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Harman’s Commodification of Paper Writing

The blog has long since been deleted, but this trace of it remains in the discussion one of the posts inspired. Carl over at Dead Voles brought up the ethical issues associated around Harman’s insider-type advice for how philosophers should write scholarly papers: How Ideology Works, pt. 2 . For those following the recent discussion of the Capitalist-like deferral of the debt of explanation in Graham Harman’s thinking, a kind of Speculative Bubble and the tendency to commodify one’s philosophical productions, this trace makes interesting evidence. Harman is very strong on learning how to produce and “do work” very much in keeping with University as text producer needs. Philosophizing becomes a fulltime project of how to produce ideas that through their allure, and good old-fashioned elbow-grease, end up in texts and a circle of readers.

Most symptomatic of Harman’s sizzle-and-not-the-steak approach is his advice that it is always good to put an old forgotten philosopher in the “mix”:

Always good to bring an older classic thinker into the mix. My choice in this case is Giordano Bruno, who has so much in common with Grant. A critical analysis of Bruno’s Cause, Principle, and Unity would work perfectly here. Put it on the smaller bookshelf where I keep books currently in use for projects, where I will see it each day as a reminder to reread it when I have the time.

This post of Harman’s, given our past personal discussions on Scholastic philosophers and my reading of, what I have found to be his somewhat deceptive essay on causation “On Vicarious Causation”, really ended up convincing me of Harman’s disingenuous METHOD of philosophizing (despite enjoying his simplification of Heidegger as Tool-Being). The blog is now deleted along with all its helpful hints and clues on how to get ahead in the philosophy world, but at least this past discussion over at Dead Voles points us in the direction of much of Harman’s “allure” thinking about what makes good philosophy. In this his theory of causation and his methodology coincide. Personally I find this production-line thinking combined with Harman’s  “shock value” and “great idea” esteem to be antithetical to what philosophy should be about, and carries with it some substantive comparisons to Capitalist Speculative Bubble debt deferral. As such it draws our attention to the problems with the underlying theory itself, and the values that underwrite or inspire it. This is only to say that both his thinking and his methods should be shown in a more socially critical light, a light that ultimately goes to the question of cause and to the purpose of philosophy itself. Is philosophy ever anything more than “black box” making as Harman claims?

Aside from the questions this raises about a metaphysics of “allure” and the allure of rhetorical forces in philosophy paper writing, in the general sense that philosophers are in the business of selling their texts, one has to think about the “genuine” products of philosophers, what it is about the philosophical endeavor that gives it its importance, its foothold amid our more commercially vested institutions. When we write a paper, any such paper, what is it that we really would like to show? That is what matters.

As I wrote in a parallel discussion:

The answer to this is not to come up with One Great Idea, One Great Exaggeration, as Harman claims…It is to genuinely explore the past of our community discussions for the relevance that REALLY matters now, and to articulate that relevance convincingly. I do not consider this a matter of “repackaging” nor of repeating a past point, nor straining for “originality”. It is making persons of the past who answered questions quite well, answer OUR new questions, a far cry from simply bringing a classic philosopher into the mix for some paper-writing effect. It’s a question of engagement.

* More follow-up of the past discussion at Dead Voles here.

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27 responses to “Harman’s Commodification of Paper Writing

  1. bryank November 15, 2009 at 10:14 pm

    This comment by Nathan over at Speculative Heresy (http://speculativeheresy.wordpress.com/2009/10/26/the-politics-of-speculative-realism/#comment-914) I found interesting and humorous:

    >Likewise, in the 21st century materialism conference when pressed on the political implications of OOP Graham Harman gave some weird suggestion that we shouldn’t ruin a nice landscape with a factory because that would be not respecting the objects! His tone of voice didn’t sound particularly ironic; but his position is classically petit bourgois — you get the same sort of thing from Nimby Rural Alliance groups.

  2. bryank November 15, 2009 at 10:16 pm

    In a strange way, this mirrors Harman’s own vision of philosophical writing as a kind of tutorial for painting philosophical landscapes, as Carl discusses over here:

    http://carldyke.wordpress.com/2009/03/06/thats-just-stupid-butt-and-everybody-knows-it/

    Maybe—beyond this practical element—Harman himself envisions his depoliticized ontological universe of withdrawn objects as just another “pretty canvas.”

