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Morton (2013). Hyperobjects. Philosophy and Ecology after the End of the World.

Morton, Timothy. Hyperobjects. Philosophy and Ecology after the End of the World. Minneapolis: University of Minneapolis Press, 2013.

Summary:

Global warming is fundamentally different from many other threats we as humans have faced. We are actually inside this threat; we are part of it and responsible for it. Dealing with global warming is therefore utterly difficult. Right now we are in denial – which is logical because the danger is really coming from unusual dimensions (a hyperobject). We should pause to see it, and then take responsibility.

Opinion:

As a work of philosophy, this book offers new and original ideas. As a practical guide to living in times of hyperobjects the book takes way to many words to describe what has been summarized above in five sentences. Morton is bold and graceful, however, in his use of art and artworks to construct his argument, and pointing out a role for the arts in communicating the intricate world of hyperobjects into the realm of our unconsciousness.

Notes:

Introduction: A quake in being

Hyperobjects: “things that are massively distributed in time and space relative to humans” p1

Properties:

  • viscous (they stick),
  • nonlocal,
  • temporal undulation; non-human scale temporalities
  • phase in and out of aesthetic dimensions,
  • interobjective effects: “they can be detected in a space that consists of interrelationships between aesthetic properties of objects”. p1

Effect hyperobjects: the end of the world. (concept ‘world’ no longer applicable as a container in which we experience our lives).

Manifestations: hypocrisy, weakness, lameness.

Beyond postmodern: metalanguage-reflex (monty python!) doesn’t work anymore.

‘global warming’ more adequate than ‘climate change’ p8

“hyperobjects are nog simply mental (or otherwise ideal) constructs, but re real entities whose primordial reality is withdrawn from humans.” p15

“hyperobjects seem to force something on us, something that affects some core ideas of what it means to exist, what Earth is, what society is.” p15

disaster = dis-aston; a fallen star

“Hyperobjects provoke irreductionist thinking”. p19 Ontological statement about which thing is the most real (ecosystem .. individual, world) is impossible.

“We are inside them, like Jonah in the wale” p20

“a traumatic loss of coordinates, “the end of the world”” p 22

“Asymmetry between the infinite powers of cognition and the infinite being of things” p 22

Viscosity

OBJECTS IN MIRROR ARE CLOSER THAN THEY APPEAR P27

Nonlocality

“Hyperobjects seem to inhabit a Humean causal system in which association, correlation, and probability are the only things we have to go on, for now.” p39

“a bird detects the quantum signature of an electromagnetic wave, not the wave itself, by means of a quantum scale magnet in its eye. Birds perceive not some traditional material lump, but an aesthetic shape.” p45

WHAT WOULD THIS SHAPE LOOK LIKE?

“We all contain water in about the same ratio as Earth does, and salt water in the same ratio that the oceans do. We are poems about the hyperobject Earth.” p51

Temporal undulation

Two rocks converse p56

Chauvet Cave rock paintings p59

Einsteins space-time is hyperobject p61 Space and time are not empty containers where objects sit in. p65

Phasing

An apple invades a two-dimensional world: a dot, growing circle, shrinking circle, hole. p70

“A daffodil flower is a three-dimensional map of an algorithm executed by DNA and RNA in the daffodil’s genome.” p70

“Your face is a map of everything that happened to it.” p70

“Think of global warming. We only see snapshots of what is actually a very complex plot of a super complex set of algorithms executing themselves in a high-dimensional phase space.” p70

Manufactured Landscapes: pathos of first tracking shot is pathos of gaze floating through time p72

“Hyperobjects seem to come and go, but this … is a function of our limited human access to them.” p74 “Global Warming doesn’t go golfing at the weekend.” p76

Sierpinksi Carpet in aerial cell-phone captures waves better because “electromagnetic waves are fractal and contain infinitesimal copies of themselves” p79

Interobjectivity

“.. all entities whatsoever are interconnected in an interobjective system that elsewhere I call the mesh. p83

“It is precisely the gaps between and within things that enable entities to grip them” p83

“what is called subject and what is called mind just are interobjective effects, emergent properties of relationships between enmeshed objects.” p84 “If you walk and quack like a mind, then you are one… It is not “in” anything and it is not prior to objects but is rather an aftereffect of them.”

