DELEUZE AND OOO: on the assassination of philosophy

In the long interview that constitutes, along with WHAT IS PHILOSOPHY?, his summing up of his philosophical legacy, Deleuze discusses the danger to philosophy constituted by the formation of philosophical schools. In this extract he is talking about the disciples of Wittgenstein’s thought. but I have replaced this with a reference to OOO to bring out the contemporary relevance:

 For me, it’s a philosophical catastrophe. lt’s the very example of a ”school,” it’s a regression of all philosophy, a massive regression. The OOO matter is quite sad. They imposed a system of terror in which, under the pretext of doing something new, it’s poverty instituted in all grandeur… There isn’t a word to describe this danger, but this danger is one that recurs, it’s not the first time that it has happened. lt’s serious, especially since OOOxians are mean and destructive. So if they win, there could be an assassination of philosophy. They are assassins of philosophy.

Graham Harman’s OOO expounds in perhaps its purest form an image of thought that is a transcendental condition for philosophical thinking in the contemporary context, whether we adopt or reject his particular system of the world. This is where I diverge from Pete Wolfendale’s analysis of OOO. He notes both the absence of a “core argument” and the omnipresence of an “overarching rhetoric”. Laudably, he attempts to set aside the rhetoric and to reconstruct the argument. I maintain, however, that the absence of core argument is deliberate, as what is sought is conversion rather than rational conviction. The resort to an overarching rhetoric in fact serves to present OOO’s image of thought, in the context of which all its particular theses and occasional arguments are to be understood.

Harman’s metaphysical promotion of the existence of a transcendental field of withdrawn static indifferent objects captures an intuition that we all may become aware of in moments of fatigue or intellectual disorientation, constituting the often implicit but ever necessary background of ontological stupidity that shadows all our thoughts. Such “stupidity” need not be negative, sometimes serving to dissipate an unsatisfactory synthesis and to allow one to create something new.

The key to understanding this aspect of OOO is to be found in another sentence, that occurs in Deleuze and Guattari’s WHAT IS PHILOSOPHY? concerning the relation between the doxa, or general, opinion and philosophical thought: “Thinking provokes general indifference”. This indifference is both an atonal affective state and the de-differentiated status of the objects apprehended in that state. The “catastrophe” of which Deleuze speaks is the imprisonment in such a state and the corresponding reduction of our vision.

OOO is classically philosophical in that it is both meta-theory and theory. It integrates this “indifference” into thinking itself, as one of its transcendental conditions (methodological or meta-theoretical moment) and proceeds to ontologise it as qualifying  the very nature of the real (ontological or theoretical moment). This double movement is the origin of what Graham Harman calls “naiveté” at the beginning of THE QUADRUPLE OBJECT:

Instead of beginning with radical doubt, we start from naiveté. What philosophy shares with the lives of scientists, bankers, and animals is that all are concerned with objects. (5)

Rather than representing a return to a pre-theoretical vision obtained by means of a naive goggling and gawking at the world, such naiveté is in fact the highly constructed point of view of a particular conceptual persona. Harman’s object-oriented philosophy does not just articulate a personal point of view, but expresses, by means of this conceptual persona and its vision, something essential in the contemporary philosophical context. This is part of the reason that OOO was able to become a school and to meet with a certain amount of success in a more general, but philosophically-cultivated, public.

I have argued elsewhere that this philosophy is not new, and that it is substantially the same epistemology and ontology as Althusserianism, only de-marxised and de-scientised. They share the same ontology of real objects and ideological or “sensual” objects, the same critique of the problematic of the subject (now called “correlationism) and the same utterly inadequate epistemology, incapable of explaining scientific progress. This is why I consider OOO to be a “regression” compared to the post-structuralist philosophers that it critiques so unjustly, without showing any signs of understanding or of engaging with their positive contributions.

In the quote above Deleuze lists the characteristics of a philosophical “school” that has for programme the assassination of philosophical thought and its replacement by its indifferent or de-differentiated shadow. He paints a conceptual portrait of a recurrent danger in philosophy. Such a school is a system of poverty and terror comporting: philosophical catastrophe (miring in indifference), conceptual regression and impoverishment (proceeding by slogans and stereotypes), mean affects (driving the quest for satisfaction in an atonal world), and destructive behaviour (all attempts at real debate are met with  silence, indifference, or inarticulate disapproval).

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When Deleuze theorises the kind of “one-sided dialogue” that Feyerabend talks about, he tells us that creation stems from a solitude that is richly populated because each of us “is many”, that is his depression talking just as much as his joy, and there is no way to for us to separate them any more than he did. Deleuze was very wily and would reject depression in the name of Spinozan joy and of Nietzschean affirmation. But he would then go on to talk about solitude, ascesis, becoming secret, striking a blow against stupidity, seeing the intolerable, the shame of being a man, being schizo, and deterritorialisation, and still people would think his pluralism was a big party!