    • kvond November 15, 2009 at 10:27 pm

      Yes, I saw your evocation of Bob Ross, and posted a link to it over at the original Dead Voles post. Pretty hardcore (hilarious and perhaps very insightful). (There is no way to directly link to your post.) I think that this is a really important question, that of technique passing and the question of text-production in Academia. I don’t fault Harman for sharing a few “trade secrets” but as such, as he demystifies the “art” he also reveals his own thinking processes, his own valuations, his own goals. Perhaps I am odd, but as much as it might make an interestng paper I would never think to myself “I gotta get some Age on this point, and through in an old Classic thinker”. At best this just gives the impression that you are much better read than you probably are, but mostly it exposes you as a superficial reader (something some people may claim about Harman’s Heidegger). You just go searching for nuggets. Harman I believe just recently (or current) has done such a nugget search through Aristotle, since he is appealing to an Aristotlean concept of Substance, if even losely so. He was posting some of these bits and pieces on his blog, if I recall. This really isn’t what anybody is after when they read a philosopher, in particular someone who is wading through a sometimes forgotten past.

      I don’t know, I have real trouble with this kind of referencing, and perhaps even technique teaching. At the very least it points to just how much “product” (with all the attention to “sizzle”) is the aim of philosophical conjecture, something that has problematic connections to Harman’s causal vision for how the world supposedly REALLY is.

      • Eric November 16, 2009 at 6:33 pm

        I almost respect Harman for being open about the dilettantism that structures much academic writing (production): A dash of this, a pinch of that, something old, something new. I’m not an academic, so maybe I lack empathy about the pressure to produce, but when I spot the advice Harman gives here, I just feel cheated. I have an academic friend who in his papers quotes all these diverse sources, but I know from our discussions that most of these he hasn’t even read and even fewer has he grappled with in any meaningful way. I’m all for appropriating and stealing, ignoring the parts of thinkers you can’t use, etc., but there’s a line between doing that to create new avenues of thought and doing that to feed the publishing machine. Doing the latter is bad enough — though perhaps understandable for those needing to gain tenure — but glorifying it the way Harman does is completely despicable.

      • kvond November 16, 2009 at 6:38 pm

        Eric,

        I completely agree. And I felt cheated in the way that I was attempting to understand Harman’s use of such thinkers, and in the way that I tried to untwist his ideas into sense. I’m like: “Okay, if you’re going make this reference, or are going to present all these arcane elements, PLEASE have done the work so that after I go through all the trouble to understand it, let there be something in the end”.

    • kvond November 15, 2009 at 10:43 pm

      I should add to your:

      “Maybe—beyond this practical element—Harman himself envisions his depoliticized ontological universe of withdrawn objects as just another “pretty canvas.” ”

      This resonates which his very odd response to my claim that his ontology Orientalizes the mediating other. His claim was of course I love orientializing, I love the exotic, there is nothing wrong with Orientalizing things, people, etc. (to sum the gist of it). I was a bit taken aback and had to try to point out that it is exactly through our exotic portrayal of others, or projectons of erotic qualities, that a shadow follows along, and politically, a very destructive shadow.

      At this point I believe he stopped responding, and I couldn’t tell if he was not aware of this rather obvious point (as an American in Egypt) or simply decided to ignore it. But the political consequences of his “ontology”, his painted picture of a Vicarious World really were of no interest to him. As far as he was concerned Orientalize away. It was then that I decided to make a general comparison between his writing about the Exotic, and Flaubert’s (a writer he considered the worst of the worst, from a socio-political standpoint). This was the end of all our communications.

  3. bryank November 15, 2009 at 10:46 pm

    On a perfunctory note, the # sign at the bottom of each post carries the permalink. I now worry that my UI design is not as straightforward as I had originally thought it was, and that perhaps other people experience this problem.

