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.”


6 Responses to “ANT vs. OOO”

  1. ANT vs. OOO « Object-Oriented Philosophy Says:

    […] 29, 2010 ANTHEM reposts the highlights of my post of a few days ago, and with typos corrected (probably correctly; […]

  2. Ralph Says:

    Dear Graham,

    I’m confused:

    1. So, real objects are different from sensual objects. Which one is which? What does ‘real’ mean? What does ‘sensual’ mean? What about those objects that are both real and sensual or neither real nor sensual?

    How do scientific ideas and hypotheses get turned into real objects?

    3. This is interesting. Have you written more on this?

    4. What things exist in isolation from other things? What do you mean by ‘isolation’?

  3. PE Says:

    Hi Ralph,

    you can find definitions of these terms and further explication in Harman’s Prince of Networks book, downloadable from here:

  4. Ralph Says:

    Hi PE, Thanks. I’ve read the book many time actually. I’m just looking for some concise clarification on a few points.

  5. Pita Says:

    Hi Ralph,

    I see that you did not get answer to your Questions. Your questions are very important and coming from true spirit of inquiry and I congratulate you. I wonder what you yourself think about this.

  6. klaustoon Says:

    Hi, PE. We’re kind of tuned, it seems. You might like this one:

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