HARMAN’S SYNONYMS OF WITHDRAWAL (2): real objects have no properties

I have been trying to clarify the price Harman must pay for his advocacy of the strong withdrawal thesis. We have seen that if we follow through the basic tenets of Harman’s system we are obliged to conclude that objects withdraw from facts i.e. facts belong uniquely to the sensual realm, or more clearly: facts are illusions. One may now ask the further question: do real objects have properties or qualities?

Harman’s answer would seem to be “yes”, and he talks about the real as composed not just of objects, but also of qualities, properties, and relations. For example, in BELLS AND WHISTLES Harman declares (page 30):

Essence for object-oriented philosophy means nothing more than the tension between a real object and its real properties in a single instant

We must note that real objects are a-temporal, so the last part of this definition (“in a single instant”) is incoherent with the doctrine that time applies uniquely to the sensual realm. Yet it is clear that Harman maintains the existence of real properties of real objects.

However, the concept of real properties is even more incoherent than that of real facts. All the properties that Harman’s system permits one to ascribe to real objects are generic, epistemic, and de-relational (i.e. full or partial synonyms of the property of “withdrawal”): real objects are invisible, untouchable, and unknowable.

the sort of essence defended here is absolutely not knowable

Real objects, and their essence, are not just unknown and unknowable, but absolutely unknowable. One must also add unchanging, as time does not apply.

Harman often affirms that we cannot talk about real objects directly. We can never designate, refer to, or define them, but only “allude” to them. But this cannot be the case: we can have no relation to real objects, and alluding is a relation. Alluding involves the use of insufficient predicates to refer to a particular object instantiating those predicates. But all we have available to us are the sensual predicates of natural or scientific language. An assemblage of sensual predicates, even an artistic assemblage, can never refer to, allude to, or even evoke an a-temporal a-spatial a-sensual object. All “allusion” can only be intrathetic to the sensual realm.

We may conclude that either Harman’s “real objects” can be alluded to, in which case they are intrathetic noumenal correlates of linguistic evocation and intellectual intuition, or they are totally withdrawn not just from the senses, but also from knowledge (see quote above), from the intellect, and from language. In both cases real objects have no real properties, except by arbitrary posit.

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