Monday, June 18, 2012
Sterling Hall explains Harman and Meillassoux.
Graham Harman, in contrast, is primarily concerned not with subjectivity, but with trying to find a way of thinking objects in their raw, physical materiality. He utilizes the phenomenological theories of Husserl and Heidegger, among others, to try and create a speculative realist philosophy that can ontologically describe objects – an ontology termed ‘Object-Oriented Ontology’ (OOO, for short). Harman utilizes Heidegger’s analysis of being – most notably that being is never ‘present’ – along with his famous tool-analysis, to show that objects are hidden away from conscious study and experience; they’re untotalizable. This idea doesn't just mean that you can't describe the totality of objects by gathering them and listing their defining qualities: it also means that every object has qualities that hide away from any sort of conscious exploration. Objects are always torn apart in this way – they both present themselves and recede from any presentation at the same time. In doing this, they lock themselves within logical relations that allow us to talk about objects in-themselves, even if only by ‘looking’ at them awry.
Post-Kantian philosophy has trouble in trying to think these ancestral statements though, because it is dominated by what Meillassoux terms ‘correlationism.’ Correlationist philosophies believe that “we only ever have access to the correlation between thinking and being, and never to either term considered apart from the other” (Meillassoux, p. 5) – in other words, those philosophies that dominate both the analytic and continental traditions that believe that either language and being, or world and being are the only two modes of thought that are legitimate (e.g. Wittgenstein and Heidegger respectively). That is, the correlationist can think ancestral statements, but only ‘for us’ – they can only think the beginning of the world ‘for us.’ In doing this, they drive a wedge between scientific discourse, and a philosophy that looks down on the scientific disciplines for not having considered things in the same logical manner. Philosophy ‘allows’ science to continue its business, with the knowledge of science’s theoretical error passed by in silence, never going so far as to question its own presuppositions.
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