Quick response to a quick response

Harman responded quite quickly to my post and I just want to add a few things that I perhaps should have added in the initial post (I’m new to blogging – I suppose it’s obvious now). First, my post was intended to be a praise for and attempt to think through aspects of Latour’s thought and it was not intended to be a critique of Harman or OOO. I have the greatest admiration for the work Harman, Levi, and others are doing, and Harman especially is to be applauded for shining the light onto Latour’s work. So if I came across in my post as unduly harsh or critical, rather than trying to explain and understand why Latour may be holding the positions he does, then I apologize and welcome all criticisms that point this out. My attempt is to generate discussion rather than cut it off with a condescending ‘this is the way it is’ approach. I did not address Harman’s work in detail here simply because I was trying to lay out a reading of Latour rather than Harman. I am more familiar with Levi’s work and what he is doing certainly was not characterized by what I wrote, nor, I suspect, was Harman’s. In fact, I believe Levi can account for the autonomy of objects while avoiding what I see as Latour’s Humean skepticism concerning causation (though I’ll let Levi speak for himself). I was thus attempting to spell out why I think Latour argues in the way he does and again apologize if it came across as a harsh attack on work I admire. I frequently criticize the overly polemical nature of philosophical discourse and so the last thing I want is to engage in it myself. So when I turn to Nietzsche’s critique of Descartes my intention was simply to highlight Nietzsche’s Humean scepticism of the cause-effect duality in order to shed light on why I think Latour may be inclined to reduce objects to their relations and develop an alternative, Whiteheadian approach to understanding the underdetermination of facts to theories, or of relations to objects. I do appreciate Harman’s point about Latour and Whitehead’s anti-Bergsonianism – and the occasionalism that goes with this. That was an excellent point and I’m thankful to him for pointing it out to me.

As for the symmetry –> asymmetry between humans and nonhumans I wrote of. That may simply be where we have a disagreement, and I may well be on the wrong end. I attempted to lay out my thoughts here in this and an earlier post as to why I think one needs to focus on Latour’s understanding of the stabilization of the event. And as for the philosophy of the event, I agree with Harman that the last thing philosophy needs is an institutionalized dogma whereby with heads Deleuze wins and tails you lose. If anything, at the moment I am more inclined to argue that Latour is right rather than Deleuze on a number of issues. I felt the same way Harman did when Derrida was in this instituionalized position and wouldn’t want Deleuze or Latour for that matter to end up there as well.

As for the third criticism, I did not have Harman in mind but a couple of other blog sites where I had read this criticism (and I link to those sites), and so I was turning away from his criticisms (though he accepts this one as well). Thus the use of the word normative was not in reference to his work and I’m sorry my post forced him to use it in his reply.

2 thoughts on “Quick response to a quick response

  1. Pingback: Bell’s response « Object-Oriented Philosophy

  2. In Harman’s response to my response to his response (http://doctorzamalek2.wordpress.com/2010/07/18/bells-response/#respond), Harman highlights the tension between the discrete and the continuous. On this he is right on the money, as is his further comment about Bergson recognizing this only early on when he denies differences of degree (a point Meillassoux stresses as well in his “Subtraction and Contraction” essay). One reason I find Hume’s work important is that this same tension exists there. Although for most epistemologists from the analytic tradition, and even many continental commentators as well (including Bergson), Hume is the master of the discrete, I think there is the same tension in Hume’s work, especially when it comes to the understanding of autonomous objects, whether the self or any garden variety object. This tension arises with Hume’s theory of habit and custom where we have the continuous strengthening of belief, including belief in the autonomous self Hume takes so much for granted in many of his essays and in the later parts of the Treatise. OOO, along with speculative realism, is providing us with a necessary reminder of this fundamental philosophical problem and is well on its way to developing innovative approaches to handle it.

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