SPECULAR REALISM

My critique of Graham Harman’s OOP is that it posits as real what is in fact a useless mirror image of common sense and scientific objects that he declares to be « utter shams » (THE THIRD TABLE, p6). His real objects are « ghostly objects withdrawing from all human and inhuman access » (p12), mere Harms in a specular Harmiverse, as David Roden describes them.

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12 commentaires pour SPECULAR REALISM

  1. erdogan_h dit :

    realism, I believe, is not « about reality » but a matter of policing « this (rather than that) reality ». unless one is content to play by its rules, it matters to assume that the mirror image of objects, like objects-themselves, have an equal claim to « reality » . that is, even if they stand as « utter shams », whether by themselves or by epistemological symmetry.

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  2. terenceblake dit :

    Demarcationism is tricky. Harman posits that our ordinary objects are utter shams, and then goes on to posit bogus « real » objects. So his attempted demarcation backfires and should lead to the abandon of his withdrawn reality.

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  3. Jake Riley dit :

    I recently wrote this in response to Harman’s Tool-Being. Perhaps it won’t be rigorously philosophical enough, but it was an attempt. I just want to say that I’ve enjoyed the continous harm(an) you’ve done to Harman on this blog. People in my own field of Rhetoric, Composition (and even Literature) gesture towards Harman’s though as part of the nonhuman turn along with Latour and Bryant, but rarely do they ever engage with Harman’s attempt to build his own metaphysical world as he does in Guerrila Metaphysics. Once you get into the brass tacks of his metaphysical structure (with « real objects » « real qualities » etc.) it seems very far from the analysis, mapping, and tracing one gets from Latour. Without further ado,

    Harman’s mistake in reading Heidegger is to generalize the binaries Heidegger sets up, rather than reading closely the moments when Heidegger reaches the aporias of those boundaries; This is why readers like Agamben and Derrida push thought further and Harman uses Heidegger’s distinctions as if they were always clear; generalizing his insights to include any and every « object » in the world. In Tool-Being, Harman demonstrates that he has read as much as Heidegger as he can get his hands on, but rather than following the twists and turns of his thought (the WAY to language, the path, the tracks — indeed, is this not what Latour asks us to do with ‘objects’) he abstracts a general metaphysics from his terminology. If philosophy truly is a « style of thought » as much as it is naming things or presenting positions, then is not incumbent on us to move « with » (even if we push against) that style in order to take it further? And that style goes beyond individual words or objects, but the grammar, syntax, and rhythm of the argument — the hesitations and questions as well as the rhetoric — the hedges and not just assertions (and dear god, have we learned nothing from Heidegger’s section Being-In in Being and Time of the ‘derivative’ nature of assertions from a primary « Understanding » (Verstehen, I believe is the German)). If OOO strives against, as Ian Bogost puts it in Alien Phenomenology, the endless stream of Deleuzian and Guattarian becoming, then we are in trouble, because its not just ‘becoming animal’ or ‘becoming-mineral’ but philosophy as becoming-argument, becoming-thought, becoming-writing. We must not refuse the ‘pas’ (step/not) of reading.

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  4. terenceblake dit :

    Harman denies the reality of time and so his ontology is synchronic in a very strong sense. His understanding of other philosophers is based on a synchronic reduction of their style. Even his reading of Eddington’s two tables argument falsifies it by extracting it from the whole movement of the introduction, and from his vision of the movement of research. Harman just doesn’t « get » temporal relations. Hence his repeated, and absurd, claim that if everything was composed of relations nothing would change. As if moving faster or slower than, accelerating faster or slower than, were not relations. Bogost has not the slightest idea of what he is talking about and just repeats what his fellow OOOxians say, and Gary Williams has definitively refuted this « stream of becoming » caricature of Deleuze and Guattari: http://philosophyandpsychology.com/?p=1546.

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    • How is Harman still teaching? I am utterly baffled that any University would hire this charlatan. And I am also stating that the standard for uni lecturers is very low, and even with this low standard Harman couldn’t match a discussion with a first year undergraduate student!

