Herr Harman and Herr Shaviro Break Up…

It’s not me, it’s you. Sadness.


54 thoughts on “Herr Harman and Herr Shaviro Break Up…

  1. In related news, this is most likely the stupidest thing I have read in my entire life:

    “Throughout North America and other parts of the world, for example, grass cultivated humans to be beings that love lawns and large grassy areas for their sports so that humans would spread grass all about the world, thereby getting itself replicated. Likewise, cows, in a sinister plot against other herd animals, cultivated humans to have a particular love of beef so that they might get replicated and spread across the globe, cornering the market on prime pieces of grazing land.”

    Courtesy of Levi Bryant. I’m sure I’m not the only one – but how dumb is this book project? “Tongue-in-cheek” has never been so unfunny – what are the folk at Posthumanities thinking? (And where is Brian Leiter when you need him?) I mean they published Isabelle Stengers and Michel Serres in that series – what the fuck, man?

  2. That does sound incredibly idiotic. I’m sure it’s the result of Bryant’s recent meeting with folks at UCLA (some of whom were published in the same series). I’m also quite sure that once he actually writes and submit the official proposal, the serious people on the editorial board will have a good laugh. It’ll most likely end in some kind of “hegemony of the established philosophers” whine so common of Bryant – I’m still surprised he managed to somehow fool reviewers (if there were any to begin with) and publish his “democracy of objects” travesty – it’s all Graham Harman’s workings, that much is clear.

  3. Well I guess that it’s the introduction of Morton in the OOO club that gave a general injection of idiocy to the group. Some of the stuff that guy writes are just unbelievably stupid, and what’s worse is that Harman and Bryant seem to have welcomed him as an interesting conversation partner. Probably because Morton does not write a single paragraph without shouting out loud (in the most shamefully servile manner) how much he L O V E S the incredibly ground-breaking philosophy of St. Graham. And since Harman can barely write one paragraph without writing the word *I* or *ME*, it is a match made in heaven. Anyway yes, someone should email that to Leiter…

  4. Who is this Morton character anyway?

    I do think Levi decided that it’s a good idea just to share whatever is on his mind with his public, including the dumb stuff. It’s probably a part of some self-healing new methodology of dealing with the difficulties of the academic life that is full of oppression and hegemony.

    It’s never been clearer to me that most of us need to filter our thoughts and only “release” a small fraction of them out into the wild blogosphere. Now he’s giving advice on how to write novels – what’s next? Cooking a steak column? Gardening advice? Marriage counseling practice?

  5. Bryant has an incredible ability to think up the most banal and average theories and then dress them up as novel interpretations of reality. I suppose lacking real talent (unlike Harman, who has a knack for writing in a somewhat exciting, even if affected, way) it’s better than nothing. For example:

    “Flat ontology calls for bilateral determination, where determination doesn’t simply run from human to world, but where all sorts of other entities structure humans and societies as well.”

    Really? Non-human entities like forests, stones, plants, animals and so on determine human life as well? Who would have thought!? And yet we give it a cool name – bilateral determination – and write a book about it (probably after having skimmed through Fernand Braudel and Marx). Of course, a lot of academic writing is full these sorts of reinventions but I’m sure that Bryant’s version will be as dry and humorless as his blog.

  6. @Bob, precisely, I completely agree with your description. And the few genuinely interesting things he’s got to say have been said better before. Take Latour circa 1990 add a bit of Roy Bhaskar circa 1975 and you’ve got 90% of the ‘innovative ideas’ which Bryant has been repeating for the last…what, two years?

  7. I wonder if he even sees this himself, you know? I’m sure most of our thoughts/ideas are derived from others, but in some delusional cases people think they are entirely innovative when even a child can see their extensive borrowings and mixtures.

    Since we’re collecting anecdotes, I have to add that I’m especially annoyed when the likes of Bryant (and Harman as well) discover some well-known writer (like Marx or Derrida) and then proceed to announce a revival of said writer as though no one has ever appreciated them – like an annoying teenager who discovers Pink Floyd and proceed to annoy his father who knew of them for 20 years now. Harman’s version is more “in your face” but still along the same lines: “Oh look, I recently read some Aristotle – I think we all must read Aristotle” and so on. It’s sad to see that the kids are worshipping these “heroes” – where are the academic standards of rigour, patience, careful reading/analysis and so on?

  8. Who cares about rigour and patience when you can mesh up random authors, use some fancy new words (I mean, *allure*? Seriously?) and then write books of ‘philosophical myths’ which people actually buy? Let’s face it, the problem is that there is a lot of people out there (admittedly, mostly not philosophers) that like the OOO merchandise a great deal.

