It seems as though Objectology™ in person is as nonsensical and narcissistic as Objectology™ online. All the main characters prove to be the almost exact copies of their irritating online personas.


32 thoughts on “Fortunately…

    • Applying objectological gymnastics: yes, impossible. Only their qualities we can touch are the same in every form of exposition. Their molten cores are – well, real. There isn’t much else one can say about them.

      • You guys should have asked questions. The symposium (not conference, sorry) could have used more critical questions and less deference. Sometimes silently sneering from the balcony does not serve the others in the room. I will say that I found Bryant strangely aggressive to those who asked questions that were even the slightest bit critical. His dismissal of ideology in favor of the objects of buses or bridges was strange to say the least.

        (Not this post, but thanks for the heads up on the Maimon being published)

      • I wonder if confuses his blog commenters whom he can erase and ban and actual human beings whom he can interrupt, of course, but things don’t go as smoothly.

        What exactly was the purpose of this symposium if no one was allowed to ask really critical questions? Was this an exhibition game? A warm up for a future larger and more significant event?

      • I’m sorry you’re not enjoying yourself. I wish I could be there.

        To be fair, it’s hard for me to imagine that the personality dynamics are significantly worse than the normal ones at APA or SPEP meetings. . . Actually, I imagine they’re significantly better than the normal kind of Peacocke tail displaying at APA meetings and SPEPS.

        I always get slightly weirded out when there are a certain percentage of British academics at the bar, just because very deep patterns of expected deference to class distinctions inform who is supposed to talk when and what you are allowed to say. [I’m not putting down the British. They have very sensible views about gun control, homosexuality, and the state’s role in providing medical services. And of course, everything I’ve published is to some extent a footnote to Bertrand Russell. And there’s Monty Python, the Comic Strip Presents (Bad News, the Beatnik episode, the Anthropology episode, etc.), Absolutely Fabulous, etc. The remaining detritus of the British methods of enforcing class distinctions absolutely freaks me out though whenever I’m subjected to it. Obviously if I was in the upper class of these things it probably wouldn’t bother me as much.]

      • I wasn’t there, I was using a reliable second-hand source without permission (sorry) – I was hoping until the last moment that all this nastiness and narcissism are just the problem of the blog medium, maybe it’s still the case, who care really?

      • All you would need would be a “cursed” object (perhaps that strange block of wood on the desk) that would transform the holder. Of course, under this scenario its the audience that would be fighting against the zombified OOO’ists.

      • Am I the only one not there who is seeing this as the setting for the most kick ass zombie movie in the history of the world?

        Though I am enamored of Mikhail’s ballet interludes with dancing toasters and whatnot, I think he got the end of his opera wrong. His inspiration should be the Tarantino/Rodriguez vehicle “From Dust Till Dawn,” where two-thirds through the movie inexplicably turns into a huge battle with the undead.

        This may end up portraying Bryant, Harman, and Bogost as more heroic than Mikhail can stomach, but Mikhail we all must suffer for our art. Maybe you could have the toasters side with the zombies for a final ironic and tragic denouement? Maybe the objects like being correlated, or something like that?

      • This is an entirely new and more interesting twist, I have to say. My ending was total shit, of course – I do love the idea of objects that like being correlated. This calls for a completely new set-up then, me thinks: the heroes are revolutionaries fighting for the rights of objects – various heroic events follow – objects learn to speak and say something like “Excuse me, put me down where I belong, I LIKE making toasts for you, I DO”

        P.S. I hope everyone does get an unserious spirit in all of this and this stuff does not come across as evil and mean (as unfortunately it is often read by the sensitive and defensive objects of our occasional ridicule)…

  1. I find three things to be odd about the whole thing:

    1) Regardless of the disclaimers, you guys are often mean to the main objectologists, whether they are overly sensitive or not.

    2) Conversely, for a bunch of rebels and “guerilla metaphysicians” they seem like a very defensive and traditionalist group. What’s more “guerilla” then online communication under pseudonyms etc etc? What’s more undermining vis-a-vis traditional scholarship and its sad name-dropping and power struggle? Yet we see the same games among the objectological groups, which leads me to my third point.

    3) I wonder if OOP/OOO are not really that rebellious or anti-traditionalist (all that talk of how much they hate APA or SPEP), but simply want to have their own little club with their own equivalent of traditional conferences and hierarchies? APA and SPEP will be eventually replaced with OOO Symposiums – what’s the difference?

