Prince of Networks is the first treatment of Bruno Latour specifically as a philosopher. It has been eagerly awaited by readers of both Latour and Harman since their public discussion at the London School of Economics in February 2008. Part One covers four key works that display Latour’s underrated contributions to metaphysics: Irreductions, Science in Action, We Have Never Been Modern, and Pandora’s Hope. Harman contends that Latour is one of the central figures of contemporary philosophy, with a highly original (...) ontology centered in four key concepts: actants, irreduction, translation, and alliance. In Part Two, Harman summarizes Latour’s most important philosophical insights, including his status as the first ‘secular occasionalist.’ The problem of translation between entities is no longer solved by the fiat of God (Malebranche) or habit (Hume), but by local mediators. Working from his own ‘object-oriented’ perspective, Harman also criticizes the Latourian focus on the relational character of actors at the expense of their cryptic autonomous reality. This book forms a remarkable interface between Latour’s Actor-Network Theory and the Speculative Realism of Harman and his confederates. It will be of interest to anyone concerned with the emergence of new trends in the humanities following the long postmodernist interval. (shrink)
We humans tend to believe that things are only real in as much as we perceive them, an idea reinforced by modern philosophy, which privileges us as special, radically different in kind from all other objects. But as Graham Harman, one of the theory's leading exponents, shows, Object-Oriented Ontology (OOO) rejects the idea of human specialness: the world, he states, is clearly not the world as manifest to humans. "To think a reality beyond our thinking is not nonsense, but obligatory." (...) At OOO's heart is the idea that objects--whether real, fictional, natural, artificial, human, or non-human--are mutually autonomous. This core idea has significance for nearly every field of inquiry which is concerned in some way with the systematic interaction of objects, and the degree to which individual objects resist full participation in such systems. In this brilliant new introduction, Graham Harman lays out OOO's history, ideas, and impact, taking in art and literature, politics and natural science along the way. From Sherlock Holmes, unicorns, and videogames to Dadaism, Voltaire, and string theory, this book will change the way you understand everything. (shrink)
In this book the metaphysical system of Graham Harman is presented in lucid form, aided by helpful diagrams. In Chapter 1, Harman gives his most forceful critique to date of philosophies that reject objects as a primary reality. All such rejections are tainted by either an undermining or overmining approach to objects. In Chapters 2 and 3, he reviews his concepts of sensual and real objects. In the process, he attacks the prestige normally granted to philosophies of human access, which (...) Harman links for the first time to the already discredited Menos Paradox. In Chapters 4 through 7, Harman brings the reader up to speed on his interpretation of Heidegger, which culminates in a fourfold structure of objects linked by indirect causation. In Chapter 8, he speculates on the implications of this theory for the debate over panpsychism, which Harman both embraces and rejects. In Chapters 9 and 10, he introduces the term ontography as the study of the different possible permutations of objects and qualities, which he simplifies with easily remembered terminology drawn from standard playing cards. (shrink)
What objects exist in the social world and how should we understand them? Is a specific Pizza Hut restaurant as real as the employees, tables, napkins and pizzas of which it is composed, and as real as the Pizza Hut corporation with its headquarters in Wichita, the United States, the planet Earth and the social and economic impact of the restaurant on the lives of its employees and customers? In this book the founder of object-oriented philosophy develops his approach in (...) order to shed light on the nature and status of objects in social life. While it is often assumed that an interest in objects amounts to a form of materialism, Harman rejects this view and develops instead an “immaterialist” method. By examining the work of leading contemporary thinkers such as Bruno Latour and Levi Bryant, he develops a forceful critique of ‘actor-network theory’. In an extended discussion of Leibniz’s famous example of the Dutch East India Company, Harman argues that this company qualifies for objecthood neither through ‘what it is’ or ‘what it does’, but through its irreducibility to either of these forms. The phases of its life, argues Harman, are not demarcated primarily by dramatic incidents but by moments of symbiosis, a term he draws from the biologist Lynn Margulis. This book provides a key counterpoint to the now ubiquitous social theories of constant change, holistic networks, performative identities, and the construction of things by human practice. It will appeal to anyone interested in cutting-edge debates in philosophy and social and cultural theory. (shrink)
