HARMAN’S CONTRADICTORY HERMENEUTICS OF SUBJECTIVITY

1) OOO SPLITS EXPERIENCE INTO ABSTRACT INTELLECTION AND CONCRETE ILLUSION

Harman’s OOO splits hermeneutic, i.e. participative, exploration of the world into objective speculation (an absolutised and thus “withdrawn” context of justification) and sensual or subjective encounter (an absolutised, and thus “sham”, context of discovery). This splitting demotes the subject to the world of shams, which leads to a “reurn of the repressed”, in the form of an implied subjectivity, but one that he is either unaware of or unwilling to endorse explicitly, adapted to the neo-liberal order. Far from eliminating subjectivity from the world of objects Harman’s OOO is subtended by an all-pervasive degraded subjectivity masquerading as its opposite. Harman then proceeds to re-subjectify his philosophical vision with expressions connoting a subjectivity that is ruled out by the strict application of that philosophy.

2) WITHDRAWAL CAN BE PARTIALLY OVERCOME: OBJECTUAL LOVE AND THE ART OF OBLIQUITY

Waxing lyrical, Harman talks of how we must love the object: “The real is something that cannot be known, only loved” (THE THIRD TABLE, 12); thinking must be indirect, “its approach to objects can only be oblique” (12), and “allude to objects that cannot quite be made present” (14). All this talk of loving and hunting and approaching and alluding to, all these expressions are strictly ill-formed. A sensual subject cannot love, hunt, approach, or even allude to a real object. It’s not that objects cannot “quite” be made present, they cannot be made present at all. Withdrawal is all ornone, it does not admit of degrees.

3) OOO IS A CONTRADICTORY MIX OF NOETIC ASCETICISM AND SENSUAL HEDONISM

Yet to give appeal to the theory Harman has need of descriptors of the subjective attitude of those who endorse it. Hence the constant talk of objects that redounds in unthematised subjective participation in the theory as vision of the world. The objectal conversion as the passage to the constructed “naiveté” that sees objects everywhere is thus a subjective conversion to a hard-headed noetic asceticism of intelligible objects coupled with a soft-hearted sensual exoticism of the aesthetic play of simulacra. You can be a geek and an esthete at the same time, with the contradiction being covered up by the medial subjectivity of loving indirectness, of hunterly obliquity, and of diaphonous allusion.

4) OOO PROSCRIBES THE ETHICAL ENCOUNTER

Despite appearances to the contrary, Harman in fact privileges subjectivity in various key aspects of his philosophy: while trying desperately to contain it within his conceptual reductions it seeps out and contaminates the whole with a geeko-esthetic compound subjectivity fusing cold intellectual manipulation and warm sensual enjoyment, thus proscribing the ethical encounter which can be neither merely conceptual nor merely esthetic nor some conflicted hybrid of the two.

5) OOO CANNOT ACCOUNT FOR KNOWLEDGE

Harman is in denial of hermeneutics, and as with his denegation of epistemology (which results in his elaborating a bad epistemology under the guise of ontology), ends up doing bad hermeneutics. His hermeneutics of specific texts such as Eddington’s “Introduction” is quite inadequate and erroneous, as is his hermeneutics of the history of philosophy. Harman’s key terms, such as “withdrawal” and “access”, are ill-formed hermeneutical concepts, giving a grotesque simplification and deformation of the history of philosophy and of contemporary rival philosophies. Feyerabend and Latour argue that the sciences are not abstract cognition only, but also have a constitutive, and thus necessary, hermeneutic dimension. This is why even the sciences provide some resistance against neo-liberal neo-leibnizian abstraction and speculative modeling and manipulation. Harman’s model is not enough to account for knowledge, and it is he who is being reductionist with his real objects and their supposed sensual instanciations.

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