My pedagogical rewrite of my essay review of Graham Harman’s abstract monist idealism now comes to one of Harman’s more aggressive arguments against pluralist relationism – it cannot accomodate change. Harman’s philosophy in fact denies all reality to time and is an extreme form of spatialised synchronic ontology, yet he projects his difficulty with the concept of real time onto the positions that he supposedly goes beyond:
1) Harman against relational ontologies: change is forbidden
Harman’s master argument against relational ontologies is that they cannot explain change, that if everything were related nothing would change. This is patently false, as relations include temporal relations. Deleuze for example talks about both kinetic (relative speeds and accelerations) and dynamic (relative forces, and relative capacities to affect and to be affected) relations. It is ludicrous to claim that Deleuze’s system entails that change is impossible.
2) Harman does not understand relations
This forgetting kinetic and dynamic relations, and more generally Harman’s confusion over temporal relations shows that Harman’s real world has no place for time and for change and multiplicity. Harman constantly and indiscriminately conflates relations in general with specific subsets of relations such as interactions, and also with specific types of relation such as contact and access.
3) Harman’s incomprehension of diachronic ontologies
Harman is unable to understand the positions he is arguing against, and that he is supposed to have gone beyond. He critiques only straw man positions that have never existed. He has no understanding of, for example, Deleuze, and just deprecates his philosophy without getting into any detail.
4) Harman’s arguments are affective and not conceptual
Harman gives pseudo-conceptual affective refutations with no citations and no analysis, mere picture-thinking designed to produce the same “eureka” experience as a comparative publicity. There is no substance to Harman’s accusation, which is close to an Orwellian parody (from “war is peace” to “time is stasis”). Further, he has given no substantial account of what is wrong with so-called “relational” ontologies in general, except for his master-argument that if everything were related change would be impossible. Harman tries to insinuate that in his ontology change can be accounted for.
5) Time is unreal for Harman
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 (in THE THIRD TABLE) of Eddington’s two tables argument falsifies it by
extracting it from the whole movement of Eddington’s “Introduction” to his book THE NATURE OF THE PHYSICAL WORLD, and from his vision of the movement of research in general.
6) Harman’s denial of temporality
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, being attracted or repelled or pushed or whirled around were not relations.