Bryant finally raises some interesting questions concerning Harman’s theory of causation. Harman responds and I think this is where we are going to see if there’s any genuine engagement or it’s all just for show, because Harman does not really address Bryant’s question – I mean he goes on and on about the usual stuff, but in the end, it seems this is what happens:
Summary: Harman’s thesis, as I understand it, is that two objects can only be brought into a causal relation through the mediation of a third object. Where traditional occasionalist thought has God or mind (Hume’s empiricism, Kant’s transcendental idealism) as the third object that links other objects in causal relations (for example the role God plays in linking body and mind), Harman argues that there is no logical reason to restrict this to God, but instead argues that any object can serve this role of the “third”.
Objection: “Now here’s where I have a lot of difficulty following Harman’s idea. In traditional occasionalism where God serves the role of this third, I presume God has the power to link the completely unrelated because God is a whizbang, superpowerful, grand poobah powerhouse that can surmount any distance or separation. In other words, the appeal to God in this tradition is a sort of appeal to magic. In the secularized versions of occasionalism in Hume and Kant, mind is capable of acting as the third relating to the separate because mind is not relating objects but something strictly immanent to mind, namely sensations.”
Harman seems to argue that this third is “the sensual realm”: “the way that two real objects interact is through the mediation of the sensual realm.” So instead of God or mind, we have this “sensual realm”:
My approach differs from Hume’s and Kant’s, because while it is true that “in the secularized versions of occasionalism in Hume and Kant, mind is capable of acting as the third relating to the separate because mind is not relating objects but something strictly immanent to mind, namely sensations,” in my model it is a matter not of relations between sensations, but between real objects that happen to be using sensual media as their means of indirect contact.
Awesome, right? The only problem is that the initial “head-scratching” was, as I understand it, precisely about how this works: how does this “sensual realm” work? Let’s forget all the epistemological questions, I’ve heard enough already, and let’s presume that we do know something about real objects and that they do have this cool “sensual realm” – Harman writes a long post and says nothing vis-a-vis the original question – how does this theory of causality work? -which I take to be Bryant’s original question. Let’s put it more provocatively, I say that it is God that makes causality possible and it is God that makes objects touch. I propose a theology of objects, how does one argue against my position? By proposing that there exists a “sensual realm”? By simply stating that I am wrong? My head is going to bleed very soon from all this scratching…