Graham Harman’s recent « counterfactual criticism » of an abstract for a future talk by Anthony Paul Smith on Laruelle’s difference from Speculative realism is no mere anecdotal example of the rather sad elucubrations of Harman trying to mimic a philosophical discussion. It is a key document in the ongoing schizoanalysis of OOO that this blog wishes to contribute to. This is why I do not agree with those who advocate consigning Harman’s interventions to the cognitive silence that he so richly deserves. There is something toxic about his philosophy and his interventions that requires therapeutic discussion. OOO does not inspire passionate intellectual discussion but the shocked sharing of impressions and experiences that follows the encounter with the aberrant manifestations of an other that incarnates the shadow side of our noetic endeavours.
I consider my blog to be an important part of my individuation, and so of my schizoanalysis or yoga. I wish to be very clear that for me Graham Harman and Levi Bryant do not merit a single instant of consideration on any objective measure of interest or importance in the contemporary discussion of philosophy. Their conceptual and argumentative weakness is flagrant, despite very tiny but sometimes vocal support groups that they use naively as focus groups, to no avail. I comment on Harman’s and Bryant’s productions for reasons that depend on my personal noetic history that I have outlined on this blog in various posts.
I have often talked about the concept-blindness of OOO. In a recent post I discussed the related technique, formalised by Harman but practiced assiduously by Levi Bryant, of counterfactual criticism. A beautiful example is given in Bryant’s post on “Lacanian philosophy”:
“I dream of a Lacanian philosophy. The Lacanian philosophy I dream of would not be modeled on his theory of the subject, signifier, desire, drive, unconscious, language, etc, so much as on the ethics of the Lacanian clinic”.
Bryant is full of these counterfactual conditionals, and one of the most amazing examples is his reply to Daniel Sacilotto. To reply to Sacilotto Bryant imagines what he “might” say about agriculture in the 15th Century, something that to my knowledge Sacilotto has never discussed:
“compare how Daniel and I might discuss agricultural practices in the 15th century. Since we’re discussing a remote period in history, Daniel might ask how the historian knows that this was the way in which agriculture was practiced in the 15th century. He might broaden the question to an investigation of the conditions and limits of any historical knowledge whatsover”.
Once we are plunged into a counterfactual aura in which anything and everything is possible, Bryant has no trouble refuting something Sacilotto never in fact said (but “might” counterfactually say) by recounting what his analysis “would” be:
“I would be interested in questions such as how the properties of the grains cultivated, coupled with existing agricultural technologies, influenced how people lived their lives annually… we might find that the absence of fertilizers, pesticides, and various harvesting and planting technologies rendered agriculture so labor intensive that people were not free to develop themselves in other ways… I would be interested in the way in which agricultural production impacted the size that cities and populations could reach…I would be interested in how the life of populations, individuals, and cities becomes tied to the rhythms of food production and technologies of food preservation in such a milieu. I would be interested in how the diet of this period affects human development. I would be interested in how climatic changes such as the little ice age, and things such as drought and crop pestilences might correlate with various forms of social unrest”.
This is the same procedure as Harman’s recent “calling out” of Anthony Paul Smith. Who cares what the interlocutor in fact said? One can “honestly re-write” any thinker’s pronouncements into what he might say and respond to that. Bryant had no need to address Sacilotto’s concepts and arguments, all he had to do was “call out” Daniel by invoking the counterfactual froth. This is Graham Harman’s greatest lesson and Bryant has learnt it well.
Concept blindness and counterfactuality are the twin prongs of OOO’s method of de-noetisation. If philosophy is not a noetic activity then it is just drives and memetics. Intellectual interest is nothing but “vested interest”, comments on Twitter and Facebook are just “screams”, a complex thinker becomes “the Laruelle guy”, not mentioning Harman means belonging to the Brassier conspiracy, actually doing philosophy is a “crazy Derridean self-reflexivity” allied to a “weird narcissism”. Argument is reduced to “calling out” one’s interlocutor and telling it like it is. So Harman may even be sincere when he claims to “not trying to pick a fight” as he may be under the impression that this is what ordinary philosophical procedure amounts to once you subject it to an “honest re-write”. For “honest” we must read “counterfactual”, and “re-write” means “concept removal””.