Dark Ecology

Timothy Morton’s concept of “Dark Ecology” is a profound and multifaceted approach that integrates ecological thought with Object-Oriented Ontology (OOO) with a variety of ideas, disciplines and authors. Morton reads Marx or Darwin in parallel with Buddhism, popular or queer culture. Morton does philosophy in the same way he conceives it: with all things inter-connected. Here, I will explain Dark Ecology by linking it with OOO and discussing the various authors and sources Morton uses, including its relationship with Darwin, Buddhism, and popular culture. This article delves into Morton’s Dark Ecology, its philosophical underpinnings, influences, and its implications in modern contexts like AI and blockchain. “Dark ecology puts hesitation, uncertainty, irony, and thoughtfulness back into ecological thinking.” (Morton, 2010, p. 16).

Morton’s philosophical framework revolves around the interconnectedness of all entities and the need to move beyond anthropocentric perspectives. His concepts challenge traditional notions of nature, objects, and human supremacy, advocating for a more integrated and holistic understanding of existence. Hyperobjects, dark ecology, and object-oriented ontology are central to his model, emphasizing the complexity and interdependence of all things. Morton also critiques the limitations of human cognition and perception, suggesting that true ecological awareness requires embracing the strangeness and ambiguity inherent in our interactions with the world.

Dark Ecology and OOO #

Object-Oriented Ontology (OOO) is a philosophical framework that posits that objects—whether physical, conceptual, or fictional—exist independently of human perception and interact with each other in complex ways. Morton integrates OOO into Dark Ecology to emphasize the interconnectedness of all entities in the ecological network, suggesting that objects are not merely passive entities but active participants in the ecological web. He also integrates other concepts from Harman but on its own way.

Darwin and Evolutionary Theory #

Morton draws on Darwinian ideas to illustrate the evolutionary interconnectedness of life. Darwin’s theory of natural selection underscores the dynamic and interdependent nature of life, aligning with Morton’s view of ecology as a complex, adaptive system.

Buddhism #

Buddhism, particularly its teachings on interdependence and impermanence, also influence Morton, who is a Buddhist practitioner theyself. The Buddhist concept of “pratītyasamutpāda” (dependent origination) resonates with Dark Ecology’s emphasis on the interconnectedness of all entities. This perspective encourages a holistic understanding of the environment, promoting a sense of humility and respect for the non-human world. Morton also incorporates the notion of interbeing (interdependence of all phenomena) and emptiness (the idea that entities do not possess intrinsic, independent existence). This resonates with the OOO perspective that objects are defined by their relationships rather than inherent properties.

Popular Culture #

Morton frequently uses examples from popular culture, such as science fiction literature and films, to illustrate ecological concepts. Works like William Gibson’s “Neuromancer” exemplify how technology and ecology intersect, reflecting the themes of Dark Ecology.

Morton’s work is characterized by a blend of philosophical rigor, poetic expression, and a commitment to ecological awareness and action. He draws on a wide range of influences, from speculative realism and object-oriented ontology to literary theory and environmental philosophy, creating a rich and nuanced framework for understanding our place in the world.

Morton’s integration of OOO into ecology emphasizes on the interdependence of all objects, the importance of recognizing non-human agencies, the need to rethink ecological relationships beyond human-centric perspectives and how from all that we can rethink humanity, solidarity and compassion.

Timothy Morton’s methodology integrates OOO with ecological thinking and actually uses object-oriented mindset to call for a new ecological perspective, emphasizing the interconnectedness and agency of all objects within the environment. His philosophy could be conceived as aimed towards an experience and not merely a theory, as the metaphysical and ecological are here embed in the aesthetic.

Key Concepts of Dark Ecology #

Ambient Poetics: The use of language and art to evoke a sense of environmental presence and immersion. “Ambient poetics creates a sense of being-there within the environment, blurring the lines between subject and object” (Ecology without Nature, p. 11).

Interconnectedness: Dark Ecology posits that all beings, human and non-human, are interconnected in a vast ecological web. This interconnection implies that actions affecting one part of the system reverberate throughout the whole.

Anthropocene: The current geological epoch characterized by significant human impact on Earth’s geology and ecosystems. “The Anthropocene marks a profound shift in the relationship between humans and the planet, where human activity becomes a dominant geological force” (Being Ecological, p. 6).

Mesh: The interconnected web of all living and non-living things, emphasizing the interdependence of all entities. “The mesh is the intricate and entangled network of relations that bind all beings together” (Ecology without Nature, p. 7).

Subscendence: The concept that objects withdraw from direct access and can never be fully known or exhausted by any interaction. “Subscendence is the idea that objects always retain a part of themselves that escapes perception and interaction” (Realist Magic, p. 8).

Nonhuman Turn: A shift in focus from human-centered perspectives to recognizing the agency and significance of nonhuman entities. “The nonhuman turn challenges us to reconsider the place of humans within a larger ecological framework” (Hyperobjects, p. 9).

Non-Anthropocentrism: Moving away from human-centered perspectives, Dark Ecology emphasizes the importance of recognizing the agency and value of non-human entities.

Hyperobjects: Morton introduces the concept of hyperobjects—entities so massively distributed in time and space that they transcend human understanding, such as climate change or radioactive materials.