The current fashions in both analytic and continental philosophy are staunchly anti-metaphysical. There is supposedly no way to talk about the world itself — the philosopher is confined to antiseptic discussions of language, or of other modes of human access to the world. In this provocative work, Graham Harman expands the discussion from his previous book, Tool-Being, arguing for a theory of "the carpentry of things" — a more accessible way of viewing the world that incorporates ideas from Husserl, Levinas, (...) Lingis, and other philosophers. (shrink)
Continental philosophy has entered a new period of ferment. The long deconstructionist era was followed with a period dominated by Deleuze, which has in turn evolved into a new situation still difficult to define. However, one common thread running through the new brand of continental positions is a renewed attention to materialist and realist options in philosophy. Among the leaders of the established generation, this new focus takes numerous forms. It might be hard to find many shared positions in the (...) writings of Badiou, DeLanda, Laruelle, Latour, Stengers, and Žižek, but what is missing from their positions is an obsession with the critique of written texts. All of them elaborate a positive ontology, despite the incompatibility of their results. Meanwhile, the new generation of continental thinkers is pushing these trends still further, as seen in currents ranging from transcendental materialism to the London-based speculative realism movement to new revivals of Derrida. As indicated by the title The Speculative Turn, the new currents of continental philosophy depart from the text-centered hermeneutic models of the past and engage in daring speculations about the nature of reality itself. This anthology assembles authors, of several generations and numerous nationalities, who will be at the centre of debate in continental philosophy for decades to come. (shrink)
Martin Heidegger (1889–1976) influenced the work of such diverse thinkers as Sartre and Derrida. In Tool-Being, Graham Harman departs from the prevailing linguistic approach to analytic and continental philosophy in favor of Heideggerian object-oriented research into the secret contours of objects. Written in a colorful style, it will be of interest to anyone open to new trends in present-day philosophy.
Quentin Meillassoux has been described as the most rapidly prominent French philosopher in the Anglophone world since Jacques Derrida in the 1960s. With the publication of After Finitude (2006), this daring protege of Alain Badiou became one of the world's most visible younger thinkers. In this book, his fellow Speculative Realist, Graham Harman, assesses Meillassoux's publications in English so far. Also included are an insightful interview with Meillassoux and first-time translations of excerpts from L'Inexistence divine (The Divine Inexistence), his famous (...) but still unpublished major book. (shrink)
These writings chart Harman's rise from Chicago sportswriter to co-founder of one of Europe's most promising philosophical movements: Speculative Realism. In 1997, Graham Harman was an obscure graduate student covering Chicago sporting events for a California website. Unpublished in philosophy at the time, he was already a popular conference speaker on Heidegger and related themes. Little more than a decade later, as the author of stimulating and highly visible books on continental philosophy, he was Associate Vice Provost for Research at (...) the American University in Cairo, and a key member of the Speculative Realist movement along with Ray Brassier, Iain Hamilton Grant, and Quentin Meillassoux. This fascinating collection of eleven essays and lectures from 1997-2009, anchored by Harman's rebellious transformation of Heideggerian philosophy, show the evolution of his object-oriented metaphysics from its early days into an increasingly developed philosophical position. Each chapter is preceded by Harman's delightful and witty scene-setting commentary. (shrink)
This article contends that the central principle of modern philosophy is obscured by a side-debate between two opposed camps that are united in accepting a deeper flawed premise. Consider the powerful critiques of Kantian philosophy offered by Quentin Meillassoux and Bruno Latour, respectively. These two thinkers criticize Kant for opposite reasons: Meillassoux because Kant collapses thought and world into a permanent “correlate” without isolated terms, and Latour because Kant tries to purify thought and world from each other rather than realizing (...) that they are always combined in “hybrid” form. What both critiques tacitly accept is the notion that “thought” and “world” are the two major poles of the universe. I claim that this stems from the post-Cartesian assumption that thought and world are the two basic kinds of things that exist. The name “onto-taxonomy” is introduced for this view. (shrink)
