Much of what Deleuze and Guattari say in WHAT IS PHILOSOPHY? about the many threats to philosophy can be applied to schools and movements that came after their demise. An interesting supplement to their discussion of these threats is provided by Deleuze in his ABC PRIMER, where he talks about the Wittgensteinians. One has only to replace “linguistic analysis” with “OOO” to bring out the contemporary relevance:
For me, it’s a philosophical catastrophe. lt’s the very example of a “school”, it’s a regression of all philosophy, a massive regression. The OOO matter is quite sad. They imposed a system of terror in which, under the pretext of doing something new, it’s poverty instituted in all grandeur… There no word to describe this danger, but this danger is one that recurs, it’s not the first time that it has happened. lt’s serious, especially since the OOOxians are mean and destructive. So if they win, there could be an assassination of philosophy. They are assassins of philosophy.
It is important to realise that Graham Harman’s object-oriented philosophy does not just articulate his own personal point of view, but rather expresses something essential in the contemporary philosophical context. For those who are wary of this thought, or those who just reject it outright, I do not think it is enough to say that its recent success, the fact that it has been adopted with enthusiasm in a diversity of venues, can be explained simply in terms of lack.
There are those that claim that OOO is hailed as a mighty leap forward merely because it holds a flattering mirror up to certain discontented intellectual minorities, those in search of philosophical aura and validation for their practices: a motley crew of disgruntled or disabused militants of French Theory, conceptually inexperienced artists, philosophically uncultivated novelists, and ambitious computocrats. It succeeds by reassuring them that they have always been philosophising, even when they didn’t yet know it.
This analysis no doubt relevant, but the phenomenon goes deeper than that. Harman’s OOO expounds in perhaps its purest form an image of thought that is a transcendental condition for philosophical thinking in the contemporary context, whether we adopt or reject his system of the world. His promotion of the existence of a transcendental field of withdrawn indifferent objects captures an intuition that we all may become aware of in moments of fatigue or intellectual disorientation, the often implicit but ever necessary background of ontological stupidity that shadows all our thoughts.
The key to understanding OOO’s master stroke is in a fragment from Deleuze and Guattari’s WHAT IS PHILOSOPHY?:
Thinking provokes general indifference. It is a dangerous exercise nevertheless. Indeed, it is only when the dangers become obvious that indifference ceases, but they often remain hidden and barely perceptible inherent in the enterprise (page 41).
The OOO image of thought integrates this “indifference” into thinking itself, as one of its transcendental conditions (methodological moment) and proceeds to ontologise it as the very nature of the real (ontological moment). This is the origin of what Graham Harman calls “naiveté” at the beginning of THE QUADRUPLE OBJECT, a naiveté that just happens to agree with Harman’s vision (as against that of Wittgenstein or Whitehead or Latour) on the rather technical question of the composition of the world: for OOO the world divides into objects – and not into facts (Wittgenstein) or events (Whitehead) or into actors (Latour). Such naiveté belongs in fact to a highly constructed conceptual persona, rather than to a return to a pre-theoretical doxa obtained from supposedly goggling and gawking at the world.
However, this indifference to thought is interior to thought itself, as the impervious wall of stupid indifferent objects that blocks our path to the horizon. Deleuze and Guattari tell us repeatedly that we cannot begin to trace a “plane of immanence” without at the same time recreating a plane of transcendence and illusion. This is the danger inherent to his own thought of the indifferent multiple that led Badiou to edify his doctrine of the event in order to escape from that indifference. Harman himself does not waver, does not try to palliate his ontology, but openly declares its nihilistic condition: there is no event, time is unreal.
Deleuze and Guattari emphasise that “Transcendence enters as soon as movement of the infinite is stopped” (WIP?, 47). This is the key point where Harman parts company with some of his disciples. Harman affirms not only that the world divides into objects, but also that objects “withdraw” from relations, in the strongest sense of that term. To establish the transcendental field as transcendent abstraction one must affirm complete (or strong) withdrawal, in reciprocal correlation with the absence of temporal relations. In Deleuze and Guattari’s words: “all that is necessary is for movement to be stopped” (47).
The corollary of this analysis is that to get rid of transcendence as far as possible, all that is necessary is to enter into the real movements that continue to exist, despite the blockade of indifference.