Graham Harman's Object Oriented Ontology

There's a new movement in philosophy since 2008 loosely clustered around the schools of Speculative Realism, Transcendental Materialism, and Graham Harman's Object Oriented Ontology. Immediately upon reading of the latter I was reminded both of Heidegger's broad definition of Being including fictional and actual objects (all nouns) as well as Aristotle's account of substances (for Aristotle a horse is a substance.)The phenomenology of objects reminds me also of Gaston Bachelard's poetic works on fire, water, and space. I hope to include in this thread more info on this various aspects of this philosophy and its application to our modern lives. Here's a rundown on OOO from Wikipedia:
"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".

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 a priori 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."====

On Transcendental Materialism:

"There are at least two strains of transcendental materialism:



3-And then the question becomes whether Iain Hamilton Grant is a different strain altogether or not

1-The first strain has been laid out by Adrian Johnston – which centers on a theory of the material for the more than material, the subject as escaping the bounds of its material genesis. This theory asserts that the division between soma and psyche is false and that the transcendental arrives immanently (xxiii-xxiv, Zizek’s Ontology). While transcendental materialism appears in Johnston’s work primarily as theory of the subject there are instances where it is applied more broadly.

Transcendental materialism posits, in short, a self sundering material Grund internally producing what (subsequently) transcends it.” (Zizeks Ontology, 61). The discussion always turns back to the ontogenesis of the subject (this is, admittedly, Johnston and Zizek’s interest after all). Towards the end of the text Johnston continues:

“The transcendental materialist theory of the subject is materialist insofar as it maintains that this thus generated ideal subjectivity thereafter achieves independence from the ground of its material sources and thereby starts to function as a set of possibility conditions for forms of reality irreducible to explanatory discourses allied to traditional versions of materialism.” (Zizek’s Ontology, 275).

While the one way and immanent explosion of the transcendent from the material is perfectly Schellingian, this emergence is always ideal, in terms for the subject, such as the grasp of language. Since Zizek’s Hegelian move is to make the noumenal/phenomenal split within the phenomenal itself the generation from the non-material is transcendent in so far as it transcends the non-material, making the non-material merely the pre-ideal.

This is particularly evident in Zizek’s reading of Schelling as he reduces Schelling’s project to tracing the pre-subjective (as opposed to viewing nature or the noumenal as extra-subjective). Johnston does a good job of drawing out how Schelling turns the Kantian critique against Kant in that Kant does not account for the non-empirical arrival of the empirical realm (Zizek’s Ontology, 73-74). Yet, following Zizek, these reigme of the non-empirical is transformed into the pre-symbolic. Furthermore, the imprint of the real on the ideal is (Zizek argues following the early and late Schelling) experienced as raw sensation (Zizek’s Ontology, 76).

Zizek effectively re-Kantianizes Schelling reorienting Schelling as a more self-critical Kant – the critical project turned against itself as ontologically aware critique.

This extension of critique and the empirical registering of the non-empirical as raw sense brings transcendental materialism into the space of Deleuze and Guattari as well as Nick Land."===

"Speculative Realism is a contemporary philosophical movement taking its name from a 2007 conference held at Goldsmiths College in London, England. Speculative Realism is difficult to define: like the hodgepodge of divergent theories falling under the label Postmodernism, it is less an internally consistent set of ideas than a diverse group of theories unified against a common adversary. Speculative Realists and their allies are combating what they call “correlationism,” or the belief that all existence is reducible to the human experience of existence. Thus they claim, against theorists as varied as Immanuel Kant, Jacques Derrida, and Karl Marx, that there is a world outside of the mind, language, and economic forces. The exact nature of this world, however, is the source of much dispute.

Speculative Realism is an apt subject for Internet research since much of the discussion surrounding it has taken place online. Additionally, traditional print reference resources, such as the Oxford Companion to Philosophy or the Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, are silent on this recent trend. Worst of all, two of the best Internet reference resources, the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy and the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, also lack entries for Speculative Realism, most of its related theories, and its leading figures."===

Interview with Graham Harman:

"GH: An object is a unified entity that has qualities differentiating it from all other objects. The majority of philosophies we see are attempts to annihilate most objects. This is done by those who want to say that there are no mid-sized horses, tables, and chairs in the world, but only tiny little particles or mathematical structures. But they fail in this effort, because larger-scale objects are not merely an illusory aggregate of the behavior of their tiny little components.