    Anyhow, I agree with you that, in and of itself, sharing “trade secrets” is actually an excellent service, especially if it’s offered for free, and even at the expense of the advice-giver’s time, time that could be better spent, say, writing books or something if they so chose. But Harman’s advice, as you say, reveals some deeper aspects of his own thought patterns that might have better been left unsaid: it demonstrates a distinct lack of seriousness about philosophizing as such, that philosophy is more about aesthetic preferences, good taste, and the production of artifice, rather than real ideas—not “One Great Idea”—with real relevance to the world—not meaningless slogans like “letting objects speak for themselves.” In other words, what Harman’s advice reveals is that his bricolage of the Classic and the Contemporary, his production of the philosophical landscape, is premised on a minimum of utilitarian guile that seems to degrade the intellectual seriousness or honesty that one would hope from, say, someone who is interested in understanding BEING QUA F**KING BEING.

  4. Pingback: Orientalism and Object Oriented Philosophy/Ontology « Violent Signs

  5. Eli November 16, 2009 at 6:13 pm

    Another great post. I think you have definitely hit yet another bunch of nails smack on their heads here.

    I think the point Bryan makes about how philosophy for Harman is all about painting pretty canvases is also absolutely spot on. Harman’s attitude toward just about everything is an “aesthetic” one, and he even says that we should regard aesthetics as “first philosophy”. But note that he means nothing remotely sophisticated by “aesthetics” here. Philosophy for him is about liking and disliking things – quite literally – and he views it as a purely aesthetic pursuit – not because he has some theory about how aesthetics judgement supplants all others or what have you; there’s no judgment, no cognitive dimension whatsoever involved: it’s literally as primitive as “x feels good”, “I like x”: hence his love of travelogue, catalogues, lists, photographs with pretty colours: the world is a vast aesthetic sensorium featuring the pleasing and the displeasing and philosophy is the catalogue and guide.

    Go and listen, for example, to the lecture he gave in Dublin last year, most of which quite literally consists of him saying “so I like that” and “so I don´t like that”. Consider also all his “advice” posts in which says that bad arguments and non sequiturs are “the most trivial mistakes in philosophy” and that what really matters is that one writes with “style” and uses “vivid” language.

    One of the ironies about all this of course is that he then accuses anyone who would base their ontological commitments upon the results of the empirical sciences of “crude reductionism”! Thus, reducing everything to aesthetics and fashion is fine, but it is “reductionism” to concern oneself with actual empirical knowledge. Indeed his whole attitude towards science is also a purely aesthetic one and the value of science for him purely comes down to what kinds of “pictures” it can give us. Amusingly, when accused of ignoring the sciences his response is always to say “I love all the sciences and in fact spend more time in bookshops in the popular science section than in the philosophy section” – flicking through looking at the pictures, presumably, or looking for vivid, colorful descriptions and metaphors.

    Thus notice that in one post in which he was attempting to explain why he never draws upon science and yet nevertheless is “a great lover of all the sciences” he says “I love Dawkins for the vast landscapes he paints, populated with weird creatures” – note, not because he might actually learn something about such creatures, or about evolution or biology, but because he finds it aesthetically pleasing! However, he of course goes on to say that he “detests” Dawkins “arrogant scientism”.

    Equally amusingly, in the same post he claimed that he wants “to increase exponentially the amount of attention we pay to comets and neutrinos”. But how exactly does he intend to do this? How on earth is one supposed to say anything whatsoever about such things without actually learning some science? – something that Harman informs us in the very same post he is not interesting in doing because “I simply do not have the head for it” and because he has “a remarkable inability to remember anything” he reads in science books (hardly surprising given that he limits this to flicking through them when in his local bookshop!). By “exponentially increasing the amount of attention we pay to comets and neutrinos” does that mean anything more than he will try to remember to include such items on his random lists of middle-sized dry-goods?

    He also says that he rejects science because it does not fit in with his intuitive picture of how things are: “I just don’t feel on solid footing with the sciences. I can’t pretend to myself that I feel we’re in a safely solid domain when we talk about physics, for instance, because all sorts of non-physical entities immediately start leaking into the picture for me, and I can’t shut them out.”

