HARMAN’S THREE ONTOLOGIES: on the systematic ambiguity of the rhetoric of objects

My analysis of OOO differs from Wolfendale’s in that he tries to reconstruct a single coherent ontology of OOO whereas I think that Harman proposes, as if they were one, at least three different ontologies. My reserve about Pete Wolfendale’s critique of Harman’s ontology is that his version of the principle of charity leads him to give too much weight to the “fourfold” and its metaphors, that for me are a series of epicycles linking Ontology 1 (unknowable imperceptible unimaginable timeless withdrawn real objects) and Ontology 3 (everything is objects).

Harman’s talk of “molten cores” etc. constitutes a mediation between these two ontologies, that we may call Ontology 2. So in my critique of Harman, I do not so much disagree with his choice of metaphors as with their position in his ontological geography. A philosophical argument belongs to the space of reasons, which itself belongs to the space of concepts and meanings. One cannot begin to understand an argument without, at least tentatively, situating it inside conceptual space.

Harman’s rhetoric of objects creates confusion as to his actual claims and conflates into an ambiguous unity these three ontologies.

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One Response to HARMAN’S THREE ONTOLOGIES: on the systematic ambiguity of the rhetoric of objects

  1. Mark Crosby says:

    Thanks for your insights, Terry. I think your last sentence here captures Harman perfectly (you need never write another word about him ; ) I sensed of a three-fold ontology when I first read GUERRILLA METAPHYSICS – but it was all downhill after that with THE QUADRUPAL OBJECT
    as he sought the four-fold path! That’s the path of symmetries and relativism of the old mathematics. Zalamea summarizes Lautman’s progressions of math from irreducible hierarchy, irreducible uncertainty, polarized unity, saturated dynamics, to interlaced dynamics. (Zalamea lets Badiou off easily ; )

    I’ve always seen correlationism as a side-show, and your pointers to ignored philosophers like Popper, Feyerabend, and Michel Serres have always been reassuring.

    Historian Peter E Gordon (and author of CASSIRER, HEIDEGGER, DAVOS (1929), writes in a 10/9 NY REVIEW about Heidegger’s BLACK NOTEBOOKS http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2014/oct/09/heidegger-in-black/ some characterizations that make me think of Graham Harman as the reincarnation of Martin Heidegger. Gordon writes: “Heidegger had the habit of blaming his personal misfortunes and the misfortunates of the modern age on conspiracies and anonymous metaphysical processes that no human being could hope to control”.

    I suspect Graham Harman may eventually get his philosophy back on track – and you’ll stay be there to blow the whistle! Best, Mark

    Liked by 1 person

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