    Indeed, somewhat ironically, I think that OOO will survive exactly like those worst forms of postmodernism that thrived outside of philosophy departments.

    What I find interesting in OOO is that it is a very good symptom of the current state of academic philosophy, in its mixture of stolen and then cunningly arranged ideas from the continental tradition, bad metaphysics from the analytic one and a sprinkle of poorly digested physics (if you then add Morton’s Duddhist delusions, you’ve got a real handful). A symptom, not a cure.

    • Indeed, somewhat ironically, I think that OOO will survive exactly like those worst forms of postmodernism that thrived outside of philosophy departments.

      For Meillassoux there has been at least Eli Ayache, a french financial trader, who has gone into philosophy and came up with a quibble about the difference between contingency and probability and the limits of stochastic model building.

      I can’t imagine something like this will happen to OOO. The part of OOO which is speculative or metaphysical, is somewhat dull and the other more common sense part ( e.g. co-determination of objects or subject/object couples ) is not new and hasn’t been problematic.

      The most influential aspect of the whole endeavour will likely be the use of “OOO” and “OOP” as catch-phrases. The tax for using them will be a mention of Harman who deserves credit for bringing them up. They are his intellectual property. So when an author links Leibniz to “object oriented programming” ( which was invented in the 1970s ) something that has happened in the past, then this author does “object oriented philosophy” i.e. something which has been classified by people who hold patents on that sort of ideas – and if not patents because there was too much prior art they hold trademarks and express expert opinions on such stuff. So maybe even the speculative part makes sense in the light of the exploitation of some ideas.

  9. I’m hoping for an object-oriented documentary film soon, chronicling the exciting story (hopefully with dramatic reenactments) about the birth of OOO. Frankly, for a group so relentlessly concerned with promoting itself through new media and recruiting members, I’m surprised there hasn’t been an amateur one produced already. Here could be some good scenes:

    1. The birth of “speculative realism” at the Goldsmith’s Conference, awkward interactions between the original Fab Four before their big break up.

    2. Interview with Levi talking about how he thought Graham was the “most boring” of the four, until one fateful day they struck up e-mail correspondence, changing their lives (or at least his) forever.

    3. Graham talking about growing up in a small town in Iowa, and how the rural setting shaped his views on aesthetics and ontology. Also some brief remarks about why he dislikes certain in-vogue philosophers because they ignore the little objects.

    4. Timothy Morton mysteriously could not be reached for interview, but decided to record an hour long video of himself talking quietly to his computer about his recent conversion to OOO, which opened his eyes to our interconnected oneness in the Buddha’s mind.

    5. Bogost clip from the Colbert Report.

    6. Long, awkward ending scene with Levi talking to the camera as if the director were his analyst.

    7. Final, actual ending sequence–inserted after filming unbeknownst to Levi–where Graham Harman gets the last word in, criticizing trumpery and how not enough capitalism-hating hipster graduate students appreciate the idea of philosophy as an elaborate form of marketing.

  10. 8. The extra on DVD is a “making of” feature in which we see Harman constantly telling everyone what to do and distributing the updated “latest interpretation talking points” memo to the cast members.

  11. Gardening advice?

    He already did this, it was about Marx and Lacan, and how you shouldn’t have a very manicured or ‘special’ garden because that kind of ‘happiness’ is not what everyone can have. Therefore it’s IMMORAL, and not true happiness. Of course, he’s forgotten all about that by now, but I know a lot more about steak than he does (use some thyme in your herb butter for London Broil, which is a cheap cut, as we know, and should be fiercely pounded, marinated in some red wine, and the butter should include minced garlic as well. Cook so that it’s on the rare side.)

    “Man, mocking OOO does magic to our stats.”

    No, I come over here for different reasons and gave this post only One Star…

    Here’s why:

    3. Graham talking about growing up in a small town in Iowa, and how the rural setting shaped his views on aesthetics and ontology. Also some brief remarks about why he dislikes certain in-vogue philosophers because they ignore the little objects.

    And that’s the Gospel of why Harman’s charisma remains a mystery to many of us, despite his needlepoint-style bleug. I bet he does knit. I guess ‘the rural setting’ is supposed to be like Heidegger making ‘cutting their Xmas tree’ in the forest special or something. But we know that the Germans have this ‘rustic’ number, just the way the French don’t.

