Climate change… nuclear weapons… evolution… these things all are what self described “environmental philosopher” Timothy Morton, the Rita Shea Guffey Chair in English at Rice University calls “HYPEROBJECTS” – a term he coined to describe entities of such vast temporal and spatial dimensions that they defeat traditional ideas about what a thing is in the first place. A very big idea about very big things. A big idea about how to think about these very big things – as in “differently”!
In his book “Hyperobjects”, Professor Morton suggests that “the end of the world has already occurred in the sense that concepts such as world, nature, and even environment are no longer a meaningful horizon against which human events take place.” Old ways of thinking about these things are proving inadequate to the task. Consequently, our solutions to these problems fail. To overcome this strain on our normal ways of reasoning, Morton argues, we must reinvent how we think about things as massive as hyperobjects.
Okay… fair enough. Now, let’s ask a question: considering things of such vast temporal and spatial dimensions that they defeat traditional ideas about what a thing is in the first place, couldn’t Christianity fit that description? Whatever traditional ideas our culture had or has had about Christianity, hasn’t Christianity – over its history – over-run those borders repeatedly? Two thousand plus years into the Christian experiment, why is there so much profound disagreement amongst Christians as to what Christianity is? Or even who Jesus was – and if that even matters.
Now that we’re thinking about it… is spirituality a hyperobject? Is religious faith itself one?
Let’s start talking – that’s provided, of course, that we can fully wrap our minds around the topic.
Or, if you’d prefer to watch…
NOTES & SOURCES
Here’s an essay about hyperobjects that Timothy Morton wrote for High Country News back in 2015.
And, some quotes from Morton’s essay…
Re global warming: “I can’t see or touch it. What I can see and touch are these raindrops, this snow, that sunburn patch on the back of my neck. I can touch the weather. But I can’t touch climate.”
“You can’t know things directly; you can only know data. That’s the foundation of modern science. Cause and effect aren’t things that churn away underneath other things. They are inferences that we make about patterns we see in data.”
“This makes modern science more accurate and honest than anything we’ve previously come up with. The thing is, statistical correlations are better than bald statements of fact that you just have to believe or face the consequences. (“The Earth is flat! God is this golden calf!”) It’s better to say that we’re 95 percent sure global warming was caused by humans than to shout, “It was caused by humans, dang it! Just believe me!”
Kant argues “there is a gap between what a thing is and how it appears (its “phenomena”) that can’t be reduced, no matter how hard we try. We can’t locate this gap anywhere on or inside a thing. It’s a transcendental gap.