Sensual Head-Scratching Continues.


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…

65 thoughts on “Sensual Head-Scratching Continues.

  1. Exactly, Mikhail. Harman’s response was a non-response, both in regards to not addressing the critiques lodged at his theory of vicarious causation, and the remarks on the “speculative” nature of the SR-OOP movement as a whole.

  2. Also, I liked this little bit in Levi’s recent post on Graham’s incoherent theory of causation:

    …(and it’s a genuine perplexity Graham, not an attack!)…

    What this tells me is that Levi seems well aware of Graham’s tendency to explode in fits of apoplectic rage, even at the most benign of remarks from his friends and followers, like he has with Levi’s past remarks (remember Levi’s old post on dark matter that Graham misconstrued as an attack on his philosophy, believing that Levi was calling it mysticism) and Shaviro’s.

    I’m glad that all of this attention has been increasingly drawn to the contradictions in Graham’s theories—as I said before, I think these are signs of a “thaw” in the SRist movement, and that the “bubble” is beginning to burst amidst all of the prodding, if with a whimper rather than a bang, as the great object-oriented ontologist TS Eliot once said.

  3. Levi’s arm had to be pretty much wrenched and dislocated out of its socket before he actually had the intellectual authenticity to address the obvious, but I applaud him for having at least that, and finally speaking about the 800 1b. pink, break-dancing gorilla in the room. Harman’s theory is nonsense. Interesting in a kind of “hey, why not try this on for an hour” but not “let’s devote our intellectual brawn trying to figure out how all this has to work because its like filling out the Periodic Table”. Harman’s’ been at it a very long time, and he still doesn’t understand it himself.

  4. I think the appeal of Harman’s ideas derives from the fact that, even or perhaps especially at their weirdest or most complex, they are basically common sense: “Hey, all this God and Mind mumbo jumbo is a bunch of hocus pocus of yesteryear, let’s let ‘objects speak for themselves,’ so that sensuous objects instead play the role of the mediating third-term” or “Hey, this Kantian thing-in-itself is like super-anthropocentric, let’s extend it to all objects.” I mean, perhaps there’s nothing inherently wrong with such a procedure, but just haphazardly taking parts of systems, systems which not only have crucial historical contexts but also belong to a much larger constellation of ideas, seems to be about the most efficient route towards achieving nonsense. I guess I just don’t really see how overturning old theological or metaphysical doxa in favor of contemporary doxa is a better position.

    • Bryank,

      You would be be surprised to find that I agree. One can see this in Complete Lies’s “clear” post. He speaks not at all about the incredible proliferation of objects and processes that are imagined to occur at the level of non-human objects in interaction, nor about Harman’s crazy appeals to “one way causation” (bug/truck), but about where all his ideas come from. So he gets part x from Aristotle, and part m from Heidegger, and part s from Husserl, and then part v from Kant, and then it mixes it altogether and wella, a causation theory…no.

      If I take the very best milk from Kobe beef cows, and mix it with the best Key lime juice from Florida, and add in the best planting soil for coffee…what do I get? A curdled milk mud pie.

      I very much the notion that these ideas cannot simply be plucked out from their historical contexts and the constellation of their ideas, ad hoc. (Levi is good at this too, just stealing principles and references left and right.)

      • Kevin,

        I just wanted to clarify my intentions with my recent post since I didn’t make them entirely clear. First, I did not set out to fully explain Harman’s theory of causality. What I am suggesting is that a great deal of the problem people have with Harman’s model of causality comes from his use of phenomenology. I think his system can be clarified when it is explained using primarily Aristotelian and Kantian ideas (though Leibniz certainly helps). Essentially, I think this makes the theory more approachable and less problematic. In my forthcoming paper for Speculations I take up the issues of change and causality in Harman’s thought and will propose several “correctives,” perhaps better understood as alternatives, in order to bring the issue to the fore and further propose a vitalist alternative. This post was a first attempt at drafting something of an Aristotelian OOP, an attempt to get out of the language of phenomenology which is steeped in the language of human consciousness, in order to better understand the issues I will be raising.

    • Ha, now that I read it, pretty humorous. I actually have had nothing against Harman the person and how he has treated me. I’ve said this before, it was how abusive he was to several people, mostly in the way that he tried to strike at them in their personal lives. It started with an expectedly savage attack on Parody Center, and then the entire affair of revealing the IDs of emails, etc. This is the personal problem I had. It is Harman’s “dark side” we can say, and I found his bullying of others not cool, as many of us did.