The other kind of reductionist works in the opposite direction. They say that there are no objects because objects are merely superstitious fictions posited as lying beneath whatever is presented to the mind, or whatever has real effects in the world. But they fail as well, because if objects were nothing more than their givenness to the mind or their effects in the world here and now, there would be no reason for anything ever to change. There would be no surplus in the present world capable of making things other than they currently are, just as Aristotle saw when critiquing the Megarians for saying that no one is a house builder unless they are building a house at this exact moment. (I simply disagree with Aristotle that “potentiality” is the way to solve the problem.)

Objects are paradoxes, because they are more than their subcomponents but less than their effects on other things. Objects live on the mezzanine level of the world. Or rather, there are countless mezzanine levels in the world, because a proton is an object no less than a horse is.

This makes some people worry, because they assume that this would lead to a wild proliferation of imaginary entities bloating the cosmos. But there is no problem here, since not all objects are real. If I conceive of some bizarre monster, it is no less an object than genuine trees and horses are. But whereas the trees and horses are deeper than any possible effects they might have (because they are real objects) and can act on each other even if all humans are dead, the same is not true of the monster in my mind (which Husserl called intentional objects, a term long since distorted to mean the same thing as “real,” though it means exactly the opposite)."
The irony is that Kant's philosophy features empirical realism[1], which was essentially just commonsense or direct realism. Where in the context of the extrospective world presented by the Sensibility faculty, the spatial relations between its matter objects (or their interdependent co-existence) is also what assumes responsibility for delivering perception of them. As we know today, a virtual reality or computer game features its own explanations or causes for its events on the screen (such as that), as opposed to their "transcendent" origins residing with the hardware, firmware, software (a situation similar to Kant's epistemological dualism).

The "mental" doesn't belong to me alone and the regulation of its external world exceeds my individual wishes. That "mental" is subjective or personal (literally rather than just convenience) is one of the most hilarious myths running. My interpretations or thoughts about something might be subjective, but extrospective experience itself outruns my interpretations (even an hallucination projected into it falters when compared to the experiences of those unaffected).

The mental unavoidably exhibits and assimilates the class of material phenomena (we know about the latter due to their empirical evidence, not because they originally fell out of language's, reason's or speculation's attempts to apprehend a metaphysical realm that perversely consists of nothingness when minus consciousness). What eliminates a "representational" relationship between the mental/physical and its "pre-mental" [transcendent] provenance is avoidance of treating the former as just that: A representation of its ultimate "cause".

A dream, for instance, is not a representation of the brain; when referring to a chair that is kicked in a dream one can indeed assert that one is kicking the actual chair, not a representation of a "metaphysical" chair. One can assert that the brain is the provenance or origin of the dream-world, but there's no chair literally to be found in its neural tissue that corresponds to the chair of the dream. A dream-chair is not even a representation of a summary of processes and data storages in the brain, it's just a product of those; and thereby it is not a duplicate. The longtime idiocy historically taking place in regard to realism and perception issues concerns believing that the "the supposed ultimate cause of _X_ always involves _X_ trying to be a representation of that supposed ultimate cause".

Kant properly kept the immediate external world of consciousness distinct from the intellectual world of the Greeks which fell out of reason or extended thinking[2]. As he wrote in Prolegomena To Any Future Metaphysics, science does not need the transcendent for its natural or internal explanations, and commonsense realism doesn't need it either. A computer game character's body is a resident of the same depicted environment as the other bodies it perceives; accordingly the character explains how it perceives in terms of the spatial relations of that empirical environment. Speculations about the transcendent computer or its realm can never be verified; even if the game's creator drops his cartoon avatar down into a virtual world, the revelations he supposedly reveals to the inhabitants could still be manipulative BS.

In his practical philosophy, Kant granted that speculative items could be said about the intellectual world, but they were confined to freedom, immortality, etc (concerns of human traditions prior to the growing strength of natural philosophy). He intended "things in themselves" to be nothing more than a refuge for what Western culture might still deem necessary (according to some arguments), but which lacked evidence in the sensible realm of contingent phenomena. And indeed, no reasoned "proof" could be provided for them in practical philosophy, either; they were championed purely on the basis of their indispensability or need.

