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Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology after the End of the World

Timothy Morton
Series: Posthumanities
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 240
  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    Having set global warming in irreversible motion, we are facing the possibility of ecological catastrophe. But the environmental emergency is also a crisis for our philosophical habits of thought, confronting us with a problem that seems to defy not only our control but also our understanding. Global warming is perhaps the most dramatic example of what Timothy Morton calls "hyperobjects"-entities of such vast temporal and spatial dimensions that they defeat traditional ideas about what a thing is in the first place. In this book, Morton explains what hyperobjects are and their impact on how we think, how we coexist with one another and with nonhumans, and how we experience our politics, ethics, and art.

    Moving fluidly between philosophy, science, literature, visual and conceptual art, and popular culture, the book argues that hyperobjects show that the end of the world has already occurred in the sense that concepts such as world, nature, and even environment are no longer a meaningful horizon against which human events take place. Instead of inhabiting a world, we find ourselves inside a number of hyperobjects, such as climate, nuclear weapons, evolution, or relativity. Such objects put unbearable strains on our normal ways of reasoning.

    Insisting that we have to reinvent how we think to even begin to comprehend the world we now live in,Hyperobjectstakes the first steps, outlining a genuinely postmodern ecological approach to thought and action.

    eISBN: 978-1-4529-4054-0
    Subjects: Environmental Science, Philosophy

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. A Quake in Being An Introduction to Hyperobjects
    (pp. 1-24)

    InThe Ecological ThoughtI coined the termhyperobjectsto refer to things that are massively distributed in time and space relative to humans.¹ A hyperobject could be a black hole. A hyperobject could be the Lago Agrio oil field in Ecuador, or the Florida Everglades. A hyperobject could be the biosphere, or the Solar System. A hyperobject could be the sum total of all the nuclear materials on Earth; or just the plutonium, or the uranium. A hyperobject could be the very long-lasting product of direct human manufacture, such as Styrofoam or plastic bags, or the sum of all...

  5. PART I. What Are Hyperobjects?

    • Viscosity
      (pp. 27-37)

      I do not access hyperobjects across a distance, through some transparent medium. Hyperobjects are here, right here in my social and experiential space. Like faces pressed against a window, they leer at me menacingly: their very nearness is what menaces. From the center of the galaxy, a supermassive black hole impinges on my awareness, as if it were sitting in the car next to me at the traffic lights. Every day, global warming burns the skin on the back of my neck, making me itch with physical discomfort and inner anxiety. Evolution unfolds in my genome as my cells divide...

    • Nonlocality
      (pp. 38-54)

      When I look at the sun gleaming on the solar panels on my roof, I am watching global warming unfold. Carbon compounds and other molecules in the upper atmosphere magnify the burning intensity of the sun in the Great Central Valley of California. Yet I do not see global warming as such. I see this brilliant blade of sunlight, burning the top of my head as I watch it with half-closed eyes reflecting off the burnished, sapphire surface of the solar panels. The manifold that I witness is not merely a “subjective impression,” but is rather just this collusion between...

    • Temporal Undulation
      (pp. 55-68)

      When you approach an object, more and more objects emerge. It’s like being in a dream written by Zeno. Hyperobjects envelop us, yet they are so massively distributed in time that they seem to taper off, like a long street stretched into the distance. Time bends them and flattens them, the same way that an electromagnetic wave front shortens at its leading edge. Because we can’t see to the end of them, hyperobjects are necessarily uncanny. Like the empty streets and open doorways in the paintings of Giorgio de Chirico, hyperobjects seem to beckon us further into themselves, making us...

    • Phasing
      (pp. 69-80)

      When I look atUntitled 2011by the Aboriginal artist Yukultji Napangati, I am gripped immediately in the tractor beam of the painting, which seems to be gazing at me as much as or more than I am looking at it (Plate 1). A simple JPEG of the painting doesn’t look like much. It’s a largish square of thin brown waving lines, hand drawn. Yet as I approach it, it seems to surge toward me, locking onto my optic nerve and holding me in its force field. Napangati’s painting strafes me with layer upon layer of interference patterns. Her work...

    • Interobjectivity
      (pp. 81-96)

      In a gigantic bamboo forest on Qi Lai Mountain in central Taiwan, it is as if one is surrounded by a theater of air, leaves, and stalks. The bamboo sways, sometimes violently, sometimes delicately, to the wind that rushes through it. Each gust causes a cascade of bamboo clicks to sound in front, to the right, to the left, and behind. A ridiculously complex assemblage of high-pitched frequencies floats, resembling something between percussion and a hand stirring a bowlful of pebbles or small crystals. The wind is heardinthe bamboo. The bamboo forest is a gigantic wind chime, modulating...

  6. PART II. The Time of Hyperobjects

    • The End of the World
      (pp. 99-133)

      You are walking out of the supermarket. As you approach your car, a stranger calls out, “Hey! Funny weather today!” With a due sense of caution—is she a global warming denier or not?—you reply yes. There is a slight hesitation. Is it because she is thinking of saying something about global warming? In any case, the hesitation induced you to think of it. Congratulations: you are living proof that you have entered the time of hyperobjects. Why? You can no longer have a routine conversation about the weather with a stranger. The presence of global warming looms into...

    • Hypocrisies
      (pp. 134-158)

      A small boy runs in front of an oncoming truck. You watch in horror as you realize the truck can’t slow down in time. You think you should save the boy, but you are unsure. Still, the moment compels you to act: you rush into the street and grab the boy, yanking him out of the way just in time. As the truck bears down on you both, you manage to half stumble, half jump clear. The boy is safe.

      You have no idea why you just did what you did. You just did it. It seemed like the right...

    • The Age of Asymmetry
      (pp. 159-202)

      Modern life presents us with a choice between two options:

      (1) The essence of things is elsewhere (in the deep structure of capital, the unconscious, atoms, evolution, the cosmic order, and so on);

      (2) There is no essence.

      Philosophies, like elections, have consequences. The restriction of this choice between these two options is one reason why Earth is in big trouble. The choice resembles having to pick between grayish brown and brownish gray.

      Yet there is a third option:

      (3) There is an essence, and it’s right here, in the object resplendent with its sensual qualities yet withdrawn.

      We are...

  7. Notes
    (pp. 203-220)
  8. Index
    (pp. 221-230)
  9. Back Matter
    (pp. 231-233)