      The second problem I had with him is really his theory. He did not over-react to my claim of Orientalism (unless he shut down his blog over it, which is vaguely possible). I spent a lot of time trying to figure out just what his thinking was all about, and I felt ripped off for all my effort. As I watched this problematic theory grow in a very strange sort of “influence” on the internet, surrounded by an absence of anyone actually taking it seriously enough to analyze or criticize, this gave rise to a kind of ethical response: for those who care about the possibilities of internet philosophy, blogged communication of ideas, these kinds of associated movements strike me as the most problematic. It does not make me angry, but it does invite for me strong criticism.

      Now, I have been accused of being mean spirited in comparing Harman’s SR confabulation of a movement to a Ponzi scheme, or some of the least desirable aspects of Capitalism. I’m sorry if I see conceptual connections here. I find in Harman’s theory of allure AND Latour’s trials of strength definite issues of social and ethical importance, significance which points directly to the social importance of philosophy itself.

      I don’t begrudge that Harman philosophize and speculate all over the place. I do think though that the kinds of things is advocates both in terms of a methodology of how to philosophize, the manner of his propogation of his ideas, and the substance of relations he claims to be the kinds of things that deserved to be critiqued and possibly checked.

      I’m glad he wishes me well, I wish him well too.

      • When he says you live in the woods, does he mean “suburbs” or literally “in the woods”? I have to say that I find it horribly patronizing for him to declare you a decent human being because you live in the woods and so on, but if you’re really living like in a tent in the woods, let me know if there’s anything we can do to help out.

    • He seems to think that he can find out about persons one by one and decide if they’re complex and interesting enough to be worth his care and sympathy, while at the same time wondering how people who don’t know him personally can misunderstand him so.

      • Carl, your comment is spot on, and leads me to write the following: At the very least, Harman appears to be ruthlessly consistent. Even at his most odious and obnoxious, as with his little pseudo-biography of Kvond over at his blog, he appears to continue obeying the logic of his endless obsession with surfaces and aesthetics. Here I think Eli’s analysis deserves to be foregrounded:

        Harman’s attitude toward just about everything is an “aesthetic” one, and he even says that we should regard aesthetics as “first philosophy”. But note that he means nothing remotely sophisticated by “aesthetics” here. Philosophy for him is about liking and disliking things – quite literally – and he views it as a purely aesthetic pursuit – not because he has some theory about how aesthetics judgement supplants all others or what have you; there’s no judgment, no cognitive dimension whatsoever involved: it’s literally as primitive as “x feels good”, “I like x”: hence his love of travelogue, catalogues, lists, photographs with pretty colours: the world is a vast aesthetic sensorium featuring the pleasing and the displeasing and philosophy is the catalogue and guide.

        Allow me to quote Harman:

        It makes me sad to think of an interesting person like this sitting in the woods in New York, self-taught on Spinoza, and feeling anger and hatred toward me, someone he’d probably find very sympathetic toward someone with his unorthodox life history so far.

      • AK: “Recede from *that*, beotch!”

        Kvond: That, precisely is the source of the “allure” of Harman’s thinking, the experience (and let us say the distinctlly HUMAN feeling) that one’s own essence recedes from all our other interactions with the world. Hey, since all the attempts to claim me, all the attempts to sum me up FAIL, this must be a fundamental organizing feature of the universe. What if beers cans and weather ballons ALSO recede, just like “I” do.

        Now, why this huge projection and abstraction should be telling us anything about objects, and not just human beings (as it is even a poor explanation of what happens between human beings), I haven’t a clue. But perhaps this “receding” effect is what makes his loose theory popular with college students. Its like “Hey, the whole world is alienated, JUST like I am!”

        Not only not a very good basis for a theory claiming to be oriented towards the non-human, but also a sad essentialization of what alienation is. The world is filled with “vacuum-packed” objects because Graham Harman is vacuum-packed.

      • “(as it is even a poor explanation of what happens between human beings)”

        Kvond, as usual I’m underprepared with direct engagement with Harman’s work to address the issue substantively, but you’ve put your finger on where I lose my suspension of disbelief. I just don’t see why just because all of us isn’t in play for any given interaction, some of us isn’t. And I don’t see why we need third-party causation since the interaction of that third party with the second party is itself dyadic.