    So while it was a fine job by Mikhail to bring the attention to these idiotic texts, the texts were so bad that the post had to be given an inferior rating–like killing the messenger who brings bad news.

    Ta ta…

  12. In a new wikileaks release a cable from the Whitehead conference reports that Shaviro wrestled Harman to the ground, got him in a headlock and shouted “withdraw from this motherfucker!” Everyone applauded except for Levi who was grazing. It is also suspected that Harman smuggled in tiny Tim under his toga. In the final address the organisers stated the conference had been “a travesty” and “pointless” and didn’t know what they were thinking.

    • Yeah….but tha’s too bad, man. Harman can just use his kaftan, even though that will mean that Timmy has even less to hold onto for his safety, comfort and career-oriented physiognomy. People in the Heartland don’t like to borrow, that’s just a fact, and they don’t care if that causes deflationary spirals either.

      Having a hard time with the chaparral canyons, and the Fox doesn’t bother to help me with this. It’s harder than tropics, which are easy to write even though I’ve seen them less. There’s just something about that painfully beautiul SoCal light in winter, and those canyons up from Topanga are pretty great, although Air Force Plant 42 is more sinister and has also got them. So it’s chaparral, definitely, and some junipers and cypresses and scrub oak. This cypress can be grown in a Mediterranean climate, but is usually a kind of domestic-butch done in rows as in Italy. I’ve seen these in Laurel Canyon http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cupressus, but that’s where the actor lives that did the Angels movies, not in the movie (they’re never on the hills naturally). I realize this is off-topic from the grass-specific topic, but then I don’t give that much of a flying fuck about withdrawal in this case 😉

  13. Here’s a quotation from Circus Philosophicus aka ‘Graham Harman: A New Hope:’

    ‘The reader should pause and fix this image firmly in mind: a giant rotating wheel, carrying thousands of beings in a long arc ascending to the clouds and vanishing into the darkness of the earth. Let it spin dozens of times in your mind before we move on from this beautiful spectacle.’

    When philosophical argumentation fails there’s always guided meditation. In the interests of probity not all the book is this bad. No, I lie, its terrible. However the piss-poor prose prize still goes to 3 times consecutive winner Brassier for ‘Concept and Object’ in The Speculative Turn. Apparently this is a very heavily edited version of the text. In the original there are loads of intervening blank paragraphs where Brassier realises he is displaying the worst excesses of postmodernism and fidgets in his chair.

    • “In the original there are loads of intervening blank paragraphs where Brassier realises he is displaying the worst excesses of postmodernism and fidgets in his chair.”

      This is pretty ‘piss-poor prose’ itself. At least he knows ‘to fidget’ and he always looks good when he’s doing it, which is more than can be said of you, not to mention you’re pretty one-note with your acid visits.

      • You’re right I’m never going to rise to the heights of unctuous blandishment or vacuous suavity of a Brassier. Although I have just been offered a weekly column on dogging in the Norwich Advertiser.

        Re Kingston professorships they’ve gone to Catherine Malabou and Howard Caygill

      • Can I pretend to be the inventor of acid one-note in the same way that Harman claims ‘I AM THE Speculative Realism’?

  14. I’ve only read the intro to Speculative Turn but it’s highly revealing. Firstly I don’t think I’ve ever seen a format where you get intro, summary of articles and then…A REJOINDER. It’s as if Harman and Bryant really didn’t want Zizek to have the last word. Secondly the relentless tone of “we are the latest and most significant development in continental philosophy” is just embarrassing. Their trumped-up illusions about their own importance know no bounds and will surely alienate more people than it will hoodwink. Respect to Srnicek, though, who at least tries to steer this hodge-podge in a political direction (I wonder who wrote the line “realism disallows being from being political”. If I was Srnicek I’d ditch the other two.

  15. I shouldn’t torture myself by reading any further into that book (and the awesome number of downloads should really take account of all the critics downloading it too) but I read Chapter 1 and you realise that for all his dismissal of trolls he has been keeping a little black book by his bedside of all those hurtful and unkind criticisms he has had to endure so as now to vent his spleen on them. Lamely and missing the point, of course.

    My overriding sense is his thesis is of its unfalsifiability (and hence falseness). Anyone who doesn’t hold precisely his view of objects has ‘undermined’ or ‘overmined’ them.

