HARMAN’S RE-NOUMENISING OF PHILOSOPHY: abstraction-oriented ontology

Graham Harman is renowned and even praised for a philosophy that is the exact opposite of his own, but that he himself has done everything in his power to encourage people to believe is his. Even the name given to his position, object-oriented philosophy, is a lure, designed to give the impression that he leaves behind the abstractions of philosophy and engages at last with the concrete. Nothing could be further from the truth, as the concrete is always sensual illusion for Harman, a realm of “utter shams”. Despite the deceptive and appealing misnomer, Harman’s philosophy is oriented towards abstractions of his own positing, radically incompatible with any properties known to, perceived, or imagined by us.

This contradiction, savantly maintained, between an esoteric philosophy and its esoteric counterpart, is of course not unique in intellectual history, even if it attains new heights in Harman’s cynical recrutement of artists into a philosophy that denies all reality to their productions. The most striking avatar of this procedure from the recent past is Althusser’s epistemology. Louis Althusser is in this respect, as in so many others, Graham Harman’s philosophical predecessor.

It is the same philosophy, with its critique of the “problematic of the subject” and its dualist separation between the “theoretical” object (but all perception is theoretical for Althusser, belonging to the sensual domain of ideology) and the “real” object. They both make use of the same techniques of psychic manipulation and of cultic propagation in order to favour the acceptance and diffusion of a radically flawed philosophy, and to discourage and invalidate not just objections but the objectors themselves. Objectors are treated as psychologically suspect from the beginning, and as amusing or embarrasing neurotics if they continue. They are rapidly excluded from the “serious” conversation, ostracised and stigmatised.

Harman’s object-oriented ontology is a de-marxised, de-scientised and de-materialised version of Althusser’s epistemology. It is not oriented towards “objects” (but rather to abstractions) nor is it an ontology (but rather a rudimentary dualist epistemology). It’s only method is intellectual intuition. Note only that what is intuited is not the real objects themselves, as by hypothesis they have no intuitable properties. All that can be intuited is the simple existence of these real objects, in a conversion experience presented quaintly enough as a return to “naiveté” (see the incipit of THE QUADRUPLE OBJECT).

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