    • ME: “When he says you live in the woods, does he mean “suburbs” or literally “in the woods”? I have to say that I find it horribly patronizing for him to declare you a decent human being because you live in the woods and so on, but if you’re really living like in a tent in the woods, let me know if there’s anything we can do to help out.”

      Kvond: Its part of the allure of my “distant object” reaching out across the thousands of miles, sending distant signals to my sensuous vicar locked in Graham Harman’s distant object soul, at his typing desk in Egypt. Whether I live in the woods or in the suburbs is not a fact in the matter, only what tickles my sensuous vicar inside of him, causing him to act. All objects interact in this way, I’ll have you know, of course.

      • He’s right about one thing, Kevin, knowing that you live in the woods (I’m just going to imagine you in a tent, sorry buddy) does make you a person with redeeming human qualities. I mean you and I don’t always look eye to eye and we used to get into horrible and dickish fights over Kant’s ethics, but I have to say that in the end, I judge you to be decent enough to be my conversation partner. I’m going to send you a plaque you can put on the wall: “Judged and Approved To Be Decent.”

  5. Carl: “Kvond, as usual I’m underprepared with direct engagement with Harman’s work to address the issue substantively, but you’ve put your finger on where I lose my suspension of disbelief. I just don’t see why just because all of us isn’t in play for any given interaction, some of us isn’t. And I don’t see why we need third-party causation since the interaction of that third party with the second party is itself dyadic.”

    Kvond: I was thinking of you quite a bit when I wrote that, probably because of your appreciation of Bourdieu and hence Wittgenstein. The sense that Nothing is Hidden. Harman’s theory is a poetic expression about now hidden we are, how sealed off we are. (I went into this quite a bit when discussing his Orientalism. White, Northern European cultures are in manner emotionally “closed”, exotic elsewhere cultures an expressive mix…so the stereotype goes. If you read Harman’s theory of causation as an expression of his American-ness amid an exotic Egypt, I think we get to some important source points.)

    But why should this sealed off experience found a talk about how things really are? In some senses this is just a repeat of the essential abstractions of existentialism, broken into a different prism, all flowing from Idealist notions.

    But yes, the irony of Harman trying to “out” me come amid his belief that I cannot be metaphysically made to appear. He has just interacted with one more “senuous vicar” that has interacted with my ever retreating object.

  6. Michael, I know you were not addressing me and your comment somehow is in the middle of the comment thread, but I wanted to say that your post was very thought-provoking and I’m looking forward to reading your paper.

    I find this fascination with Aristotle somewhat puzzling (I’m not saying you’re the leader of that movement, but you seem nice enough not to take all things too personally) – can you tell me in short why we are still reading Aristotle not as an odd historical thinker but as someone who really tells us something about the world?

    • Mikhail,

      I may not be the best person to ask about the contemporary relevance of Aristotle. I was excited early on with his ethics (I still think this way really) but am actually positioned fairly anti-Aristotle in most ways. That being said, I do have some background in Aristotle and Medieval philosophy and have been making a conscience effort to attempt a more historical understanding of both Harman and Grant. In the case of the latter, for the simple fact that we both came to surprisingly similar conclusions in our readings of Schelling. I then went back to the Late Medieval-Early Renaissance period looking for historical contexts for Grants “Platonic” Schelling and have been reading people like Ficino and Bruno since. In their epistemological systems they place a great emphasis on the Imagination and so I traced this back to Aristotle, and then worked my way back up to Harman. Essentially this search was for my own use, to try to understand a lineage that I see myself as a part of and sort of map the philosophical family tree.

      But to answer your real question, why do we read Aristotle and take him seriously, I suppose the only real answer is because he actually does tell us something about the world. I mean, I understand how dated Schelling is for instance but there is still something worthwhile in understanding how others have viewed the world even if just to understand how you understand things differently. There is something exciting about being able to make these connections and its probably connected with our desire to know.

      • Thanks, Michael. I should say that I find your philosophical wonderings absolutely fascinating, I should read your blog more often. I don’t want to come across as saying something like: “Screw Aristotle, why bother with him at all!” Certainly there’s plenty of interesting stuff there, I love his Rhetoric and all, but I feel as though our citing of his Physics as physics is a bit odd.

  7. AK: “Kvond – is it possible to get a chuckle out of you?”

    Kvond: I laugh all the time. You were pretty much of an ass to me over at another cite on the issue of whether I was a American or if I loved Capitalism enough or not (if it was you I was interacting with).

