Science, Philosophy, Territory, and Speculative Motivation

by Asher Kay

This is going to be one of those minimal, opening-up sorts of posts. I’m going to lay a couple of quotes out without any commentary, and see what people make of them.

The first is from a recent post by Levi on translation:

On the one hand, my initial thought is that it is not for philosophy to answer how translation takes place in any specific relation between objects. Initially this response might look like a dodge; however, it is premised on a distinction between the sort of thing philosophy does and the sort of thing other disciplines do.

The second is from Graham Harman’s much-talked-about causation essay:

For several centuries, philosophy has been on the defensive against the natural sciences, and now occupies a point of lower social prestige and, surprisingly, narrower subject matter. A brief glance at history shows that this was not always the case. To resume the offensive, we need only reverse the long-standing trends of renouncing all speculation on objects and volunteering for curfew in an ever-tinier ghetto of solely human realities: language, texts, political power.

Any thoughts?

[UPDATE: Harman’s recent reference to the “Neurology Death Cult” might also shed some light on this subject. Graham would seem to be pointing to Brassier’s “wing” of SR. See Reid Kane’s thoughtful response here.

I joined a Neurology Death Cult once. Every Thursday we’d get together and do fMRIs on Orange Vampires to find out why they were so dismissive of other people’s ideas. We also came up with this great pudding based on glial cells. It was like Kheer, except more chunky.]

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102 Responses to “Science, Philosophy, Territory, and Speculative Motivation”

  1. Thanks for the link. Before discussion goes completely off the rails because I’m quoted out of context as in the case of me making metaphorical claims like “we need to let the objects speak” and then being accused of presenting objects according to Disney’s Fantasia where teapots are dancing and speaking, it’s worthwhile to say just why I don’t think it’s for philosophy to discuss how objects translate other objects. This is, of course, explained directly after the passage you cite so I’m curious why you didn’t post the explanation but instead rested with two sentences that taken out of context, make me appear that I’m giving up a lot. So it goes in the world of Fox News sound-bites here in the blogosphere. It’s hard to escape the impression that such a post is a set-up for another round of “let’s poke fun at Harman and Bryant!”

    Pardon me for being a bit paranoid and defensive, but I’ve seen so many absurd claims attributed to us folks by this crew, so many claims taken out of context, so many uncharitable interpretations of claims, so many charges that we want to psychoanalyze avocados, so many claims that I believe that thought only takes place through conflict and aggression (apparently the author of that remark never read my post “In Praise of Irritation” — http://larvalsubjects.wordpress.com/2006/09/22/in-praise-of-irritation/ –where this thesis is explained, or he’s just malicious, knowing full well what I’m claiming, and purposefully misrepresenting the claim) that it’s hard not to read into any engagement from the four or so of you. In the meantime, while all of this goes on and I’m accused of everything from being completely incoherent and superficial, and participating in a self-aggrandizing ponzie schemes designed to advance my career, to sadness being expressed on behalf of my students, to my marriage, friendships, and fatherhood being denigrated, I’m the one who gets accused of behaving in a reprehensible way… And from the normo-philiacs no less. I get outraged emails from folks among this five when I suggest that Tuffini is really Alexei, claiming that I’m a horrible person for making such a charge, only to have these same folks turn around and treat Alexei as some sort of hero for having assumed the false identity of Tuffini. Meanwhile, Tuffini and co. make the claim that assumed identities are perfectly legitimate when these Kantian deontologists know very well that identity is one of the grounds of obligation, contracts, interpersonal discourse, etc., within the framework of the categorical imperative. It is then suggested that I constantly delete comments on my blog if they disagree with me, when, in the history of my blog I’ve received 8,020 comments, 7,363 of which I’ve authorized or posted. Now, I receive between two and four spam posts a day, so the number of comments I’ve deleted or refused to post is less than 5%. But apparently I’m an authoritarian, Orwellian, controller of speech. Yeah, I’m a bit fed up and feel that I’ve been treated unfairly and my radar is constantly on the alert now whenever I interact with any of you for subtexts of what’s going on. And, of course, this post will be fodder for more of all these things with people saying things like “way to give a backhanded apology” and whatnot.