    What puzzles me most when he gives papers saying how philosophy should forget about epistemology and should instead concern itself dirfectly with fire and cotton, monkeys, tornadoes and quarks, is why no-one just asks him straight out: “Could you give me an example of what a philosopher might have to say about monkeys or comets or neutrinos that’s not covered by the sciences?” What would he have to say? “Errm, well … when a monkey eats a banana, there is actually no interaction between the monkey and the banana, because monkeys and bananas are vacuum-sealed objects which forever infinitely withdraw from one another. No-one has ever seen a monkey or a banana in the purity of their individual essences, and they can only interact on the inside of an intention, and all objects relate to each other by means of intentions”. Why don’t people just start howling with laughter and derision when he says such things?

    He also always puts the differences between himself and other “Speculative Realists” (a label that none of the others have ever actually used, by the way) down to purely aesthetic considerations: “My friend Brassier is temperamentally inclinded towards eliminativism, but that’s not for me … Grant likes to think of the world as a caeseless flux that somehow gets retarded to produce individual objects, but my intuition is that the world is carved up into individual objects, so I base my metaphysics on that …” This is not a direct quote but there have been plenty of posts like that, in which he characterises the four positions as if they were alternative pictures of the universe, something like choosing between various pre-Socratic worldviews according to one’s personal aesthetic tastes. For example:

    “When I read my friend Brassier, he’s too much of an eliminativist for my tastes. I don’t want to eliminate Popeye from the subject matter of philosophy, nor do I find it possible to do so” – presumably because whenever he tries to think about the world in terms of physics, pictures of Popeye keep leaking in to the picture and he can’t shut them out!

    However, he does like some things in Brassier: namely, some of the vivid language he uses:

    “However, what I really passionately love in Brassier’s work is his fierce poetry of the insignificance of human being. Not the pessimism of it so much, because I am temperamentally an optimist and have a quasi-libidinal investment in even the most trivial objects that pass through my field of vision, and do not enjoy the thought of burnt-out husks of stars and the heat-death of the universe, which Brassier almost seems to viscerally enjoy”.

    And ditto for Dawkins:

    “It’s for similar reasons that I often like reading Dawkins, even though I find his anti-fundamentalist tirades to be tedious and condescending …. But his vast landscapes of strange animal ancestors and archaic geological events … this I find highly appealing …”

    Thus, the entire ‘argument’ for his metaphysics goes something like this:

    “Is reality divided up into chunks or is it a ceaseless flux? Well, which do you prefer? Which one appeals to you? I like the former. Why? Because my teachers likes all the relational stuff, and I got bored with that. I don’t like monism. Some people do, but my inclinations are different. Some people base their ontology on empirical sciences, but I like Popeye too much to go down that road. Anyway, I can’t remember anything I read in science books, and there aren’t any pretty pictures to look at there – except in astonomy, of course: I love stars and comets! I also love all the landscapes of weird and wonderful animals painted by Dawkins. But it puzzles me why some people prefer to think of gold in purely physical terms, thus giving up its shiny appearance. I find that when I think of gold all that comes to mind is its glittery shiny appearance, so my claim is that gold is metaphysically torn between its appearance and its inscrutable inner core. I guess those eliminativist types just have more austere aesthetic tastes than I do.”

    The fact is, of course, that this stuff only appeals to overly impressionable students in the humanities for whom analytic philosophy is just too damn hard and who are constantly on the look out for the next new thing in continental philosophy: something abstract but user-friendly, undemanding, sexy, perfectly pliable for whatever ends they might require (geography, social theory, literary studies, cultural studies, film, business studies …). For such types, reading Harman is an absolute godsend: It’s easy and pleasant to read (lots of metaphors and imagery), deep- and lofty-sounding, doesn’t require them to do any thinking (thus saving unnecessary wear and tear on the brain tissues), it chimes perfectly with commonsense (albeit with some ‘weird’ twists’, which is cool), doesn’t require them to be able to evaluate arguments or learn anything technical, gives them a further alibi for continuing to ignore science and epistemology, gives them license to commit as many non sequiturs as they like (“arguments are the superficial skin of philosophy”, “logical errors are the most trivial mistakes in philosophy”), tells them that the only important thing about writing philosophy is to cultivate a literary “style”, to write “vividly” in bold and eye-catching colors, tells them that poetry is a greater cognitive tool than empirical inquiry, promises a direct revelation of Truth without having to acquire any knowledge … and, in general, it’s ‘fresh’ and ‘bold’ and ‘exciting’ … It’s irresistable!