    • No, that wasn’t me. At least I hope not. I expressed over at John’s blog that I didn’t think it was appropriate to read into Levi’s/Graham’s unstated intentions and motives, but I can agree to disagree with you about that.

  8. ME: “He’s right about one thing, Kevin, knowing that you live in the woods (I’m just going to imagine you in a tent, sorry buddy) does make you a person with redeeming human qualities. I mean you and I don’t always look eye to eye and we used to get into horrible and dickish fights over Kant’s ethics, but I have to say that in the end, I judge you to be decent enough to be my conversation partner. I’m going to send you a plaque you can put on the wall: “Judged and Approved To Be Decent.””

    Kvond: Aw shucks, you’re kinda sweet too…

    The funny thing is its not so much that I hide my identity, or the facts of my life, as I have mentioned in other contexts it that they just are not the POINT of what I write. Others might think that they are interesting, but they are not to me.

    Part of this is that if I have something to “hide” its that I can be seen as pretty “alluring” fellow. If you dig into what I am, its all unusual, ecclectic and cool stuff, but not the stuff that is part of what I am doing. I like to keep aspects of myself less apparent because its much easier to focus my interactions (which I put an value on), and largely I’m not very interested if, or why people might like me. Harman thinks I’m a cool dude now. It was better when he thought I was some angry guy wishing he had an academic career jealous of all his writerly success.

  9. Michael: “I just wanted to clarify my intentions with my recent post since I didn’t make them entirely clear. First, I did not set out to fully explain Harman’s theory of causality. What I am suggesting is that a great deal of the problem people have with Harman’s model of causality comes from his use of phenomenology. I think his system can be clarified when it is explained using primarily Aristotelian and Kantian ideas (though Leibniz certainly helps). Essentially, I think this makes the theory more approachable and less problematic. In my forthcoming paper for Speculations I take up the issues of change and causality in Harman’s thought and will propose several “correctives,” perhaps better understood as alternatives, in order to bring the issue to the fore and further propose a vitalist alternative. This post was a first attempt at drafting something of an Aristotelian OOP, an attempt to get out of the language of phenomenology which is steeped in the language of human consciousness, in
    order to better understand the issues I will be raising.”

    [In disclosure, Michael is responding in part to a lengthy comment I placed on his blog in response to his clear post, forgetting that this was his site and he and I had agreed to part ways, as I came to his site through a link. He deleted the comment upon my request.]

    Kvond: Well, there are two, maybe three problems. Husserl is absolutely core to Harman’s thinking of intentional objects. This is Harman’s entire assertion, Heidegger has to be checked by or informed by Husserl. Taking phenomenology, if it is mistaken, makes his entire theory mistaken. You can’t take the phenomenology out. It is not just the Language of phenomenology, it is the entire conceptualization of phenomenology.

    The second problem is, unless I am mistaken, your attempt to explain his theory made no reference at all to his actual essay on causation. Am I wrong on this? Did you read it? Or was it too full of the “language of phenomenology”?

    And lastly, as I pointed out in my comments, you say things like “When I pet me cat”, when “I…..” This is nice as a caricature of what human beings do to objects in the world (and yes, it is a caricature), but there is no reason at all that this has anything to do with what bowling balls and microwaves do to each other.

    The entire matrix of effects and objects AS FOUND in his essay on causation not only needs to be explained if we are even remotely going to take this to be something that is about “objects”, it has to be radically justified. Come on now, “one way causation”? The distant signal travels from the receding object and brushes the senusous represenative with allure until iti breaks down? Does anyone think that this is a good, COHERENT explanation of what goes on between objects when human beings are not around. Hello?

    • Kevin: “You can’t take the phenomenology out.”

      This is the gamble I’m making. It may fail, but I’m considering it an experiment in understanding. I want to see if OOP could be presented and understood with no post-Kantian material. This would obviously change things, but I am hoping it will lead to new understandings and clarifications.

      Kevin: “your attempt explain his theory made no reference at all to his actually essay on causation. Am I wrong on this? Did you read it? Or was it too full of the “language of phenomenology”?”