    Setting all this bitterness aside, the point about translation is very simple, however. If the philosopher can’t discuss how translation takes place between objects, then this is because the “how” of translation is an empirical question that can only be answered by consulting the objects themselves. This is a lot of what I understand both the hard sciences and the human sciences to be up to. The translation involved in the relation between leaves and photons of sunlight in the production of energy is different than the translation of a human mind evaluating situations and making normative judgments, as is the manner in which one rock filters the impact of another rock or a change in temperature or the presence of moisture through its molecular structure. Philosophy can show that translation must take place. And in doing so philosophy can do a critical service to simplistic scientistic discourses and forms of theory that either a) forget that interactions between objects produce something new and not completely predictable, and b) that free up possibilities of emancipation by showing that human agents are not completely overdetermined by social structures, but we have to turn to the world to actually determine the hows and natures of translations. That strikes me as a rather simple, straightforward, and modest point.

  2. I’m curious why you didn’t post the explanation but instead rested with two sentences that taken out of context

    I was placing your quote in a new context, in juxtaposition to the Harman quote. The context here is the domain of philosophy with respect to other disciplines, and how that may or may not motivate approaches to philosophical speculation. In other words, the discussion here is not about translation per se (although I think the argument that follows the quote is interesting and definitely worth discussing in some other context).

    Pardon me for being a bit paranoid and defensive, but I’ve seen so many absurd claims attributed to us folks by this crew… that it’s hard not to read into any engagement from the four or so of you.

    I understand that it’s difficult to deal with criticism, especially when you have reason to feel that it’s unjust or personal, and I sympathize. However, I don’t think that I’ve ever unjustly criticized you. In fact, I haven’t been very critical of your philosophy at all. If I’ve gone out of line somewhere, please point me to it — I’m always willing to consider that I’m at fault.

    Though it’s difficult not to be paranoid, or to read into what’s being said, I think it’s worth the effort, at least in some cases.

    Setting all this bitterness aside, the point about translation is very simple, however. If the philosopher can’t discuss how translation takes place between objects, then this is because the “how” of translation is an empirical question that can only be answered by consulting the objects themselves.”

    Do you see this as being primarily a distinction between a priori and empirical modes of investigation? And do you feel that the empirical conclusions of the physical or human sciences have a role to play in philosophical investigation?

  3. Congratulations, Levi, your comment has successfully ruined my day.

    And with this, I think I’m going to make like a tool and withdraw form this medium entirely.

    It’s been an education.

  4. Asher,

    Mea culpa. I thought the original post was by Carl. Yes, you’ve always been above board with me, as has Carl for the most part (I get the sense that he actually hasn’t seen a lot of the things that took place in the last year).

    I absolutely believe that empirical conclusions from the physical and human sciences have a role to play in philosophical investigation. I don’t think philosophers can just sit back and pretend as if these findings don’t take place and require self-criticism on the part of philosophers and their assumptions. For example, I think a lot of philosophical discussions still remain mired in assumptions inherited from 17th century physics and, in many cases, haven’t modified their premises in response to developments in physics. Similarly, I think evolutionary theory transforms a lot of our assumptions about the relation between form and matter (from Aristotle) and how pattern emerges. And, of course, I’m always harping on neurology. Insofar as philosophy is a meta-theory that tries to render our practices intelligible while opening the possibility of critique where necessary of these practices and knowledges, philosophy takes as its premises existing states of knowledge and practice at such and such a point in time. This, I think, would be the anti-foundationalist dimension of OOO.

  5. Additional caveat, and not to nitpick, but personal attacks and abuse are not criticisms because they have nothing to do with the actual positions being argued or the arguments advanced in support of those positions. Rather, personal attacks are just abuse. This is why they’re classified as informal fallacies.

  6. Levi –

    Yes, I am a Vole now. And darned proud of it. I don’t know where the hell Carl is — presumably doing housework, since he cannot afford to hire illegal aliens like I do.

    Okay, so given your answer to the first question, here’s the real fun one: What is it that prevents you from being a physicalist?