    Okay, enough from me. Apologies for the overly long post there!

  6. kvond November 16, 2009 at 6:19 pm

    God that’s a really good post. All I can do is repost it in a more viewable place. And also add, I practically fell over when reading recently in his “critique” of Davidson, that he really didn’t like his “attitude”. Davidson’s attitude? What is Davidson’s attitude? Straining for sobriety and deflationary effect of statement combined with a bit of mirth? No wonder Harman has a metaphysics of retreating “real” “vacuuous” objects and their qualities. All he sees and reads are surfaces, from which he himself is alienated, it would seem, as a thinker.

  7. Pingback: Velvet Howler › Blog Archive › Philosophy as Aesthetics or, the New Age of the (OOP) World-Picture

  8. bryank November 16, 2009 at 6:51 pm

    Eli, that was tremendous. I’ve linked to two excerpted paragraphs of it on the Howler, but your comment definitely deserves a post of its own.

  9. Eli November 16, 2009 at 7:17 pm

    Glad to contribute, and thanks for linking to do it, though I’m not sure it was worth all that. Most of that was actually from an email exchange I had with a friend many months ago. Bryan’s comments about Harman’s aestheticizing of philosophy reminded me of it so I went and looked for the email and thought some of it might be worth posting. I have dozens of other similar emails but don’t worry, I won’t be posting them all on your blogs! Cheers.

    • kvond November 16, 2009 at 8:31 pm

      You can completely post them over here. Please do if interested. I find your points very well taken and beautifully expressed.

  10. Eli November 16, 2009 at 7:27 pm

    By the way, Kvond: I haven’t seen what he wrote about Davidson, but I can imagine the sort of thing. You are surely right that he only ever “sees and reads surfaces”. For example, he has posted many times on what terrible writers all analytic philosophers are (e.g. Quine and Sellars), but can you imagine him actually engaging with any of their *arguments*? That, of course, would be unheard of, and I quite honestly believe that the task would be beyond him. As we know, his level of engagment with analytic philosophy amounts to making absolutely preposterous statements about how about it “has made no progress since Locke” (?!?!?!) and how no-one will be reading analytic philosophers in 100 years time (the implication being, of course, that they WILL be reading Harman!).

    • kvond November 16, 2009 at 8:36 pm

      His comment was made in passing, as he was making his typical non-substantive round up of philosophy he doesn’t understand or probably even read. He mentioned that Davidson is loved by Derridians (not something that would immediately come to mind, at least my mind), perhaps with something of a dismissal on Harman’s part (oh, HE appeals to Derridians), but then added that he didn’t like Davidson’s attitude, with no elaboration. Probably Davidson’s seemingly extreme resistance to trying to make a splash with exaggeration (Harman’s golden key to philosophizing). But God knows what it really is. I have to say that I really like Davidson’s attitude (even thought its not my own at all), in all of its shades.

      The Art of the Surface Reading.

  11. Eli November 16, 2009 at 8:02 pm

    Hahahahaha, this is truly pricless: I just did a search to see what Harman has had to say about Davidson and googling “object-oriented philosophy Davidson” brought up this line as the first hit:

    “When was the last time an architect was inspired by Davidson or Quine? That’s a stunning indictment of their field, as I see it.”

    !!!!!!!!!!!

    In sum: if it’s not art or you can’t turn it into art, it’s worthless!

    In case you think I’m making this up, here’s the link:

    http://speculativeheresy.wordpress.com/2009/01/06/object-oriented-philosophy/

    I note that there are some other pearls of wisdom in that thread too, including Harman’s take on the nature of knowledge:

    “Knowledge, as I see it, is not a matter of true content. If I reject what the older generation has taught me, it is not so much because it is “false,” as because it is not my own. For the older generation that knowledge was born through a struggle with its own conditions. But I myself was not there. Hence, there will be certain portions of the older generation’s knowledge that ring hollow for me.”

    He goes on to say that knowledge is a matter of one generation getting bored with, or feeling oppressed by, what the previous generation had been saying and thus deciding to change vocabularies. But rest assured, this is neither sociological reductionism nor relativism. No my friends, this is robust REALISM!

