BEING FAIR TO WOLFENDALE

Some people (including Pete Wolfendale himself) have protested about a seemingly unfair paragraph in my review of his book. I have now rewritten that passage, and will include it in a future revision of my review.

I would like to indicate that despite my reserves about some aspects of Wolfendale’s OOO critique, in particular its naive and dogmatic scientism, I have done all I could to publicise it, and to break through the walls of silence and of incomprehension that the mainstream OOO acolytes have erected around it. I was one of the first to blog about the book and to review it, and I created a facebook page to make the book and related discussions more widely known.

Re-write as follows:

Peter Wolfendale’s critiques of Harman’s OOO are a step in the right direction. However, contrary to a widespread impression, not all of his arguments originate with him. His book THE NOUMENON’S NEW CLOTHES assembles in one place in a closely-reasoned coherent (scientistic) perspective criticisms of Harman’s system many of which have been made by others, from OOO’s beginning up to now, in more or less piecemeal fashion. Wolfendale tries to give all these pieces sense and weight by incorporating them in his own less than satisfactory unified framework of speculative scientism (cf. my review of Wolfendale’s book)

What Wolfendale lacks in originality he makes up in spelling out in (sometimes boring) detail what others said more quickly and with more humour. Wolfendale’s book is quite imbalanced. He loses so much time at the beginning on the Heidegger argument that he no longer has enough time to explain his own position, still less to justify it.

I myself (unlike Wolfendale) claim no particular originality on many of these points of criticism: all my ideas go back to the pluralism of Feyerabend and Deleuze, as I have often written. Rather, to understand my attitude summarised in the preceding paragraph one must go back a few years to the critiques that were already being made of Harman’s OOO by a number of bloggers, who moved regretfully from curiosity to disappointment over the intellectual and micro-social phenomenon that the speculative realism movement and its OOO offshoot represented. I would especially single out Kevin von Duuglas-Ittu. His blog, now discontinued, was, and remains, a stimulating and brilliant site of philosophical discussion.

My own blog was quite radical in its critiques of Speculative Realism and of OOO from the beginning, which is why it was studiously ignored. At that time Wolfendale was still earnestly trying to be a member of the SR movement. He began his critique rather timidly,  and only “radicalised” it later. However, there is nothing radical in his propounding scientism to displace Harman’s aestheticism. This is just a matter of replacing one form of reductionism (Harman’s idealism) with another (Wolfendale’s scientism).

Wolfendale’s critique is often interesting, making many worthwhile and valid points, but it is ultimately disappointing, just as OOO is disappointing, only for opposite reasons. He has too much in common with Harman to provide a convincing alternative. I agree with his defence of speculation and with his tenacious attempt at conceptual critique of OOO, but not with his scientism. Wolfendale of course both loudly proclaims his originality and denies his scientism. Such is self-branding and reputation management.

Note: one should never forget kvond’s contributions. See for example this synthetic post. Other early critics of OOO include David Berry, Glen Fuller, David Golumbia, Jussi Parikka, Jason Hils and Adrian Romero Farias. They do not waste their time (and ours) proclaiming their originality, and none of them could be meaningfully accused of scientism.

I myself have done enough critical analysis of Harman’s OOO (e.g. PLURALIST THOUGHTS ON GRAHAM HARMAN’S MONIST IDEALISM) to permit myself to indicate two points that I find positive in his philosophy:
1) Anti-scientism: Harman assigns only a regional validity to scientific truths and denies the pretention of scientists to cognitive hegemony
2) Anti-literalism: Harman defends the use of “allusive” language and style against the primacy of referential language and literal understanding
No argumentative strategy can succeed in its critique of Harman if it does not acknowledge the positive nature of these two hypotheses and their ensuing suggestions.
Peter Wolfendale, for example, is scientistic and literalistic, and despite scoring isolated points against Harman’s system he cannot provide a convincing alternative. Despite the arguments he borrows from others, Wolfendale’s position is in fact worse than Harman’s.
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One Response to BEING FAIR TO WOLFENDALE

  1. Pingback: SCIENTISM AND SELF-SOKALISATION | AGENT SWARM

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