  7. Additional caveat, and not to nitpick, but personal attacks and abuse are not criticisms because they have nothing to do with the actual positions being argued

    Agreed. Those are best ignored rather than engaged, since it becomes too easy to make the same mistake.

  8. “I don’t know where the hell Carl is”

    “Those are best ignored rather than engaged, since it becomes too easy to make the same mistake.”

    I’m here! And following your sage advice. Carry on, you splendid Vole you.

  9. Damn objectological internet police is everywhere – go away, you bitter man, this is the last place where we can openly discuss issues without your thin-skinned and sulky presence. Stop trying to control the message, it’s just going to drive you crazier and crazier – take your own freaking advice and cut this cancer out.

    Asher was indeed always nice to you – he’s a freaking saint! I don’t know how he does it, honestly…

  10. I’m here! And following your sage advice. Carry on, you splendid Vole you.

    It’s snowing on Dead Voles! You must have installed the snowing widget!

    [My cat is now attacking the Vole snow!]

    he’s a freaking saint! I don’t know how he does it, honestly…

    I’m nice to everyone in order to cultivate a sense of moral superiority.

  11. Mikhail, why would you want Levi not to be a discussant here? Do you really feel inhibited from talking freely if he’s part of the conversation? I agree that, for his own peace of mind, he might not want to hang out with people he doesn’t get along with. But do you really want to establish the Vole House as a non-Levi zone?

  12. As far as I’m concerned Levi is always welcome here. There’s a house ethic of free discussion that is not consistent with controlling the message. Each of us must come to grips with that in our own way.

    The snow widget is left over from last year! I forgot all about it. Glad it’s entertaining the cat – will s/he be doing a guest post?

  13. John, I was joking – oppressive exclusivist that I am, I don’t ban or exclude, especially since this is not my blog… Participate away!

  14. There will be ab-so-lute-ly NO JOKING on this blog! Raus mit du, RAUS!

  15. Thanks for clarifications.

    “I’m going to make like a tool and withdraw”

    Do you think that Alexei really has retired from blog commenting?

  16. Not that I hope you are retiring, Alexei, but these really are some great last words. People will still be quoting them 200 years from now.

  17. I think so, I am about to do so as well – these encounters cannot be good for my psyche, can they? To put it bluntly, you people make me sick.

  18. Don’t forget Misha, we’re not people, we’re your blogter-egos, fignewtons of your imagination. So you’re making yourself sick! Doktor, heal thyself!

  19. I believe it’s the best example of schizophrenia know to man! I am making medical history and it’s snowing on my screen (and I hear voices)…

  20. Another quote from Harman’s essay in support of the centrality of a theory of connections between elements. Note, these are the problems of an OOP:

    “What remains to be seen is how these elements interact, how one type of relation transforms into another, how new real objects paradoxically arise from the interaction between real objects and sensual ones, and even how sensual objects manage to couple and uncouple like spectral rail cars. These sort of problems are the subject matter of object-oriented philsophy: the inevitable mutant offspring of Husserl’s intentional objects and Heidegger’s real ones.”

    It is pretty because Levi does NOT understand Harman’s point about this importance (Harman’s entire metaphysics rides upon this point), he doesn’t really understand Harman’s philosophy (nor his theory of causation which frankly he regards as “absurd”). It is also for this reason that Levi appeals to a non-Phenomenological explanation of what Harman’s theory is claiming, despite the fact that Harman’s claim is entirely, and essentially a Phenomenological claim.

    More here, of course: http://kvond.wordpress.com/2009/11/25/levi-apparently-has-never-read-harmans-theory-of-causation/

  21. Carl: “The snow widget is left over from last year! I forgot all about it. Glad it’s entertaining the cat – will s/he be doing a guest post?”

    Kvond: Honestly, I felt I had entered Narnia, and it would not be out of line for an animal to speak, err, type.

  22. “It is pretty because Levi does NOT understand Harman’s point about this importance (Harman’s entire metaphysics rides upon this point), he doesn’t really understand Harman’s philosophy (nor his theory of causation which frankly he regards as “absurd”). It is also for this reason that Levi appeals to a non-Phenomenological explanation of what Harman’s theory is claiming, despite the fact that Harman’s claim is entirely, and essentially a Phenomenological claim.”

