Hyperobjects & Dark Ecology

Timothy Morton is a chronocritic, though he doesn’t know it.  His latest book, Dark Ecology (2016), is a necessary, helpful, and dare I say *natural* extension of his previous book Hyperobjects (2013).  He is my favorite philosopher, neologogenerator, academic, ecocritic, and chronocritic.  When I periodically get burned out, I turn to Morton as a model for how academic writing could be, and he helps me rise again from the ashes.

I think what I like most about his style how accessible his prose is.  His arguments may be founded difficult and esoteric philosophy (i.e., Heidegger, Object Oriented Ontology, Speculative Realism, Thing Theory), yet he always takes the time to define for his reader what exactly he means.  Then he provides numerous analogies and examples for any given concept he is working with.  Indeed, sometimes, he doesn’t even define one of his neologisms immediately, he just gives you a full page worth of comparisons and metaphors, then on, he’ll define it.  He also manages to persistently re-define and re-contextualize a new concept for you in distant chapters, so the reader can expect to see material that was defined in the first chapter reinforced and recontextualized in the last chapter.  It’s a pedagogical thing.  Further, he is as likely to use comparisons to recent movies and culture as he is to refer to examples from the Ancient world.  His understanding of sciences, everything from ecology to quantum physics, is not only a source of evidence, but an engine of metaphor for his arguments.  He’s awesome.

From Frankenstein to Bjork.

In this post, I intend to essentialize what I’ve learned from reading these two books by Morton, mainly for the sake of paring down my notes his work into a more fluid, and logical format.  This is not a book review, though I may file it under book reviews. I may just list a series of his concepts and define them.  I will also probably list a series of my favorite quotes by him.  In the end, my goal is for this to be an inbetween step towards my dissertation.


Ok, so, the hyperobject.


Morton gives a booklength definition of his concept of the hyperobject, which I am going to parse down to one page.

1.) It was inspired by him listening to Bjork’s “Hyperballad.”

2.) Hyperobjects are real objects — they are not metaphors, they are not metaphysical, they just exist on scales that are either physically or temporally so large that they are not easily perceptible to the human senses. Examples: evolution (“stop the tape of evolution anywhere and you won’t see it” p.48)”; global warming “convincing some people of its existence is like convincing some two-dimension Flatland people of the existence of apples, based on teh appearance of a morphing circular shape in the world” p49); extinction is a hyperobject; the apocalypse (Morton thinks it has probably already happened but the hyperobject of the apocalypse is one that takes a while. Our end is not a period, but an ellipsis…)

3) Viscosity — 33 “is a feature of the way in which time emanates from objects, rather than being a continuum in which they float.”  In short, the autotemporality of a hyperobject is usually very different from a human temporality, and more and more becomes the center of gravity of temporality.  Global warming time becomes steadily more important than the sum total of human times that create global warming. it is viscous like honey, and we are bees drowning in the viscosity of our own self-created hyperobject honey.

4) Nonlocality — the property of a given hyperobject to be both everywhere, but in no specific place. Global warming touches everything on the planet, yet is in no one particular place.  It is part of an even larger hyperobject, the solar system. Hyperobjects are infinitely nested within other hyperobjects. (152 “We see signs of doom, but the doom is no where objectively”);

David Joselitt — Buzz.

Bring in your own Cont Art Theory paper and put it in convo with morton’s art theory.

One epiphany I get from Tim Morton is the necessity of time: as soon as you stop time, the barrier between life and nonlife disappears.  Everything is equally mineral and vegetable without time. Seen on time scales large or small enough, our self-centered perception of consciousness is undifferentiated from all other pattern making and system organizing processes of, say, plate techtonics, or sand dunes.

5) Individuality is lost. We are not separate from other things. (This is Object Oriented Ontology) — Morton calls this entangledness.  “Knwoing ore about hyperobjects is knowing more about how we are hopelessly fastened to them.”  A little bit like Ahab all tangled up in the lines of Moby-Dick.

6) “Utilitarianism is deeply flawed when ti comes to working with hyperobjects. The simple reason why is that hpyerobjects are profoundly futural.” (135) <–I’ve been arguing against utilitarianism for a while now within this line of thinking; this is because utilitarianism, the idea that moral goodness is measured by whether an action or idea increases the overall happiness of a given community, is always inbedded within a temporal framework, outside of which the collective ‘happiness’ of a given individual or community is not considered.  Fulfilling the greatest happiness for the current generation is always dependent ontaking resources now future generations. What is needed is chronocritical utilitarianism, but that is anathema to the radical individuality of utilitarianism.


7) Undermining — the opposite of hyperobjecting. From Harman. “Undermining is when things are reduced to smaller things that are held to be more real.  The classic form of undermining in contemporary capitalism is individualism: ‘There are only individuals and collective decisions are ipso facto false.'” <– focusing on how things affect me because I am the most important is essentially undermining that I exist as part of a community, and a planet.


Self defeating philosophies.

OOO, Speculative Realism, and Tim Morton, which I am unhelpfully going to lump together as one overlappy venn diagram, take as fundamental premise that stuff is weirder than can possibly be comprehended.  That there is no separation between human and animal, nor human and vegetable, nor living and nonliving.  Individuals think they exert agency over matter, when matter certainly just as much exerts influence over the agent.  Husserl argues that objects can’t be exhausted by perception — there is always more to say, more to understand, more to comprehend about a given object.  Even the most simple atom, Hydrogen (insert link), the most basic building block of the universe, has been the source of endless scientific discovery.

Tim Morton makes great use of the Anthropocene. The Anthropocene is a hyperobject.  he goes much farther with this idea in Dark Ecology.  [link to my anthropocene review review, or the other one abotu dying].  “Yet what has happened so far during the epoch of the Anthropocene has been the gradual realization by humans that they are not running the show, at the very moment of their most powerful technical mastery on a planetary scale.” (164)

Morton’s school of philosophy does its best to take into account Quantum Mechanics (what we know about matter on the tiniest scale) with General Relativity (what we know about matter on the largest scale) to come to an understand of reality (a hyperobject), a philosophy of materiality, which can help us bridge the gap between what we perceive / what seems to be versus our best knowledge of what is.

Tim Morton on Performing Intelligence:(146) “Anything you can do I can do meta.” / I can do anything Meta than you.(No you kant).



Tim Morton on Art

Tim Morton’s contradicting views of art. “196 Art in these conditions is grief-work. We are losing a fantasy—the fantasy of being immersed in a neutral or benevolent Mother Nature—and a person who is losing a fantasy is a very dangerous person.”

Art is that stuff that better reveals the truth of our condition of meshed, interconnected, entangled with the universe surrounding us.  Better not to think in infinities, however.

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