  2. There’s just something about the words ‘kick-ass’ and ‘heroic’ that don’t quite obtain in this glamorous affair. ‘Sensitive and defensive’, however, definitely do, despite the indisputable fact that all eyes were on this event, and I do mean all politicians, economists, historians, filmmakers, artists, you name it, not just lowly philosophers…somehow it just doesn’t quite merit not only an indie, but even a documentary, other than just the scattered YouTube, I suppose those will be available, and we’ll hear the exciting new surprises that Graham Harman provided for his audience. I think Mylar balloons, as at office secy. parties should be used as decor in some of the ice-dancing episodes.

  3. Here’s a funnier quote (from Harman):

    OOO now officially exists. There was good group chemistry, too. Thanks to Ian and his co-conspirators for putting this event together.

    Funny, right? Humans talked about it on the internet, but only after they actually physically met each other in some backroom of a student center that OOO came into existence. Again, Object-Oriented Ontology was only officially announced as existing after a group of Subjects discussed it in Person and announced its birth!

  4. I enjoyed this little note at the bottom of one of Harman’s most recent posts:

    “p.s. Cogburn says he hopes the papers will be available be soon. In this case I didn’t have a paper; I used note cards and PowerPoint.”

    Perhaps I’m misinterpreting this statement, but it seems to wreak of a certain smugness: the founder of the movement need not write an entire PAPER! on a conference dedicated to him! I mean…. OOO–a few notecards will more than suffice! How else should one go about subtly implementing a totemic hierarchy between Founder and followers, Leader and led, after all?

    • No that’s not quite right.

      There’s this weird tremendous pressure not to just read your paper through now. Being able to talk a paper through without reading it tends to reliably impress much more. I don’t know why that’s it.

      I usually make a handout of the paper and lecture off the handout, offering to mail the paper to anyone who wants it. I don’t know if the performance is objectively better or worse than when I read the paper through. In both cases I feel disassociated in a strange way, outside of myself watching the body do this odd thing. I can’t figure out which is odder, reading the paper through, or talking it through via notes and slides and whatnot.

      • No offense, but that doesn’t really make any sense. Just because you write a paper for a conference doesn’t mean you have to read it when you give the speech. Is that even widely done? Almost everyone uses note cards, from my own experience attending conferences. Anyhow, it’s quite clear that the other participants put quite a lot of work in preparing written versions of their speeches before attending. For example, here’s Shaviro’s post about writing a paper beforehand: I take the relative silence over at Bryant’s blog to connote the same (he often goes silent during periods of intense non-blog related writing). As for Bogost I have no idea.

        I can’t see this disagreement going much farther without tea leaves and Kremlinology, but if this sort of epistemic closure exhibited by the OOO-branch of SR represents the “future of American continental philosophy,” then I am surely glad that I do not count myself among any such movement, nor as an unaffiliated apologist.

      • Graham’s presentation was a basic introduction to the history of objects in western philosophy. It was not technical presentation of new ideas but was a presentation of the main concerns of SR/OOP and the concepts that dominate this particular approach of philosophy. The other three were more technical and therefore, there are probably papers available from them.This criticism of Harman is irrational and reminds me of FOX News criticisms of Obama (i.e. whatever he does is interpreted in the most sinister form available).

      • I have to agree with Stellar here – who cares if there was a paper or a stack of cards? I don’t think the lack of paper shows anything. I think the lack of coherent argument about what exactly is new about OOO is important, not how that lack is exhibited.

  5. You’re missing the point, I think, the idea was to get all the “Founders of the Movement” together for a secret OOO handshake, the symposium was just an excuse. Harman has a fetish for writing histories of movements, he needed this one so he could paint a better picture of the whole. As far as I could tell, it was like 40 Georgia Tech students, not a sophisticated philosophical audience that needed to be persuaded in the value of this new theory. So what matters is how Harman will spin this event in his future poetic discourse on the roots of the movement, not the papers themselves.

    • You’re missing the point, I think, the idea was to get all the “Founders of the Movement” together for a secret OOO handshake, the symposium was just an excuse.

      C’est normale, ca. They are lucky to have been able to pull this off, given the earth-shaking nature of the event. As such, their meeting for an actual de-bleuging is the most impressive thing I’ve yet witnessed their doing, despite the likelihood that casting for Mr. Harman by Mikhail (he has not yet disclosed casting for ‘Greg’) is not going to be Tom Cruise in the str8 movie version w/o music, Bryn Terfel in the pure opera, or Brian Boitano in the IceCapades..