      I have read his essay on vicarious causality, yes. It isn’t a problem with the “language” of phenomenology, I simply am not a phenomenologist. I don’t perform the phenomenological reduction in my work, I don’t draw on Husserl. After early flirtations with phenomenology I dove into other areas of philosophy. I really just am not interested in a phenomenology of objects. I am however interested in many of the other connections Harman makes. Specifically, and this is perhaps why I am interested in Meillassoux as well, I am interested in “Kantian moves,” that is, attempts to rethink and recombine/reconcile Modern philosophers (Meillassoux with Hume and Descartes, Harman with Hume, Leibniz and Malebranche, etc). I also think it is clear that for the Aristotelian tradition, the whole realism-antirealism debate is really not a problem, and that by presenting OOP as a phenomenology, this debate and the potential anthropomorphizing of objects are more of an issue than they need to be.

      As for the issue of “one way causation” which you have raised numerous times, I have to confess that I don’t remember that from the essay at all. On the last point however, I think, again, that it is simply the language that poses problems. I think if OOP is presented in terms of substance and accident, with causality being between accidents, that the whole theory makes much more sense. That doesn’t mean I agree with it, but I think it is much more easily understood and would find advocates.

      • The example of one-way causation is something Harman has brought up in his lectures given. Two examples. A meteor if it crashes into a planet big enough would produce NO causal effect, and a bug, when smashing into a semi-truck, would produce NO causal effect. That this is not just laughed at or stigmatized in some way, or just make us realize that Graham Harman’s objects are really objects in the world at all, well…I just don’t know.

        Frankly though, and I did like your post quite a bit, the idea that by taking Husserl out you have somehow made the incoherence of Harman’s claim that Husserl is ESSENTIAL for understanding how causation works (and he is adamant about this), it itself incoherent. I’m not say that your interpretation has no merit for thinking about things, looking for relatons. It simply has no merit in making Harman’s theory clear (as for instance Levi has implied). One must begin exactly where Harman does with Husserl. And then one must explain how the way that Husserl treats human interaction (itself deeply problematic), then should be extrapolated to all non-human objects in the world (where the coherence utterly breaks down). Doing an endrun around Husserl is doing an endrun around the whole claim.

  10. AK: “No, that wasn’t me. At least I hope not. I expressed over at John’s blog that I didn’t think it was appropriate to read into Levi’s/Graham’s unstated intentions and motives, but I can agree to disagree with you about that.”

    Well, someone named “Kay” had other things to say:

    http://philosophyinatimeoferror.wordpress.com/2009/11/14/capital-reasons/

    And someone named “Asher Kay” designed the new Speculative Realism journal logo.

    What can I say? Hilarious I suppose.

    • “Kay” isn’t me. If you look at the Michael Austin post, you’ll see, I think, the Kay you’re talking about (I also commented there). It’s obvious as well from our writing styles that we’re different people.

      As to the logo — what would that have to do with anything?

      • I don’t know if they allowed my post, but I commented as well that you did a good job. As to whether “writing styles” are enough to separate the sensous vicar of “Kay” from the sensuous vicar of “Asher Kay” I am unsure. We’ll let that play out.

    • Okay, whever. You remind me, though that I keep saying “sensual” for “sensuous”. The words are actually reversed in my brain — must’ve happened at a young age. So every time I see “sensuous vicar”, I imaging this lascivious priest who gropes members of the congregation.

      They withdraw, of course.

  11. And lastly, as I pointed out in my comments, you say things like “When I pet me cat”, when “I…..” This is nice as a caricature of what human beings do to objects in the world (and yes, it is a caricature), but there is no reason at all that this has anything to do with what bowling balls and microwaves do to each other.

    This was my problem with Michael’s comment as well. The whole thing about “letting objects speaking for themselves” and placing humans and objects on the same level seems even more quixotic in the case of Levi, when he argues that OOP has actual *practical value* for psychoanalysis. I mean, as I asked him over at his website, does one propose to now psychoanalyze hummus, the Eiffel Tower, or a propositional attitude? The whole thing begins to sound more and more contrived, no offense to Levi.

  12. Bryank: “I mean, as I asked him over at his website, does one propose to now psychoanalyze hummus, the Eiffel Tower, or a propositional attitude? The whole thing begins to sound more and more contrived, no offense to Levi.”

    Kvond: Actually, I have been a little unkind to Harman calling his theory incoherent, because compared to Levi’s thinking, it is extremely coherent. At least Harman stays in his own little universe of terms and objects (what little they explain). Levi is a hodgepodge thinker who draws from this and that in a very irradic way. He then bluffs his way with long explanatory digressions on stuff everyone knows, diagrams, and references to scientific phenomena that he little grasps, all with an authorative tone. I feel sorry for his students for they don’t stand a chance. The allure of everything drives him in ever directon. Between the two I’d take Harman every day of the week.

