Over the last few years the OOOxian movement has multiplied signs of success at the same time as showing unmistakable symptoms of decline. Based on a denial of epistemology and on blindness to its own status as (bad) epistemology OOO was able to capture the attention of those who were looking for a new speculative style, after the Science Wars and in opposition to those who were content to just parrot Deleuze or Derrida or Foucault. Stanley Cavell and Richard Rorty had each in his own way sought to attain to the status of homegrown American Continental Philosophy, but their Wittgensteinian and Heideggerian framework was too obscure and abstruse, too élitist and erudite. A more pop version of the same ambition was needed and Graham Harman’s OOO satisfied a strongly felt need to have done with deconstruction and return to « naiveté » (Harman’s word from the opening of THE QUADRUPLE OBJECT). Harman is by far the more radical thinker when we compare his ontology of withdrawn objects to the mathematism of Meillassoux, the scientism of Brassier, and the Lacanian naturalism of Bryant. Harman alone has been willing to discard the scientistic prejudice that vitiates the work of these thinkers.
Yet this superiority of Harman could only be maintained by sticking to the pathos of an escape from epistemology. As long as he did not explicitly engage with epistemological themes in his own name the denegation of its status as epistemology on which his work was built gave it even more force of conviction and persuasive power. The objectual conversion remained a potent possibility. With the publication of THE THIRD TABLE this anti-epstemological posture was revealed as an imposture, OOO was revealed not as superior insight over and above common sense and scientific realities, thus gratifying the narcissism of the artistic community while saving it from the accusation of postmodern relativism, but rather as intellectually incompetent to give a satisfying account of these supposedly « sham » domains. The absence of any understanding of diachrony, from the diachrony of science to that of common sense, up to the diachrony of a simple argument. Eddington’s argument is not the static opposition that Harman’s caricature would have us believe.
Bryant, it is clear, was never really an OOOxian. He is an orthodox Lacanian (« post-mastery » my foot!) and accepts blindly the tripartite division of the real, the imaginary and the symbolic. No doubt he thought he saw in Harman’s ontology a way to specify the nature of the Real, and so tried to annex it into just one part of his all-encompassing lacanian paradigm. But this annexation proved impossible as Harman’s objects showed up all of Bryant’s naturalistic, scientistic, and machinic specifications of the real to be all utter shams incompatible with the austere rigour of the objectual vision. Such manic denial as Bryant goes through hypothesis after hypothesis leads regularly to exhaustion and to the depressive, and for us spectators depressing, falling back onto an outdated lacanianism, bravely described as « post-mastery » because it dares to introduce a new « matheme » or two. Such ridiculous appeal to a scientistic life-support system for a dying lacanianism is so absurd that it should be called a « batheme ». Here again Bryant turns his back on the less credulous and so more perspicacious theses of Harman’s OOO.