Until quite recently, almost no philosophers trained in the continental tradition saw anything of value in realism. The situation in analytic philosophy was always different, but in continental philosophy realism was usually treated as a pseudo-problem. That is no longer the case. In this provocative new book, two leading philosophers examine the remarkable rise of realism in the continental tradition. While exploring the similarities and differences in their own positions, they also consider the work of others and assess rival trends (...) in contemporary philosophy. They begin by discussing the relation between realism and materialism, which DeLanda links closely but which Harman tries to separate. Part Two covers the many different meanings of realism, with the two authors working together to develop an expanded definition of the term. Part Three features a spirited exchange on the respective virtues and drawbacks of DeLanda's realism of attractors and singularities and Harman's object-oriented theory. Part Four shifts to the question of the knowability of the real, as the authors discuss whether scientific knowledge does full justice to reality. In Part Five, they shift the focus to space, time, and science more generally, and here Harman offers a defence of actor-network theory despite its obvious anti-realist elements. Lively, accessible and engaging, this book is the best attempt so far to clarify the different paths for realism in continental philosophy. It will be of great value to students and scholars of continental philosophy and to anyone interested in the cutting-edge debates in philosophy and critical theory today. (shrink)
As Holderlin was to Martin Heidegger and Mallarme to Jacques Derrida, so is H.P. Lovecraft to the Speculative Realist philosophers. Lovecraft was one of the brightest stars of the horror and science fiction magazines, but died in poverty and relative obscurity in the 1930s. In 2005 he was finally elevated from pulp status to the classical literary canon with the release of a Library of America volume dedicated to his work. The impact of Lovecraft on philosophy has been building for (...) more than a decade. Initially championed by shadowy guru Nick Land at Warwick during the 1990s, he was later discovered to be an object of private fascination for all four original members of the twenty-first century Speculative Realist movement. In this book, Graham Harman extracts the basic philosophical concepts underlying the work of Lovecraft, yielding a weird realism capable of freeing continental philosophy from its current soul-crushing impasse. Abandoning pious references by Heidegger to Holderlin and the Greeks, Harman develops a new philosophical mythology centered in such Lovecraftian figures as Cthulhu, Wilbur Whately, and the rat-like monstrosity Brown Jenkin. The Miskatonic River replaces the Rhine and the Ister, while Holderlin's Caucasus gives way to Lovecraft's Antarctic mountains of madness. (shrink)
Harman presents an outline of how object-oriented ontology differentiates itself from other branches of speculative realism. Can OOO steer philosophy from an epistemological project that tends to reduce the discipline to "a series of small-time drug busts"?
This paper criticizes two forms of philosophical materialism that adopt opposite strategies but end up in the same place. Both hold that individual entities must be banished from philosophy. The first kind is ground floor materialism, which attempts to dissolve all objects into some deeper underlying basis; here, objects are seen as too shallow to be the truth. The second kind is first floor materialism, which treats objects as naive fictions gullibly posited behind the direct accessibility of appearances or relations; (...) here, objects are portrayed as too deep to be the truth. One major thesis of this paper is that these two forms of materialism are parasitical on one another and need each other's resources to make sense of the world. The second major thesis is that both forms of materialism thereby stand condemned, and that philosophy must be rebuilt from the individual objects that the two forms of materialism disdain. These points are made through a detailed consid- eration of the book Every Thing Must Go by the analytic structural realists James Ladyman and Don Ross, which has gained a surprising following among some speculative realists in continental philosophy. Ladyman and Ross claim to preserve objects by treating them as ``real patterns'', but they do so at the price of destroying their autonomous reality. Furthermore, they are unable to tell us whether the mathematical structures they see as the basis of human knowledge are also the basis of reality itself. In short, their ontology is scientism for scientism's sake (or `Bunsen burner realism') and must be eliminated in favor of a genuine realist metaphysics of objects. (shrink)
Prometheanism -- Brassier at Goldsmiths -- Brassier's nihilism -- The path ahead -- Vitalist idealism -- Grant at Goldsmiths -- Philosophies of nature after Schelling -- A new sense of idealism -- Object-oriented ontology (OOO) -- OOO at Goldsmiths -- The withdrawn -- Objects and their qualities -- Vicarious causation -- The crucial place of aesthetics -- Speculative materialism -- Meillassoux at Goldsmiths -- After finitude -- Glimpses of the divine inexistence -- The two axes of speculative realism.
