THE DEATH OF OOO: the table did it

Over the last few years a self-styled “new” ontological hypothesis, calling itself “object-oriented philosophy”, constituted itself as a movement, and multiplied self-proclaimed and self-propagated signs of success at the same time as showing unmistakable symptoms of conceptual regression and sociological decline. Purporting to represent a step beyond the impasses of post-structuralist “relativism”, it announced itself as a much-desired return to realism. Based on a chimerical denial of epistemology and on blindness to its own status as (bad) epistemology, OOO was able to capture the attention of those who were looking for a new speculative style, after the Science Wars and in opposition to those who were content to extend and revise Heideggerian, Lacanian, Derridean etc. frameworks, now perceived as too obscure and abstruse, too élitist and erudite. A more pop version of the same ambition was needed and Graham Harman’s OOO satisfied a strongly felt need to have done with deconstruction and return to “naiveté” (Harman’s word for his new starting point, from the opening of THE QUADRUPLE OBJECT). Harman is by far the more radical thinker when we compare his ontology of withdrawn objects to the mathematism of Meillassoux, the scientism of Brassier, and the Lacanian naturalism of Bryant. Harman alone has been willing to discard the scientistic prejudice that vitiates the work of these thinkers.

Yet this superiority of Harman could only be maintained by sticking to the pathos of an escape from epistemology. As long as he did not explicitly engage with epistemological themes in his own name the denegation of its status as epistemology on which his work was built gave it even more force of conviction and persuasive power. The objectual conversion remained a potent possibility. With the publication of Harman’s THE THIRD TABLE this anti-epstemological posture was revealed as an imposture, OOO was seen to be far from expressing superior insight over and above “sensual” common sense and scientific realities, as it purports to do, thus gratifying the narcissism of its adherents in the philosophic and artistic community while saving it from the accusation of postmodern relativism.  Rather it can now be seen as conceptually incompetent, unable to give a satisfying account of these supposedly “sham” domains.

Note: further details can be found in my review of Graham Harman’s THE THIRD TABLE, and in the follow-up comparison of Harman’s defective ontology with that of François Laruelle and of Bruno Latour.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to THE DEATH OF OOO: the table did it

  1. Abe says:

    “With the publication of Harman’s THE THIRD TABLE this anti-epistemological posture was revealed as an imposture, OOO was seen to be far from expressing superior insight over and above “sensual” common sense and scientific realities, as it purports to do, thus gratifying the narcissism of its adherents in the philosophic and artistic community while saving it from the accusation of postmodern relativism. Rather it can now be seen as conceptually incompetent, unable to give a satisfying account of these supposedly “sham” domains.”

    Well put, but far from this being news (“now it can be seen”), or something that only came to light with the publication of “THE THIRD TABLE” (or your review of it), I think you’ll find that some of us had already arrived at these conclusions many years ago:

    For a collection of many posts of the kind you seem to be busy writing now, but written more than five years ago, see here:

    Wolfendale’s book will, no doubt, be the final nail in this particular coffin:

    Liked by 1 person

  2. terenceblake says:

    Dear Abe,
    I adore Kevin’s blog and have said so here on several occasions, twice reblogging articles of his, and citing his blog on twitter as far superior to Peter Gratton’s timid book. I even tried to contact him by email to tell him I was sorry I was no longer blogging on OOO, but he did not respond, so I do not know if I had his current address. You are right to say that the perceptive reader could see that OOO was an imposture already years ago. But Harman became over-confident, expressing the basic struture of his philosophy clearly and simply, without his usual history of philosophy smokescreen, and the Harman hoax is now apparent for all to see. My problem with Wolfendale’s book is that it still preserves discussion of this historical smokescreen, to which I give no credence. For example, using the bogus concept of “correlationism” to characterise a problem of post-Kantian philosophy that Harman is trying to solve, and failing. I think that conceding him even this much is buying into the smokescreen, and my writings try to argue that correlationism is incoherent as a concept, that it is a disguised yet inferior imitation of the concept of the “problematic of the subject” already deployed critically by the structuralists (and here I would include Karl Popper among the structuralists), and so that it has no pertinence for a critique of the post-structuralists, who have left the problem it ineptly tries to describe far behind. I prefer to examine Harman in contemporary terms, without his legitimating meta-narrative on the history of philosophy, and show how incoherent his system is, and that it is in fact a simplistic de-temporalised travesty, or “synchronic shadow”, of recent philosophies such as that of Bruno Latour, Bernard Stiegler, and François Laruelle. I have written a much longer piece PLURALIST THOUGHTS ON GRAHAM HARMAN’S MONISM and would be grateful for any help in improving it, in view of publishing a revised and extended version in book form. If you feel that I should give more prominence in the projected book to kvond’s blog, which I will reference even if my critique of OOO was worked out independently, I will gladly do so. Friendly regards, Terence.


