“I honestly just don’t understand the nature of the question that’s being asked.”


I know you kids out there like to read all these gossipy posts about OOO, but I have a serious lesson for you today – for all of its obvious (and hilarious) faults, there one very good technique that you all need to learn and practice: playing dumb when confronted with questions. Rather than explain to you how this work, let me give you some examples from our favorite objectologist:

Exhibit A: “Similarly, no one would dream of suggesting that because the doctor wants to know what causes the bird flu, the doctor is somehow justifying the bird flu or claiming that it is a good thing.  No, the doctor wants to understand the bird flu precisely so he can prevent it.  I’ve thus been shocked to hear some say that if you claim that nuclear bombs are, you’re somehow claiming that nuclear bombs should be.”

Shocked, I tell ya, shocked! It’s important to feign genuine feelings when playing dumb.

Exhibit B: What I find perplexing about this is that all of you asking these questions seem to think that my claim that ontology and politics are distinct means I reject politics and ethics.

I am perplexed, I tell ya, baffled, befuddled, bewildered, puzzled, dumbfounded and confounded as to why “you lot” are just not able to get it. Blame the readers for your inability to understand a simple question. It’s their fault that they are not proficient enough to get it. By being perplexed, you are basically making a philosophical equivalent of this jab: “I find it perplexing that you are still wetting your bed.”

At the end, go for the kill:

Sure, I care about ontology for political reasons because I believe this world sucks and is profoundly unjust.  But rather than waving my hands and cursing because of how unjust and horrible it is so as to feel superior to all those about me who don’t agree, rather than playing the part of the beautiful soul who refuses to get his hands dirty, I think we need good maps so we can blow up the right bridges, power lines, and communications networks, and so we can engage in effective terraformation.

Opening with “Sure” is awesome (consider “Look” or “You see” as well). Then follows an amazingly brazen plagiarism from Kim Stanley Robinson who invents the term “terraforming” in his Mars Trilogy – slightly change it to “terraformation” and you’re golden! And, of course, the “kill” – my opponents are idiots who ask silly incomprehensible questions while standing around with their clean hands and retarded minds hoping for a better tomorrow to come on its own. Speechless!

What then follows is an exchange of comments (both on the blog and FB) from which I only select a few juicy ones to illustrate my point: 

“Read my most recent post. It might clarify for you what I mean by politics. As for your suggestion that there’s something amiss in me pointing out that someone has mischaracterized my claims, I believe this is incredibly unjust and a form of symbolic violence.”

“I think that’s quite an unfair description of my position and what I’m claiming. Clearly I’m interested in the issues I’m interested in for political and ethical reasons. It’s a theme throughout everything I write. It’s difficult to see how there could be a “depoliticization” here. My point is rather different. It’s that ontological claims must be grounded in ontological reasons, not political and ethical reasons. I’m not sure why this point is so difficult to get or understand.” [FB exchange]

“Once blog exchanges reach a certain point of fruitlessness, I tend to stop reading them. Hence it came as a shock to me to learn that anyone ever made the argument that if I say that corporations are real objects, I must therefore support corporations. What the hell?… I can’t even begin to grasp the logic at work in that reading of OOO.” [GH butts in with his own version of “playing dumb” which is more aggressive but still belongs to the same species – “your reading is so stupid, I, the most brilliant philosopher since Aristotle, cannot grasp it!”]

Things get very funny on Facebook – it just goes into some really awesome realm of insanity and hilarity:

“I’m not sure where you’re getting that I’ve said you’re my father and I want to kill you. I’ve said you have a very Oedipal structure of thought (organized around sovereignty and transcendence), but that’s quite different than saying I think of you as my father.” [No comment]

“Andrew, I’m quite surprised that you would attribute such a desire to “maintain the status quo” to me as you were at my talks in New Orleans…”

What I find perplexing about this is that all of you seem to think this means I reject politics and ethics.” [This is neat combination of all the moves – bravo!]

10 thoughts on ““I honestly just don’t understand the nature of the question that’s being asked.”

  1. In fact what Bryant finds perplexing is that “all of you” view his pronouncements from a different conceptual framework. He claims to be talking just common sense, like Bishop Butler “Everything is what it is, and not another thing”. That others might have a conceptual framework that brings out unconscious implications of his own point of view is inconceivable for him, they must be talking nonsense like Alice: ” If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is because everything would be what it isn’t. And contrary-wise; what it is it wouldn’t be, and what it wouldn’t be, it would. You see? ” Any other world is nonnsense, people making nuclear bombs disappear by criticising them, or actually believing that ontological structures might have political presuppositions and ramifications.

    • But Deleuze has made that an epistemological virtue: speaking like a foreigner in your mother tongue. I think this is the opposite of OOO’s concept-blindness, which is an epistemological vice, just following the ordinary syntaxic and semantic linkages.

      • Do you mean stuff like “things are things” nonsense? What I like the most is the innocence/earnestness of it all that is clearly coupled with some self-repression or self-delusion. I find it hard to believe that one would be so blind to the fact that many find one’s ideas to be utter garbage. So in order to save one’s face, one simply must repress all these thoughts of mediocrity that is manifestly there and everyone sees it! It must be really difficult being an objectologist. And whenever a real critique comes out, it is ignored. Bryant’s already done with Sacilotto’s points – he’s moved on. Harman will never respond to Pete with any sort of coherent point by point rejoinder. They aren’t in it to win it, but yet they act as though they are really just out there throwing ideas around and hoping to create something new and everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, is out to get them!

  2. I think that Bryant honestly thought that converting to Harman’s OOO was a creative move that would stimulate and fecundate his philosophical individuation. Unfortunately, but perhaps predictably, it sterlised him. All that reading and exploring and experimenting with concepts could not survive the willful concept-blindness that Harman practices and requires of others. Bryant already had a tendency to confuse conversion with joining, as can be seen in his enduring fidelity to Lacanian psychoanalysis. Now he is trapped in the loops of OOO, and all his traumatypes (as Stiegler would say) are becoming stereotypes.

    • Speaking of loops, Bryant is tying himself up yet again in his latest post. “The question is always how to get from simple social routine that members of a social order see as obvious and natural to the political where people begin to see the social field as contingent and capable of being otherwise” – is pure correlationism.

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