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Gilles Deleuze refuses the pure Platonic light of positivity and aids us in affronting the shadow inside the cavern and befriending it. There are a plethora of negative prefixes in Deleuze’s texts (in-, a-, de-), which are the markers of the de-stabilisation of signification and of the emergence of new meanings. Such is the free play of interpretation. A Platonic philosopher such as Graham Harman enshrines a real of pure positivity and stasis (as time is unreal for Harman’s philosophy) and condemns interpretation and transformation to the sensual, unreal, realm. Yet for Deleuze the sensual realm is that of intensity and metamorphosis, and its pluralism of interpretation goes with his battle cry:

“Everything must be interpreted in terms of intensity”.

Another Deleuzian negative prefix is “dis-” as in disjunction, dissemblance, and also difference (dif- is a variant of dis-). Any idea of a continuist or “lavalampy” Deleuze is not just mistaken, absurd, laughable, it is strictly illiterate: it cannot read the letter of Deleuze’s text. I think that it is very important to correct the dualist black vs white grid which has been imposed on Deleuze’s work. “Negativity” is not the oppoite of positivity, but part of the affirmation of all the intensities between, and including, these extremes.

For a closely related notion the role of darkness and negativity in Deleuze see Andrew Culp’s Dark Deleuze Project.

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L’exposé de Badiou : objet comme forme de l’être et relation comme forme de l’existence


Très intéressant résumé de l’exposé de Badiou concernant l’orientation objectuelle et l’orientation relationnelle.

Originally posted on L'obscurité:

Ce matin à 10 heures à l’ENS rue d’Ulm:

dans mon article précédent annonçant ce colloque j’en étais resté à l’opposition Platon-Aristote dans la distinction entre les deux types de mentalité que je caractérisais comme idéaliste-réaliste, ou comme axe entre science des relations et mathemata et métaphysique des logoi, mais ceci n’est qu’un des deux axes d’une croix (il faut toujours préférer la quaternité de la croix, ou le sénaire de la sphère, à la pure opposition binaire), le second axe opposant Parménide à Héraclite.

Or Badiou semble placer Parménide avec Platon, et Aristote avec Héraclite, il escamote donc la croix et l’aplatit sur un seul axe, et ceci ne va pas de soi, pour moi. D’autant plus que la théorie mathématique des catégories est placée plutôt du côté aristotélicien, heraclitéen, relativiste, naturaliste, celui de l’apparaître en un monde, du phénoménal, et la théorie des ensembles du côté de…

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People who live in withdrawn houses shouldn’t throw stones

Is OOO and its critique just an insider phenomenon? Or can other voices be heard? Was there a real collective dream there at the start, or was marketing the only real force at work? Is SR the dream and OOO the betrayal? How do we evaluate the past and present vitality of a philosophical movement? What are our pragmatic criteria?

SR begins with a collective dream, in response to the shock produced by the encounter with a new sort of idealists – the “correlationists”. These correlationists were stifling philosophical discussions with their own dreams, that promoted a new form of relativism. The speculative realists elaborated a counter-dream that others adhered to and a movement was born. The socialisation of the dream took off. There was a phase of diachronic enthusiasm and experimentation, of passionate discussion and intellectual liberty, where everything seemed up for grabs, and thinking and discussing in new ways seemed possible.

Then rationalisation set in, and order was restored. Doctrines and party-lines were crystallised, dialogue was side-lined, dissidents were subjected to misrepresentation, humiliated and demeaned, and banished from the conversation. Alienation of the dream became dominant and a static synchronic shadow replaced its metamorphic dynamics. No transformational exchanges were allowed. Protestation and disagreement were no longer heard, unanimity and stasis became the norm and the goal. A new shock was needed to shake up this house of cards.

A dispersed and unrelated group of people set out to create this shock each in their own way on the basis of a new dream, or several dreams: Jason Hills, Pete Wolfendale, Leon Niemoczynski, Ray Brassier, Kevin v Duuglas-Ittu (Kvond), myself, and many others. We do not form a team, and our positive ideas are mostly very different. All of us have had the frustrating experience of trying to engage in the discussion, of being perplexed that this was not possible, and of finally realising that there was no discussion, and that the seeming ideas had been voided of all philosophical sense and were exchanged as empty tokens connoting concepts that were never forthcoming.

Wolfendale is right to say that SR was successful at the beginning, because it allowed people to dream together of objects and relations,of intentionality and representation, of epistemology and ontology, and of many other things, including a community of passionate discussion. Despite all the polemics and the critiques, the dream is primary for these dissidents, they remain faithful to the dream. They remain faithful to the oniric and veridictional potential of what has otherwise become an organised group fantasm and faction. They remain faithful to their passion for ideas and free discussion, for speculation and intellectual exploration, for transformative dialogue.

Wolfendale was inspired by the collective dream to dream his own dream, which was initially in fusional participation with the collective. The closure of fundamental discussion forced him to separate his dream from the collective fantasm and to go deeper. With the publication of his new book I see no change in Wolfendale’s motivation or behaviour, just the same passion and deepening that was present at the start of his involvement.