    • kvond November 16, 2009 at 8:49 pm

      Actually, that isn’t even the post I referred to. It is this, much more recent one:

      http://doctorzamalek2.wordpress.com/2009/11/08/kripke-2/

      “The Derrideans tend to like Davidson; I myself do not. (In fact, I find Davidson rather annoying even in his attitude.) Lately there has been a growth in pro-Sellars continental sentiment, but it’s always seemed to me that Sellars like Quine is more important for his effects within the analytic universe than for enduring philosophical value per se (that’s a controversial view, I realize). Besides that, I find Quine to be a fairly desolate writer, and Sellars among the most wretched stylists I’ve ever read– in fact, it’s almost physically painful for me to read Sellars.”

      Apparently this Derridians love Davidson comes from an experience of Bill Martin:

      “Peter and I both encountered Bill Martin’s joint Davidson/Derrida enthusiasm at DePaul”, surely a strong reading. Why Davidson’s attitude (and writing) annoys him, God knows.

      As for Davidson and Architects I actually ran across an avante gard art installation that what organized around Davidson’s work, filled with quotes from him. Davidson was mystified how his work was connected to all that, but it definitely was imspired by Davidson’s work.

      As for myself, I found strong correspondences between Davidson’s theory of Triangulation and the dramatical structure of Attic Greek Chorus, and poetically have been quite inspired by Davidson’s constructions and interpretations.

      Graham seems to think that “good” writing requires lots of metaphors and very little argument. I recall him saying when I called him on his excessive metaphorical expression “Should I apologize for writing so well?” (so something to that effect).

  12. Eli November 16, 2009 at 9:35 pm

    Thanks for the link: the usual hot air, of course, showing that he hasn’t got the first clue about Davidson or Sellars. Surface reading indeed. As I said before, I honestly believe that anything like Sellars or Davidson is beyond him. Sellars can be difficult, admittedly, but to say that he or Quine are poor philosophical writers is truly dumbfounding. What I suspect is that Harman simply has a whole lot of trouble following step-by-step arguments. His mind seems to constantly need images and metaphors to feed on, and if you take that away he is completely lost. As for Harman’s own writing, as a friend of mine put it once: his “style” is as slick, smooth and unsatisfying as a pop-tart or tasty-treat: it tingles the tastebuds for a while, but will soon make you feel distinctly nauseus.

    • kvond November 16, 2009 at 9:44 pm

      What I don’t “get” is that there is a kind of group forgiveness of the lack of substance (and yes, the writing isn’t brilliant stylism either, its kind of pulp philosophy).

      Is it:

      1. If he is allowed to write and reason like this, I can.

      2. A polite “in company” overlooking of another person’s obvious flaws.

      3. A purposive building of alliance against an acknowledged enemy.

      As for Harman’s reading of philosophy, he largely seems to troll for stuff that can feed his reference and metaphor machine. I don’t think he enjoys thinking-in-dialogue, trying to figure out the position where what we both are saying can be seen as true.

      A good deal of this dismissiveness might very well be self-protection, a fear that one’s ideas aren’t very good, as well as the possible exposure to not being as well-read as people may hope (as all of us aren’t).

  13. Eli November 17, 2009 at 6:08 am

    Kvond: What I don’t “get” is that there is a kind of group forgiveness of the lack of substance

    I think this comes down to the petulant, narcissistic rages he is known to fly into whenever criticized. Harman regards any form criticism of his ideas from his friends as a heinous betrayal. His friends known this and so have to step very gingerly around him indeed, always being careful to show him the respect that he so strongly believes he and his ideas demand. In effect, while they harbor very serious doubts about the coherence of his project (how could they not?), they are only able to express it in the very mildest of terms (“this point had me scratching my head a little”), permanently stifling their more serious reservations for fear of overstepping the mark and thereby incurring his wrath. Why they find this situation remotely tolerable is beyond me, but by now I think we are talking about precious few scattered individuals anyway (Levi being the most conspicuous) and before long I suspect they too will come to regret ever having entered into any kind of alliance with him.

