ONTO-PARANOIA: THE HEGEMONY OF BAD ONTOLOGIES
The introduction to Levi Bryant’s new book begins with a condemnation of the “obscurantists”, who “argue that materialism is reductive, mechanistic” (ONTO-CARTOGRAPHY, 1). This is in line with Bryant’s defence of a hard and convincing materialism against relativists, social constructivists, discursive idealists, and pluralists. The anti-materialists are omnipresent in the domain of Continental critical and social theory, according to Professor Bryant, who reminds us pedantically of the role of “fossil fuels, pollutants, automobiles, sunlight interacting with the albedo of the earth, and so on” in the production of climate change. Post-marxists and post-structuralists cannot think such things, but Bryant can.
LACAN: I CAN’T LIVE WITH OR WITHOUT YOU
An interesting silence in this “Introduction” is the omission of the name of Lacan. Professor Bryant is a hard-nosed scientistic materialist, and Freud and Lacan do not sit well with such a position. The ontological status of the unconscious and its derivatives is a mystery, and can be called “material” only by arbitrary fiat (that’s just the way it is) or by promissory note (one day we will find the material substrate). When Professor Bryant is busy attacking “idealists” such as Foucault (who reduces everything to “human” factors such as discourse and power) or Latour, he carefully avoids mentioning anything but the hardest of the sciences. But Doctor Levi makes great use of Lacan and of his graph of sexuation to elaborate his own philosophy of “immanence”.
HALF A HARMAN IS BETTER THAN NONE:
OVERMINING WITHOUT UNDERMINING
The Introduction contains a rather standard Harmanian critique of “overmining”, criticising “humanities scholars” for reducing real objects to discourse. Bryant’s second significant silence concerns Harman’s complementary concept of “undermining”, which he mobilises to critique precisely the sort of materialism that Bryant is defending. If Bryant were coherent he would have to lump Harman with the “obscurantists” who think that materialism is reductive. Yet he maintains a prudent silence on this point. If Professor Bryant were coherent he would also have to critique Doctor Levi’s Lacanian obscurantism. Here again a pragmatic silence replaces logical coherence.