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 The absolute realm of withdrawn real objects is immobile, unchanging.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.

2) Principle of irreducibility and intelligibility: objects are irreducible, they are intelligible on the basis of nothing else than themselves. Objects occupy a middle ground between undermining (intelligibility in terms of atomic components, the scientific prejudice) and overmining (intelligibility in terms of subsuming ensembles of qualities and relations, the humanistic prejudice).

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)

However, this view is itself a form of reductionism: the reduction of the world to objects, rather than to facts (Wittgenstein), events (Deleuze), or processes (Whitehead). One may call such objectal reduction meso-mining.

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.

4) Principle of maximality: everything that exists, every entity, is an object. Everything is intelligible in terms of objects. This objectal point of view, or “naiveté”, is a sophisticated philosophical construct.

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)

Harman neglects to mention here that the objects of experience, the objects perceived by naiveté, that he begins with, are all sensual objects, and so shams, simulacra, phantasms, and illusions in terms of his system.

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.

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2 Responses to HARMAN’S OOO AS ABSOLUTE ONTOLOGY (A Badiouian Analysis)

  1. landzek says:

    This is very revealing in a number of ways. I suppose my work stems from a similar orientation, but where he lacks, I think, is in his mistake of, what I could call a ‘withdraw in the real’. He is not withdrawing from what is real, but is positing a withdraw as a real activity within reality. He thus must propose that only some people will understand him. The evidence that he has merely posed a withdraw, that is to say, that he is still dealing with reality in reality, is that he includes every possibility under a feign that he is not proposing upon a ‘unitary discourse’, and must then ‘bridge’ his proposed position of withdraw to his (likewise) posed reality by pro-posing a ‘conversion’ experience. Of course, because he is establishing a ‘divinely inspired’ discourse that explains the True Reality, he is seen as being particularly lofty and condescending, so deluded by inspired assertion of identity he is. He is not thus ‘exposing the Truth’, so to speak, but is rather ‘exposing himself’, his own pomposity.
    If I can take what little I have gleaned from your posts and the internet in general as a good indication, then I can say: This is his fault; that his ‘conversion’ experience falls into the faults Keirkegaard has already given us; namely, that he is an agent of a type of Hegelian Historical Consciousness. He thus misses the the point, or rather, what is occurring for him, for the sake of the ‘inspiration’. Which is, despite all his discursive acrobatics and ironic deceptions (which he himself seems prey), the transcendent. Which,if he and Miessaloux are similar in their ‘basic’ positions as Speculative a Realists, discount. He is thus a charlatan.

    If indeed what I have gathered is indeed his position, he will not see coming the exposure I bring. Or maybe he will, but I think his identity is taking hold, and it will not taste good for him, at least. Perhaps.

    That is; though I come off as rather bold, I withhold my opinion until I see what he is actually saying. For I could be totally wrong in this. We will see.


  2. landzek says:

    Didn’t he interview you or you Harmann in one of your posts? Or was that somebody else’s? Because if your guys are colleagues, I think that is the greatest thing, to be able to critique each other honestly. I wish I could find people who would rip apart what I have to say. 🙂


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