  14. Lord Auch November 17, 2009 at 1:04 pm

    Is there anyone else possessing even rudimentary philosophical knowledge besides Levi who actually buys into Harman’s claims at this point? I’ve taken part in a lot of conferences where folks have brought up SR (typically Meillassoux) and if Harman is mentioned, people tend to role their eyes. I listened to the recordings of the Zagreb Materialism conference and it really seemed like Harman couldn’t even answer the most basic questions, e.g., about the status of mathematical objects in his thought. And for someone so dismissive of Derrida, Harman certainly had no response to Martin Hagglund’s paper or his questions.

    Still, there’s a lot of crappy work out there. The most irritating thing about Harman isn’t so much that his philosophy is unconvincing as his attempt to legislate the conditions of any valid critique of his philosophy.

    Finally, as far as GH or LB providing career advice — I’d much rather listen to Brian Leiter (though he’s obviously a dick) at UChicago than somone at a community college or someone teaching in the Middle East….

    Anyway, I’m not saying anything new here.

    • kvond November 17, 2009 at 2:08 pm

      I don’t even think that Levi buys into it either. Its just the general “idea” of some kind of movement that he wants to attach himself to. As for Harman’s legislation of critique, this is pretty much a necessity given that he wants people teaching OOP in 200 years. It is incredibly weak on any number of fronts, and is these fronts that need to be discredited. Unfortunately, these fronts pretty much make up philosophy. He has to some how persist in the realm of Specultation and metaphor picture painting, and keep up with the impression that he has philosophical answer important to others.

  15. kvond November 17, 2009 at 1:33 pm

    This is a very good point, and one that finds a similarity with Levi’s own tendency to deeply over-react to any criticism whatsoever, rising up into professorial lecturing, or sinking down into victimization. The difference between then actually is, at least as far as my experience is, Graham is quite charming, and VERY nice to be in league with. His good side demeanor has a pleasantness about it that simply one doesn’t enjoy risking, I would say. He actually had never shown to me personally any of the rage tendency, and I was quite happy to hum along, until he took deep offense at my criticism of him Orientalism (and I don’t know if it is related, or a coincidence) within a day or so shut down his entire blog in fit of petulance.

    What I did see, and I hadn’t seen it before, was a lacerating rage towards others (at the time it was Parody Center, I believe), the attempt to strike at their persons as best he could, using private information he had gleaned from an improper little bird who was trying to ingratiate himself to Harman. The childish shutting down and deletion of his blog, and the related attacks on others pretty much stripped the lacquer off the wood. Again, he’s never been anything but cordial to me, but there is a very unpleasant other side, and he is not apologic for it.

    So, yes, there is a tendency, and we are speaking of only a few people here who actually engage him, to probably enjoy his intellectual company, but also to retreat quite quickly at even the hint of their own objection (of confusion). It also worked for the Great Oz, this “Who are you to question the Great Oz” buisness, though this is a little pip of an internet phenomena.

  16. Timmy December 4, 2009 at 12:33 pm

    Came across this blog on accident. I’m sorry guys–you all sound clever but have any of you actually read Harman’s books? What you’re critiquing are his blogging posts, which are often entertaining but hardly intended to serve as a philosophical system. He never once argues in one published work that he ‘likes’ or ‘dislikes’ something, and that such an evaluation should have a philosophical grounding. These kinds of statements read as comments by nay-saying dilettantes, not genuine grappling with a philosophical movement.

    • kvond December 4, 2009 at 1:15 pm

      I guess you came upon this blog by accident, and from a quick skim of contents you seem to think that we have come to Harman by accident. Of course I’ve read his books, listened to his lectures (to which Eli responds), read and critiqued his essay on Causation, and read some of his blogged discussion (back in the day when he had a blog which actually discussed things, a blog which he then deleted). I’ve written maybe 10,000 words of explication and criticism of Harman’s proposed theories, surely more than any person on the e-planet as his thinking is largely ignored.

      So, when you say that “these kinds of statements” read as made by dilettantes, given that you are unfamiliar with the context in which the statements have been made itself comes off as made by a dilettante. And what is this “movement” you are talking about? Speculative Realism is non-existent, except for those who speak vaguely about it on the interent, for a variety of reasons. Speaking as one clever dilettante to another.

      The larger problem of the artiface of paper writing advocated by Graham Harman is that it goes in tow with his metaphysics of “allure” and a view of philosophy that is geared towards a commercialized “shock value” and “exaggeration” premise of what is good.

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