OOO: A subject with a great past

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 Harman is by far the more radical thinker when we compare his ontology of withdrawn objects to the mathematism of Meillassoux, the scientism of Brassier, and the Lacanian naturalism of Bryant.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.

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3 commentaires pour OOO: A subject with a great past

  1. MT Coast dit :

    Sp whats next babe?


  2. This is amazing writing, Terrence. I recently did a critique of Harman that I will share here, If I may, about the epistemological and ethical ‘problems’ with ol’ Harm-an
    Graham Harman writes about objects. When considering two ‘objects’ he notes their interaction. For instance, he writes about cotton burning, “the cotton burns stupidly.” If all objects are ontologically, or in their Being (Sein) ‘democratised’ or equal, then a certain philosophical ground arises from this proposition. Since these objects are equal, that is to say, the same ontologically, then it follows that they can be interchangeable – ontologically – with any other objects. Objects are objects. Moving from the ‘objects’ of cotton and fire, interacting as they are through what Harman calls a ‘sensual vicar’ – another object that is created from the interaction of the two objects, let us apply this proposition to another case. When a Monk in Tibet sets himself aflame, when he self-immolates in protest against China’s occupation of Tibet, does the Monk too ”burn stupidly?” Since the Monk and the cotton are in-their-being totally equal, an Object is an Object, the Monk, just another ‘object’ can be said to “burn stupidly.” Political ideologies to light to Monks and cotton are all ‘objects’ for Harman. The object withdraws, as ‘we’ or ‘I’ or another object can never fully know its being. This is a proposition he picks up from Martin Heidegger the Nazi philosopher. Harman associates himself so much with Heidegger that he says he is more of a Heideggerian than Heidegger himself. Given Heidegger’s support for the discrimination and even extermination of Jews and other (objects), we can deduce via Harman’s object-oriented ontology that he would, at an ontological level (that is at the level of Sein) find no problem with Nazi ideology, for it is simply another object that withdraws and relates with other objects. We must then ask, given Harman’s fetishising of Heidegger and his objectification of everything, does “the Jew burn stupidly?” That is to say, does the life of the Jewish person under the object of Nazism represent a mere interaction of equal objects via a “sensual vicar?” This is why I question Harman as a (proto-) fascist. Harman’s theory is far from destabilising the ‘anthropocentric’ views of philosophy (his aim is at Kant), but rather intensifies the human-centricity. Harman’s theory is neither post or trans humanist (e.g. DonnaHaraway), but a “weird” (his word) anti-humanism, a form of self-hatred that expresses itself in his love of Heidegger and in his complete objectification of everything. Does Harman ‘write stupidly” is a far too gentle question for a “philosopher” committed to- obsessed with- ‘objectifying’ the entirety of reality. The ant and a missile are the same for Harman, in-their-being. He opposes ‘over-mining’ and ‘undermining’ objects, that is he opposes measurement, from small to large as ‘we’ homo sapiens experience phenomena. Yet this is a deeply humanist view considering that he presumes a level between ‘over-mining’ and ‘undermining.’ Harman is not a post-humanist thinker, he is an anthropocentric, anti-humanist. (Potentially with severe self-hate and undealt with emotional trauma, and serious blog-addiction, I mean have you seen how many things he posts? When does he bloody teach? Harman needs a psychiatrist.) »

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