    Kevin, I think at this point you’re preaching to the choir over here; you’ve made this case plentifully and it’s been very helpful in clearing the decks for other conversations. It seems to me that in the original post Asher has proposed a reconfiguration of these problematic elements that might lead us out of their own confusions into something more productive. Any thoughts about that?

  23. I read the Harman’s words “To resume the offensive” and wonder why his enterprise is not the charge of the light brigade. Can someone bring me up to speed here?

  24. [Bringing over kvond’s lost comments from the dead dead vole. –Ed.]

    Carl, the reason why I posted the link and the comment is that, yes, we may seem to think that only the “choir” is reading these pages, Google reads them as well, and many people (eventually) might read them. Secondly, I highly doubt that the “choir” understands (or cares to understand) that Levi has taken an extremely obtuse angle to the claims of Harman, so hopefully I am doing something hopefully more than “preaching”.

    As for Asher”reconfiguration” I was responding to the intitial post (which wasn’t a reconfiguraton, but rather a juxtaposition and contrast), and Levi’s initial response. But looking through the comments I’m not sure where this reconfiguration is. Can you point it out to me so that I can expand on it. Your quote of me, and comment suggests that I was merely heaping fuel on a fire, when in fact I was attempting to return to the issue I thought was raised here, that Levi’s and Harman’s theories are at odds.

    I should add that unlike Levi’s appropriations of Science (he likes to take up scientific explanation in a very loose way, as a kind of justification of his position, for instance his somewhat incoherent use of “phase space”), Harman sees his philosophy in some strong contest with Science. I recall him saying something like “how come all the particle physicists get to have all of the fun, making up bizarre objects and the such, philosophers need to get in on it too”. He also compares his search for the hidden object relations (real, sensuous, quality, etc), to the Scientific search for the missing elements in the periodic table.And lastly, proposes that because his theory of causation requires the possibility of One Way Causation, certain events in the world would exhibit this. For instance, as I have repeated before, a mosquito slamming into a mack truck would be an example of one object effected another, and the other having no reciprocal effect (zero). There is nothing wrong with thinking like this, if one wants to be imaginative, but it also should be brought out in criticism.

  25. I’m dumb – I just realized that “carldyke” become “deadvoles” and I didn’t even notice – dumb, dumb, dumb – my now change my blogroll or something

  26. Kvond – Thanks for the comments. I think the comments veered off track somewhat here as they spilled over from the Ktismatics post.

    I probably should have been a little more specific about what I was up to.

    First, there’s the contrast between Graham’s and Levi’s approaches to science’s “domain”, as you noted.

    Second, there’s the idea of “taking back” territory from science as a motivation for a particular philosophical approach. Unlike many cases in which one must read into the motivations of the philosopher, this case seems to be quite direct and explicit. Does this motivation strike anyone as odd or questionable? I assume that since it was published in a journal, it didn’t seem out of line as a motivation to the reviewers.

    Third, there’s the idea of staking out what sorts of issues are “for” philosophy and which are for science. Levi appears to be placing his stakes based on what can be determined a priori versus what is studied via empirical experimentation. Does this seem to be a reasonable way to divide things up? Should philosophy expect itself to provide a metatheory for science? Should philosophy make judgements about the validity of empirical methods? And if it should deem empirical methods to be valid, should it then consider these an adequate basis for its own theorizing?

  27. You’re not dumb Mikhail (or at least not about this), we just made the switch today so you’re right on top of things. Thanks for following us over to the new digs.

  28. I think “chaos” was a good heading to post this under.

  29. OK, so back to the topic at hand –

    Yes, I do think there’s something questionable about the ‘taking back territory’ approach Graham suggests. My sense is that he’s plain right about the historical restriction of philosophy to the ghetto of solely human realities. I’d go farther and say (as I have done in the past) that even in this ghetto philosophy has spun off useful new disciplines like Sociology, Anthropology, Political Science and so on that do much of the work philosophers used to do. Where I differ from Harman is that I think this process has been notably progressive, and that reversing it would be a net loss to our ability to generate knowledge, such as it is. A brief glance at history also shows that we used to think the Earth turned in crystalline spheres. So yes, John, the Light Brigade is charging.