    • Well, I read the introduction and learned that “the speculative turn” is so utterly searing in its pertinence that they are allowed to break the rules of rational discourse, argumentation, critique etc. I had recently stumbled across some of these “speculative turn” type blogs and thought I’d download the book to see what it’s all about. As for Harman, I quickly realized it’s better to just not pay him any attention and let him continue with his bizarrely insufferable blog and boring repetition of his one idea because I think all he’s really interested in, despite his many protestations, is fawning agreement. Sure, he gives a nod of approval to respectful and fair criticism (the parameters of which are of course set by him), to which he finds the need to quickly rebuff on his blog and in print, but one gets the feeling that he simply thinks is in actuality some sort of disrespectful passive-aggressiveness. Disrespectful criticism, or what Harman continually refers to as “trolling,’ or “sneering” or “point scoring”– won’t even be admitted as acceptable or possible. Yet, Harman and his speculative and OOO friends can routinely make sweeping claims about the history of philosophy, anthropocentrism, objects, SPEP, the APA, the profession, and when others respond, we get a lecture about sneering, jealousy, and how people aren’t ready to make the speculative turn, or the turn to objects. OOO/OOP just seems to me like a giant wheel of a machine that grinds down everything in its path, I wonder if there is any payoff in pursuing such a line of thought or if it’s a dead end.

  16. Whenever I think of taking a “speculative turn” I think of getting lost in some suburban nightmare of a setting.

    There’s no real coherence to the volume which is to be expected when the crowd is so diverse, but that is precisely why it is not going to become a kind of “movement manifesto” even Brassier’s point-by-point essay is kind of elemental and therefore boring.

    @Utisz, remember that when this book was conceived the world was yet to learn of Harman’s annoying habits (conceited blogging – have you seen the one about the “evil maids” at his house who secretly turn on his stereo thus ruining it? – and the rest), so Srnicek’s participation early on is understandable.

  17. Good points, all. And I can just picture the maids chuckling about “the guy who is on the computer all the time writing his diary”. His latest posts implore us to read Aristotle and ignore Hegel. Why not read both? Could it be he knows deep down that in the latter we find a proleptic dismantling of most of his arguments?

  18. I believe Harman gets his reading of Aristotle from William of Baskerville. Sorry I meant to say Harman, Graham, 1968-. According to The Speculative Turn it would appear that Bryant and Srnicek have never been born.

  19. The writing style on that blog Dark Chemistry seems very familiar. I can’t quite place it. Thankfully Prof. Marvel has quelled any fears that it might be him by reporting that he had “corresponded” with the writer (“a nice gentleman”) and by making a criticism of….his pun on “guerilla”.

    • It’s time someone coined the term “Godzilla Metaphysics” to designate what is clearly a kind of imaginative creation of oversized enemies that one then bravely defeats (while, of course, carefully dividing one’s time between writing pamphlets and falling in love)…

    • The Dark Chemist, when asked is Prof Marvel’s work “convinces” responds: “My actual consent or desent to/from his work is irrelevant: I have only reviewed his work, not presented it as iron cold factiality.” Prof Marvel likes the Dark Chemist b/c it’s a review of his work presented as “iron cold factiality.”

  20. This is perhaps another reason why they don’t do politics (or can’t do it consistently). Because if realism implies that ontology is ultimately immune to divergent truth claims, opinions and values (the contest between which would be a pretty good definition of politics) then the “cold factiality” of total agreement with your guru’s ontological insights is entirely appropriate. Another reason to reject their philosophy.

      • http://doctorzamalek2.wordpress.com/2011/01/15/wow-how-did-i-miss-this/

        It would seem that Harman, Graham, 1968- had missed the fact the president had fled the country despite it being the title of the original article he linked to. Not sure why he is apologising for the situation in Tunisia either. Are they rebelling against the conservative turn in philosophy? At least Levi is starting to show his maturity by reading the title and at least the first three paragraphs of articles: ‘that book [Difference and Givenness] also received extremely favorable reviews from such venerable Deleuzians as … James Williams.’ But alas pages 3 and 4 (of the 4 page review) were beyond his reading level and he missed this summing up of his general argument: ‘Specificity and its attendant ‘value’ of oppositional judgements with respect to a field of study apply uncomfortably to Deleuze’s metaphysics.’ He also seemed to have missed this one: ‘He’s a fucking idiot.’

      • He just wants to avoid the inconvenience of the mass protests in Egypt, last time the stupid Egyptians were rioting, he was so irritated with the police and all that stuff, he couldn’t work in his normal fashion! “Dictatorships be damn, I needs my nap time!”