  3. Abe says:

    I’ve never heard of Gratton or his book and have only a passing acquaintance with the kvond blog. I was led here while doing a search for info on Wolfendale’s book (via John Cogburn’s blog, I think), and it seemed to me that your revelations about OOP being a sham (“it can now be seen as conceptually incompetent”) was five years or so too late. I recalled the long comment I linked to above and did a search for it: the banana and monkey bit came to mind and sure enough “harman OOP banana monkey” brought it up, along with a dozen or so posts on OOP on the kvond blog (though I cannot pretend to have done more than skim the latter). I guess I should have realized you would have already discovered them for yourself, but my initial impression was that you were claiming that Harman had only very recently been exposed as a snake-oil salesman, as if nobody had noticed this before. Yet as noted, some of us worked this out more or less as soon as we started reading Harman, and many blogged about it back in 2009 (kvond being only one of them).

    As for your plans to write a book about Harman, I honestly think that this shameless racketeer already received far more attention than his work merited many years ago, so personally I have no interest in it. Having read Wolfendale’s Preface on the Urabonomic blog, I can understand why he felt compelled to write it, however, and am interested in reading it because Wolfendale is clearly an exceptional philosopher. I have little doubt that his book will be the definitive excoriation, dissection, anatomization, autopsy and funeral for OOP/SR all in one, and much else besides. As such, I think anything else that might be written on the topic, by yourself or anyone else, will thereby be rendered very much redundant. Nevertheless, good luck with your blog, and with your book, should you decide to write one and can find a publisher for it.




  4. Abe says:


    In retrospect I think my last comment on this thread was unduly harsh with regard to your idea of turning your work on Harman/OOP into a manuscript for publication. While I still hold that the subject matter in no way merits the attention it receives, as Wolfendale points out in the preface to his book, there is also the fact that OOP has been exercising a deleterious influence upon various portions of the humanities, and this really ought not to go unchallenged. I can also understand why people such as yourself, Kevin of Kvond, Wolfendale, Niemoczynski (whose After Nature blog I have just discovered) and others would feel the need to write so many posts exposing Harman and OOP for what they are. As you have done in numerous posts here, Niemoczynski puts a superbly compelling case for such critical interventions in this recent post:

    So, in short, I feel I owe you an apology for being so dismissive of your suggestion of writing a manuscript on this topic in my previous comment. As intimated above, I haven’t been following discussions about SR or OOP (whether published or online) since late 2009, and so do not know what else is out there already (e.g. the Gratton book your mentioned). Rather, my interest in the whole thing has only been rekindled by the recent news of the Woldendale’s forthcoming book (I had no idea he was writing one), which I am quite sure will be a formidable tour de force. However, while I am sure that Wolfendale’s book will thoroughly eviscerate every facet of Harman’s philosophy, I am less sure about how accessible it will be to the kinds of people in the humanities who seem to be drawn to OOP. While Wolfendale writes admirably clearly, he is also steeped in some exceptionally demanding philosophy, including more or less everything from Kant and Hegel, Husserl and Heidegger, to Deleuze and Badiou, Sellars and Brandom. None of these are easily accessible writers, even to those with training in philosophy, and given that Wolfendale’s writing typically draws upon all of these and more, I fear that a great deal of his book might be lost on those without an extensive philosophical background (and even a good deal of those who DO have such a background). Could this be why, as Niemoczynski mentions in the post I provided a link to above, Wolfendale 70-page paper has been largely ignored? I’m not sure, but I strongly suspect so — in which case, there is definitely a need for someone such as yourself (as well as Niemoczynski and others I don’t know but who he mentions in his post) to write something no less critical but perhaps more accessible to readers who may not have the philosophical background to follow Wolfendale’s complex arguments.

    So, in short, I wish you, as well as Niemoczynski and others, the very best with your blogs and publications. IMHO, you are providing a much-needed service in exposing Harman as the philosophical swindler and confidence trickster that he is. Hopefully, with your combined, concerted efforts, the message will finally get through to those still under the spell of Harman’s meretricious rhetoric that there is really no substance to his metaphysics (not even an infinitely withdrawn and forever inaccessible one), and you can then all look forward to moving onto something more worthy of you obvious intelligence and talents, safe in the knowledge that OOP is well and truly dead and buried.




    • terenceblake says:

      I am glad we agree that the moment has come for a concerted exposure of the Harman hoax. I think that OOP came into this world stillborn, but like the death of God news of its death has taken time to reach its credulous public.


  5. Abe says:

    Indeed, though I was thinking more along the lines of a certain ex-parrot than the death of God.

    Remarkable bird the Norwegian blue; beautiful plumage, innit?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s