DIAGRAMMING PHILOSOPHIES (1): Graham Harman’s Disappearance Theory of Objects

It can be useful to diagramme alternative philosophies to compare their elements and their relations, and to visualise their movements.

In the case of Graham Harman’s object-oriented philosophy (OOP) we have a strongly eliminativist ontology, in which all observable, imaginable, or even thinkable objects are declared unreal, and only Harman’s intuitively posited « real » objects are real.

The ascending movement of withdrawal

The ascending movement of withdrawal

Withdrawal is eliminative, deconstructive, abstractive, élitist – this is the defining movement of OOP

De-withdrawal is emanative, constructive, concretive, democratic – this inverse movement is forbidden by OOP.

The diverse objects that we “know” are emanations of the One real object behind the appearances (Harman’s sensual realm). This sensual realm includes the “folk” realm of common sense, but also the expert realm of the sciences and the humanities. The object behind the veil of unknowing cannot be known, nor even named, as it withdraws from all relations, including the relation of nomination or reference.

The real object does not cause its emanations or sensual counterparts, as causality for OOP is unreal, an intra-sensual notion. The diverse objects and relations of the sensual realm are eliminated from the reality posited by Harman’s OOP. The repeated rhetorical gesture of “turning towards” objects cannot hide the idealism of this position. In fact, OOP turns away from all objects of experience, imagination, and knowledge and turns towards (but cannot attain) the withdrawn real.

Harman is not a materialist, as for him matter is a sensual illusion. In fact, according to OOP we must distinguish between the “folk” matter of common sense and the “expert” matter of the various sciences (the matter of quantum physics is not the same matter as that of geology). Both are unreal in Harman’s system.

The ascending movement is fivefold:

1) ontological: real objects withdraw from relations, in particular they have no relations of causality or of correspondence with sensual objects

2) epistemological: real objects are unobservable, unknown, and unimaginable. We have no epistemic relation with them

3) ethical: real objects can be attained only by an ascesis involving the renunciation of sensual and cognitive access

4) religious: orientation towards objects is a conversion experience, philosophy permits us to « turn » towards real objects without acceding to them

5) methodological: there is no method of access to the inaccessible real object, but its existence is revealed by intellectual intuition (after conversion)

In conclusion, the demarcations between philosophy and common sense, and between philosophy and science are absolute. Harman incoherently excepts art from this rupture in the name of an ad hoc theory of indirect and allusive communication.

Further, it is impossible to explain how OOP crosses the veil of unknowing, attaining to such insights as that the real is made of objects and that objects withdraw from relations. These two principles constitute knowledge of the real, something that is forbidden by the basic assumptions of OOP.

No dialogue between OOP and the unconverted (both « folk » and « experts) » is permissible nor even possible.

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3 commentaires pour DIAGRAMMING PHILOSOPHIES (1): Graham Harman’s Disappearance Theory of Objects

  1. landzek dit :

    I have since altered my position, or my view I should say, upon OOP since I read tool being finally last month.

    The title of his book just struck me about halfway through his essays which I didn’t read in order anyways.

    And so I had a kind of “flip“ in the manner that I was understanding what he was saying.

    I think what he is describing is tool being. He is describing, and ontologically reducing necessary relations of meaning, to what a tool must be. Using Heidegger mainly of course.

    And I thought of Dantes broken hammer and his other book that I read. Like I’ve been saying for a little while here and there, we have a hammer. What is a hammer? of course we know where the hammer is and when we think of a hammer we think mainly of using it to drive nails into wood and stuff like that, or maybe to mold and bend pieces of metal or various material. But there is no reason I couldn’t use it as a weapon. This same hammer. So then maybe it’s not a “driver of nails” that I originally thought of as the essential being Ness of hammer, but now it is “a popular instrumen so then maybe it’s not a “driver of nails“ that I originally thought of as the essential being Ness of hammer, but now it is “an instrument for pummeling”. And then what happens when it’s a super old hammer, say, and it is a one of the last things that my mother-in-law owns from her grandfather? It’s still a hammer, but now it is become more of like a nostalgic antique, a holder of memories perhaps. And maybe I could frame it or put it on a pedestal and then the hammer would be a piece of art.etc..

    when does the object that we know of as the hammer actually become a hammer? When is it ever this thing, this essential object that we know of called “hammer“?

    I think only under two conditions: exactly we use that we are putting the hammer to use at the time, which is at that moment a singular and essential hammer object, and then the multiplicity of uses that the hammer can be put to use for.

    And so really I think Harmon is saying that we only see the tool, and the being of the tool is such that it forever with drawls from view. And then of course he fills in all the various loose ends around that possibility.

    Aimé par 1 personne

  2. landzek dit :

    … oh and I read on vicarious causality, and the third chair, and of course I’ve seen a bunch of his lectures.

    J'aime

    • landzek dit :

      Oh but he has that one chapter in there about, I forget exactly, Heidegger‘s thing about presents at hand and ready at hand I think they are. Because we can’t really say that he saying that objects are that which is put to use. But I think he says that essay that it’s both things, it’s not it either or.

      J'aime

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