    But as to how to psychoanalyze hummus and microwaves, that’s simple: LET OBJECTS SPEAK! LET OBJECTS SURPRISE YOU!

    Let the Lacanian Real poke through and tramatize you.

    • Sometimes I’m surprised by
      The dilemma comprised by
      The hummus among us.

      Especially when served at
      The home of the curved hats
      Those sensual vicars: spoon lickers

      Of vacuous essences
      Or maybe excrescences
      Molasses from receding asses.

      • I think the hate of Harman is generally directed at us pseudonymous jerks, it’s people like you, Carl, that should annoy him the most. I mean you are both mocking and non-anonymous! How can this be?

      • That and he’s just a typical academic careerist, rather than a forest-dwelling tree nymph who sings Ancient Greek poetry while playing a hand-crafted milk carton ukulele, or whatever.

      • Bryank: “That and he’s just a typical academic careerist, rather than a forest-dwelling tree nymph who sings Ancient Greek poetry while playing a hand-crafted milk carton ukulele, or whatever.”

        Kvond: I take perfect offense at that. I don’t play the ukulele at all, but rather strike the stones all around my hut with their exact Pythagorian tones, the only kind of music that can go with a paean. And I have it on good authority that Carl can play the “hand-crafted milk carton ukulele” with some aplumb.

      • It’s true, although I’m more of a jaw harp and kazoo kind of guy. The trick with both is to call evocatively to the objects of nature, as the Original Peoples do with their didgeridoos.

        Mikhail, was I mocking? Only by only-child standards, I think. No, that was razzing or perhaps joshing, which are sensuously identical but really distinct in that in the latter the contempt is receding whereas in the former it’s immediately vicarious.

    • Well his updates on how many character spaces he typed in how many hours, and who he hates in philosophy ARE riveting. All we can say is that his commentless blog is ever retreating from all its interactions, and if no one clicked there the Big Other would still be reading it (oops, was I not supposed to reveal Levi Bryant’s “code name”?)

      • Kevin, I thought your unmasking was supposed to cool you off in your relentless criticism of all things objectological, to scare you into silence, to shame you into obedience (why else would Harman do it? Unless he thought he was going to embarrass you)? Behave or they will send some photographers to take pictures of you and therefore further unmask you.

  13. AK: “Okay, whever. You remind me, though that I keep saying “sensual” for “sensuous”. The words are actually reversed in my brain — must’ve happened at a young age. So every time I see “sensuous vicar”, I imaging this lascivious priest who gropes members of the congregation.”

    Kvond: Asher, I don’t know if you are being humorous (there is no “tone” in type) and I often have my humorous comments taken in the wrong way, but of course you are the one who is correct, the term is “sensual vicar”, and the “sensuous” is my inversion.

    But I don’t think that this inversion is in error, I wrote about the “sensuous vicar” in Harman’s thinking here:

    http://kvond.wordpress.com/2009/02/12/the-sensuous-vicar-of-causation/

    Indeed the idea of a metaphysical “sensuous” mediator is a very important aspect of the social import of Harman’s Oreintalism, and the bejewled and lacivious priest is an important figue to consider, both in literature (at the level of rhetoric), but ALSO in history.

    This is what one gets when playing games with representation as metaphysically essential.

    • Ack! I will now never not be confused!

      For “sensuous”, I have “Of, relating to, or derived from the senses”, while for “sensual”, I have “Of, relating to, given to, or providing gratification of the physical and especially the sexual appetites”. But it looks like “sensual” can be used synonymously with “sensual” (i.e., in a non-sexual sense).

      So, au contraire, mon freud, it is *I* who am inverted.

      Just for future reference — whenever I use the word “grope” in written correspondence, I am being humorous.

      • AK: “Just for future reference — whenever I use the word “grope” in written correspondence, I am being humorous.”

        Kvond: There are certain vacuum-packed readers from a distance who may be disappointed by this.

        As for myself, I am dead serious about the philosophical/historical problem of the sensuous/sensual priest.

  14. ME: “Kevin, I thought your unmasking was supposed to cool you off in your relentless criticism of all things objectological, to scare you into silence, to shame you into obedience (why else would Harman do it? Unless he thought he was going to embarrass you)? Behave or they will send some photographers to take pictures of you and therefore further unmask you.”

