READING ONTO-CARTOGRAPHY (1): Doctor Levi and Professor Bryant


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.


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 ».



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.

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2 commentaires pour READING ONTO-CARTOGRAPHY (1): Doctor Levi and Professor Bryant

  1. ecopoiesis dit :

    cheers Terry. Agree from what I’ve read here that withholdeness is suspicious. That monism (not sure on the term but I’ll follow it as a reference to singular) of object abound. That the classical independence of the object does not sit with machine, at all. Machines connect. That means at least traction and therefore that’s surface touching surface, and the opening of portals or interstitium or interface, what have you. And then transmission, flow what have you, something moving, a vector. No more object independence but Levi Bryant does distance himself from OOO generally. How far though?

    In a prior paper on larval subjects 2010 on politics – he made an interesting point, at least to me, that post structural theories of the subject (ie Althusser especially) presupposed passive bodies. The comments then noted Bourdieu being having a more relational schema of subject and habitus. That post saw a hesitancy to biologise power because biology or socio-biology wasn’t discursively up to it. A chiaroscuro was introduced by interlocutor Stuart intimating the similarities across science and that why not biology? Social power involves flesh and blood people.

    The counter to that was a schema of communication, something like power is all communication. Beggars belief. Communication also involves flesh and blood. He should have been questioned on that. Thus the appropriation of Lacan.

    I chatted to Levi today. As an online presence he’s affable and that counts for something…a lot. Maybe not for Ray Brassier though hehehe. But I expressed my suspicions and I recalled an old colleague of mine, a mathematician who added on a year of an English lit honours (1st class) criticising Lacan’s mathematics or mathemes as preposterous from his mathematical training. But though he loves Lacan for other reasons. I’ve contacted my old colleague to ask about his mathematical queries. I’ve seen the geometries of Lacan and they LOOK (not scary caps) similar to geometries surrounding neoclassical James Joyce writing and critiques.

    Thanks for your writing. It’s good to have two wings. Perhaps I might try to grow a few more wings as poet-bird-of-paradise-man – bird as allusion to flight and trope of poetry globally.

    PS Naturalism? or is it Re-Naturalism? I wonder.




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