Monday, January 20, 2014

Conceptual Persona: Gram Harman.

Graham Harman, philosopher, conceptualizer of the tool-being, and founder of Object Oriented Ontology. Harman's radical claim is that 'objects', i.e. people, watermelon seeds, galaxies, police districts, ect., all have historically unique identities apart from any interaction, that might otherwise define them. The proof to this Harman claims, is that you can never exhaust every possible situation an 'object' can get into, so therefore each object must have an essence deeper than its inter actions with other objects.


Object Oriented Ontology contrasts with Platonic Idealism in that for Harman essences are not eternal, but emerge through evolution and technological development. 


OOO differs from Duleuze's philosophy in the way that identity relates to time. For Deleuze identity is difference in its self, this means that the identity of an object is simply all the possible distinctions it has with all other objects for the course of all time, but sense time never ends the being of the object is in a constant flux, or in other wards is in a constant becoming. For Harman differences and interactions between objects only reveal a small part of an essence that can never be fully disclosed. The example that Harman gives for this is that although window glass is transparent it is made visible by its reflection of other objects and although the glass distorts what it reflects the distortion can be deciphered by adjusting the relationship of the objects. If as Daniel Coffeen has pointed out that, Derrida views a thing at the point of its dissolution, and Deleuze at the point of its constitution, than Harman views it from the point of its solidification, and immutability.  


Harman's claim that all "Objects" are ontologically the same in their "tool-being", what is called flat ontology, has led some theorists to accuse him of diminishing human dignity to the level of house hold objects, but these theorists miss understand Harman's claim. Harman doesn't mean that the value of each "object" is the same, quite the contrary, he means that a thing or persons essence or value is not derived solely from there interaction with others, because no interaction fully encompasses their essence. It could be said that OOO is an increase in dignity for humans from other ontological perspectives, because not only is it very likely that humans will tend to consider the interaction of other humans more important than interactions with other entities, but the essence of this or that person is never reducible to even the sum total of past interactions.    

What needs to be understood when reading Harman is that "Object" in his texts have a specialized meaning distanced from general use, this is a good thing to remember when reading any philosophical or otherwise specialized text. That said I will hand it to the critics, even if Harman means something different than other people, calling someone an object is rude!

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