    Kvond: I BEG you! Please use my “name” Kvond! As some have pointed out, no one knows the real reason why Harman has unmasked me. John Doyle hypothesizes that if we follow our Orientialization literally enough, Harman is attempting some kind of sexualized contact or stripping me down. I suspect though it was simply rock turning, trying to find bugs and wormy parts, and instead he found a pretty cool guy. It gets more interesting. This what happens though when you play in the sensuous realm of projections. Distant signals reach and tickle you from everywhere.

    • What Vicar wouldn’t be tickled by the allure of the hottie notes emanating from that photo of you on the Dutch site, Kvond? Let us know, will you, if you ever get the anonymous “come with me to the casbah” email. A third party will be needed to consummate the rendezvous of course.

  15. Carl: “Mikhail, was I mocking? Only by only-child standards, I think. No, that was razzing or perhaps joshing, which are sensuously identical but really distinct in that in the latter the contempt is receding whereas in the former it’s immediately vicarious.”

    Kvond: I completely love this. I think you are getting the hang of the theory.

  16. Well done, Kvond, for refusing to succumb to Harman´s unctuous and patronizing overtures. You are surely right that he was digging for dirt and that, had he uncovered anything at all that he could use to besmirch you, he would have gleefully milked it for all he could get out of it. The fact is that Harman cannot cope with serious criticisms of his ideas and becomes furious when people even so much as ask him to provide arguments for them, for this is something he is quite literally incapable of doing. So long as the criticisms are truly feeble ones easily brushed aside he can just about handle it, and will sometimes even respond (after all, it is expedient for him to be seen to do every now and again as he can then claim to be open to criticism in general), but whenever he is faced with objections which accurately target his core claims, as pitiably weak and vulnerable as they are, he becomes enraged like a petulant child (and he even compares such critics to people who enjoy snatching toys away from children, which is quite telling in itself). One can only suppose that he is utterly petrified of being exposed as the intellectual fraud that somewhere deep down he must know that he is. His way of coping with this is to convince himself and others that all his critics are just bitter failures driven by envy of his imagined success (as he puts it, because he is “getting some attention”, which he clearly regards as the very apogee of philosophical accomplichment), and if he can find anything to support this he will use it to try to bully his critics into silence. In this way he saves himself from having to ever go through the potentially painful process of taking such criticisms seriously (which is probably just as well from his point of view because if he ever were able to critically scrutinize his own claims with any degree of objectivity he would surely soon find this precarious metaphysical house of cards that he has constructed comes crashing down all around him). Instead of this he will focus his energies on trying to convince himself that his critics are bitter and twisted losers hell bent on sabotaging his great work out of spite and envy, and will go to considerable lengths to prove that this is the case to anyone who will listen. However utterly reprehensible his behavior becomes in this respect, he can see it as nothing but appropriate and just “retaliation” against those who have hurt his precious feelings so badly by snatching his toys away from him and failing to reflect back to him the inflated image he has of himself. In your case, having found that you appear as one of the two main subjects in a film entitled “American Losers” he has obviously decided it would be more politic to employ a different tactic (after all, it would hardly be very cool were he to accuse you of being a “loser” under such circumstances!), but you can be sure that he is has satisfied himself at least that all your supposed “hatred” of him is indeed ultimately driven by bitterness and envy. Needless to say, if he really did have any modicum of respect for you he would set about trying to address some of your many (many …) criticisms of his ideas (criticisms which I would say have a good deal more philosophical substance to them then any of Harman´s own publications), but we both know that this will never happen.

  17. Chris,

    A very rhetorically piquant description. I do tend to think that Harman likes to characterize those that criticize him as somehow jealous, but I also think that this is not quite right…

    Chris: “Well done, Kvond, for refusing to succumb to Harman´s unctuous and patronizing overtures. You are surely right that he was digging for dirt and that, had he uncovered anything at all that he could use to besmirch you, he would have gleefully milked it for all he could get out of it. ”

    I do think that he was likely searching for destructive material. His strategic response to me has been for some time absolute non-response, but then the internet became a little bit too enflamed with some powerful images that were simply going to appear in Googles of his name. He likely thought a nice shotgun blast should do the trick. Who knows if it were even he who found it, or a minion, er, supporter. In any case the motivation was unpleasantness.

