Frames /sing


Graham Harman’s La-deigger and Hei-tour

The Synthesis of Heidegger and Latour

Recommended is Graham Harman’s introductory November 29th, 2007 lecture on how Heidegger’s tool-oriented, human-centered conception of Being is strengthened by de-centralization of Latour‘s panoplies of actor networks (human and non-human), and Latour’s pure ontology of relations (an occasionalism), is deepened by Heidegger’s Four Fold Substance cryptology (pictured signficantly below).

Any Latourian actor (entity) in a Network is also claimed to have these four Heideggerian “dimensions”

The lecture mp3: “On Actors, Networks, and Plasma: Heidegger vs. Latour vs. Heidegger” [provided by Anthem]

PDF of the slides for the Lecture

To give a few immediate responses to the ideas presented: I was quite surprised by the points of correspondence between Harman’s Heidegger-Latour Synthesis, and my own attempt to expand Spinoza through the cybernetic potential of Campanella’s pansensism, and a dialectic with Davidson’s notion of epistemic Triangulation. Like Floris van der Burg’s treatment of Spinoza and Davidson in which Spinoza is used to deepen Davidson through a metaphysical appeal beneath description, Latour is seen here to be deepened in relationship to Heidegger’s notion of hiddenness. In both cases Substance provides a ground for real articulation.

There were some off hand homologies. Latour’s “any two things are always linked by a third thing”, something that Harman finds to be one of the most original of Latour’s thoughts, is in my opinion enlightened by Davidsons rational triangulation, which he grounds through regularities of response to regularities of stimuli, only confirmed through a third set of regularities. For this reason it is my intution that Spinoza’s imaginary triangulation of the world through the imitations of the affects (by which I mean to open up Davidson’s rationalism of translation and objectivity) fits neatly into this essential Latourian triangulation (“its the third actor that has to say its the same thing”). Further it is of interest that not only does Latour alleviate Heidegger’s human-centricism, but Spinoza would as well. In this Latour and Spinoza share. In this vien, Harman’s “tool analysis” post-human reading of Heidegger’s Being and Time, reflects quite well on the product of my proposed application of Campanella’s “cognoscere est esse” (to know is to be) to Spinoza’s bodies in epistemic composition, in an ontology of constructed freedom.

An apex of the lecture perhaps comes to the quandary Harman finds in Latours occasionalism, as he says, “If a thing is defined solely by its relations, I just don’t see any way to move from one step to the next”. The mode of becoming (which I believe he argues would just become another actor), is missing. It is not clear how Heidegger’s Four-Fold view of Being at all helps Latour answer this question though. Harman regularly returns to Leibniz, in his journey into pre-Kantian waters, but I cannot help but think that it is not Leibniz that would aid him, so much as Spinoza. It is Spinoza’s vectorial notion of Being, that is, an immanent Being of degrees that is played out on the register of knowledge which would provide dimension to the flat networks, not to mention an additional ethical texture. At times Harman approaches this principle of greater reality in his lecture, but it is not linked directly to the Spinozist principle of self-causation, freedom through the understanding (and embodiment) of cause. That is to say, Spinoza reads the change of things through a contant striving, the conatus, manifested directly as a capacity to act, which is itself a bodily affirmation. Networks in this way themselves persist through self-affirmations of their relations. What differentiates networks and the actors within them, and propells them to the next moment, from a Spinozist pov is the striving of God itself, expressed in degrees of freedom, along the fluxuations of action itself. Harman tells us that Latour knows that something called Plasma exists because networks collapse. One might ask, how is this Plasma differentiated from Spinoza’s Substance, other than to say that it has no formal Attributes (which are collapsed to the level of networks, in matter and the semiotic). It strikes me that Latour’s actor networks are simply the modal expressions of Spinoza(semiotic/material matching the mental and the physical in Davidson), without the depth of Substance. Much as how Harman sees Latour enriched by Heidegger, it strikes me that he would be even further fortified by an engagement with a cybernetic Spinoza, one in which all bodies are seen to be bodies in knowing assemblage, exercised on degrees of freedom.

This being said, Harman’s points about Latour’s networks do something rather signficant to Spinoza’s notion of bodily idenity (a shadow thought inherent in many of Spinoza’s positions). Because Spinoza defines a body as a particular communicative ratio of parts (something we might call a network of actors), and because Substance is one great consummate ratio of parts in communication, any notion of absolute identity, aside from a fleeting essence/conatus, must be denied. The networks extends out, and the bodies in communication do not cease.

I would add as well that Harman’s excellent unveiling of Heidegger’s notion of tool (unbroken and broken, like Spinoza’s adequate and inadequate idea), dovetails wonderfully into a Spinozist sense of bodies that are continually in assemblage (causes always being horizontally displayed toward the external, for nothing but Substance is the cause of itself), a cybernetic view of perception through combination with other bodies upon which we must depend (and thus mutually express in combination). Spinoza too, I feel, is tool-oriented in his metaphysical construction (as he even compares the development of thoughts to the making of tools), in which the limits of a human body’s capacity to act cannot be separated out from the tools used and engaged. In a symmetry to Harman’s metaphysical correction to a purely logical pragmatist reading of Heidegger (the use of tools does not fully reveal them, any more than theory does),  Spinoza’s often disembodied rationalist metaphysics needs to be re-embodied along tool-combination, lived-relation of bodies in combination as pragmatism, where pragmatism is understood to be an ideational expression of material power.

I am unsure though why Harman resists panpsychism, from which he distances himself at several points. But perhaps Spinoza’s panpsychism would prove more palatable to his project of deepening actor networks, or perhaps Campanella’s pansensism.

Harman’s Prince of Networks  forthcoming

Mark Fisher’s somewhat helpful, somewhat world-weary commentary on Harman’s Latour for Frieze magazine: “Clearing the Air

5 responses to “Graham Harman’s La-deigger and Hei-tour

  1. Pingback: Kevin on the Fourfold « Object-Oriented Philosophy

  2. Pingback: Graham Harman’s New Weblog: Object-Oriented Philosophy « Frames /sing

  3. Pingback: Just because it amuses me… « Object-Oriented Philosophy

  4. enowning February 10, 2009 at 5:57 pm

    I get a 404 from the MP3 link.

  5. kvond February 10, 2009 at 6:23 pm

    Thanks enowning, it seems they took that link down. Try this one:

    (I will make this the default link.)

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