    Then again, I don’t think there’s any danger of this reversion actually happening; the successor disciplines are robust enough to co-exist with renewed messianic philosophical speculation without missing a step, so have at it.

  30. I thought it worth pointing out these two amazing bits from Harman’s latest blog entries:

    “Yes, I’m up against these sorts of preconceptions a lot. The names to conjure with in contemporary continental philosophy are still Deleuze, Badiou, Lacan, Laruelle, Zizek, some Malabou, etc. And what that means is that (very good) people like Adrian Johnston and Quentin Meillassoux have a much better chance of obtaining a quick fair hearing than I do. Their work is so much better aligned with the stars at the moment than mine is.

    When you come over to visit my place, what you get instead is Husserl and Heidegger (viewed as passé in avant garde circles, though my reading of them is too avant garde for their traditional supporters, so the readership has had to be built from scratch, and slowly). You also get calls for a return to traditional realism and full-blown metaphysics, both still unpopular. And you get a lot of Latour, who isn’t even seen as a philosopher outside of the Netherlands, and the minds of a few others scattered across the globe such as Lucas Introna.”

    And again, a week later:

    “But I happen not to share the great enthusiasm for the philosophy-of-mind turn in our midst, especially when it comes from people who make no end of unkind remarks about such figures as Husserl and Latour, who are both of far greater importance than the Zeitgeist tends to imagine. And the Zeitgeist right now favors figures such as Badiou, Zizek, Deleuze, Lacan, Laruelle, a bit of Malabou and Metzinger lapping at the edges, etc. I like much of this stuff too, but it also has weaknesses of its own, and people need to have the freedom to address those weaknesses without explosions from those who like them.”

    This leads me to wonder a few things: is Harman’s contention that all of these thinkers are purely part of the transient historical Zeitgeist, whereas his eccentric and “too avant-garde for the avant-garde” constellation of Husserl-Heidegger-Latour is in fact an ahistorical, transcendent combination that, like the tell-taled “starving artist,” will only be realized as genius ex post facto? Is it a continuation of his tendency to view philosophers as stocks (“Lacan’s stock is high now, but the P/E ratio is totally off, get in on these cheap Latour penny stocks while you can, the price is gonna go UP UP UP soon!”).

    I’m even tempted to say… perhaps none of this is part of a larger capitalist attitude or anything like that, but maybe a symptom of Harman’s part-time, pre-career-philosopher, freelance journalist job? He speculates on philosophers like football or basketball players, creating fantasy sports teams to see who can do what, etc., speculating on who’s going to win the big series, etc. Is Harman the philosopher really just a more intellectualized version of Harman the sports writer? I mean this seriously, by the way. And I think it also explains a certain lack of understanding on his part: perhaps these philosophers are famous, not because they’re all engaged in Harman’s sportswriter-esque speculation of “who the best players are right now,” trying to create the most peculiar and unique arrangement of players, but rather that people have genuine projects of their own, and these thinkers answer very pertinent questions belonging to these projects. Maybe Harman cannot grasp this because his “project” is an incoherent phantasma retroactively justifying his aestheticization of philosophy.

  31. Actually, the more I think about this whole thing, the more I think that posting about it is a mistake. When I read books, I generally just enjoy the play of ideas. I’m excited when I see a surprising, thought-provoking idea, and I’m even more excited if the idea resonates or disharmonizes with the other ideas that are preoccupying me. If I come to think that the person I’m reading is totally wrong or spouting crap or whatever, I eventually put the book down and move on to something else.

    Some of Levi and Graham’s ideas actually do resonate with my preoccupations. For example, I think it’s intriguing to ponder whether the basic components of what we call mental “attentiveness” are present in things without brains. That’s a fun idea. I think it’s very interesting to contemplate in what way phenomenology could be considered a path – a key, even – to realism. The notion of translation not only as a mechanism of causality but also as a generalizable thing that arises from being is pretty engaging to me as well.

