WITHDRAWAL IS ÉLITIST: esoteric real objects and exoteric sensual objects

There is an affective split between a pure ascetic aristocratic discourse of absolute withdrawal, where objects are unknowable and untouchable, and an apparently more “democratic”, in fact demagogic, discourse for the philosophical pleb (i.e. for Harman, computer programmers and artists) where examples can be given. Thus is implicitly generated an unspoken, and so untheorised, notion of relative withdrawal, or degrees of withdrawal.

Harman combines a rather traditional metaphysics with a lexic that connotes a turgid pathos that seems to attract some people by its vague but portentous associations. For all their talk about a “democracy” of objects the OOOxians have an élitist worldview and comportment. Harman’s views on “undermining” and “overmining” allow him to promulgate his philosophy as both healing the two cultures divide and going far beyond it.Yet he himself is guilty of “transmining”, i.e. of the reduction of the worlds of common sense and of the sciences to the status of phantoms projected on the cavern wall by the unseen real objects that withdraw from all mimesis.

There is a sort of mirror effect where some philosophically curious computer programmers can recognise themselves in a flattering avant-garde image. Like Monsieur Jourdain who was pleasantly surprised to discover that he had been speaking prose all his life without knowing it, these geeky warriors have discovered thanks to OOO that they have been doing philosophy all the time without knowing it. Yet this seemingly gratifying philosophical image is at the conceptual level an impoverishment. The philosophy of OOO is a paroxystic reductionism: there is just one kind of thing, objects, and they withdraw, no examples of real objects can be given, they can only be known obliquely by philosophical intellection and artistic allusion.

Thus all the rhetorical accumulations (the heterogeneous lists of objects that grace the pages of the OOOxians under the rubric of “Latour litanies”) are invalidated by the basic concepts of OOO. No example of a real object can be offered, this is the esoteric teaching of OOO. All talk of concrete examples is for the (philosophically) ignorant masses, the brash computer programmers and the duped or opportunistic artists. Sensual objects, i.e. all observable and cognizable objects, can serve as examples only in an exoteric sense, where OOO puts on its duplicitous mask of hedonistic abundance to hide its ascetic betrayal of the concrete.

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