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    • Yes, and Harman seems to not understand: temporality, chronicity, measurement, etc.

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      • Jason Hills dit :

        That seems very uncharitable. Though not an OOO scholar, I’ve read more than enough of Harman to see a first-rate mind. He just happens to have fixated on a particular interpretation of Heidegger that limits the scope of his philosophical vision. That is, he disagrees and isn’t concerned with things that we think he should be, and I think we have the argument in our favor. Yet that doesn’t make him unintelligent, just wrong.

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  5. Jason Hills dit :

    Terrance,

    Per Bogost, I think this is a familiar historical pattern, the adoption of philosophic ideas by intellectuals and academics without sufficient training to question the commenters that they are learning them from. And for their part, they are usually blind-sided by people like us who demand such rigor, but we demand it of people who usually cannot give it. Then, they get angry because the social act of making such a demand usually appears as hostile. People like Bogost can always fall back upon their fields of specialization since those fields will not require the scholarly demands of ours. It’s exactly this kind of thing that lead to the Po-Mo craze in the U.S. that only recently started to die. We’re getting, e.g., post-colonialism and such in its place, though I find that once again many thinkers are fighting the canon and tradition without knowing what it is… Sounds a lot like the correlationist battles, no? Charge someone with something, but don’t have the background to make it stick (whether it would in fact do so)

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  6. Bill Benzon dit :

    « …it posits as real what is in fact a useless mirror image of common sense and scientific objects… »

    Interesting. As you know, I argued that what he proposed as OOO counter-factual literary criticism in effect collapses into the actual process of literary culture. Your comment has his metaphysics collapsing onto « common sense and scientific objects. » So, in effect, he’s saying that they’re the Real, or at least a mirror image of it. Which isn’t bad, though it’s not quite what he thinks he’s doing.

    So commonsense has its world, which is in fact complex, as Latour points out; it’s not at all simple. It may be familiar, even comfortable, but that’s not the same as simple. And the various specialized disciplines have their objects. What more do we need? Do we need to authorize or underwrite them with special metaphysical objects (and relations) that are, conceptually, odd and ill-fitting generalizations over everything (here I’m thinking of Bryant’s objects/machines/units)? Does talk of these metaphysical objects somehow grant us deeper insight into all those manifold objects of commonsense and of specialized disciplines? I don’t see how.

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    • terenceblake dit :

      I am in agreement with you Bill. Counterfactual criticism is another name for envisaging possibilities, exploring possible worlds, speculating, doing thought experiments. There was a movement to explain SF as meaning « speculative fiction », as it seems to be more general than science-fiction. When I was big into possible worlds, 40 years ago! how time flies…, I would argue that philosophy is in this sense SF. I also liked the less ontologically loaded definition as « the literature of cognitive estrangement », which comes close to Deleuze’s idea of philosophy as creation of concepts. Harman’s version does not satisfy me either, because as you say, it collapses back into what are already processes of counterfactual exploration (ie literary, more generally humanistic, and I would add scientific, processes. Of course one would have to see science as more than just Kuhnian normal science). This blindness of Harman’s is allied to his finally monist use of such a pluralist procedure, based as it is in his case on the foundational ontology of « real » objects.
      So once again I agree with you that we don’t need such a realm as separate existence of ghostly withdrawn objects, and that it collapses back into the common sense world taken more liberally than he does, as being more complex and ambiguous and as containing more realms than one might think.

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  7. terenceblake dit :

    I do not wish to insult Harman personally. I have quarrel with his philosophy, and also with a certain part of his online presence. I do not think that he is « stupid » and undeserving of his job nor do I think that he is in some way « Nazi ». I have tried to make it clear that I think he has defended more radical and more courageous philosophical positions than Bryant, for example. I just think that they are also radically erroneous, regressive, and wrong-headed. As I try to keep my polemics not personal, I feel free to use a tone that reflects my intellectual reactions to what I read.

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    • To be clear, I have never called Harman a Nazi. I have called his philosophy fascistic, as I believe it to be, and as I have noted in many ways. Also I don’t think he is stupid, but I do think he is a charlatan. 🙂

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