Jane Bennett was kind enough to send me the link to the New Materialisms conference, which I posted today. (I’ll be sending along some questions to Bennett for posting on the blog–so look for it, and thanks to her for being gracious enough to agree to answer my pesky questions…) On the site is Timothy Morton‘s paper relating his theory of hyperobjects (see my previous post here) to the question of materialism. I like this line below quite a bit, not least because I’m reading through Sean Carrol’s From Eternity to Here, which is my follow-up book on physics in order to getting back to what once was a good background in the subject (short review: Carrol’s book is is actually a bit broad—you spend quite a bit of time on rather basic concepts–but the latter chapters get to the point that Morton addresses below). Here’s Morton:
At a Marxism seminar at Oxford in the late 80s I remember one rather belligerent fellow guilting us out for even thinking about deconstruction—“Reality as I see it is like a boring painting, but you make it sound like an acid trip.” The funny thing is, the current state of physics means that the view of matter as shiny pingpong balls, with a separate self viewing them, is the hallucination.
If I was not busy with other projects, I’d love to write something connecting Morton’s hyperobjects to the arch-fossil in Meillassoux or other work in OOO. (Take it, it’s yours if you want it!) But this also links up to something Harman writes about beauty, namely that it’s a naive concept that artists would no longer dare use, but that physicists are more likely to. And it links up to Zizek’s quip that physicists are the last speculative philosophers left. At least for me conceptually, I’m used to the mind-bending parts of high theory, so there’s nothing more mind-bending than reading about theoretical multiverses or string theory, which is not even the crazy stuff in contemporary theoretical physics. The ones who paint reality as boring are not the realists, but the idealists painting themselves as sober, scientific-minded thinkers who hold onto a view of the world that is a dated but far less wondrous than the work of Newton.