People who live in withdrawn houses shouldn’t throw stones
Is OOO and its critique just an insider phenomenon? Or can other voices be heard? Was there a real collective dream there at the start, or was marketing the only real force at work? Is SR the dream and OOO the betrayal? How do we evaluate the past and present vitality of a philosophical movement? What are our pragmatic criteria?
SR begins with a collective dream, in response to the shock produced by the encounter with a new sort of idealists – the “correlationists”. These correlationists were stifling philosophical discussions with their own dreams, that promoted a new form of relativism. The speculative realists elaborated a counter-dream that others adhered to and a movement was born. The socialisation of the dream took off. There was a phase of diachronic enthusiasm and experimentation, of passionate discussion and intellectual liberty, where everything seemed up for grabs, and thinking and discussing in new ways seemed possible.
Then rationalisation set in, and order was restored. Doctrines and party-lines were crystallised, dialogue was side-lined, dissidents were subjected to misrepresentation, humiliated and demeaned, and banished from the conversation. Alienation of the dream became dominant and a static synchronic shadow replaced its metamorphic dynamics. No transformational exchanges were allowed. Protestation and disagreement were no longer heard, unanimity and stasis became the norm and the goal. A new shock was needed to shake up this house of cards.
A dispersed and unrelated group of people set out to create this shock each in their own way on the basis of a new dream, or several dreams: Jason Hills, Pete Wolfendale, Leon Niemoczynski, Ray Brassier, Kevin v Duuglas-Ittu (Kvond), myself, and many others. We do not form a team, and our positive ideas are mostly very different. All of us have had the frustrating experience of trying to engage in the discussion, of being perplexed that this was not possible, and of finally realising that there was no discussion, and that the seeming ideas had been voided of all philosophical sense and were exchanged as empty tokens connoting concepts that were never forthcoming.
Wolfendale is right to say that SR was successful at the beginning, because it allowed people to dream together of objects and relations,of intentionality and representation, of epistemology and ontology, and of many other things, including a community of passionate discussion. Despite all the polemics and the critiques, the dream is primary for these dissidents, they remain faithful to the dream. They remain faithful to the oniric and veridictional potential of what has otherwise become an organised group fantasm and faction. They remain faithful to their passion for ideas and free discussion, for speculation and intellectual exploration, for transformative dialogue.
Wolfendale was inspired by the collective dream to dream his own dream, which was initially in fusional participation with the collective. The closure of fundamental discussion forced him to separate his dream from the collective fantasm and to go deeper. With the publication of his new book I see no change in Wolfendale’s motivation or behaviour, just the same passion and deepening that was present at the start of his involvement.
Harman was one of Wolfendale’s educators, just as Schopenhauer and Wagner were for Nietzsche, and thus also a figure of alienation. Wolfendale has deconstructed and dissolved that alienation and come closer to himself. No discontinuity, no break, just a deepening of his philosophical individuation. This deepening is not a pacific progression, but a turbulent expression of his immersion into an ocean of doubts and of self-doubt, the loss of familiar landmarks and of comfortable resting places. Wolfendale’s book is not a contribution to the discussion internal to the OOO microcosm, he has gone deeper than that. It is a report on a philosophical voyage through OOO and out the other side. Those left behind now throw stones.