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. 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.

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Timothy Morton. Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology after the End of the World. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, Reviewed by Ursula K. His discussion of La Monte Young's compositions is particularly useful and illuminating. There's even better news. In working toward an environmental perspective beyond materialism and the here-and-now, Hyperobjects engages the important theoretical issue of scale, which implicitly or explicitly underlies many current discussions in the humanities about such concepts as big data, deep time, the Anthropocene, slow violence, and species thinking.

Rapidly increasing data inventories and new digital tools have contributed to this rising interest in large-scale processes and big-picture patterns, as have shifting geopolitical configurations and global ecological crises. The concept of hyperobjects— "things that are massively distributed in time and space relative to humans" p.

Here's the bad news: It is not easy to make out what Morton is actually saying about the problem of scale. Seeking to ground his speculative realism — the assertion that hyperobjects are real and independent of human thought and that human knowledge cannot completely grasp their essence —in science, he invokes both quantum mechanics and relativity theory to support the "strange strangeness" of hyperobjects such as global warming: "The more data we have about hyperobjects the less we know about them—the more we realize we can never truly know them" p.

But, worse news, this is not even the major problem. More difficult for Morton's argument is his seamless transition from the subatomic realm of the extremely small to the cosmological realm of the extremely large without any discussion of the fact that theoretical physicists have found it very difficult to reconcile quantum mechanics with relativity theory.

In Morton's perspective, oddly holistic in this respect, both theories support his contention that objects are not fully accessible to the grasp of human understanding. Not just large objects, but all of them: "In a strange way, every object is a hyperobject," he concludes p. If scale makes no difference, and global warming is not as a matter of principle different from "pencils, penguins, and plastic explosive" p. For Morton, hyperobjects function as historical markers: They usher in a new era, which he sometimes refers to as the Anthropocene or, in his last chapter, as the "Age of Asymmetry" between humans and nonhumans p.

The Anthropocene as defined by Paul Crutzen and Eugene Stoermer actually prioritizes human agency in the wholesale transformation of the planet over the last two hundred years in ways that are diametrically opposed to Morton's approach. Morton presumably passes over addressing this discrepancy because human agency is what he seeks to steer his readers' attention away from: "It is not simply that humans became aware of nonhumans.

The reality is that hyperobjects were already here, and slowly but surely we understood what they were already saying. They contacted us" p. For science fiction fans such as myself, the suggestion that aliens have come knocking on our door is hard not to like, as is the idea that this implies the end of modernity p. What drives historical change? By insisting on the "weirdness," "uncanniness," "monstrosity," and "strange strangeness" of natural as well as human-made objects and environments, Morton seeks to unsettle any aspirations toward harmony or balance with a nature construed as "over there" or "'over yonder,'" separate from humans pp.

Fair enough though it might be worth noting that recent environmentalist thought, from Stacy Alaimo and Richard White to Richard Hobbs and Peter Kareiva, has already moved well beyond this separation in ways that don't tally with the strawman environmentalism Morton attacks. Nature understood as hyperobjects is not over yonder—yet it is unknowable. Hyperobjects confront us with the strangeness of the world, but at the same time they create greater "intimacy" with our fellow objects.

Humans are "responsible" for certain hyperobjects such as global warming and nuclear radiation, but Morton challenges Marxist and environmentalist accounts of which human groups, structures, or institutions should be held responsible pp.

Morton himself seems quite aware of the twists and turns in his reasoning. One is to forget everything we have just found out about hyperobjects. The other is to allow for the existence of contradictory entities. It is the second path that we shall take in this book," he signals toward the beginning p. But this path leads him to so many self-cancelling claims about hyperobjects that coherent argument vanishes like the octopi that disappear in several chapters in their clouds of ink, Morton's favorite metaphor for the withdrawal of objects from the grasp of human knowledge.

What the reader is left with is —well, ink and cloudiness. And the first path begins to look clearer. Ursula K.


'A reckoning for our species': the philosopher prophet of the Anthropocene

By Alex Blasdel. Thu 15 Jun The acclaimed artist Olafur Eliasson has been flying Morton around the world to speak at his major exhibition openings. Last year, he was included in a much-discussed list of the 50 most influential living philosophers. His ideas have also percolated into traditional media outlets such as Newsweek, the New Yorker and the New York Times. Part of what makes Morton popular are his attacks on settled ways of thinking. He believes all beings are interdependent, and speculates that everything in the universe has a kind of consciousness , from algae and boulders to knives and forks.



In , I invented a word to describe all kinds of things that you can study and think about and compute, but that are not so easy to see directly: hyperobjects. Things like: not just a Styrofoam cup or two, but all the Styrofoam on Earth, ever. All that Styrofoam is going to last an awfully long time: years, maybe. There is so much more Styrofoam on Earth right now than there is Timothy Morton.


Timothy Morton

Coming soon. Morton explains what hyperobjects are and their impact on how we think, how we coexist, and how we experience our politics, ethics, and art. In Hyperobjects , Timothy Morton brings to bear his deep knowledge of a wide array of subjects to propose a new way of looking at our situation, which might allow us to take action toward the future health of the biosphere. Crucially, the relations between Buddhism and science, nature and culture, are examined in the fusion of a single vision. The result is a great work of cognitive mapping, both exciting and useful. Environment , Environment , Ecology , Bioethics , Phenomenology , Posthumanism , Modernism , bluesale , coronavirus crisis. Having set global warming in irreversible motion, we are facing the possibility of ecological catastrophe.

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