And now for the reworked foreword:
1) NOSTALGIA FOR THE STRUCTURE vs DECONSTRUCTION ALL THE WAY DOWN
We are living through a period of intellectual regression in the realm of Continental Philosophy, a new regression that proclaims itself to be a decisive progress beyond the merely negative and critical philosophies of the recent past. Yet the pluralist philosophies of Deleuze, Foucault, Derrida and Lyotard cannot be summed up in the one-sided image of pure critique. Their critical dissolution of the dogmatic residues contained in even the most innovative philosophies they had encountered did not leave us in a powerless void of negativity and paralysis. Their “deconstruction” went all the way down, deconstructing even the notion of critique and liberating the possibility of new assemblages and new processes of subjectivation. Beyond the critique of the new figures of transcendence and ontotheology they gave concrete sketches of how to see the world in terms of a very different sort of ontology based on immanence – a diachronic ontology.
2) OOO AS REGRESSIVE SUCCESSION
The recent promotion of philosophical successors to this constellation of thinkers of immanence, such as Badiou and Zizek, has not led to any real progress but to a labour
of travestying the past (one has only to look at Badiou’s DELEUZE and Zizek’s ORGANS WITHOUT BODIES) and to a return to such intellectual dead-ends as Lacanian
psychoanalysis. But even these regressive philosophers remain in dialogue, however one-sided and unjust, with their illustrious predecessors, and strive to confront them
at the level of conceptual richness that characterised their work.
3) OOO AS POP FORMALISM
The next step was taken by the epigoni: Meillassoux, who still retains an elevated style and at least an intention of conceptual rigour; and its pop variant in Harman’s adaptation of Badiousian formalist ontology for the masses. The method was to keep up the general aura of having “gone beyond” the older supposedly negative thinkers but to radically simplify the conceptual level, presenting easy summary presentations of the new thought while conveniently forgetting the conceptual paths followed.
Thus certain figures have emerged in Continental Philosophy that occupy a conceptual space that is halfway between structuralism and post-structuralism. One could call them demi-post-structuralists. Badiou is a good example, with his mathematical reductionism. Still stuck in the problematic space opened up by the Althusser-Lacan conjuncture, these thinkers try to privilege Lacan as an alternative way out of structuralism yet they try to
“rationalise” their problematic by appeals to notions of speculative knowledge based on methodological rigour.
4) ONTOLOGICAL CRITIQUE IS A FORMALISM
The problem with the primacy of formalist method is that it is not content neutral. A formal method makes substantive claims about its domains of application coded into it. The opponents of “method” are not crazy spontaneity-addicted narcissists but people like Bohr and Einstein who claimed that the empirical method was either the bottom-up heuristic liberty to explore any hypothesis by means of any suitable procedure or else a post hoc clarification, not an a priori formalist topdown imperative. The stakes do not involve blindly insisting on the priority of creation, but imply having a place for the possibility of novelty and creation versus closing off in advance some possible developments, often without even noticing.
5) BADIOU REMARKETISED: SET-THEORETIC REDUCTION FOUNDS OOO’S AFFECTIVE REDUCTION
One can agree with both Mehdi Belhaj Kacem and Alexander Galloway that it is Badiou’s set theoretic philsophy that expresses in its purest and most general form the new
paradigm that articulates explicitly what is elsewhere just blithely presupposed as a form of thought too evident to even be aware of. They indicate that the next step in consolidating the regression that Badiou’s philosophy, however innovative, does not initiate
but rather registers and legitimates, corresponds to the far less ambitious productions of the object-oriented ontologists. I say far less “ambitious” in the sense of conceptual ambition, because their ambition is of a different order. They are the marketised version of the Badiou-Zizek constellation, and so the extremely politicised tone has been discreetly dissolved to leave a more demagogic packaging to the stale ideas that OOO trumpets ambitiously as the new construction after so much critique. They promulgate a dumbed down de-marxised version of the set-theoretic universe explicated by Badiou.
6) OOO AS SYNCHRONIC ONTOLOGY LAGS BEHIND LARUELLE’S NON-STANDARD PHILOSOPHY
It is normal that in this context François Laruelle’s philosophy is at last coming into its own. It could not fully succeed while the work of Deleuze and Derrida were in progress, as his critiques of that work were only half-true, based on giving it an ultimately uncharitable reading as remaining within the norms of standard philosophy, and refraining from considering other possible readings. Laruelle has pursued over the decades his unwavering
commitment to immanence and his critique of sufficient philosophy, and this project shines forth now against the background of the regression that Badiou-Zizek-Meillassoux and the OOOxians represent.