Bruno Latour, the French sociologist, anthropologist and long-established superstar in the social sciences is revisited in this pioneering account of his ever-evolving political philosophy. Breaking from the traditional focus on his metaphysics, most recently seen in Harman's book Prince of Networks, the author instead begins with the Hobbesian and even Machiavellian underpinnings of Latour's early period and encountering his shift towards Carl Schmitt and finishing with his final development into the Lippmann / Dewey debate. Harman brings these twists and turns (...) into sharp focus in terms of Latour's personal political thinking. Along with Latour's most important articles on political themes, the book chooses three works as exemplary of the distinct periods in Latour's thinking: The Pasteurization of France, Politics of Nature, and the recently published An Inquiry Into Modes of Existence, as his conception of politics evolves from a global power struggle between individuals, to the fabrication of fragile parliamentary networks, to just one mode of existence among many others. (shrink)
This article attempts to develop the abandoned occasionalist model of causation into a credible present-day theory. If objects can never exhaust one another through their relations, it is hard to know how they can ever interact at all. This article handles the problem by dividing objects into two kinds: the real objects that emerge from Heidegger’s tool-analysis and the intentional objects of Husserl’s phenomenology. Each of these objects turns out to be split by an additional rift between the object as (...) an enduring unit and its plurality of traits. This explains Heidegger’s notorious ‘fourfold’ model of the thing. This article shows that Heidegger’s Geviert must be reinterpreted as a system of four tensions that can be identified as time, space, essence, and eidos. Time and space can no longer be left as peerless dimensions of the cosmos. Instead, they are shown to arise from the tensions between things and their qualities. And for this reason they are joined by essence (in the classical sense of the term) and eidos (in Husserl’s sense, not Plato’s) as two out of four basic features of the fabric of the world. (shrink)
This article mounts a defense of Object-Oriented Ontology (OOO) from various criticisms made in Russell Sbriglia and Slavoj Žižek’s co-edited anthology Subject Lessons. Along with Sbriglia and Žižek’s own Introduction to the volume, the article responds to the chapters by Todd McGowan, Adrian Johnston, and Molly Anne Rothenberg, the three in which my own version of OOO is most frequently discussed.
Martin Heidegger’s (1889-1976) influence has long been felt not just in philosophy, but also in such fields as art, architecture, and literary studies. Yet his difficult terminology has often scared away interested readers lacking an academic background in philosophy. In this new entry in the Ideas Explained series, author Graham Harman shows that Heidegger is actually one of the simplest and clearest of thinkers. His writings and analyses boil down to a single powerful idea: being is not presence. In any (...) human relation with the world, our thinking and even our acting do not fully exhaust the world. Something more always withdraws from our grasp. As Harman shows, Heidegger understood that human beings are not lucid scientific observers staring at the world and describing it, but instead are thrown into a world where light is always mixed with shadow. The book concludes with a comprehensible discussion of the philosopher’s notoriously opaque concept of the fourfold. (shrink)
A recent political critique of Speculative Realism by Catherine Malabou finds fault with this loosely arranged movement for its focus on reality in its own right, apart from the subject. Malabou responds with a radical ontological claim, holding effectively – if not always explicitly – that subject and object mutually generate one another amidst a primal void. After criticizing this idea, I point to some of the difficult political consequences of such a position, though Malabou defines it positively as an (...) anarchic awakening that generates new collectivities unconstrained by any thing-in-itself. By contrast, I contend that nonhuman constraints and collaborators are an intimate part of the human political sphere. More generally, it is shown that there are consequences for which sorts of relations are taken to be the primary political relations. (shrink)
The Prince and the Wolf contains the transcript of a debate which took place on February 5, 2008 at the London School of Economics (LSE) between the prominent French sociologist, anthropologist, and philosopher Bruno Latour and the Cairo-based American philosopher Graham Harman.