    It often annoys me that a vast majority of the book and movie reviews I run into are negative. Although I see the point of negative reviews, I have never really gotten much personally from them. When the reviewer is passionate about the book or movie, it’s a totally different story. So I think from now on I’ll stick to writing about what I’m passionate about, and leave the negative reviews to the people who are passionate about exposing the wrongness of ideas that they think are wrong.

    Levi and Graham do get a lot of personal-type crap and amateur psychoanalysis that I don’t want any part of. I do disagree strongly with Graham’s approach of retaliation via name-calling. Tit-for-tat is a useful strategy in some games, but the payoff matrix in this game just isn’t set up that way. Name-calling just makes you a name-caller, like all the other name-callers.

    It’s a trite point, maybe, but it seems important to me that I remember that the people I encounter are generally not evil or seething with sinister motives. Whatever I make of his ideas about causality and occasionalism, I share Graham’s appreciation of Alphonso Lingis, some of his appreciation of Heidegger, and definitely his appreciation of vivid philosophical writing. Whatever I think of the ontic principle, I share Levi’s interest in neuroscience and complexity.

  32. AK: It often annoys me that a vast majority of the book and movie reviews I run into are negative.

    Kvond: Some people don’t feel that reading philosophy is like reviewing movies. But while we are at it, let’s have more Larry King movie reviews.

  33. “Some people don’t feel that reading philosophy is like reviewing movies.”

    The analogy is between criticizing philosophy and reviewing movies. And it’s an analogy, not an equivalence. And it’s what I get from things personally, not what everyone gets from them.

    “But while we are at it, let’s have more Larry King movie reviews.”

    That sounds sort of sarcastic, Kvond. Why not be more direct? I’m not familiar with Larry King’s movie reviews.

  34. Interesting. There are at least two things going on here, one involving affective dispositions related to the expression of judgment, the other involving commitments to the value of philosophy; with possibly a third, pragmatic consideration following. Might be good to disentangle these.

    As to affect, one can either enjoy or not enjoy an agonistic intellectual/ interactive style. Within certain very broad limits, I do. Kevin’s limits are apparently well beyond even mine, while Asher just doesn’t enjoy fighting. We all have histories of conflict being familiar or unfamiliar, working for us or not working for us. There are things that happen down in the endocrine system related to the resulting dispositions, an adrenaline rush that gets interpreted prerationally as opportunity or threat. Given this affective diversity, what fighters soon discover is that they can win arguments simply by escalating the conflict level beyond the other’s tolerances, leading to withdrawal. Surely this is not what Kevin means to do.

    In principle separate from the affect of disputation is the question of what’s at stake in philosophy. I don’t think much, because I think philosophies emerge from and/or get grafted onto and serve as the rationalized edge of life situations rooted in political economy. When this is not true philosophies are intellectual games with no consequence whatever. You can argue whatever freaking ontology you want, but if it doesn’t fit the conditions of your life it’s just going to be ornamental. Your ‘real’ ontology will simply remain unarticulated and do its work around the back way. If I understand correctly, Kevin agrees with this as a description of how philosophy usually works, but has a more activist commitment to the potential of philosophy to break the materialist circle and become a guide to better living. If he’s right that philosophical activism can actually have an effect on the world, and not just be an effect of the world, the stakes in philosophizing get very high, conflict is warranted (even mandatory) and withdrawal is not an option. Therefore I would expect Kevin to think that an unwillingness to fight over philosophy is in effect a cover for conservatism; so he would in principle reject the separation of affect and commitment I have made.

    This all leads to pragmatic considerations related to what we think we’re doing and could be doing when we talk about philosophy. I think we’re enjoying a pleasant hobby, getting some air and exercise for our big old brains. Asher seems to think we’re actually trying to figure some stuff out, but more as a matter of intellectual curiosity than immediate import. For Kevin, getting philosophy right seems to be part of a deeper existential commitment to living right. I respect that, but respecting it probably is not enough to be living right by those standards.

  35. AK: “That sounds sort of sarcastic, Kvond. Why not be more direct? I’m not familiar with Larry King’s movie reviews.”

    Kvond: Asher, I actually wrote maybe a 2,000 word response to your post, but it was lost through a glich, and all I could muster was this condensed version in the wake of it.

