Nature is not natural and can never be naturalized — Graham Harman

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Hyperobjects 2.0: Oil Remix mp3


Lecture recorded at Loyola University, New Orleans, November 11, 2010. As you'll hear, I added and changed a LOT of stuff (compare “Hyperobjects 1.0”). In particular I added some more thinking about what hyperobjects are (they're “viscous”), and a lot more material about object-oriented ontology.

Thanks so much to Chris Schaberg and Janelle Schwartz, two young superstars. And to the wonderful audience, in particular the students in Chris's and Janelle's classes, whose questions before and after the talk were really striking and helpful.

The q&a really was incredibly good. Unfortunately my recorder ran out of memory after I'd answered the first question. Sorry about that—I've adjusted the settings on the recorder so this shouldn't happen next time. If you've been following these talks, not an awful lot was different from other q&a's I've done recently, except, happily, for that first answer.

13 comments:

bob said...

I'm curious why you went the route of "there is no Nature" rather than "everything is Nature". In answering one fo the questions you say something like Nature is an artificial construct that really doesn't exist. But then you go on to discsuss a limited functionality of the concept. I suggest that functionality ie the ability to be in relation to other objects, defines objects. Am I missing the point here?

bob said...

I'm curious why you went the route of "there is no Nature" rather than "everything is Nature". In answering one fo the questions you say something like Nature is an artificial construct that really doesn't exist. But then you go on to discsuss a limited functionality of the concept. I suggest that functionality ie the ability to be in relation to other objects, defines objects. Am I missing the point here?

Timothy Morton said...

Hi Bob. That's elementary. Because for me, it would be like saying “I don't believe in Santa, therefore everything is Santa.”

bob said...

Thanks for your reply. I'm really enjoying your blog. I hope I'm merely being unclear rather than elementarily dense.

What's special about Nature that it has the ability to not exist as an object? If non-crazy people refer to Nature, and use it to relate to other objects, doesn't it exist?

In Buddhist terms, all objects are artificial constructs imputed onto a basis of designation. But if they function, then they conventionally exist.

Isn't Nature in fact a hyperobject? It oozes into the very idea "Ecology Without Nature" through its negation.

I know this is somewhat disconnected. Please let me know if I just need to do more homework on it.

Timothy Morton said...

Hi Bob. Thanks for taking an interest in the blog and thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Let's assume that what you claim is true. What you are claiming now is that "nature" is another object among many. Leaving aside for a moment the fact that this is a special kind of object that exists in the mind or in language, you are now saying that "nature" is another object alongside diamonds, grass, bunnies and gasoline.

You are now in agreement with me, largely, that bunnies and grass etc. are not "nature." "Nature" has been reduced to just another object among many.

Furthermore, it's a special kind of object that ceases to exist if I don't believe in it. Unlike what humans call "diamonds," e.g., which still exist whether I think of them or not. In this case, "nature" is even more like Santa Claus than ever. I'm free to believe or disbelieve in it.

What I can't do is apply it to a number of entities such as diamonds or bunnies.

= Ecology without nature!

bob said...

My purpose in retaining Nature is to make the following assertion: Consciousness is a natural object. It is not separate from Nature. There is no Human/Nature duality. What we do is Nature. Global Warming is Nature just as a beaver pond is Nature. Both change the enviroment. The beaver pond eventually becomes unsustainable for the resident beavers and they must move on or die. Global Warming, if not moderated makes the planet usustainable for the resident humans and they must move on or die.

This approach I think has several similar efffects to your approach, but some differences as well.

AS for Nature ceasing to exist if I don;t believe in it - I don't see that being true any more than any massive collection that can be organized by thought in several differnt ways.

Timothy Morton said...

Very good Bob! You have now stretched Nature to breaking point, at which point, you might as well drop it.

If Nature is "everything that exists" then the word makes no difference to anything. Again, it's just a label I am free to believe in, or not.

Since like Harman (see this blog's epigraph) I believe that "nature" is at best totally "unnatural" all the way down, it would be better to drop the concept altogether.

As far as the idealism goes, we may have to agree to differ. Things do for sure exist when I don't think about them. Nature is not one of those things.

Timothy Morton said...

There's a whole extra dimension to my "ecology without nature" that this discussion misses. That is the attitude that "natural" and "nature" evoke.

This attitude can't do without "artificial" and "unnatural."

If everything is natural, as Bob argues, then nothing is natural, since "nature" sets up oppositions between itself and "non-nature"—it's a normative concept, and indeed a metaphysical one.

bob said...

I argue for rhetorically retaining Nature-At-The-Breaking-Point (NATBP) because it places our awareness in the world, as an effect of the world and as a causative agent on the world. That is to use the enregy of duality against itself.

Your rhetorical strategy is to oppose the duality head on. I'm asserting both have +s and -s.

By asserting Nature does not exist, I think you achieve the same tautology with Ecology. If eveything is part of the Ecology, even hyperobjects, then nothing is, since as you point out with Nature, it depends on its negation to exist.

I do not mean to assert any form of idealism. I'm not sure exactly what promted you in that direction.

The imputing I speak of does have a referent (basis of designation). But the referent does not exist in an impossible way ie as a truly existing, independent entity.

Timothy Morton said...

Well, as far as dualism goes, Bob, that's a different area--look at the book Ecology without Nature to see my "strategy" on that (more nuanced than you assume here).

But for now—your argument is now that "nature" is a rhetorical trope without a referent, a trope that may be useful. This is far from your first claim, which is that it's a real object.

I myself think its usefulness is only very short term and only in very strategically limited situations.

bob said...

Blogging/Commenting certainly has limitations in the nuanced dept. I'm sure the comments from each of us falls far short of their developed versions.

Gudrun Bielz said...

I am working my way through you lectures like I am working my way through my PhD research. Like an earthworm digs through earth.

Your statement about grey goo made me write(remote controlled) this text. Thank you.

http://gudrunbielz.wordpress.com/2011/07/24/listening-to-a-lecture-by-timothy-morton-and-having-to-think-about-grey-goo/

Timothy Morton said...

Hi Gudrun, that's great.