Footprints of hyperobjects “are signs of causality. … Causality and the aesthetic, the realm of signs and significance and sensation, are one and the same.” p88

“Causality does not churn underneath objects like a machine in the basement, but rather floats in front of them.” p90

“Appearance is the past. Essence is the future.” p91

Injunctions to act (act now!) induces “the guilt that cripples genuine action” p92

“Hyperobjects bring about the end of modernity.” p94 They force “humans to coexist with a strange future, a future “without us.” p94

Part II – the time of hyperobjects

The end of the World

The Ball Popper-test: how Peter Jacksons Lord of the Rings-world evaporates if child’s toys music is played against it! p105

“Objections to wind farms and solar arrays are often based on arguments that they “spoil the view”. The aesthetics of Nature truly impedes ecology, and a good argument for why ecology must be without Nature.” p105

“holism of any kind totally impossible” because “there is no top object that gives all objects value and meaning”. p116. “all the relations between the objects and within them also count as objects.” p117

“It is helpful to think of global warming as something like an ultra slow motion nuclear bomb.” p125

The uncanny valley p131, just before something alike to a human being actually becomes one.

Cosmology is popular. “Why is the same fascination not there for global warming? It’s because of the oppressive claustrophobic horror of actually being inside it.” p132

“Global warming is not behind a glass screen. It is the glass screen.” p133

Hypocrisies

“Hyperobjects are messages in bottles from the future: they do not quite exist in a present, since they scoop the standard reference points from the idea of present time.” p138

Going meta equals being right in philosophy, nowadays. Example: Monty Pythons ‘Argument’ sketch.

Going meta syndrome => beautiful soul syndrome (beautiful me over here, corrupt world over there.”p154)

This is HYPOCRISY.

Most cynical meta position is ‘modernist winner’. “From a height, I look down on the poor fools who believe what they think.”

This attitude is directly responsible for the ecological emergency” p155

The left and right hold in common the view that “incremental change is a bad thing” p156 So driving a Prius or recycling is deemed futile. This is als cynicism. Just as Gaian defeatism (“Gaia will replace us” p157)

The age of Asymmetry

“like Wile E. Coyote in midair, we have discovered that we are already falling inside the abyss” p160

“There is a long yet traceable history between the first uses of the piano sustain pedal in the Romantic period, and the long, frightening boom from the inside of the piano at the end of The Beatles’ “A Day in the Life.” p165

“The nonhuman … is finally acknowledged in the Age of Asymmetry. … It’s called the Age of Asymmetry because within human understanding humans and nonhumans face on another equally matched.” p172

“Art becomes a collaboration between humans and nonhumans” p174. “Art becomes an attunement to the demonic.” p175

WEAKNESS: “The time of hyperobjects is a time of weakness, in which humans are tuned to entities that can destroy them” p176

Properties of hyperobjects => window for skeptics: “probability is not a guarantee of causality” p177

“.. human beings are currently in the denial phase of grief regarding their role in the Anthropocene. It’s too much to take in at once. Not only are we waking up inside of a gigantic object, like finding ourselves in the womb again, but a toxic womb – but we are responsible for it. And we know that really we are responsible simply because we can understand what global warming is. … It’s like the joke about the man who ended up in an asylum as he was paranoid that he was being stalked by a gigantic chicken. Upon being released, he returns a few weeks later, sweating and terrified. The chief psychiatrist tries to reassure him: “But you know that there is no chicken.” “I know that,” says the man-“But try telling that to the chicken.”

“The urgent question of our age is, how do we convince the chicken – in particular, the American chicken – that she doesn’t exist? In other words, how do we talk to the unconscious?” p 183-184

“We need art that does not make people think… but rather that walks them through an inner space that is hard to traverse.” p184

LAMENESS: third attunement to time of hyperobjects.

“Object-oriented approach that frees hyperobjects from our being-with them is … a type of rest.” p 197 (in Keatsian sense).

“Resting is an aesthetic event. Most of our comportment to hyperobjects looks like “rest” right now in various forms: stunned silence, denial, obsessive compulsive behaviors (endless 350s on beaches) that sum to rest across the surface of Earth … Meditation or contemplation is the quintessence of rest in this sense.” p198

(stop, wait and see)

 

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