  21. Head scratching continues, Prof Marvel tells us somebody, somewhere on the internet has dared to criticize him (perhaps poorly), but don’t worry he won’t link to it because it’s not worth the traffic, or anybody else’s consideration:

    I won’t link to it because he doesn’t deserve the hits, but the argument runs basically as follows:

    “OOO says X. But my teacher said non-X. And it was a really good class and I agree with my teacher. How can OOO be so pathetic and ridiculous?”

    You have to do a little better than that, man.

    • Really what is the point of this sort of nonsense? Is it “I know who you are” type of a thought? He’s getting more and more petty by the hour – maybe he needs a friend? Next thing you know, we’ll be informed of his “compiling a good shopping list strategy” advices and his “most effective masturbation schedule” post…

  22. Harman is having another freakout about some grad student misrepresenting OOO (pronounced ewwwwww!). This time it has something to do with process philosophy.

    His claim, as always, seems to be that, whatever the critique, it was already dealt with 342 posts ago on Bryant’s blog (or else it was dealt with allegorically in the Circus Philosophicus chapter about the hooker with the glass eye).

    I have to admit that I could give a fuck about whether OOO or process philosophy wins the flakiest ontology award. My complaint is that the one thing Harman (and all those harmanizing) has never been able to address is how the members of the church of the object know that the world is made up of objects (since any recourse to epistemology is forbidden).

    I should probably stop paying attention, and if it wasn’t that I was eagerly anticipating the “most effective masturbation schedule” and more pictures of Larval Bryant in black silk shirts, I probably would…..

  23. Having had his lava lamp thrown back at him tiny tim has resorted to stock photos:


    I really couldn’t say what Christians being eaten by goldfish is supposed to mean. But it makes as much sense as tiny tim’s latest accusation: ‘De Landa doesn’t even know what “non-linear” means.’ Or his idea of the science behind crystallisation: ‘Warm or moving air evaporated the water leaving crystals behind.’ So its a bit like making salt or maybe a flambé sauce that makes the face of your loved one light up.

    Given Harman, Graham, 1968-‘s insistance on living the object oriented life, which seems to amount to petty superstition, amateur pscychoanalysis and talking to the wood, you’d think they would want to keep any hippy reference to a minimum.

  24. Sans Oeuvre, I think they take it for granted that we’ve read and accepted §43-4 of Sein und Zeit where ontology is said to trump epistemology. Not that there’s really an argument there, just Heidegger’s usual insinuation. Of course it’s highly questionable, as is Heidegger’s suggestion there (pirated by Meillassoux) that one should and can escape philosophies of ‘access’. The problem for neo-Heideggerians who repeat this argument is that they no less than we access the world in their metaphysics and ontology – not through the senses, admittedly, but through conceptual thought.

  25. Sometimes I think we’re going about this the wrong way. Criticism of their project leads them not to abandon the project but to incorporate something of the criticism, leading to slightly less ridiculous formulations. We have been inadvertently helping these people become slightly less of a laughing stock in the public’s eyes. Perhaps another tack is needed: Hyperbolic assent. The trick would be constantly to repeat the mantras “Harman is not full of bullshit!” and “we are just poseurs!”, tell him how wonderful he is every day, how he is at the forefront of philosophy, thinking radically new ideas that are both logically consistent and persuasively argued, how we love hearing of the minutiae of his fascinating everyday life. Then with a little luck, like in the film Scanners, his Ego will enlarge to even greater size, morbidly hypertrophic, oscillating violently, spewing out stuff reminiscent of Nietzsche in Turin: “Not only am I a substance, I am The Substance! Now in an apotheosis of my philosophy I shall withdraw, while my sister edits my collected works.”

    • You take all this far too serious.

      About the strategy. I don’t know a single incident where the rhetoric of hyperbolic affirmation – or other variants of snarky comments – ever killed their target. It just doesn’t seem to work as proposed and there would be no loss when people stopped suggesting it as a silver bullet.

      Ridiculing ambitious people who don’t get much done by the standards established by their predecessors is o.k. for me. Humour is a necessity.

  26. I suppose that this split is old news, but…

    Did anyone notice Brassier’s evisceration of OOO in _The Speculative Turn_? Harman seems to be staying silent on this one.

    I tend to think that, like Meillassoux (and unlike Harman and Grant), Brassier actually has some interesting things to say.

    • I thought the original plan was for Harman to write a response to Brassier – whatever happened to that? Too tough of an opponent? This practice of publishing everything with a “response” is also annoying – as though the public cannot decide for itself and must always have an annoying “rejoinder” – but then again where else would the said public look for an answer?

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