Friday, February 01, 2013

Philosopher Graham Harman - Speculative Realism and the Philosophy of Tristan Garcia

This is an interesting talk from Graham Harman, a leader in the Speculative Realism movement (the other three core members of this movement are Ray Brassier, Iain Hamilton Grant and Quentin Meillassoux). Harman (professor, American University in Cairo, Egypt) has his own unique version of speculative realism, object-oriented philosophy (OOP).

This synopsis of OOP comes from Wikipedia:
Object-oriented philosophy

The central tenet of object-oriented philosophy (OOP) is that objects have been given short shrift for too long in philosophy in favour of more “radical approaches.” Graham Harman has classified these forms of “radical philosophy” as those that either try to “undermine” objects by saying that objects are simply superficial crusts to a deeper underlying reality, either in the form of monism or a perpetual flux, or those that try to “overmine” objects by saying that the idea of a whole object is a form of folk ontology, that there is no underlying “object” beneath either the qualities (e.g. there is no “apple,” only “red,” “hard,” etc.) or the relations (as in both Latour and Whitehead, the former claiming that an object is only what it "modifies, transforms, perturbs, or creates"[10]). OOP is notable for not only its critique of forms of anti-realism, but other forms of realism as well. Harman has even claimed that the term "realism" will soon no longer be a relevant distinction within philosophy as the factions within Speculative Realism grow in number. As such, he has already written pieces differentiating his own OOP from other forms of realism which he claims are not realist enough as they reject objects as "useless fictions."

According to Harman, everything is an object, whether it be a mailbox, electromagnetic radiation, curved spacetime, the Commonwealth of Nations, or a propositional attitude; all things, whether physical or fictional, are equally objects. Expressing strong sympathy for panpsychism, Harman proposes a new philosophical discipline called "speculative psychology" dedicated to investigating the "cosmic layers of psyche" and "ferreting out the specific psychic reality of earthworms, dust, armies, chalk, and stone."[11]

Harman defends a version of the Aristotelian notion of substance. Unlike Leibniz, for whom there were both substances and aggregates, Harman maintains that when objects combine, they create new objects. In this way, he defends an apriori metaphysics that claims that reality is made up only of objects and that there is no “bottom” to the series of objects. In contrast to many other versions of substance, Harman also maintains that it need not be considered eternal, but as Aristotle maintained, substances can both come to be and pass away. For Harman, an object is in itself an infinite recess, unknowable and inaccessible by any other thing. This leads to his account of what he terms “vicarious causality.” Inspired by the occasionalists of Medieval Islamic Philosophy, Harman maintains that no two objects can ever interact save through the mediation of a “sensual vicar.”[12] There are two types of objects, then, for Harman: real objects and the sensual objects that allow for interaction. The former are the things of everyday life, while the latter are the caricatures that mediate interaction. For example, when fire burns cotton, Harman argues that the fire does not touch the essence of that cotton which is inexhaustible by any relation, but that the interaction is mediated by a caricature of the cotton which causes it to burn.
Abstract: The young French philosopher Tristan Garcia, born in Toulouse in 1981, gained attention in 2011 for his book Forme et objet: Un traité des choses (Form and Object: A Treatise on Things, forthcoming 2013 from Edinburgh University Press). In this lecture I will cover the major themes of Garcia’s book and offer a brief critical analysis.

To know more about novelist, author, and philosopher Tristan Garcia, check out this article by Harmon on Garcia for Continent.

Speculative Realism and the Philosophy of Tristan Garcia

Graham Harman - Purdue Talk (Jan.14.2013) from Andrew Iliadis on Vimeo.

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