“Was not their mistake once more bred of the life of slavery that they had been living?—a life which was always looking upon everything, except mankind, animate and inanimate—‘nature,’ as people used to call it—as one thing, and mankind as another, it was natural to people thinking in this way, that they should try to make ‘nature’ their slave, since they thought ‘nature’ was something outside them” — William Morris

Friday, December 28, 2012

Hyperobjects Raw Blurb Data

In the late 1700s, two things happened in the West. Humans began to deposit carbon in Earth's crust, thus becoming a geophysical force on a planetary scale and giving rise to the geological period now called the Anthropocene. Secondly, philosophy since Kant decided that it could not talk about reality as such, but only (human) access to reality. I see these two events as related. With a strange blindness, modernity plowed ahead with the actions now known to have changed geological time.

Since then, it has been creeping up on us that the end of the world has already occurred. This isn't just a matter of atomic bombs and global warming. It is also to do with the fact that concepts such as world and Nature (and even environment) are human-scale concepts. Now that we can think things beyond the human scale (climate, evolution, quanta, relativity…) we are no longer able to squeeze ourselves into the narrow box of concepts such as world.

What has appeared on our collective radar are entities that this book calls hyperobjects. These entities are so large in both temporal and spatial terms that they defeat habitual ideas about what a thing is in the first place. They ruthlessly underline the Kantian gap between phenomenon and thing, since we can measure and compute them, and assess their properties, yet we cannot directly point to them or sense them. Hyperobjects change forever what counts as a thing. Things can no longer be thought as “given” to a (human) subject, or as constantly present.

What has happened since the end of the world is that humans have discovered that we live inside a series of gigantic entities, the hyperobjects. This realization has deep implications for how humans coexist with one another and with nonhumans. It affects the realms of art, politics and ethics in a decisive way that cannot be reversed. 

1 comment:

John B-R said...

Was it Nick Land wh called Kant's philosophy a panic attack? At least Kant should get credit for knowing when to panic. Can't wait to read your coming book(s)!