    I have not read Carl’s response below yours, but in brief (and I wish I had been able to post at length), your use of books as broadsweep idea sources has a few problems, especially when it comes to philosophy itself. Part of the problem is that you don’t seem very concerned with the “truth” of arguements (or their critical engagments, what you seem to call “negative” reviews). You, Carl, and John Doyle actually don’t seem to find the discipline of philosophy very interesting (all in different ways). That fine and good. I’ve tried to point out that Harman’s philosophy is not really philosophy, but rather is unto philosophy in the way that Science Fiction is unto Science (I wrote a great deal on this in my lost post). So, yes, Science Fiction can give us all kinds of cool ideas of how the world MIGHT be, or things we MIGHT be able to do in the world, but it does not describe how the world REALLY is. Philosophy gets its merit from claiming to be how the world REALLY is, and the deep pleasures and importances of pursuits in philosophy come from testing this out, and doing so rigorously.

    So when you say something like: “When I read books, I generally just enjoy the play of ideas. I’m excited when I see a surprising, thought-provoking idea, and I’m even more excited if the idea resonates or disharmonizes with the other ideas that are preoccupying me,” in turn expressing disapproval for how others have responded to your post (i.e, other have not taken this rather “light” approach to books and ideas), I have to respond, this is just what is wrong with Graham Harman’s “all great philosophy is composed of one great idea” or “philosopher just make one great initial exaggeration” or “shock value is an important meter of good philosophy” (all paraphrase). It is precisely the book review/movie review attitude towards the philosophical that ends up producing Harman’s own Pulp Philosophy, philosophy that really doesn’t need to be tested, criticized, or even read closely. Philosophy that is meant for, well, really non-philosophers.

    As for positive book reviews, this is exactly what we got when Levi “reviewed” Harman’s book report on Latour, and also “reviewed” his theory of causation without even having read it (or so it seems). Insubstantive meme spreading.

    Now I’ll read Carl’s comments.

    p.s. Larry King is the quintessential “positive reviewer” of films. When you see a good review by Larry King on the DVD cover you know that they could find no-one else to review the film in a good light.

    I actually am someone who prefers critical reviews to films, reviews that can express with some thought how all the parts of the film fits together with a view towards a judgment; even if I disagree with the reviewer, at least I know where I stand.

  36. I actually agree with this ethic of getting it right and knowing where you stand, and I think it’s therefore of value to read closely and criticize when it’s warranted. I just don’t think philosophy, in particular metaphysics, is an area where there’s any useful standard of getting it right. It’s all science fiction. You’ll recall my review of Harman’s writing methods in which he took a pinch of his friends, a liberal scoop of his own intuitions, added an icing of some historical whatsis, and voila’, philosophy. We agreed that this was appalling, but the contrast you had in mind was philosophy done right, whereas for me there’s no such thing and the contrast is the disciplines where something like evidence is required. When Levi talks about ‘his ontology’ as if this is a deeply meaningful thing I want to either laugh or scream. In the discipline of history there are certainly differences of interpretation, but at least we can go back to the sources and deploy standards with enduring conventional robustness to decide and settle questions. There is therefore no such thing among serious historians as ‘my history’ of the Napoleonic wars, or whatevah, and we don’t spend thousands of years going round and round on the same old shit.

  37. Carl: “If I understand correctly, Kevin agrees with this as a description of how philosophy usually works, but has a more activist commitment to the potential of philosophy to break the materialist circle and become a guide to better living. If he’s right that philosophical activism can actually have an effect on the world, and not just be an effect of the world, the stakes in philosophizing get very high, conflict is warranted (even mandatory) and withdrawal is not an option. Therefore I would expect Kevin to think that an unwillingness to fight over philosophy is in effect a cover for conservatism; so he would in principle reject the separation of affect and commitment I have made.”

    Kvond: I’ve never heard my position towards philosophy summarized by another so this is interesting.