    But I also think that he was somewhat surprised that I did not fit into his bubble of imagined persecutors, and that “allure” did come and brush him, genuinely. There were probably countless ways to make what he found much less pleasant. The fact of the matter is that Harman and I have always gotten along, personally, quite well. And it is very much the case that if we knew each other in space we would likely get along better than most. The thing is, I don’t really assess people by whether they like me, or get along with me, and I certainly don’t assess their ideas that way.

    As for Harman’s fantasy that I see him as some evil professor, I hardly think of him as a professor at all (this is in some contrast to Levi who is busy playing the professor 24/7, deploying every long-winded, terminological trick in the book to intimidate in a professorial way). Harman is a dreamer who got caught up in being a philosopher, and acquired a kind of jaundiced perspective on the whole processs. Unlike Levi who thinks he is much smarter than he is, Harman is someone who merely fell in love with his own ideas a bit too much, and has somewhat consciously somewhat intutively mapped out a path so that he can spend as much time with them as he can. Some of this involves trying to avoid criticism as much as possible and building alliances. Unfortunately it also has come to the point (and he was not ready for the nastiness that blogging sometimes draws to you) where his back-up-against-the-wall nastiness comes in (none of which he has actually directed against me, though this demasking may have been something in that vein). He’s kinda got himself in a bit of a pickle, and maybe even has taken his unexpected ANT “network” as a sign of his own rightness, the substance of his ideas. Who could blame him though?

    All the same, insofar as his ideas ARE having effects upon the “local ethic” of blogged philosophy, or are being positioned in the larger realm of philosophical discourse, I DO believe that they should be critiqued and examined from all angles available. In fact I take this to be a sign of respect. Take Harman seriously enough to laugh at an absurdity when he says it, call him on his shit, so to speak.

    As for him “answering” me (or anyone else for that matter, including Levi who won’t press the issue), there is no cost-benefit in doing so. There is too much “incoherence” in his thinking, too much to be justified outside of the mere privileges of speculation to spend time on such a thing. If he were ever to be interested in such it would have been when I wrote much of it, and when he was actually in communication with other not-so-special thinkers. Who knows, now that my criticisms are on the net, when Harman becomes the powerful philosophical voice that he imagines he one day will be, someone will dig up my points and form a “proper” criticism against his orthodoxy of sensuous objects and distant signals.

    • Kvond: “Unlike Levi who thinks he is much smarter than he is, Harman is someone who merely fell in love with his own ideas a bit too much, and has somewhat consciously somewhat intutively mapped out a path so that he can spend as much time with them as he can.”

      After reading Levi’s most recent twilight “scorcher,” I think I have to agree.

      • I wonder whatever got Levi to refrain from his usual claim that people who don’t find Harman’s OOP and Levi’s OOO coherent are the equivalent of the racists of the KKK (as he recently has), or psychologically diseased “misogynists and homophobes”, such as he has in the past:

        http://kvond.wordpress.com/2009/07/04/what-larval-subjects-loves-to-hate/

        I think it is probably best to leave Levi to the illusion that he is part of a movement that is marked by the great well-spring of resistence to it, he is on the cutting edge of a philosophical revolution. And what does a revolution NEED…enemies.

      • I like this part of Levi’s comentary perhaps symptomatically the most, where he covers the ground we have already covered as if it were his idea (Levi’s great with other people’s ideas, he’s like a Willie Wanka chocholate factory of other person’s ideas). He thinks all this is just like Derrida, remember that Mikhail?:

        “All of this reminds me of my first encounters with Derrida at The Ohio State University as an undergrad. Ohio State, of course, is Anglo-American in its dominant philosophical orientation with a strong history of philosophy program. Suddenly “Derrida” was on everyone’s lips. No one had actually read Derrida, but nonetheless Derrida was the threat that had to be responded to. Like a black hole or a strange attractor, Derrida’s radical anti-realism had become The Danger(tm).”

        Of course this is what his partner thinks of Derrida, so much for critical thought:

        “Personally, I never had much time for Derrida, and see him instead as a self-indulgent wanker adrift in a sea of signs and boring high-culture collage.”

      • Kvond, not only did Levi bring up Derrida—which we already covered—but he also brought up the other issue—”newness.” Both of these issues were addressed at great length in the previous threads as the two most expected or commonsense responses to the critiques of SR, but then I’m not really sure what I was hoping for… a fertile dialogue with the Real Other, I suppose?

  18. Pingback: Levi Apparently Has Never Read Harman’s Theory of Causation « Frames /sing

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