Harman was one of Wolfendale’s educators, just as Schopenhauer and Wagner were for Nietzsche, and thus also a figure of alienation. Wolfendale has deconstructed and dissolved that alienation and come closer to himself. No discontinuity, no break, just a deepening of his philosophical individuation. This deepening is not a pacific progression, but a turbulent expression of his immersion into an ocean of doubts and of self-doubt, the loss of familiar landmarks and of comfortable resting places. Wolfendale’s book is not a contribution to the discussion internal to the OOO microcosm, he has gone deeper than that. It is a report on a philosophical voyage through OOO and out the other side. Those left behind now throw stones.

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I am reblogging this from the discussion on Jon Cogburn’s blog as it is a very complete analysis on a specific topic:

Mark a écrit en réponse à Method

“The short answer to your question is that Harman insists that making contact with real objects such as trees can only ever be an “all-or-nothing affair”, and that there can be no such thing as *partial* or *incomplete* access to, contact with or knowledge of any real object. Thus, no image, concept, idea, model or representation of an object can in any way resemble or correspond with anything at all, says Harman: “All are fictions”. This has serious consequences for any claim that we can know anything about anything, of course, since “no matter how excellent our scientific concept of a tree may be, this concept IS NOT ITSELF A TREE” (my capitals, in italics in the original).

Harman goes onto claim that this is what makes his position “the most hardcore possible REALISM”. Why? “[B]ecause it takes real objects so seriously that it holds them to be irreplaceable by any conceptual model – no model of a banana or apple, however detailed, can step into the world and become a banana or apple.” (All these quotes are taken from ‘The Road to Objects’, which I have provided a link to below).

Please note that Harman goes on to contend that the only way his critics can avoid his conclusion here (i.e. that since they think knowledge is possible, they are also committed to the claim that concepts of apples can *become* apples) is to have recourse to “dubious traditional metaphysics of form and matter, its banality barely concealed by THE TABLE-POUNDING AGGRESSIONS OF HACK SCIENTISM” (‘The Road to Objects’, p. 179; my capitals).

Since Harman explicitly discusses this in the context of his criticisms of James Ladyman and Don Ross, please note that he is claiming, in a published academic paper, that two of the most respected philosophers of science in the world are “scientistic hacks” who are guilty of believing that models of trees, bananas and apples “can step into the world and become” trees, apples and bananas, and that the only way they can possibly deny this is by having recourse to “dubious traditional metaphysics”, the dubiousness of which is barely concealed by their “table-pounding aggressions”.

The highly experienced Professor Graham Harman, you see, unlike the “kid fresh out of graduate school”, Dr Peter Wolfendale, knows all about the proper conventions of professional academic conduct, and is always careful to read other philosophers with maximal “charity”. (Right, Professor Cogburn?)

For a more detailed answer to your question, please consult Wolfendale’s paper ‘The Noumenon’s New Clothes’ (see especially ‘The Argument from Excess’ and ‘The Argument from Identity’, pages 334-344). The paper is freely available online here:

You might also want to take a look at some of the online exchanges between Harman and Wolfendale on this, perhaps especially Harman’s January 2 2010 post ‘Part 1 of 2 to Deontologistics':

and Wolfendale’s reply entitled ‘Once More With Content':

Harman subsequently wrote up his conclusions to this exchange in the paper I have quoted from above, ‘The Road to Objects’ (thus, since Wolfendale is the only person who, as far as I’m aware, had publicly taken issue with Harman’s claims on this, one can safely infer that Harman’s comments about “the table-pounding aggressions of hack scientism” in this paper were also, and perhaps primarily, directed at him):

Harman also makes the same points elsewhere, for example in the paper I alluded to above on Ladyman & Ross, entitled ‘I am also of the opinion that materialism must be destroyed’, where he makes the point in almost exactly the same terms (see pages 788 -789):

I hope that clears things up for you.

Now, I really am going to try to resist making any further contribution to this discussion until or unless either Professor Cogburn and/or Professor Harman join the conversation and grapple with some of the actual claims and arguments. But as I have suggested above, I do not suppose for one moment that either of them will. Why do you think that might be?”

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Frank Herbert interview and lecture tapes.


Amazing collection of interviews and readings by Frank Herbert

Originally posted on Bob R Bogle:

It is my pleasure to announce to you the existence of this marvelous storehouse of recordings of Frank Herbert, made in 1980. These ten hours of recordings were made in interview situations and lectures, probably at science fiction conventions, I should imagine. The subjects covered are wide-ranging, including Herbert’s interests in politics, religion and ecology and the like. He also speaks at great length about the universe of Dune.


Part 1 Interviews and conversations with Frank Herbert.
Part 2 Interviews and conversations with Frank Herbert.
Part 3 Interviews and conversations with Frank Herbert.
Part 4 Interviews and conversations with Frank Herbert.
Part 5 Lectures by Frank Herbert.
Part 6 Lectures by Frank Herbert.
Part 7 Frank Herbert reading aloud from God Emperor of Dune with some interaction/discussion with others.
Part 8 Frank Herbert reading aloud from God Emperor of Dune with some interaction/discussion with others.
Part 9 Frank…

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