There have been several criticisms of Object-Oriented Ontology from the political Left. Perhaps the most frequent one has been that OOO’s aspiration to speak of objects apart from all their relations runs afoul of Marx’s critique of “commodity fetishism.” The main purpose of this article is to show that even a cursory reading of the sections on commodity in Marx’s Capital does not support such an accusation. For Marx, the sphere of entities that are not commodities is actually quite wide, (...) including all the beings of nature not subject to exchange, as well as bartered goods, and tithes and rents paid in kind to feudal lords. In short, the theory of commodity fetishism is a theory of v a l u e, not an anti-realist theory of b e i n g, and thus does not touch on OOO at all. In closing, I make some brief comments on Marx’s relation to Kantian formalism and to Heidegger’s famous account of present-at-hand and ready-to-hand. (shrink)
This article defends a new sense of “formalism” in philosophy and the arts, against recent materialist fashion. Form has three key opposite terms: matter, function, and content. First, I respond to Jane Bennett’s critique of object-oriented philosophy in favor of a unified matter-energy, showing that Bennett cannot reach the balanced standpoint she claims to obtain. Second, I show that the form/function dualism in architecture gives us two purely relational terms and thus cannot do justice to the topic of form. Third, (...) I argue against Greenberg, Heidegger, and McLuhan that content cannot be trivialized in favor of deeper form. I close with a new conception of mimesis as performance rather than as the fabrication of copies. The form underlying any work’s content is provided by the spectator herself as the only real object that does not withdraw from the aesthetic scene. (shrink)
Graham Harman’s “Whitehead and Schools X, Y, and Z,” distinguishes among three schools of contemporary philosophy according to their respective positions on process, becoming, and relations: the schools of Whitehead and Latour, of Deleuze, Bergson, Simondon, and other philosophers of becoming, and of object-oriented philosophy. One of the goals of the essay is to challenge those who would too quickly align Whitehead with Deleuze.
This article begins by addressing a critique of my book Immaterialism by the archaeologists Þóra Pétursdóttirr and Bjørnar Olsen in their 2018 article “Theory Adrift.” As they see it, I restrict myself in Immaterialism to available historical documentation on the Dutch East India Company (VOC), and they wonder how my account might have changed if I had discussed more typical archaeological examples instead: wrecked and sunken ships, released ballast, deserted harbors, distributed goods, and derelict fortresses. In response, I argue that (...) my account was not therefore non-archaeological, since ruins are the topic of archaeology only by accident: the real subject of the discipline is what Marshall McLuhan describes as “cold media,” in the sense that they are low in information. McLuhan’s distinction between hot and cold media is shown to be surprisingly analogous to Aristotle’s difference between continua and discrete substances, and some consequences are drawn from this analogy. (shrink)
Manuel DeLanda is one of the few admitted realists in present-day continental philosophy, a position he claims to draw from Deleuze. DeLanda conceives of the world as made up of countless layers of assemblages, irreducible to their parts and never dissolved into larger organic wholes. This article supports DeLanda’s position as a refreshing new model for continental thought. It also criticizes his movement away from singular individuals toward disembodied attractors and topological structures lying outside all specific beings. While endorsing DeLanda’s (...) realism, I reject his shift from the actual to the virtual. (shrink)
Martin Heidegger is famous for his early analysis of tools, and equally famous for his later reflections on technology. This might suggest an easy literal reading of these themes in his work along the following lines: ‘Heidegger began his career fascinated by low-tech hardware such as hammers and drills, but later took an interest in advanced devices such as hydroelectric dams’. But such a literal interpretation would miss the point, since neither Heidegger's tool analysis nor his views on technology are (...) limited to a narrow range of specific kinds of entities. When he speaks of ‘tools’, his analysis holds for trees and monkeys no less than for hammers; when he speaks of ‘technology’, he has little to tell... (shrink)
This article explores the importance of French thinker, Bruno Latour, for academic philosophy and addresses the question of why, when he has an enthusiastic following in a range of disciplines including sociology, anthropology and the fine arts, he has been largely overlooked by academic philosophers.