IS HARMAN’S ONTOLOGY “DARK”?: OOO and the Cloud of Unknowing

After a recent blog post, Steve Fuller stands accused of obscurantist confusionism, of having confused and conflated various positions in the speculative realist rainbow. However Fuller does not discuss Speculative Realism, but OOO and dark ecology. Unfortunately he barely mentions Graham Harman, seems hardly aware of his intellectual development and insufficiently informed of the evolution of his career, and so merits a stern correction:

 Fuller is simply repeating the typical 2009-era blogosphere mistake of not keeping the various Speculative Realist wings straight…My sense from the post is that Fuller has only read Morton, and not in much depth…Fuller’s information is roughly a year out of date. My three-year position as Associate Provost for Research Administration ended in June 2013.

Speculative Realism is now used as an argumentative shield by Harman to great effect. Just as in quantum theory an elementary particle is never to be found in isolation but only surrounded by a cloud of virtual particles, Harman’s OOO can never be approached on its own, but only as surrounded by a cloud of virtual philosophies popping into and out of existence as the argument demands. One cannot discuss Harman’s OOO without at the same time discussing Morton’s version and Bryant’s and Speculative Realism and Meillassoux.

Is Graham Harman’s OOO misanthropic? The quick answer is “No!”, and the justification is given by Fuller himself in his notion of OOO’s “normative outsourcing”. OOO itself is devoid of wholesale normative judgements, having consigned such valuation to vicarious interfacing with the sensual realm. Unlike Latour’s actors, but structurally homologous to Lacan’s signifiers, Harman’s vicars represent an object to another object.

But this very explanation gives us the means to reverse this judgement. Harman’s OOO is misanthropic because humans, instances of the only concept of humanity that we know, belong, according to this system, to the sensual (or unreal) realm, as does our concept of humanity. “Anthropic” is always sensual (although the converse does not hold). Real objects “withdraw” from the human, and Harman explicitly accuses the “humanities” of reductionism. For the same reason, Harman’s OOO is dark. Real objects withdraw, and we cannot know them, only allude to them darkly, after a dark ascesis.

Having applied the “cloud of unknowing” strategy to Fuller’s reference to himself as a philosopher, accusing him of not “getting things straight”, Harman applies the same technique to Fuller’s remarks on Harman as administrator. How can Fuller hope to make a specific remark about the contradictions inherent in that particular post without also at the same time talking about Nigel Thrift and Bruno Latour?

Does Nigel Thrift have “no serious political interests or aspirations” simply because he is Vice Chancellor of Fuller’s employer, Warwick University? Does Bruno Latour have “no serious political interests or aspirations” simply because he served as Directeur scientifique during a key period in the history of Sciences Po?

I think that Fuller’s critique of object-oriented ontology, of dark ecology, and of Harman the administrator are convergent. The “dark” ontologist with administrative powers at the university or academic publishing level, able to make or break careers, is no laughing matter. At the governmental level it would be catastrophic, implementing anti-science, anti-anthropic principles in the name of a dark realism where our “sensual all to sensual” thoughts, feelings, and values would be treated as the illusions that they are for OOO.

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One Response to IS HARMAN’S ONTOLOGY “DARK”?: OOO and the Cloud of Unknowing

  1. peteraitch says:

    Man I seriously have no idea how you find the energy to fight these dreary blowhards.


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