TRANSMINING: Harman’s Reductionism

Graham Harman denies the reality of the simplest objects that we can see or touch: as common sense objects they are, he tells us, « utter shams ». The same remark applies to scientific objects. What is real? Harman postulates a domain of « withdrawn » real objects that somehow account for the sham objects we see and know. The relation between real object and sham object is difficult to articulate. For example, Harman cannot really say that the real object is the source or origin of the sham object, as thse terms (« source », « origin ») imply temporal predicates that are disallowed by his system, which notoriously denies reality to time.

Harman has invented a vocabulary to describe various types of reductionism that he believes he has discerned in various philosophical moves. The move of explaining a macroscopic object such as a table in terms of its atomic and sub-atomic is called « undermining ». Explaining the table in terms of the flux of perceptions is called « overmining ». Harman has recently detected arguments that make both moves at once, so he has baptised them « duomining ». A notable feature of all three moves is that their reduction operates inside only one of the worlds that Harman discusses – the world of « utter shams ».

But Harman himself operates a different sort of reduction that reduces the reality of one world, the « sham » world of sensual objects, to that of the « real » world of withdrawn objects. As this reduction cuts across both worlds, I propose to call it « transmining ».

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8 commentaires pour TRANSMINING: Harman’s Reductionism

  1. Jason Hills dit :

    Perhaps you’ve commented on it before, but what do you think of the parallels between Harman’s reductionism and the same move made in metaphysics, i.e. that normal-sized objects are not real.

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  2. terenceblake dit :

    I’m not sure what metaphysics you are thinking of here. I am thinking of the famous « layer-cake » theories of reduction, and claiming that Harman’s model is much the same. It’s not so much saying that ordinary objects are not real that bothers me, why not say this if you have an argument? It’s the contradiction of pretending a return to the concrete and giving us in fact abstraction, pretending to criticise reduction and in fact doing an even more radical reduction.

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  3. Jason Hills dit :

    Apologies, Terence, as my response had a crucial typo: I meant to write « analytic metaphysics, » which had a period in which a number of scholars denied the reality of the apparent world. The debate was in terms of the reality of « normal size objects. » Hence, anyone familiar with that discourse might be more sympathetic to his attempts, although I think Harman did this primarily for rhetorical purposes since as you note he didn’t give arguments. Given my limited knowledge of analytic metaphysics on this point, the issue dealt with their need to make everything explicable in terms of formal logic, and the debate was about whether and what kind of « aggregates » are real. There was a decided push to reduce everything to « natural kinds, » though I get the sense that debate has quieted in the last decade and become more a struggle over scientism, particularly in neuro- and cognitive science.

    In sum, analytic did precisely this, the « returning to the concrete and giving us in fact an abstraction, » except in analytic philosophy this was a far more legitmate move than it appears in Americanist or continental philosophy, which is far less concerned with the supremacy of formal logic and the continuing legacy of mechanism (still going strong almost 150 years later although be other names).

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  4. inthesaltmine dit :

    Why is everybody mining in my salt mine?!

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  5. antoine dit :

    Very funny your post Terence, even if not intentional!

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  6. antoine dit :

    Oui, c´est de l´humour et de la perversion, si chères á notre Deleuze!

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  7. Harman is a tedious lightweight and doesn’t deserve the amount of attention you are giving him – which he LOVES – Terrence! 🙂

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