[1] Kant: This perception, therefore (to consider, for the moment, only outer intuitions), presents something real in space. For, in the first place, while space is the presentation of a mere possibility of coexistence, perception is the presentation of a reality. Secondly, this reality is presented in outer sense, that is, in space. Thirdly, space is itself nothing but mere [regulating] form, and therefore nothing in it can count as real save only what is presented in it [or possible to present in it]; and conversely, what is given in it, that is, presented through perception, is also real in it. For if it were not real, that is, immediately given through empirical intuition, it could not be pictured in imagination, since what is real in intuitions cannot be invented a priori. All outer perception, therefore, yields immediate proof of something real in space, or rather is the real itself. In this sense empirical realism is beyond question; that is, there corresponds to our outer intuitions something real in space. Space itself, with all its appearances, as presentations, is, indeed, only in me [us], but nevertheless the real, that is, the material of all objects of outer intuition, is actually given in this space, independently of all imaginative invention. Also, it is impossible that in this space anything outside us (in the transcendental sense) should be given, space itself being nothing outside our sensibility. Even the most rigid idealist cannot, therefore, require a proof that the object outside us (taking 'outside' in the strict [transcendental] sense) corresponds to our perception.

[2] Kant: The term 'idealist' is not, therefore, to be understood as applying to those who deny the existence of external objects of the senses, but only to those who do not admit that their existence is known through immediate perception, and who therefore conclude that we can never, by way of any possible experience, be completely certain as to their reality. Before exhibiting our paralogism in all its deceptive illusoriness, I have first to remark that we must necessarily distinguish two types of idealism, the transcendental and the empirical. By transcendental idealism I mean the doctrine that appearances are to be regarded as being, one and all, presentations only, not things in themselves, and that time and space are therefore only sensible forms of our intuition, not determinations given as existing by themselves, nor conditions of objects viewed as things in themselves.

To this [critical] idealism there is opposed a transcendental realism which regards time and space as something given in themselves, independently of our sensibility. The transcendental realist thus interprets outer appearances (their reality being taken as granted) as things-in-themselves, which exist independently of us and of our sensibility, and which are therefore outside us -- the phrase 'outside us' being interpreted in conformity with pure concepts of understanding. It is, in fact, this transcendental realist who afterwards plays the part of empirical idealist. After wrongly supposing that objects of the senses, if they are to be external, must have an existence by themselves, and independently of the senses, he finds that, judged from this point of view, all our sensuous presentations are inadequate to establish their reality. The transcendental idealist, on the other hand, may be an empirical realist or, as he is called, a [epistemological] dualist; that is, he may admit the existence of matter without going outside his mere self-consciousness, or assuming anything more than the certainty of his presentations, that is, the cogito, ergo sum. For he considers this matter and even its inner possibility to be appearance merely; and appearance, if separated from our sensibility, is nothing [even philosophical materialists contend that no-thing manifests when minus consciousness, either after one's death or before life; the system of mind produces the empirical and reasoned evidence of the world's existence]. Matter is with him, therefore, only a species of presentations (intuition), which are called external [an extrospective reality], not as standing in relation to objects in themselves external [things in themselves, metaphysical version of external], but because they relate perceptions to the space in which all things are external to one another, while yet the space itself is in us [interpersonal objectivity, human minds having in common the governing space/time forms of the Sensibility].

[...] Transcendental realism, on the other hand, inevitably falls into difficulties, and finds itself obliged to give way to empirical idealism, in that it regards the objects of outer sense as something distinct from the senses themselves, treating mere appearances as self-subsistent beings, existing outside us. On such a view as this, however clearly we may be conscious of our presentation of these things, it is still far from certain that, if the presentation exists, there exists also the object corresponding to it. In our system, on the other hand, these external things, namely matter, are in all their configurations and alterations nothing but mere appearances, that is, presentations in us, of the reality of which we are immediately conscious. Since, so far as I know, all psychologists who adopt empirical idealism are transcendental realists, they have certainly proceeded quite consistently in ascribing great importance to empirical idealism, as one of the problems in regard to which the human mind is quite at a loss how to proceed. For if we regard outer appearances as presentations produced in us by their objects, and if these objects be things existing in themselves outside us, it is indeed impossible to see how we can come to know the existence of the objects otherwise than by inference from the effect to the cause; and this being so, it must always remain doubtful whether the cause in question be in us or outside us. We can indeed admit that something, which may be (in the transcendental sense) outside us, is the cause of our outer intuitions, but this is not the object of which we are thinking in the presentations of matter and of corporeal things; for these are merely appearances, that is, mere kinds of presentation, which are never to be met with save in us [inter-subjective objectivity], and the reality of which depends on immediate consciousness, just as does the consciousness of my own thoughts. The transcendental object is equally unknown in respect to inner and to outer intuition.

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