continue to read more of his thought-provoking work. Morton's idea of the 'mesh', in particular, is a wonderfully useful grid of intelligibility for understanding global interconnectivity and imagining the sort of ethics that will be required to thrive (survive?) in a post-postmodern world.

A notable strength of this book is how it uses a mixture of science, art, literature, philosophy, and critical theory to deconstruct mainstream ideologies about climate change and destabilize existing attitudes toward the 'environment' itself. This is a truly engaging textual strategy and one that also lends itself to further meditation(s) upon interconnectivity.

Nevertheless, I also found a few passages deeply grating -- particularly the tired gendered references to 'radical passivity' as 'feminine' and the call for 'feminine' warmth when 'opening onto the infinite' (Levinas). As several decades of feminist thought has demonstrated beyond a doubt, this brand of dualism is part of the problem and has no place in a book as forward-thinking as this one. Moreover, these sorts of references tend to undermine Morton's own arguments about the problematic 'nature' of Masculine Nature.

It's also important to remember there are existing lived philosophies like yoga and Jainism that are based upon mesh-like models of reality (Morton briefly mentions Buddhism and yoga in what appears to be a positive light but does not expand upon their utility for embodying the ecological thought). It would be a delight to read Morton's views on these lived philosophies (or others) and their 'ecological thought' potential. Can we expect a new book?