Epic Objectological Rant

UPDATE II: Sacilotto responds on FB (here and then scroll to the post on his wall). One of the editors from Speculations asks Bryant question, gets an incomprehensible answer (“…because I think we need to take seriously the reality of things like the properties of corn or the existence of ozone holes.”) Hilarity everywhere!

UPDATE I: Sacilotto responds here (very nicely, I thought). Bryant adds another less emotional rant here. Nothing is clarified, of course. My favorite part, I know you want to know, comes at the end when Bryant imagines a conversation between himself, Zizek (?) and Sacilotto (ignoring his spelling of “hear” as “here” – for someone who writes so much, re-reading your own posts must be luxury one cannot afford)…

I have seen them all over the years, but this is one of the best: enjoy it before he comes to his senses and edits it. I passed over the review by Daniel Sacilotto initially, foolishly assuming it was unadulterated praise of all things “onticology” – I should read it now, because clearly it hit the nerve if Objectologist the Son is so pissed off and whiny:

I’m not interested in legislating what “true reality” is, but in shifting discussion from an obsessive focus on how we know, on how our minds relate to the world, to a discussion of how things, including humans, interact with one another. Assertions made within this framework are not a mere “subjective whim”, as Daniel suggests. He’s welcome to question claims and ask for reasons. It could turn out that various accounts are mistaken. Be specific. Critique the account. That’s how accounts become better. Don’t, however, throw sand in the engine of inquiry. Daniel, I’m sure you miss this, but the basic point is that we’re tired of discussing your issue. We want to ask other questions and attend to other issues. That doesn’t mean we’re unwilling to provide reasons.

Notice the switch from “he” to “you” in the end there – beautiful. I’m not even going to point out all the obvious “pot calling kettle black” nonsense. “Stop accusing us of being simpletons and idiots, you pathetic simpleton and idiot who cannot understand what we are doing” – read it and weep!

26 thoughts on “Epic Objectological Rant

  1. Bryant refuses to take on epistemological issues because he knows (he’s not stupid) that if he did, his game would be up – like a dogmatic believer who knows that once he even raises the question of God’s existence, he is lost. Note the amazing lack of self-awareness and sheer affective rejection of the questions put to him be a reasonably sympathetic reviewer. I know you make fun of them as “The church of OOO” but you are not far from the truth here. Bryant’s book is a force majeure of dogmatic thinking – he constantly needs to cite someone to take any step in any direction. There is no logic or argument, just an emotional religious statement upon statement mixed with some feeble attempts at poetic metaphors. At least Harman is open cynical about his motive to invent a new philosophy and bring it to everyone by whatever means necessary.

    Side question – I thought Speculations was supposed to be the mouthpiece of OOO, no? Strange (but really nice and surprising) to see them kick both Bryant and Harman in the teeth in this issue. Are they now leaning toward Brassier’s opposition to OOO? Harman would probably give us a nice explanation of the developments in the “movement” (if he had time, of course). What’s going on here? Mutiny?

    • I doubt it is mutiny – the editors still pretend that “speculative realism” exists. However, it would be nice if Speculations IV had no trace of either Bryant or Harman. It is a great journal regardless SR connection.

  2. Surely this is the best bit:
    ‘I will say, however, that my preferred audience consists of geologists, ethnographers, biologists, artists, activists, engineers, analysts and others with degrees and practices outside my own degrees. I learn more from them, they ask better and more interesting questions, and we have better discussions’.

    So that’s MOO out of the running for Next Big Thing in Philosophy – Critical theory here we come!

  3. I understand his plight now, he’s being taken to task as a philosopher. Really what he is, is an Alternative Scientist of sorts, like those who built the Hadron collider, or are in the fight to figure out that mysterious mercury poisoning (where does it come from? is the planet Mercury involved?). Besides epistemological concerns are too hard. They take too much work.

  4. To be fair, this should not be taken as an expression of some philosophical position – this is Bryant doing what he does best – loud public sulking and ranting. Those who point out it is unfair to mock this sort of “heart of my sleeve” nonsense should read it and try to resist the temptation. Are there any real arguments in the rant? No. But Bryant is not known for arguments. Philosophical questions are too abstract for him now. Really? I mean what can one really do with such statements? This is the guy who told us about “bright objects” and “dim objects” – ideas he pulled out of his ass and forgot to explain how he arrived at his conclusion. This is the guy who cites at least 2-3 names on each page of his book (do a quick check) and preaches the need to get away from reliance of “authoritative figures” in one’s argument. Can you really imagine this rant published as an official rejoinder to the review? I mean this is hilarious and sad at the same time. And to think that there are some supposedly serious thinkers out there who take Bryant to be the next big thing in philosophy – what are they smoking?

    • Seen his second response yet? It’s another classic, totally failing to respond to any specific charges (ring any bells?). Bryant’s solution to disagreement is to a) rant b) try to re-write what is at issue, c) mention that Latour is on his side, so all must be well, d) propose a division of labour so that people stop oppressing him with ‘truth’. Like an academic Donald Rumsfeld, he’s not ‘truthy’, he’s ‘beingy’.

      • The idea that because I do not care about epistemological holes in my argument means I do not have to respond to objections is awesome. I do not care about the rules of English grammar, therefore I write as I please – your objections simply show we are on different linguistic planes. It can work, I think. It sounds solid to me. The only problem, of course, is that it would stop working if I claimed that what I am doing is the English language grammar. We are talking about folks who call themselves realists, not sci-fi authors.

  5. He won’t be calling himself a realist much longer:
    ‘The more I’ve reflected on matters since the writing of The Democracy of Objects, the more I’ve come to feel that my target is not so much correlationism, nor anti-realism, as anthropocentrism’.

