And Then God Created Objects…

Yet again we have prove that the ever-popular lists of random objects (much ridiculed by many people) were not invented by Objectologist the Father:

16 thoughts on “And Then God Created Objects…

  1. From a recent review of “Prince of Networks” by Edmund Zagorin, “Harman’s Latour: An Epiphany of the Obvious?”:

    As if to substantiate the real-ness and genuine relevance of Latour’s metaphysics, Harman is fond of giving lists of everyday objects with which Latour’s theories might regular traffic with, for example (to list a few):

    “…apples, vaccines, subway trains, and radio towers…”
    “…generals, surgeons, nannies, writers, chefs, biologists, aeronautical engineers,
    and seducers…”
    “…children, raindrops, bullet trains, politicians, and numerals…”
    “…windmills, sunflowers, propane tanks, and Thailand.”
    “…bodies, atoms, cosmic rays, business lunches, rumors, physical force, propaganda,
    or God.”
    “…pine trees, dogs, supersonic jets, living and dead kings, strawberries,
    grandmothers, propositions, and mathematical theorems.”
    “…our prisons, our gas and water infrastructure, the sale of potato chips, international
    law, nuclear test bans, and enrollment in universities.”

    This list of lists is by no means exhaustive. But what is the point? What is the blindingly simple yet profound truth that will change everything and end the debate about whether or not reality is separated by mind or matter or neither or both? Harman writes: “…nothing can be reduced to nything else. Each thing simply is what it is, in utter concreteness.” Latour’s metaphysics is a philosophy of objects, and in order to be metaphysical, everything, material or immaterial or whatever, has been characterized as an object, although of course without being reduced to any preconceived principle of ‘object-hood’. Hence the repetitive lists. For this reviewer, the starry-eyed moment of epiphany has been momentarily superseded by another figurative sense-organ; the skeptical nose that just caught a unpleasantly familiar whiff of the meta-meta “everything is the same, but yet different” philosophy of the Age of Aquarius, a philosophy which manages to be at once obvious, contradictory, and useless. Objects, or what Latour calls ‘actants’ are both differentiated and omnipresent, “Nothing exists but actants, and all of them are utterly concrete.”

    But isn’t metaphysics about attempting to define or characterize reality in certain terms, whether empirical or no? If everything is an actant, which is to say, that if there’s nothing we can point to that we can clearly say ‘this is not an actant’, then isn’t the very concept of an actant more or less completely undefined? If parameter-less sets are passing for definitions these days, one might equally ask you to draw a picture of a square without depicting its edge! Because if it does pass as such, then I have an entire ream of rare nature photographs to sell you of noseless polar bears blinking in snowstorms, all mint condition, too! And thus, lacking an outside to allow the definition of reality to actually be defined (even the broken metaphysical circle of Heidegger’s-cum-Spanos’ emphasized exterior still had a line with which to demarcate one from the other) isn’t what Latour-cum-Harman up to here not even really technically metaphysics?

    There are other problems that if anything, may be even more troubling than the tautological vagueness of the actant-concept, such as the inability to say when an actant starts or stops, or how we might distinguish it from other actants. For example, if my foot is an actant, does it start at the ankle or the heel? This seems like that’s a pretty important question, if all objects are “totally concrete”. And am I an actant built of other actants? If so, this is starting to sound suspiciously like a Deleuzian ‘assemblage’ under a different name. Harman suggests that the power of actants is their varying relations through networks (hence the title) related to force, but if everything is an actant then mustn’t the networks themselves be actants? And if networks and actants are the same thing, possessed of the same properties, then the idea that an actant gains relative power only through networking (allying, translating, mediating and so on) with other actants falls apart because
    the actants that are themselves networks could simply rely on a power that was entirely selfcontained, or rather, derived from its actant-parts. These questions raise the troubling possibility of a contradiction between Latour’s belief that nothing can be based on first principles, and then asserting what seems like almost nothing but. How do we know what an actant is, what it is capable of, what this concept makes possible or thinkable unless we define it as a first principle? … Therefore objecthood (or actanthood) itself must necessarily be a first principle, unless the answer to all my previously posed rhetorical
    questions is simply ‘everything’, in which case the concept of an actant is philosophically meaningless. I might as well say that everything is a Xomphlglott, or that everything is an Oni-995-Ploot, and when you ask me what each of those is, I’ll tell you: everything!


    • The review in its entirety can be found here – I didn’t read the book (and most likely never will since I can’t take Harman seriously after all of his public freak-outs and such), so I can’t judge its content, but I’m sure it’s full the usual Harmania of self-aggrandizing and unfunny jokes…

    • Ommm

      the major question is not if one thing can be reduced to another one but if one thing can be reduced to itself and what can be possibly be meant by it? If you say an apple is an apple you miss the truth, if you say an apple is not an apple you miss it either.


  2. My psychotoxicologist warned me to stay away from energy-sucking trolls like you. Why are you so cynical and negative all the time? You’re sapping my precious bodily fluids, dude!

    • Well, it’s easy – I’m a bitter failure of a human being, I don’t have anything positive to say, so I spend my days in a creative combination of the following a) feeling jealous of Harman and his astonishing success (I mean he gets thousands of hits on his blog and his books are sold out and women flock to his bachelor apartment and graduate students worship him), b) snarking from nowhere (see a. for an example), c) delaying working on my own special project, or d) continuously perfecting and tightening up the project that I already have because I’m perfectionist and I’m afraid of failure/success. Take you pick!

  3. Well, I interviewed him here: , quite recently

    .. and he was every bit a gentleman. I don’t want to go into this again, I mean, I’ve conversed with you too Mikhail, and you’re also a gentleman, so far as I can tell… but, well, picking out Cairo visits to your site and posting them up is a bit, well, analytical… like ‘purges’ analytical.

    sorry, sorry, sorry… not my place. I know. You’ve admitted you are a troll, and a grey vampire and all, and some of what you say verges on hilarity (I mean genuine wit, which isn’t all that common in the blogosphere) when its not just downright clever. But sometimes it gets me seething with moral indignation.

    But that’s the last of it from me.

    Anyhow, did you get any further with the Left Wing (relevance of…) post?

    • Thanks, Mike. People are different, you know? Not everyone gets their fun the same way – at least we don’t post private emails or emails form third parties or threaten to sink a journal because we don’t like what someone said about us etc etc. I have the right to mock whoever I find mockable. I think your observation just proves my point: the world is much more complex than “geniuses” vs. “trolls” (funnily enough, it’s Harman point to show how interesting and complex the world is), everyone’s a gentlemen and yet everyone’s an asshole

      P.S. Cairo visits to our site are public, anyone can see them – it’s funny because the Father always advices everyone to just ignore trolls because they are sucking your energy and so on, and yet he still reads what people say about him.

  4. I am sure he was a gentleman Mike and he will remain so as long as you prop him up. We’re all just waiting for you to piss him off by accident and so you can see why he has managed to alienate pretty much everyone who has gotten close. Didn’t Ennis start off with an interview of Harman? Put two and two together son.

  5. Yes, it could happen, he could fly off the handle at me, or whatever he might apparently do, but we’re in no way embroiled as Ennis and he were… (plus it’d be betwee me and him)

    …it’s an interview, with the specific aim of finding out certain info, which it does fairly well considering I’m also porting theory articles to an independent music and arts site. We got a media player, funky articles on latin music, fiction, and then SR and OOP.

    how about them apples…


  6. ‘Cairo visits to our site are public, anyone can see them.’

    point taken. ok, well you’re gent as I say. I think we’re ok.

    and yes, people are difficult. not easily categorisable. ask my better half! 😀

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