My englobing philosophical context is that of the contemporary search for a pluralist, diachronic, democratic, apophatic ontology. I argue that Harman’s OOP considered as a metaphysical research programme fails on all four criteria. Laruelle’s non-philosophy when evaluated in terms of these same four criteria is little better than Harman’s OOP.
1) Pluralism: Harman’s OOP posits an illusory pluralism of multiple sensual worlds, subordinated to an overarching monism of the “real”.
2) Diachrony: Harman denies the reality of time, the categories and assumptions of OOP exclude historicity.
3) Apophaticism: Harman contradictorily states that the real unknowably withdraws, and that nevertheless he knows that beyond the impenetrable Veil of Withdrawal the real is composed of “objects”. This is cataphatic ontology under the apophatic mask.
4) Democracy: Harman’s OOP posits that the democracy of multiple sensual worlds must be subordinated to the authority of the one substantial world and to the hegemony of the artistic and philosophical aristocracy that has access to it.
Thus Graham Harman’s metaphysical research programme of object-oriented philosophy is both internally self-contradictory and politically and historically regressive. Harman’s OOP fails miserably when viewed in the light of the four criteria that I propose: pluralism, diachrony, apophaticism, and democracy.
François Laruelle’s metaphysical research programme seems at first sight to be a more likely candidate for satisfying these criteria, but it has similar failings.
1) Pluralism: the pluralism of philosophical worlds is contradicted by the metaphysics of the One, under the condition of unilaterality. Laruelle’s later non-standard principle of quantum superposition partially re-legitimates this pluralism.
2) Diachrony: this is a real problem for Laruelle’s structuralist vision.
2a. Laruelle’s non-philosophy is a structuralism: it posits an invariant trans-historical structure of philosophy and the existence of a multiplicity of impermeable philosophical worlds or structures. Laruelle in his later non-standard philosophy appeals to the notion of a quantum porosity that undercuts these relativistic structures. However, he cripples this solution by combining it with the structuralist concept of “unilaterality”.
2b. Laruelle’s non-standard philosophy is silent on the question of time and so implicitly suggests, like Harman’s OOP, that time is unreal. However, thanks to this silence it can be rendered compatible with the importation of of a supplement of temporality (via Bergson, for example).
2c. Non-standard philosophy’s temporal supplement contradicts its structural invariant of philosophical sufficiency. One just agrees amongst consenting Laruelleans to “forget” that Bergson is a philosopher subject to the principle of sufficient philosophy.
3) Apophaticism: Laruelle posits a non-philosophical “One” outside our linguistic worlds and protected by the Veil of Unilaterality. This unilateral veil is very close to Harman’s Veil of Withdrawal. However, despite its unsayability, Laruelle has progressively become very prolix about the One, and has had to inaugurate a new “phase” of his thought by way of a quantum turn to partially explain why he can say so much about the unsayable.
The most problematic concept of the quantum phase is Laruelle’s paradoxical notion of “unilateral complementarity”. Strictly speaking this positions complementarity on the other side of the Veil of Unilaterality, but this would make it an unsayable and unusable notion.
4) Democracy: Laruelle advances a notion of the “democracy of thought” but he shows no sign of actually practicing it vis-à-vis for example Badiou or Deleuze. Nor do Laruelle’s Anglophone followers show any interest in democratic dialogue. They seek consonance and consensus.
In conclusion, Laruelle’s non-philosophy is nearly homologous to Harman’s OOP. His later non-standard philosophy constitutes a minor advance, but represents an uneasy compromise between synchronic structuralist and diachronic pluralist thinking.