“Is racism/speciesism a phenomenal/ontic equivocation or is it a hyperobject? No one seems to know what it is these days.”
I have in fact been writing about just this in Dark Ecology. How do we think a concept such as species without speciesism or racism? That is precisely the trick. That concept is deeply contaminated by Aristotelian teleology speak: ducks are for swimming, Greeks are for enslaving barbarians, etc...
Racism and speciesism have to do with closing the irreducible gap between data and things. Or, if you prefer, between the ontic and the ontological. Or, if you prefer, between what you can point to and what things actually are.
There is an irreducible gap between little me, Tim Morton, and me as a member of the human species. We can detect this gap by thinking about global warming data. My starting my car doesn't cause global warming at all: it's statistically meaningless. And of course, I never intend to harm Earth. But billions of car startings do cause global warming! There is a weird gap between me and human me.
This is odd, because we've been trained (scientism, Sesame Street) to think of ourselves as human. And we think this human as beyond or behind our race, gender, class etc. In other words, we think the human as a thing that stays constantly present underneath appearances.
The normal species concept is deeply metaphysical and onto-theological. And racism is where you color this concept a certain specific ontic color. Speciesism is where you say that yes, Tim Moton, this guy right here, is human, all the way through.
Have you ever seen Brighton rock? It's a pink minty candy tube with a word or phrase inscribed all the way through. Speciesism is where you think you are like that with "human" written all the way through.
But this is not biologically correct. Because this is not ontologically correct.
Here's the book:
There is such a thing as the human. But human need not be something that is ontically given: we can't see it or touch it or designate it as present in some way (as whiteness or not-blackness et cetera). There is no obvious, constantly present positive content to the human...Racism exists when one fills out the gap between what one can see (beings starting engines and shoveling coal) and what this human thing is: the human considered as a species, that is, as a hyperobject, a massively distributed physical entity of which I am and am not a member, simultaneously...The racist effectively erases the gap, implicitly reacting against Hume and Kant did to reality. Since their age we have thought it sensible that there is some kind of irreducible rift between what a thing is and how it appears, such that science handles data, not actual things.
The Darwinian concept of species is precisely not the Aristotelian one where you can tell teleologically what species are for: ducks are for swimming, Greeks are for enslaving barbarians… Since species in this sense fails to coincide with me, an actual human being as opposed to a pencil or a duck, the concept of species isn't speciesist. Like the racist, the speciesist fills out the gap between phenomenon and thing with a special paste: the fantasy of an easy-to-identify content. That sort of content is what one is incapable of seeing, yet there are ducks and spoonbills, which are not humans.
Racism and speciesism in their modern forms are desperate and violent attempts to fill out the irreducible void between what is given and what is...