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Ecology without Nature: Rethinking Environmental Aesthetics First Edition Edition

3.4 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0674034853
ISBN-10: 0674034856
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Editorial Reviews


Rigorous and unsettling, Timothy Morton's book is a vividly realized critique of the political and ethical meanings of "place" and "space." Steeped in philosophical and literary history, Ecology without Nature is a profoundly convinced and convincing intervention, calling as it does for a more intellectually robust and politically supple environmentalism, one much better suited to the realities of twenty-first-century life. A more thoughtful reflection on the future of dwelling together in a vulnerable world would be hard to find. (David L. Clark, Professor of English and Cultural Studies, McMaster University)

Morton demonstrates that because most ecocriticism assumes nature/environment as a concept, most ecocritics perpetuate the assumptions of the literature that they purport to critique. He argues that nature is an arbitrary rhetorical concept whose modern origins can be traced to Romantics writing during the Industrial Revolution--essentially, that ecocriticism fetishizes "nature." He contends that a "really deep ecology" would let go of the idea of nature because it marks the difference between "us" and "it." Drawing on writers from Adorno to Zizek, and considering literature and art from the 18th century to the present, Morton offers a complex, important, and often playful argument that lays the groundwork for new directions in ecocriticism. (G. D. MacDonald Choice 2007-10-01)

We’re in the sh**. We have to face it and learn to live with it. That’s a basic idea in dark ecology, which Timothy Morton outlines in his book Ecology Without Nature...Dark ecology has a realistic take on the human state without resorting to false optimism or fatalistic tones of apocalypse. It also requires people to take control, and not lay down in the mud with blind faith of staying above the surface without ever drowning. When we realise our connection to the rest of the world, we understand that our actions reflect all life on the planet...Dark ecology has the potential to be the punk rock or experimental pop of ecological thinking. Or even the death metal, since it shares a goth sensibility that focuses on the dark. (Kasino A4 2007-12-01)

Ecology Without Nature offers original and important critiques of ecocritical theory, in particular through its analysis of the legacy of Romanticism and the paradox of dualism that pervades much ecological writing. Its occasionally irreverent style and embrace of kitsch make it an enjoyable read, even when the associationist organization and technical terminology require the reader to slow down. However, this slowing down is exactly what Morton recommends for ecocritics as we enter the twenty-first century and the increasingly urgent demands of “this poisoned ground” where Morton calls us to stand. (Janet Fiskio Environmental Philosophy 2008-04-01)

From the Inside Flap

In "Ecology without Nature," Timothy Morton argues that the chief stumbling block to environmental thinking is the image of nature itself. Ecological writers propose a new worldview, but their very zeal to preserve the natural world leads them away from the "nature" they revere. The problem is a symptom of the ecological catastrophe in which we are living. Morton sets out a seeming paradox: to have a properly ecological view, we must relinquish the idea of nature once and for all. "Ecology without Nature" investigates our ecological assumptions in a way that is provocative and deeply engaging. Ranging widely in eighteenth-century through contemporary philosophy, culture, and history, he explores the value of art in imagining environmental projects for the future. "Morton" develops a fresh vocabulary for reading "environmentality" in artistic form as well as content, and traces the contexts of ecological constructs through the history of capitalism. From John Clare to John Cage, from Kierkegaard to Kristeva, from The Lord of the Rings to electronic life forms, "Ecology without Nature" widens our view of ecological criticism, and deepens our understanding of ecology itself. Instead of trying to use an idea of nature to heal what society has damaged, Morton sets out a radical new form of ecological criticism: "dark ecology."

