Re: landscape, animism, and movement

Intimate Distance 1, John R. Campbell

Intimate Distance 1, John R. Campbell

 

The philosopher Maxine Sheets-Johnstone, in her book The Primacy of Movement, states bluntly that “The idea of matter as an inert chunk of stuff is outmoded.” In considering the validity of the concept of animism, Sheets-Johnstone mentions that “committed materialists” might attempt to discredit animism by “avoiding speaking in terms of an all-pervasive elementary physicalism.” Instead, they would speak “in terms of an all-pervasive elementary physicalism animated. But physicalism animated is not only quite a trick to explain--where does motion come from? for example...--it is a trick requiring a reconceptualization of materialist doctrine. It requires admitting a kinetic character into the domain of... matter such that [it] is not simply matter pure and simple any longer, but matter having the potential, in and of itself...to make things happen.”

“Moreover,” Sheets-Johnstone writes, “the reconceptualization harbors a contradiction. It requires acknowledging the fact that matter--understood in the broad sense--both moves and does not move itself. It moves itself insofar as it fires, propagates, and flows, for example; it does not move itself insofar as it is, for example, a stone. Hence, there must be different kinds of matter: matter that is nonliving and matter that is living, any matter constituting living forms being different in some crucial kinetic--thus animated--way from matter that has no connection with living forms. Yet there are singular instances in which nonliving matter, in spite of being unlike living forms, does move itself. Perhaps the most prominent instances are earthquakes, volcanoes, and tides. A simple and ready kinetic distinction between living and nonliving matter is thus not that easily drawn."