LATOUR – HERACLITUS vs HARMAN – PARMENIDES

I cannot agree with the widespread impression that object-oriented ontology provides the metaphysics that is lacking to actor-network theory. On the contrary, I think that Latour’s ANT is totally incosistent with Harman’s OOO. Bruno Latour can be seen as a modern day Heraclitus. His system proposes a pluralistic diachronic ontology that gives primacy to “being-as-other” (including both alterity and alteration) over being-as-being. Graham Harman is a contemporary Parmenides whose synchronic metaphysics excludes time and the objects of common sense and of the sciences as illusory, prohibiting change and plurality.

Parmenides enshrined the split between the way of Truth and the way of Falsehood. The way of Truth speaks of the real as a withdrawn unchanging non-multiple block; the way of Falsehood is our illusory world of change and multiplicity. Graham Harman’s OOO is a Parmenidean vision where none of our ordinary “sensual” concepts apply. Neither time nor space (in the sensual sense) nor number as we know it are pertinent to the withdrawn real.

This conflict with experience, as long as it is acknowledged openly and not passed over in silence or obstinately denied, is not a problem for me. We need strongly divergent theories and counter-intuitive hypotheses in order to break thought out of its ruts, and to open our minds to new interpretations. We need counter-induction to make our automatic, taken-for-granted interpretations visible, and to allow us not only to become aware of these entrenched interpretations and to criticise them, but also to replace them with more accurate and more satisfying hypotheses and interpretations.

The problem arises when such a counter-intuitive interpretation is developped a priori, in total abstraction from any testable consequences. A bold and fruitful instrument for the criticism of established views turns into a dogma even more inflexible and untouchable than the interpretations that it is trying to bring to conscious awareness and open to test and to transformation. Harman’s bold speculative leap is immediately ossified by being removed from all scientific knowledge and empirical test. Latour’s speculative ontology is, at least in principle, open to the “protest” of experience. Harman’s system allows no such protest to get beyond the veil of withdrawal.

DIAGRAM OOP

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