7) OOO AS SYNCHRONIC ONTOLOGY LAGS BEHIND LATOUR’S COMPOSITIONISM
Despite his insinuations to the contrary, Bruno Latour with his compositionism is the direct
application of deconstructionist and post-structuralist thought, which he is very familiar with. His talk about his “empirical” research is very misleading and contains overtones of scientistic bravado, as his system is in many places a logical continuation of the work of on these predecessors. He is however a good populariser of good ideas, and his work should be encouraged as long as we do not accept his own contextualisation of his ideas. Latour is
vey much an inheritor of Deleuze, Lyotard, Foucault, Derrida, and Serres, and also the intellectual contemporary of Laruelle and Stiegler. It is this philosophical inheritance that gives his work its superiority over Badiou’s and of Harman’s, not any primacy of the empirical over the philosophical.
8) OOO AS SYNCHRONIC ONTOLOGY LAGS BEHIND BERNARD STIEGLER’S PHARMACOLOGY
Bernard Stiegler is actively re-reading and re-thinking thinkers such as Lyotard, Deleuze and Guattari, Foucault, and Derrida because he finds that despite the conceptual advances achieved by this generation they represent also a degree of failure in not helping us
think adequately the transformations in the economy and in digital technologies that are impacting our lives and requiring of us a new orientation in our existences. Unlike Bruno Latour, Stiegler is quite up front about the influences on his ideas and the need to re-read such philosophical sources with new eyes, i.e. in relation to contemporary events.
9) HARMAN’S ONTOLOGICAL CRITIQUE IS TECHNOCHRATIC FORMALISM
Bernard Stiegler has argued that it is regrettable that in Continental Philosophy a direct confrontation with Althusser’s positions on the science-ideology distinction never took place. This non-engagement with Althusser’s dualist and demarcationist epistemology left
the field free not just for scientism (or its binary opposite, relativism) but also unprotected from the hegemony of technocrats and the tyranny of experts, and also from the primacy of management over politics. A distant consequence of this neglect has been the rise of
Graham Harman’s OOO packaged as contemporary Continental Philosophy when it is in fact its exact opposite, a regression to a form of Althusserism, only de-marxed, depoliticised, and de-scientised.
10) HARMAN CANNOT UNDERSTAND SCIENTIFIC ANTI-REDUCTIONISM
For example, in THE THIRD TABLE Graham Harman gives a popularised version his own theoretical position in the form of a flawed reading of and an unsatisfying response to Sir Arthur Eddington’s famous paradox of the two tables. Unfortunately, Harman shows himself incapable of grasping the anti-reductionistic import of Eddington’s argument and
proposes an abstract philosophical dualism to replace Eddington’s pluralist vision of scientific research. It is tacitly implied that the theoretical justification for this unsatisfying presentation is to be found elsewhere in Harman’s works, but this is not the case.
11) HARMAN CANNOT UNDERSTAND EPISTEMOLOGICAL ANTIREDUCTIONISM
Harman’s position is one of a surface pluralism (for Harman there are multiple régimes of knowing for an Object) overcoded by a deep monism and demarcationism (the humanist, the scientific, and the common sense objects are “simulacra”, only the withdrawn object is real) embedded in a synchronic ontological frame (time is not an ontologically pertinent feature of real objects.
12) OOO: ONTOLOGICAL ACTIVISM, POLITICAL PASSIVISM
Today, object-oriented philosophy is at a loss. Its hackneyed set of critical terms (philosophy of access, shams and simulacra, lavalampy overmining, atomistic
undermining, streams of becoming, correlationism) clearly have no point of application at all to the new lines of research opened up in recent Continental Philosophy by major thinkers such as Bruno Latour, Bernard Stiegler, and François Laruelle. One has only
to look at the utter incomprehension that OOOxians manifest with regard to Laruelle’s non-philosophy to see that their claim to “move beyond” deconstruction is an empty bluff.
13) OOO’S FAILED ENCOUNTERS: TRAVESTY OF THE PAST, INCOMPREHENSION OF THE PRESENT
The OOOxians never understood the arguments of their philosophical predecessors, despite their pretentions To being the contemporary response to and inheritors of the
philosophies of deconstruction and of post-structuralism that flourished at the end of the last century. Thus they are illequiped to engage the ideas of the true creative successors. Far from inaugurating a new more constructive philosophy that builds on the positive achievements of the past while rectifying or abandoning its erroneous problematics and procedures, Graham Harman’s BELLS AND WHISTLES: MORE SPECULATIVE REALISM is a sterile compendium of OOO’s familiar but disappointing history of misunderstandings and failed encounters, and its publication is a fitting funerary monument to a set of affective gesticulations that never quite cohered into a philosophy.