Here are the opening bars of an interview that I recently conducted with Graham Harman (January 2019). You can find the full interview over at the Hong Kong Review of Books.
In the latest HKRB Interviews, Grant Hamilton discusses the provocative nature of objects with Graham Harman.
Since 2009, Graham Harman has published at least one book a year. The engine of such production has been a tireless exposition and defence of Harman’s own object-oriented philosophy – a philosophy that encourages one to think again about objects and their relation(ship) to the human world. While Harman’s ideas have proved to be nothing short of schismatic to philosophy departments up and down the land, those same ideas have become important waypoints in conversations held outside of such departments. Harman’s ideas are now frequently discussed by literary critics, by architects, and fine artists (amongst others). Given this transdisciplinary interest, one might rightly make the claim that Harman is one of the most discussed contemporary writers and thinkers today.
Graham Harman, Object-Oriented Ontology: A New Theory of Everything (Penguin, 2018), 336pp.
Grant Hamilton: I think you would agree that your Object-Oriented Ontology (OOO) is regarded as something of a provocation in the corridors of most philosophy departments today. But why do you think it has had such a polarized reception? Even those who are casually interested in such things cannot have missed the sometimes vitriolic exchanges between those who seem truly enthused by your attempt to refocus critical attention on objects and those who seem profoundly offended by such. What is it about objects, do you think, that divides the critics so?
Graham Harman: Perhaps it is best to begin by explaining to your readers what OOO means by “object.” When most people hear this word, they think of a medium-sized inanimate physical object. One of the things this definition obviously excludes is human beings: to “treat someone like an object” is considered the ultimate form of abuse. Instead, we are supposed to treat them as a dignified “subject,” as human beings deserve. Modern philosophy begins with René Descartes, whose own terminology is slightly different from the one just described, but who can fairly be called responsible for the distinction between two realms of reality: res cogitans and res extensa, or roughly, the mental and the physical. Descartes actually recognized a third sort of reality: God. But the intellectual atmosphere of modernity is so secularized that most readers of philosophy are not interested in hearing about God, and thus we are left with the physical and the mental. There are constant questions as to how we can build a bridge between these two different zones, as well as a number of contrarians who deny that there is any need to build a bridge because the two are somehow already connected.
But these contrarians are not as interesting as they seem…
… visit the Hong Kong Review of Books.