Indieoma has a nice interview up with Graham Harman. I wanted to draw attention to two passages in particular, as they so nicely encapsulate the general spirit of Object-Oriented Ontology:

The human-world pairing still remains at the center for Heidegger, who offers no resources at all (unlike Whitehead) for bringing object-object relations back into philosophy that do not involve humans as one of the terms. The usual tendency is to assume that the natural sciences are doing just fine with object-object relations, and hence that philosophy deals uniquely with human experience, which science supposedly cannot account for. But then cognitive science comes along and claims that even the human sphere can be treated scientifically, and everyone starts screaming “Yes!” and “No!” very excitedly at this program. But most of its shock value results merely from the initial stupid decision to treat human experience as the unique topic of philosophy. If like me you don’t even think the natural sciences give a good philosophical account of inanimate relations, then a scientific treatment of cognition is hardly going to feel any more threatening than a scientific treatment of fire. It will be no more adequate to one case than to the other.

snip

No model of a thing will ever grasp it. No knowledge of a thing will ever drain it to the dregs. No causal relation between two entities will ever allow them to make perfect contact; each entity always has depths unsounded by the other. To be is not the same as to have qualities discursively knowable by someone, not even if that someone is God. To know all the qualities of a tree (if that were even possible) would not turn us into the tree itself.

Another way of putting it would be this… We need a realism without a correspondence theory of truth. If you think that feeble human knowledge can adequately exhaust the inner life of things by doing nothing more than listing a few hundred measurable qualities, then your sense of reality is insufficiently robust. You are not interested in realism, but in celebrating the hard sciences and using them to beat up the softy poets who supposed ruled continental philosophy in the past. Reality is inherently something deeper than any relation that might be had to it. Aggressive neurology is no substitute for metaphysics.

And finally:

Q4: Your philosophy is ‘object-oriented’. That is to say that you consider the object to be as important as the (human) subject. Many people think this is dangerous, as activity in the blogosphere testifies. I think the issue here is that if the subject is considered as a mere object amongst others, people feel that humans might find it easier to justify abuse of other humans. What do you say to that?

GH: Freud always claimed that psychoanalysis was the third affront to human dignity in modern times. Copernicus moved the earth out of the center of the universe. Darwin made us no more special than animals, plants, and fungi. And Freud made conscious thought derivative of less palatable underground currents in the psyche. As a fourth supposed affront to the dignity of humans, let’s add the notion to which you just referred: that the human is not metaphysically special either, so that my perception of fire is no different in kind from the relation of cotton and fire among themselves. Cognitive and causal relations all end up on the same footing. And it does seem to be a bit of a traumatic claim for people, judging by how upset they have become about it (I wasn’t expecting this to happen).

I’ve heard the critiques to which you refer in your question, and just can’t make much sense of them. Some people have even claimed that object-oriented philosophy says that “humans are worthless.” I don’t get it. Did Copernicus say: “The earth is not the center of the universe, and therefore it is worthless”? Did Darwin say: “We are related to apes, and therefore we are worthless”? Why this all-or-nothing model, in which humans must be everything or nothing? There’s a lot of open ground between 0 and 100. To flip wildly between saying that humans are the best or the worst, just like political factions who flip between saying that the United States is either the greatest or most evil country on the planet, reminds me of one of the best-known symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder.

Read the rest here.

About these ads