Product Details

  • Paperback: 264 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press; First Edition edition (September 15, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674034856
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674034853
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #159,514 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Working with? Björk, Haim Steinbach and Olafur Eliasson.
Just published? Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology after the End of the World (U Minnesota P, 2013). Nothing: Three Inquiries in Buddhism (Chicago, 2015).
First edition of Hyperobjects sold out before it was released? Yes.
Bruno Latour likes? Realist Magic: Objects, Ontology, Causality (Open Humanities P).
Thought for the day? Dark nihilism trumps happy nihilism.
Doings in the present? Thinking about ecology, matter, Buddhism, philosophy, aesthetics, Romantic to contemporary literature, art, music.
Where? Rice University.
Rita Shea Guffey Chair of English? Yes.
Is my new book called Dark Ecology? Yes.
Born? London, UK, 1968.
Educated? Oxford.
Jobs? Oxford, Princeton, New York University, University of Colorado at Boulder, UC Davis.
Misspent youth? The Crypt, Spectrum, Love, Land of Oz, Whirligig, Rage, Earth, Club Dog, Sound Factory (them were the days).
This involved music? Senser, psychedelic dance metal heads.
What other music have I done without regret? Experimental noise improvisation with my Argentinian friend Miguel Galperin; playing with Mike Snyder in my band Rubyliquid. All I have left is Logic...
Tantric obstacles? Ozric Tentacles.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Spoiler alert: as with so much Object Oriented Ontology-centric (OOO) output over the past decade or so, we're all just stardust. I dunno--that's not quite fair. I think the new materialists are on to something, it just seems to me to be much older than it is "new" and questions of ethics and, say, "uneven development" (from [urban] political ecology) or inequity in environmental risk and toxic burden (well examined in enviro justice lit) are not mere philosophical debates where I live: the still-oozing birthplace of the petrochemical industry and the Superfund site. So I'm inclined to follow folks like Haraway, Alaimo, Bateson, Braun, Parikka, and (albeit a mishmash of methods by) others who name names and point fingers. I mean, we can basically name the top 100 companies that have left us with the toxic morass that passes for "landscape" in the 21st century--and that's long before we even get to "debating" climate change. Looking for a way to talk about "nature" as separate from the cultural is not a new project within academia (or, in my little corner of the debate, art)--despite even my own desire to escape into "wilderness" at every turn, even after millennia of everyone from Aristotle to Ruskin to J.B. Jackson, Spirn, Bateson, Cronon, Harvey, Haraway, Parikka, et al have collapsed that bnary for at least the past 30,000 years.

I guess OOO just leaves me cold at the end of each text I encounter and I have to agree with Ursula Heise's critique of Morton (not of 'Ecology,' to be clear, but from her review of 'Hyperobjects,' yet I still find it fitting): his "seamless transition from the subatomic realm...
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
To read Timothy Morton's "Ecology Without Nature" is to be slapped in the face, not with the content of his argument but with the style of his writing. Although for some reason he begins denying that his is a postmodern book written in postmodern prose, the opposite is evident to anyone who flips through and tries to work through the dense undergrowth of his prose. It comes as no surprise that he rejects association with the po-mo crowd but embraces deconstruction and Derrida, as if these had nothing to do with each other. Such contradiction runs rampant through the text, not hidden at all but celebrated as if establishing the deconstruction-ness of it all. And, as if to justify the writing style, Morton also cannot resist dropping the name of every philosopher he tripped (sic) over in grad school, those familiar and those unknown.
Perhaps we deserve this, but do we need it? Morton says yes, that Ecological writing, which he refers to with the neologism "ecomimesis," is too grounded in the romantic assumption that we humans can somehow, perhaps through literature, identify with the otherness we call "nature," thus Morton's critique of the "ecomimetic illusion of immediacy" what he also refers to as the "beautiful soul syndrome." His text is more a negative attack on the assumptions of romantic nature writers than the construction of an alternative. What is deconstruction if not a universal acid that deconstructs even its own efforts? So how could he create anything of any use, other than as a critique of the romantic assumptions running rampant?
In this, I am sympathetic to his argument even as I am repelled by his condescending voice. I see it, to some extent, in the tradition of William Cronon's critique of the idea of wilderness as far too romantic.
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I was lucky enough to be a student in one of Timothy Morton's graduate seminars at UC Davis in 2003 when he began working on Ecology without Nature, and it was simply a thrill to meander along with Prof. Morton through such a maze of literary, cultural, and philosophical texts--all to undo our most basic and, well, 'natural' conceptions of what Nature is (and isn't).

The seminar was nothing short of an adventure, and this spirit of adventure is reflected in the book that it became. And yet it's an adventure that involves a lot of doubling back and dispelling of illusions along the way. In other words, the maze quality remains: it is a book for slow readers, for a kind of patient searching that opens up many unexpected paths as you go. The method of Ecology without Nature is subtle and profound: Morton builds a vocabulary for reading ecologically, at the same time that he relentlessly strips Nature of its aura--or at the very least, Morton reveals how and why that aura came to be in the first place.

This book is key reading for anyone interested in matters of environment, ecology, aesthetics, nature writing, and even travel writing. It provides both an eclectic history of a trans-disciplinary motif, and it also makes convincing arguments for why we might do well to be wary of this motif (i.e., Nature with a big N).

Ecology without Nature is sort of a trick title: it's not so much a eulogy as a wager, or a question posed about what happens when we think about 'ecology' without the baggage of 'Nature'. (The answer, or a really a set of interlinked answers, appears in Morton's passionately written prequel, The Ecological Thought.)
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