Archive for September, 2010


29 September 2010

I thought the following summary by Graham Harman was the most concise so far on how he distinguishes his object-oriented philosophy (or object-oriented ontology (OOO), as it’s been renamed recently) from Latour’s version of actor-network theory. This difference is probably worth exploring further.

(I corrected some of the typos and iPad misspellings in the original, hopefully I got them right).

Graham Harman:

“…in my Latour book I said that his philosophy contains the four key concepts of actors, irreductions, translation, and alliance. All are crucial, but in a sense OOO departs from Latour on all four, at least in my version of OOO. Namely,

  1. Actors are not all equal. There is a difference between real and sensual objects, and it is absolute, they are radically different in kind.
  2. Latour holds that nothing is either reducible nor irreducible to anything else. My position, contrary to false assertions that I think spaghetti monsters are as real as atoms, is that real objects are never reducible and sensual objects always are. There is, however, some difficulty in knowing which objects are real. We can never be sure of this, in fact. No intellectual intuition allows us to make this determination; the belief in a given real object is always falsifiable.
  3. As for translation, Latour holds that all relations are mediated. I counter that this leads to a Zeno-like paradox, and that there is in fact a kind of direct contact: a real-sensual link is always direct, whereas real-real is always linked by the sensual and sensual- sensual is always linked by real.
  4. As for alliances, whereas for Latour a thing is determined by its alliances, I hold that it is determined only in isolation from its alliances.”

Metaphysics and Things

24 September 2010

Check out the conference website for the Fourth International Conference of the Whitehead Research Project, entitled “Metaphysics and Things: New Forms of Speculative Thought,” at Claremont Graduate University on 2-4 December 2010.

“This conference will provide the opportunity to identify and work through shared elements and problems, which have been developed by those working in the philosophies of A. N. Whitehead and Gilles Deleuze, Actor-Network-Theory, and Speculative Realism. The extensive work of Isabelle Stengers in its relation to Whitehead and Deleuze could be seen as indicative of the milieu which contemporary thought inhabits and the problems it is addressing. The importance of this major re-conceptualization of the demand for a renewed interrogation of the inter-relation of metaphysics and things is also evident in the work of Bruno Latour who has often discussed the importance of the work of both Whitehead and Stengers for his re-description of objects in terms of associations and networks. Speculative Realism has, recently, developed approaches to such questions which have a tensile but productive relationship with the concepts and approaches raised by Whitehead, Stengers, and Latour. This conference will include participants who are influential in all of these fields and its overall aim is to provide an open forum to further these important debates and to produce new modes of thought.”

Confirmed conference participants include:

  • Isabelle Stengers (UniversitĂ© Libre de Bruxelles)
  • Donna Haraway (University of California at Santa Cruz)
  • Ian Bogost (The Georgia Institute of Technology)
  • James J. Bono (University at Buffalo)
  • James Bradley (University of Newfoundland)
  • Nathan Brown (UC Davis)
  • Levi Bryant (Collin College)
  • Didier Debaise (Max Planck Institute, Berlin)
  • Roland Faber (Claremont Graduate University)
  • Andrew Goffey (Middlesex University)
  • Michael Halewood (University of Essex)
  • Graham Harman (American University in Cairo)
  • Judith Jones (Fordham University)
  • Steven Shaviro (Wayne State University)