MARK ON “NO ONE OBJECT EXHAUSTS ANOTHER”

I am reblogging this from the discussion on Jon Cogburn’s blog as it is a very complete analysis on a specific topic:

Mark a écrit en réponse à Method

“The short answer to your question is that Harman insists that making contact with real objects such as trees can only ever be an “all-or-nothing affair”, and that there can be no such thing as *partial* or *incomplete* access to, contact with or knowledge of any real object. Thus, no image, concept, idea, model or representation of an object can in any way resemble or correspond with anything at all, says Harman: “All are fictions”. This has serious consequences for any claim that we can know anything about anything, of course, since “no matter how excellent our scientific concept of a tree may be, this concept IS NOT ITSELF A TREE” (my capitals, in italics in the original).

Harman goes onto claim that this is what makes his position “the most hardcore possible REALISM”. Why? “[B]ecause it takes real objects so seriously that it holds them to be irreplaceable by any conceptual model – no model of a banana or apple, however detailed, can step into the world and become a banana or apple.” (All these quotes are taken from ‘The Road to Objects’, which I have provided a link to below).

Please note that Harman goes on to contend that the only way his critics can avoid his conclusion here (i.e. that since they think knowledge is possible, they are also committed to the claim that concepts of apples can *become* apples) is to have recourse to “dubious traditional metaphysics of form and matter, its banality barely concealed by THE TABLE-POUNDING AGGRESSIONS OF HACK SCIENTISM” (‘The Road to Objects’, p. 179; my capitals).

Since Harman explicitly discusses this in the context of his criticisms of James Ladyman and Don Ross, please note that he is claiming, in a published academic paper, that two of the most respected philosophers of science in the world are “scientistic hacks” who are guilty of believing that models of trees, bananas and apples “can step into the world and become” trees, apples and bananas, and that the only way they can possibly deny this is by having recourse to “dubious traditional metaphysics”, the dubiousness of which is barely concealed by their “table-pounding aggressions”.

The highly experienced Professor Graham Harman, you see, unlike the “kid fresh out of graduate school”, Dr Peter Wolfendale, knows all about the proper conventions of professional academic conduct, and is always careful to read other philosophers with maximal “charity”. (Right, Professor Cogburn?)

For a more detailed answer to your question, please consult Wolfendale’s paper ‘The Noumenon’s New Clothes’ (see especially ‘The Argument from Excess’ and ‘The Argument from Identity’, pages 334-344). The paper is freely available online here:

http://www.speculations-journal.org/storage/Noumenons%20New%20Clothes_Pt1_Wolfendale.pdf

You might also want to take a look at some of the online exchanges between Harman and Wolfendale on this, perhaps especially Harman’s January 2 2010 post ‘Part 1 of 2 to Deontologistics’:

http://doctorzamalek2.wordpress.com/2010/01/02/part-1-of-2-to-deontologistics/

and Wolfendale’s reply entitled ‘Once More With Content’:

http://deontologistics.wordpress.com/2010/01/11/once-more-with-content/

Harman subsequently wrote up his conclusions to this exchange in the paper I have quoted from above, ‘The Road to Objects’ (thus, since Wolfendale is the only person who, as far as I’m aware, had publicly taken issue with Harman’s claims on this, one can safely infer that Harman’s comments about “the table-pounding aggressions of hack scientism” in this paper were also, and perhaps primarily, directed at him):

http://www.continentcontinent.cc/index.php/continent/article/viewArticle/48

Harman also makes the same points elsewhere, for example in the paper I alluded to above on Ladyman & Ross, entitled ‘I am also of the opinion that materialism must be destroyed’, where he makes the point in almost exactly the same terms (see pages 788 -789):

http://www.envplan.com/openaccess/d5210.pdf

I hope that clears things up for you.

Now, I really am going to try to resist making any further contribution to this discussion until or unless either Professor Cogburn and/or Professor Harman join the conversation and grapple with some of the actual claims and arguments. But as I have suggested above, I do not suppose for one moment that either of them will. Why do you think that might be?”

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