Doing philosophy, that is to say taking philosophy seriously, is a dangerous act. One does not encounter such enunciative double binds in the pursuit of one’s passion without being adversely affected, even when one is capable of seeing through them. If one is lucky, but no doubt more than luck is involved, this entrapment in sad affects operates only in the short term.
In the case of OOO the trap was there from the beginning, if only one had seen it for what it was. One feels like an “idiot” to have taken it seriously. But the idiot in Deleuzian terms is someone who does not have the “correct” reaction, who does not exhibit the reaction demanded (in the case of OOO, the reaction demanded is: join and agree or be banished and stay silent). The idiot thinks that there is something deeper than the appearances.
Many have felt the need to search for something deeper underwriting their interest in OOO. Yet this search stems from the need to justify what seems to be a paradoxical effort of having invested more time and energy in analysing a philosophy than is warranted by its intrinsic worth. But to feel that way is to regret, as if it were due to our own falings, not having been admitted to participate in a dialogue that in fact never existed. Those who came closer to and stayed longer with OOO have been sterilised.
Many may have become attracted to, or involved in, OOO because of its implicit appeal to a mythic underpinning for its grand narrative about the history of philosophy. There is the disappointment and despair at the wasteland of academic philosophy, the discovery of an online forum or community of passionate thinkers, the gradual rise within this nascent community of speculative warriors fighting to preserve the new life that this thought can bring to a dying academia with its devitalised unthinking lackeys.
It is sad to see all this noetic vitality undermined in favour of branding and commerce. It is a sad thing to see philosophy being perverted into the brash marketising of pseudo-concepts. Witnessing such a spectacle can be a powerful motive for philosophising.
This whole experience embodies more than disappointment and regret. It provides more than a sociology of the communicative pathology in the construction of a philosophical movement. It gives us precious phenomenological indications about what it can be like to be in the grip of a philosophical problem: the passion and the tenacity, the desire to go deeper than the doxa, the need to confront and resist the doxic masters’disapproval and discouragement, the feeling of not being understood and of not understanding oneself, the impression of being an “idiot”, that the formation of one’s own incommensurable perspective entails.
It is by now obvious to many people who have tried to make sense of the writings of the small network of bloggers and commenters that promote or participate in the discussion of speculative realism that something is seriously wrong with the whole movement of and around OOO. This object-oriented ontology, which announces itself as a great step forward from the major philosophers of the Continental tradition of the 20th Century, embodies and expresses a void of thought and a refusal of all thoughtful dialogue.
Such is the will to mental repression of this movement that a struggle is required even to name the situation. Badiou has taught us, following Deleuze, that to speak in one’s own name, outside the codes of clans and teams, means being able and ready to give things and situations their appropriate name. Calling OOO’s thought “void” and its communicational dynamics “pathological” is not just negative criticism, it is a philosophical act that, even though it is an exercise in stating the obvious, is an important intervention in a situation where illusion reigns as truth.
It is unlikely that the OOO team and its supporters will reply to any substantial critiques. Philosophy may sometimes be a sport of combat, but there is no match here, there never was. Some people, including myself, may have been fooled for a while into thinking that a discussion was taking place and that they could participate. But we quickly learned that empty mind-numbing slogans in the place of concepts, crude adulation of the big players, and vindictive hounding or cynical ignoring of the critics was the sad rule of this situation, presented as a noble philosophical movement but that has shown itself to be a sorry pusillanimous business at best.
There is no “match” because there is no adverse team. Ray Brassier, Jason Hills, Pete Wolfendale, Leon Niemoczynski, Kevin v Duuglas-Ittu (Kvond), myself, and many others do not form a team, and our positive ideas are mostly very different. I think all of us have had the same 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 being exchanged as empty tokens, connoting concepts that were never forthcoming.