The Harman Debate

I’ve noticed that I’m getting a consistent amount of traffic on those posts that constitute the ongoing debate I’ve been having with Graham Harman about his object-oriented philosophy. However, these posts aren’t indexed in any proper way on the site, so I thought it would be good to provide a complete list of them for those that have caught only part of the back and forth. I’m not including links to Graham’s half of the discussion here, as the relevant posts from his blog are linked at the beginning of each of my posts. Here they are in chronological order:-

Against Experience

Phenomenology, Discourse and their Objects

Once More with Content

Scientific Vs. Metaphysical Realism?

A Quick Response to Graham Harman

Reductionism and Materialism

The Perils of Representation

For those who’re interested in my thoughts on OOO, there is also a much earlier post, written before I’d had too much contact with Graham’s work. As such, it’s not quite right. It doesn’t take proper account of the fact that Graham takes their to be two types of object (real and sensuous). However, I still think it’s interesting, and itt’s probably not that far off the mark on Levi’s position, so here it is:-

Applied Critique: Existence, Pseudo-Existence and OOO

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Appropriate descriptors: (neo)rationalist, left-accelerationist, socratic wanderer, heretical Platonist, computational Kantian, minimalist-Hegelian, heterodox Foucauldian, dialectical insurgent, conceptual mercenary, philosopher of fortune.

9 thoughts on “The Harman Debate”

  1. It’s hardly a “debate” – you put up some excellent work and Harman links to it with inevitable “oh boy, I wish I had time to address this excellent excellent critique of my position” and nothing really comes out of it. Unless I’m completely wrong and you can link your objection posts to Harman’s response posts.

  2. I admit its a bit one sided, but there has been a bit of a back and forth. I understand that my posts tend to be more like short essays rather than anything else, so I understand when he doesn’t have time to respond to them. Here’s a short list of posts (also in chronological order) on his side if you’re interested:-

    All these are linked in the relevant posts.

  3. C’mmon now, Pete. Do you really think Harman does not respond to your extensive critiques because he is busy? Have you read his blog? He’s at the moment in Alexandria (because he couldn’t go to Amsterdam for a conference – “bad thing” for his diary) and he probably has 3 days of free time, will he be crafting a sophisticated response to your posts? I don’t think so. Let’s be clear here, you’re not important enough. Your points are exquisite – in fact, I think your posts are underrated in the Harman-obsessed object-oriented blogosphere – but it is because they are on the spot that you will never get a real answer from The Wolf, he’s more concerned with writing the history of the movement than actually writing substantive arguments that would constitute the movement… Feel free to erase this comment – you don’t want to get on Harman’s bad side by not properly moderating your commenting section.

  4. I probably shouldn’t say this, but my comment section isn’t moderated at all. As long as I can keep spam out I don’t mind what people say for the most part. Say what you like Mikhail, no worries.

    I like to think that if I’ve done my job properly, then what I write should take time to absorb, think about, and respond to. Responding to a well thought out critique (or making one) takes more than just time, but mental energy to. I post a lot less frequently than Graham, Levi and others, but I like to think that I post things that are generally more in depth, and the fact that they are more in depth is why I post less frequently. There have been times when I’ve started out to respond to something someone else has written, gotten a couple hundred words in, and then given up, because I just didn’t have the time and/or energy to work through the points in sufficient detail.

    Plus, I’m under no illusion that I am important. For all that we all enjoy our blogs (I certainly get a lot out of mine), and some good discussion goes on here, this is a purely peripheral exercise relative to the main part of academia. The fact that I’m finishing my thesis and aren’t yet in that main part just means I spend more time writing my thoughts here and less time writing papers (hopefully this’ll balance out in future!). I feel privileged when anyone takes the time to read, let alone respond to what I write here (yourself included!). Thanks for the complements on the posts themselves btw, they are appreciated.

    The reason I put this post up was just because I get some of my most consistent traffic to them (to ‘Once More with Content’ and ‘A Quick Response to Graham Harman’ in particular) and I wasn’t sure that people were getting the context of the points I was making. I’m not trying to subtly remind Graham that I’m here or anything. To be clear, I’m not entitled to a response to anything, and he is under no corresponding obligation to give me one. If he does, then it’s a good thing. Simple as that.

    As a final point, I’ve taken up a policy of trying not to speculate about the intentions, motives or character of people I know via the internet. I say ‘try’ as we all do it to some extent, it’s just built into the way we relate to people, but I try to avoid drawing explicit conclusions on the basis of such speculation. This form of communication has a way of making us all tend toward seeing the worst in people, and so you’ve got to temper it a bit and just give the benefit of the doubt as much as you can.

    To often in this bit of the blogosphere we end up focusing on more on people’s character and less on the actual content of their positions, and for the most part it’s just counter productive. It reminds me of Fichte in the introduction to the Wissenschaftlehre, where he says that you _can_ start with the object rather than the subject (where he starts), but that those who do so are an inferior kind of person. My aim for the most part is to stick to what people think and the reasons they give for it, and not the hidden motives or character traits that we could speculate about underlying it. But then again, I’m a normo-maniac, so I would say that 😉

  5. Apologies for the tone of my comment. You’re right, speculations etc etc can only lead to embarrassment. Certainly no one is obligated to respond to anyone etc etc. I suppose I was frustrated with the amount of effort you put in and the amount of feedback you received – clearly a lot of work and thought went into your critique. In any case, I’ve always enjoyed reading your long posts.

    I’ll say that if the only thing that comes out of this whole object-oriented fad is the renewal of interest in German Idealism, it’s fine by me. I do find that I’m often unfair in my reactions, but it’s probably caused by my absolute hatred of all things pretentious and vain. I think I would enjoy reading both Levi and Harman more if there was less posturing about how “this has never been done before” and “the great movement is raising” and all that nonsense about energy-sucking vampires/trolls. Give me the argument – I don’t know if you recall, but it used to be like that. Levi and I had wonderfully dense exchanges about Kant (yes, heated, but still exciting). So I think eventually substance will win…

  6. I definitely think the debate over scientific realism has take a great stride forward now that Graham Harman has replaced Gilbert Harman’s ‘inference to the best explanation’ with his own ‘appeal to your favourite metaphor’ ;-).

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