This reduction of the world to objects and their qualities amounts to a conversion of our philosophical vision that is disguised as a return to the real world of concrete objects:
“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” (THE QUADRUPLE OBJECT, 5).
“Once we begin from naiveté rather than doubt, objects immediately take center stage” (idem, 7)
This “self-evidence” of the point of view of naïveté is in fact meticulously constructed and highly philosophically motivated. We must recall that Harman’s “objects” are not at all the objects of common sense (we cannot know them nor touch them). So the “naiveté” that Harman invokes here is not some primitive openness to the world (that would only be a variant of the “bucket theory of mind” and of knowledge, denounced by Karl Popper). This “naiveté” is a determinate point of view, a very particular perspective (the « naive point of view », as the French translation so aptly calls it). Under cover of this word “naiveté”, Harman talks to us of a “naïf” point of view, that is nevertheless an « objectal » point of view., that is to say not naïf at all but partisan. Harman deploys all his rhetorical resources to provoke in the reader the adoption of the objectal point of view as if it were self-evident. This “objectal conversion” is necessary, according to him, to at last get out of the tyranny of epistemology and the linguistic turn, and edify a new ontology, new foundation for a metaphysics capable of speaking of all objects. We have seen that this “self-evident” beginning implies both a conversion and a reduction.
We see the parallels and differences of object-oriented ontology in relation to Althusserianism. Both relegate the familiar object and the perceptual object to the status of social constructions. OOO goes even further and assigns the scientific object to the same status of simulacrum (« utter sham »): only philosophy can tell us the truth about objects. Both propose a meta-language, but OOO’s meta-language is so de-qualified that it is susceptible of different instanciations, and in fact no two members of the movement have the same concrete ontology. Finally, OOO spreads in making abundant, liberal (and here the word has all its import) use of the means that the internet makes available: blogs, discussion groups, facebook exchanges, twitter, podcasts, streaming.
I have spoken here principally of Graham Harman’s OOO because I do not believe that OOO exists in general and I also think that its apparent unity is a deceitful façade. There is no substance to the movement, it is rather a matter of agreement on a shared meta-language, ie on a certain terminology and set of themes, under the aegis of which many different positions can find shelter. I have spoken here almost exclusively of THE THIRD TABLE because Harman’s formulations change from book to book, and I find that in this little brochure Harman offers us his meta-language in a pure state. In his other books Harman, without noticing, slides constantly between a meta-ontological sense of object and a sense which corresponds to one possible instanciation of this meta-language, thus producing much conceptual confusion.