In a recent talk (video, text) Alain Badiou enumerated 4 traits of an absolute ontology: immobility, irreducibility, non-empiricity, and maximality. While orienting his explication of each trait towards his own mathematical version of absolute ontology, Badiou implicitly gives a very useful characterisation of alternative absolute ontologies, in particular of Graham Harman’s OOO.
1) Principle of immobility: change is unreal. The absolute realm of withdrawn real objects is immobile, unchanging. Time is not real, it ismerely the tension between sensual objects and sensual qualities.
real objects are in a sense outside time (GUERILLA METAPHYSICS, 215)
Temporal predicates, being sensual, have no application to real objects.
objects cannot be reduced to anything else, and must be addressed by philosophy on their own terms (THE QUADRUPLE OBJECT, 138)
Objects are ontologically irreducible, and as such are the source of intelligibility for everything that exists:
the tensions between objects and their qualities and other objects can be used to account for anything else that exists (THE QUADRUPLE OBJECT, 138)
3) Principle of non-empiricity: real objects withdraw from all relation, and thus they withdraw from all experience. The real object is radically non-empirical.
While there may be an infinity of objects in the cosmos, they come in only two kinds: the real object that withdraws from all experience, and the sensual object that exists only in experience. (THE QUADRUPLE OBJECT, 49)
The real object is invisible, untouchable, unknowable. It can be cognized neither by science nor by common sense nor by the humanities. It is only “accessible” indirectly, by artistic allusion and by intellectual intuition. The only method is intellectual intuition, the accession to this method requires a conversion experience, the conversion to the point of view of objectal reduction.
Instead of beginning with radical doubt, we start from naiveté. What philosophy shares with the lives of scientists, bankers, and animals is that all are concerned with objects. The exact meaning of “object” will be developed in what follows, and must include those entities that are neither physical nor even real (THE QUADRUPLE OBJECT, 5)
The most striking feature of the comparison of Harman’s OOO with Badiou’s philosophy in terms of these four traits is the problem of method. Whereas Badiou makes use of set theory and the axiomatic method, Harman has no method at all except for intellectual intuition, i.e. his own say so.