      “Harman has a fetish for writing histories of movements, he needed this one so he could paint a better picture of the whole.”

      Yes, he is very shrewd. He uses his attributes profligately, and it is like Dominic Fox says: ‘So maybe you’re not so photogenic, you must remember that you have many other good qualities’. This is not especially sensitive, of course, if you know who the parties in question are. In fact, it is a form of polite condescension.

      “As far as I could tell, it was like 40 Georgia Tech students, not a sophisticated philosophical audience that needed to be persuaded in the value of this new theory. So what matters is how Harman will spin this event in his future poetic discourse on the roots of the movement, not the papers themselves.”

      Agree. Harman is nothing if not a great poeticist.

    • Cool.

      Maimon is an interesting figure, as is well known, he grew up poor and at times (or most of the time), homeless in parts of both Poland and Lithuania. His abandonment of the Talmud is ironic given that he claimed to have mastered Talmud by the time he was a tweener. I think he continually referred to the “Talmudic darkness” as a descripter for the “obscurantism” that continued to take hold in Eastern Europe Jewish communities–something that may still be relevant today I think. From his auto-biography I remember this: he got sick of spending his time pondering “how many white hairs a red cow may have and still be a red cow,” or how one should get dressed. Tee hee. I’m pretty sure, like Rosenzweig, he briefly considered converting to Christianity. Another of my favorite stories about Maimon: I think after trying a few times he finally was allowed into Berlin, but got in trouble with the Jewish authorities for carrying around a RamBam text. This reminds me of another story, but this time it’s about Mendelssohn. As the story goes, he was allowed into Berlin after he responded “to learn” when asked what business he had in the city (being broke wasn’t exactly going to get you into the capital those days).

      Didn’t Maimon ultimately die alone, a drunk with his dog? I think so.

      One of the interesting things that runs through Maimon, and Mendelssohn for that matter, is a kind of desperate, but in the end, pointless attempt to “civilize” German nationalism, that is, re-orienting citizenship not on blood but on law. What one sees in Kant (and Hegel, albeit in a different manner), is a tendency to exclude Jews from civil life based on some wierd psuedo-theology (argued forefully by Mack in his book German Idealism and the Jew).

      By the way, I’ve read quite a bit of the way through the new translation and time permitting I’m happy to participate. However, I’m spread sort of thin (as you know) right now, so perhaps I’ll make some comments here and there, and maybe even post something here and there as well, but in an “unofficial” manner.

      • I think he spent the last decade of his life living pretty well in the house of a sponsor, which was his just due after two decades of pretty dire poverty. His death is usually chalked up to “side effects of alcoholism.”

      • There are side effects of alcoholism?? Damn it, nobody told me! He certainly did have a very interesting life – sometimes I think that it would be like a town hobo writing a critique of Badiou or Zizek (or whoever is the present-day most important philosopher) – good luck getting that published…

      • That sounds right, Jon (plus you deploy a far more appropriate euphemism than I did to describe the circumstances of Maimon’s death).

        Now if I could only remember the name of Maimon’s dog… (or am I making this up, that’s always possible).

  6. I’ll retract my comments regarding Harman’s lack of paper at the conference, though I still do think it’s odd that that was the case given all the hype surrounding the conference and its being characterized as the birth of the “American-wing of continental philosophy” (which is somehow read as synonymous with OOO). I never intended this remark to be some sort of all-pervasive critique of all things Harman–just an observation. I think much time has already been spent belaboring the point that OOO is philosophically vapid, so I don’t totally agree with you Mikhail regarding the need to take that any further. At this point it’s all spectacle and very little substance (not that it ever possessed much in terms of the latter).

    • True, I think this topic probably reached its end – but there’s something sadly cathartic about ridiculing that which is so easily ridiculable (not a word, I know). But certainly one has to admire the sheer imagination and ambition of the “movement” – no facts will prevent it from inventing its own history. Plus, it’s a funny spectacle to observe, admit it – so self-serious, someone has to laugh, I think.

      I personally think the most interesting stuff is still happening under the aegis of the recent interest in Kant/Hegel among the youngsters, you know? Hopefully many soon will see how ridiculously straw-man-like are all these discussions of “correlationism” in OOO/OOP.

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