    He’s already dumped objects for machines; realism is about to follow. When it is finally driven home to him that it is impossible to completely divorce ontology and epistemology, philosophy will be the next thing out of the window.

    • I see your point but I doubt he will ever openly drop realism and philosophy – what else is he going to do? Scientists will laugh him out of the room. I’ve asked him openly in the past whether his dissatisfaction with the field of philosophy would even result in quitting the profession, and he always avoided giving direct answer – it’s all just posturing…

    • Hold on there, really? You don’t want to have false theories and you want to have the stick to beat up other false theories, but when it comes to your own, you are offended and don’t want to play the game? That’s Levi Bryant we all know and love!

    • No problem. Sorry if this is a bit too “sensationalist” and sarcastic. We have a troll-hub reputation to maintain. I thought your review and responses were incredibly open-minded and “balanced” – style I was never able to develop when encountering Bryant’s work online (we had early Kant-related battles in which he demonstrated the same stubborn refusal to do proper philosophy). I tried to read his book but it’s so choke-full of references to authorities (names after names on each page) and so lacking in simple structure of arguments that I dropped it and went on to read other things…

      • Oh, I am well aware of your antipathies to OOO and Levi. I have tried to maintain civility, in spite of the unfortunate incident with Harman. About Levi’s book, I think it is a sincere attempt which works best as a set of suggestions than full blown developments. Yes, the arguments are not quite fully there. And I agree with Levi in being Spinozist at heart: if I criticize the arguments, or lack thereof, I do so not so as to ‘shoot down’ his goals, but to help them be fine-tuned.

        This is the attitudinal fault I’ve found in this orientation: they take criticism personally, which ends up in instigating acerbic, meta-philosophical speculation, which works as a kind of Bill O’Reilly distraction from philosophy proper. I cannot but agree with Ray Brassier in that this, unfortunately, has become the bulk of the debates associated with Speculative Realism: an online orgy of stupidity. With this in mind, I have chosen to remain as close to the philosophical issues, and to avoid tipping over into meta-philosophical considerations about another person’s psychology, interests, and whatnot. Biographical sketches are pertinent to trace and demystify certain assumptions about the putative importance of these disciplines, and the motivations behind them (“epistemologists are all narrow minded technicians without regard for practice”).

        I think Peter Wolfendale has set an unprecedented standard of excellence for professional, rigorous blogging, and I can only seek to emulate, however modestly, his own example.


  6. Well, you are a better person for your chosen personalities-neutral position, I think. I just don’t have the patience (or the skill) to counter their bullshit with quiet rigor and persistence. Plus, anyone who have not had a run-in with Harman, have not been exposed to OOO. Without knowing what yours was, I can probably describe it fairly well because it always happens the same way…

    Indeed, Pete is my personal hero (I’m going to buy the paper versions of Speculations III and IV just to have his essay in paper form) – if argument and rigor counted for anything, after Pete’s two-parter we would definitely speak of “post-Wolfendale OOO” – but alas it will not happen. Pete’s critique would take too much precious time to address and Harman just does not have that sort of time. And it is totally understandable, I think. Ultimately he never set out to be a philosopher in some strict sense of the word, he does not care for argument or critique – he stated so openly and I think it’s a really annoying but in the end respectable stance. Levi urns to be recognized as a philosopher, so his overreactions are fairly transparent; Harman just don’t give a shit, so not much Pete or anyone else can do. I will give him/them this point – if they want to do something other than whatever it is you or Pete are doing, then their next move will always be “stop asking your questions, I’m not interested in them (even though I constantly make claims that most people would mistake for genuine philosophical statements)” – moving on, people, nothing to see here.

    Here is the ultimate dilemman when it comes to OOO: on the one hand, folks who are not Harman/Bryant (like editors of Speculations and other figures) are generally nice open-minded curious fellows who are eager to do something new and exciting and to take them down is just not cool; but on the other hand, if their enthusiasm and awesomeness in the end still promote some version of philosophy that does not stand up to rigorous analysis, then something has to be done. Take, for example, the constant caricaturing of Kant and Hegel – Pete and I discussed this in the past – how can anyone who read some Kant and Hegel just sit there and take it? I mean I’m all about new interpretations and so on, but dismissing entire complex systems of thought with some half-cooked labels like “correlationism” or “anthropocentrism”? And for what? For grammatically monstrous creations like “onticology”? Or, my personal favorite neologism, “anthrodecentrism”! I kid you not.

    Pete needs to publish his two-parter as a book, make a name for himself, get a job and be forever known as the “destroyer of Graham Harman’s empty ambition to join philosophers in the common room”!

    I mean I’m sure Pete will get a nice mention in Harman’s next book, but I put my money on some superficial non-point reaction. As for Levi, I doubt he will respond to your responses – that would be like doing the real philosophical back-and-forth and that’s just boring “philosophy work”…

  7. Mikhail, this last point is particularly thoughtful. I’ve had more than a few tangles with Levi and disciples over such issues, and they all occurred because I argued for specifics. The difficulty is in parsing “those who should know better” (professional and professionalizing philosophers) from the curious. But something has to be done, as you say.

  8. Good conversation. I’ve linked this at my blog and like Dan, I really enjoyed Wolfendale’s rigorous paper. I hope to see more and am glad that Speculations published it.

    • I think I can sum-up Levi’s problem. He only wants his words and their implications to mean precisely what he says them to mean, while he grants neither counter-arguments that indicate otherwise nor alternative readings. Yet he constantly tries to “unmask” other’s words. Regardless of the scholarship (or lack of it), these moves a guaranteed to aggravate an interlocutor.

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