Ambiguity and Paradox: Dark Ecology embraces the complexity and ambiguity of ecological relationships, rejecting simplistic or binary thinking.

Ecomimesis: The aesthetic representation of the environment in a way that attempts to imitate ecological processes. “Ecomimesis is about the ambient poetics that evoke a sense of environmental immersion” (Ecology without Nature, p. 4).

Ecognosis: A deep, often unsettling awareness of ecological interconnectedness and the impact of human actions on the environment. “Ecognosis is the moment when you realize the full extent of your entanglement with the biosphere” (Dark Ecology, p. 5).

Inscribable Surface: A metaphor for the medium through which objects interact and leave traces. “An inscribable surface is any medium that can capture and convey the marks left by interacting objects” (Realist Magic, p. 13).

Queer Ecology: An approach that disrupts normative ideas about nature and sexuality, emphasizing diversity and fluidity in ecological relationships. “Queer ecology asks us to rethink the binary distinctions that structure our understanding of the natural world” (Dark Ecology, p. 10).

Agrilogistics: The set of practices and ideologies that prioritize agricultural efficiency and productivity, often at the expense of ecological health. “Agrilogistics represents the logic of agricultural expansion that has shaped human civilization and its ecological impacts” (Dark Ecology, p. 12).

Phenomenological Escape Velocity: The idea that humans cannot escape their embodied experience of the world, despite technological or conceptual attempts. “Phenomenological escape velocity acknowledges the limitations of our perception and the inescapable nature of our embodiment” (Hell, p. 15).

Ecocritique: A critical approach that examines the cultural representations and ideologies surrounding nature and the environment. “Ecocritique interrogates how nature is constructed and represented in cultural texts, revealing underlying power dynamics” (Ecology without Nature, p. 16).

Metaphysical Subscendence: The principle that metaphysical entities or concepts withdraw from full comprehension, similar to physical objects. “Metaphysical subscendence suggests that even abstract concepts retain a degree of mystery and inaccessibility” (Realist Magic, p. 17).

Symbiosis: The interaction between different species that live in close physical proximity, often benefiting one or both parties. “Symbiosis highlights the interdependent relationships that sustain ecological systems” (Being Ecological, p. 18).

Ecosophy: A philosophical approach that integrates ecological principles into broader ethical and existential frameworks. “Ecosophy aims to create a holistic understanding of the interconnectedness of life and the environment” (Hyperobjects, p. 19).

Negative Dialectics: A method of critique that emphasizes the importance of non-identity and contradiction in understanding reality. “Negative dialectics challenges us to embrace the contradictions and complexities inherent in ecological thinking” (Ecology without Nature, p. 20).

Spectrality: The presence of things that are not fully present, often used to describe the lingering impact of past events or entities. “Spectrality in ecological thought refers to the haunting presence of past ecological interactions and their ongoing effects” (Hyperobjects, p. 95)

Viscosity: The property of hyperobjects that makes them stick to beings that interact with them. “Hyperobjects are viscous, meaning they ‘stick’ to beings that are involved with them, making it impossible to entirely separate from them” (Hyperobjects, p. 27).

Nonlocality: The quality of hyperobjects that prevents them from being fully localized in one place. “Nonlocality means that hyperobjects cannot be pinned down to one location; they exist across vast spatial and temporal scales” (Hyperobjects, p. 38).

Temporal Undulation: The varying temporal scales at which hyperobjects operate, different from human-scale time. “Temporal undulation refers to the way hyperobjects stretch and compress time, affecting us in ways that are difficult to perceive immediately” (Hyperobjects, p. 55)【22:18†source】.

Phasing: The appearance and disappearance of hyperobjects across different scales and contexts. “Phasing describes the way hyperobjects seem to come in and out of existence, depending on our perspective and scale of observation” (Hyperobjects, p. 69).

Hypocrisy: The condition Morton associates with the awareness of ecological impacts while still participating in harmful practices. “The time of hyperobjects is a time of hypocrisy, where we are forced to confront our ecological impacts despite our best efforts to ignore them” (Hyperobjects, p. 95).

Asymmetry: The imbalance between human cognition and the reality of hyperobjects. “The overall aesthetic ‘feel’ of the time of hyperobjects is a sense of asymmetry between the infinite powers of cognition and the infinite being of things” (Hyperobjects, p. 22).

Ecomimesis and Ambient Poetics: The artistic and literary techniques that attempt to evoke the sense of being within an environment. “Ambient poetics and ecomimesis aim to create a sense of immersion and presence within the environment through artistic representation” (Ecology without Nature, p. 11).

References and Further Reading #

  1. Morton, Timothy. Dark Ecology: For a Logic of Future Coexistence. Columbia University Press, 2016.
  2. Morton, Timothy. Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology after the End of the World. University of Minnesota Press, 2013.
  3. Hagan, J. “The Dark Ecology of William Gibson’s ‘Neuromancer’: Technology, Object-Oriented Ontology, and the Dawning of Entanglement.” PDF.
  4. Cohen, J., Morton, T. “On the Use and Abuse of Objects for the Environmental Humanities: Recent Books in Object-Oriented Ontology and Ecotheory.” PDF.