Writing About Things Is Still Just Writing.

Most are probably aware of ridiculous resurgence of Derrida-hate, initiated by OOO mischaracterization of his work as just “writing about books” – the “conversation” since took off on a number of blogs and most points are the same: no, he was not writing about books. My only lesson here is the following: those who claims that Derrida (and the rest of correlationist mafia) is only writing about books, texts, signifiers, language and other human-centered phenomena are proposing that we break out of that mold and get to the things themselves.

Fair enough, I say.


As some have already pointed out neither Harman’s recent books nor Bryant’s upcoming book are going to be full of empirical research, surveys, original data and so on. Writing about things and their non-human interaction is just writing about things, not actually getting your hands dirty with things or any kind of real paradigm change.

All this nonsense about “armchair philosophy” is just that, nonsense – if you’re really into practical engagement with things/objects, then leave your “armchair” jobs and get to work.

13 thoughts on “Writing About Things Is Still Just Writing.

  1. Pingback: Armchair research « Archaeological Haecceities

  2. I’m actually surprised that no one has mentioned the experimental philosophy movement in all of this. At least its marginally more coherent than experimental metaphysics. They even have an anthem!

    • “The Lion at once passed through the door, and glancing around saw, to his surprise, that before the throne was a Ball of Fire, so fierce and glowing he could scarcely bear to gaze upon it. His first thought was that Oz had by accident caught on fire and was burning up.”

      But the flame knows nothing of the throne-in-itself.

      • Agreed, Mikhail. So far as I can tell, once one moves beyond the bluster, strawman readings and self-congratulations, there doesn’t seem to be an actual problem motivating objectology. So far as I can tell, it is an idle form of conceptual analysis — “Wouldn’t it be cool if we could psychoanalyze objects, or return to substance?” — that doesn’t engage with objects any more than it gets out of the armchair and goes into the world.

        If you’re interested, the latest issue of Review of philosophy of Psychology is dedicated to X-PHI. There’s a paper by L.A. Paul entitled “A New Role for Experimental Work in Metaphysics” that might be very promising. It starts well at least….

    • Well, I’d like to see some kind of “experimental speculative metaphysics” as strange as it sounds. The whole notion that we must leave our dusty offices and get with the objects is idiotic to an extend that I cannot express. It’s odd to me that anyone would take it seriously.

      • There is a short story of Kafka about a philosopher who attempted to fully understand at least one object in the world. In that particular case it was a spinning top. So when children played with a spinning top he jumped on it and tried to experience the spinning move directly – and always failed.

        Maybe a theory of withdrawnness have turned him into a stoic? Each object is already the absolute other of all other objects. Of course waves think different about this whole issue but I don’t want to be too nitpicking.

  3. I’ll possibly regret this, but I think your friend G.H. agrees with you:

    “one almost never hears such statements from real practicing scientists. The ones I know are all quite fascinated by philosophical questions;…The “armchair” critique is always heard from people who do no experimental work themselves, but are trying to pose as the philosophical Aarons of practicing scientists. Here, the sneer is one of horrified self-recognition by people who themselves occupy armchairs.”

    But I am sure you can find other things in the post to object (no pun intended) to.

    On a different note, there’s also this blog site dedicated to what the author calls “New Empiricism,” & though I am not sure it is either, it looks interesting.

  4. Hello all,

    Whose objects? Point with saying that D doesn’t deal with objects is that that the objects in question are objects construed by OOP/O . Hence you get uncharitable readings of D that fail to follow the openings and are instead obsessed with closure. The emphasis on the latter – at least in OOO case – is to do with a lacanism concerned with the hysteric.


  5. Bryan, I don’t disagree with Harman here (minus the generalizations based on few scientists he knows – some don’t give a rat’s ass about “philosophical questions”). Maybe he needs to talk to Bryant about it some more. Bryant’s only recourse is of course books, not objects. Yes, his ideas might be interesting indeed, but they are just that, ideas. OOO is all about new conceptual redrawing of well-known positions – great, but it’s just more of the same, writing-wise. Don’t yell at Derrida for suggesting that it’s all about language without providing a way of getting outside of language (saying “I don’t like the notion that everything is determined by language” is not an answer, it’s a personal idiosyncrasy)…

  6. Mikhail, I agree that an “experimental speculative metaphysics” is a desirable goal. I wonder if Ian Bogost’s videogame theorization isn’t a possible application of such, or perhaps a preliminary intervention that could be abstracted to provide one: i.e. not so much the application of a theory that doesn’t quite exist but a theoretical practice that, if attended to carefully, might provide a ground for an ontology that would (vs. “correlationism”) grant significant agency to nonhuman entities without necessarily leading into “orthodox” object-oriented ontology. I personally think that a phenomenological (therefore “correlationist”) take on media of various sorts forces one to confront aporia where the phenomenological investigation breaks down or gets caught up in loops of various sorts (and this is at least one of the things Derrida showed for language and textuality, thus making him an opponent of “correlationism”–but that’s not to say that’s all he did). My own work attempts something similar with cinema (expanding on Vivian Sobchack’s phenomenology of film to the point where the agreement she posits between filmic and human agencies is shown to be historically contingent, highly variable, where the variability rather than the agreement–correlation?–is crucial to the interest and enjoyment of cinema.) My point is not that media have to be made central to ontology, but only to suggest that a serious and historically sensitive engagement with media can serve to provide the “experimental” basis for an “experimental speculative realism.”

    • Shane, perhaps you’re correct about Bogost, but I was talking about the other two who do nothing of sorts, that is, they are as armchair as those they claim need to get out there and do something practical – neither will ever give up their positions as theoretical (“speculative”) philosophers and therefore they claims that Derrida was just writing about books while they are doing the same are annoying. That was my point.

      Bogost did his thing before he “converted” to OOO which makes me think he could have done it without Harman’s philosophical input. Plus, aren’t video game or cinema a much closer phenomena to Derrida’s “writing” than the idiotic “we need objects!” theory? They are as much “plays of signifiers” as anything Derrida wrote about, if, according to objectologists, he only wrote about books…

      • Mikhail, I have no major disagreements with anything you write here. In fact, my comment was made in support of your criticisms of the Harman/Bryant strawmanning of Derrida. And as to Bogost: I was suggesting that he may have been onto something that is wrongly seen in terms of OOO (or wrongly reduced/abstracted in a strictly OOO fashion). And yes, I agree that video games and cinema are close to Derrida’s “writing”–at least in the sense that, as I wrote above, they offer ground for a postphenomenological take on mediation with ontological–and realist–implications.

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