    First of all I am equally, if not more passionate about art (plastic, film, poetry, fiction, etc), I just happen to blog about philosophy because this is what feeds my artistic process. And yes, to take of your thought, what we paint, film and narrate indeed expresses our historical, material, economic circumstances, but it does not ONLY do so like a dumb image floating in a mirror, it ALSO helps determine them. So everything that is at stake in philosophy is also at stake in the arts. It is only that the mode of criticism of both is different. The need for criticism of each is acute. (Part of the problem I have tried to put forth in regards to Graham Harman under the question of his Orientalism is the way in which he evades criticism of both. When criticized as philosophy, is merely being poetic, when criticized as poet, is being a philosopher, in the end taking refuge merely as a non-author.) I do also believe that the arts can be critiqued through a mode of truth, and philosophies as modes of the social, but these are not their primary traction points in the world, the force they exert.

    As of the secondary question of conservatism I am not so high on this, as if buried conservatism is an inherent and ever lurking evil. I think that conservativism plays its own social role in the world, it is meant to conserve (perhaps Deleuze would say re-territorialize) aspects or relations in the face of radical change or dissonance. I am concerned about conservativism in two areas though. For one, I find the the Neoliberal (and really Fascist) elements in Levi Bryant’s Latourian objectology to be a vast case of political hypocrisy, and when someone bandies about the big rhetorical guns, blasting them this way and that, as he does, one better have one’s ps and qs straight in the positions you advocate. I find Levi’s metaphysics indeed to be Neoliberalesque, and his behavior as a person (for instance his call for uncloaking blogger identities, among many others) Fascist. When in the arena of political ideals, most important is that we don’t drag with us the very thing we are claiming to oppose. This leads to the secondary sense in which I find conservatism worth tracking. That is, because it is a social force, and has a social role, it is best if we identify it wherein it lies, so we can take it’s import into account, and look to just what it is that we are opposing. I made this point with Harman’s Orientialism as well. It is not that Orientalism is inherently “bad”, but that it contains dangers, possible negative side-effects which have a greater opportunity to manifest themselves when we are less conscious of what is going on, what is being expressed.

    Thanks for your thoughts on this Carl.

  38. Carl wrote: “…even in this ghetto philosophy has spun off useful new disciplines like Sociology, Anthropology, Political Science and so on that do much of the work philosophers used to do.”

    Carl writes: “I actually agree with this ethic of getting it right and knowing where you stand, and I think it’s therefore of value to read closely and criticize when it’s warranted. I just don’t think philosophy, in particular metaphysics, is an area where there’s any useful standard of getting it right. It’s all science fiction.”

    Kvond: This is the thing. I know you would like to treat philosophy as the latter, but the reason why philosophy WAS able and is STILL able to make these “spin-off” contributions to the social sciences is precisely because it recognizes the difference (within itself) between (Science Fiction) Pulp-Philosophy, and (Science) Philosophy. The internal coherence driven by the latter (and not the former) is what gave the force to descriptive systems that then power the descriptions of (some) social sciences. There is no EXTERNAL standard in the sense of a one-to-one correspondence, but indeed there is the standard of internal coherence amid systematic descriptions of the world which forces rigor within a theory that attempts to describe the world as it REALLY is. And it is this rigor that is missing from the Science Fiction aspects of philosophy.

  39. Yes, this makes sense. I’m not sure metaphysics has much left in the tank, in this respect, but I’m certainly in no position to deny it. Thanks for your thoughts too, Kevin!

  40. Or, to put it differently. What is Bourdieu without Wittgenstein? What is Marx without Spinoza or Hegel? What is Latour without Serres? What is Mauss without Bataille? The list goes on.

  41. Sorry I added that list while you were posting. I don’t know, Latour is very philosophical, and still a social scientist, Deleuze certainly is influencing the social scientists quite a bit. Philosophy of Mind is having social and AI consequences. Metaphysics is still turning out frames of reference.

  42. OK then, so if I understand correctly the division of labor is that metaphysics generates hypotheses, vets them against standards of coherence (we’ll suspend judgment for a moment on whether what counts as philosophical coherence is the right standard for anything but philosophy), then presents them to the empirical disciplines for testing?

  43. I like your very rough sketch, but I still resist it for several reasons. For one, it assumes a Kantian dialectic, that of the a priori vs. the empirical. For several philosophical reasons I find this basic assumption to be wrong-headed. Further there is the problem of a mere division of labor analysis of the functions of each, and I am unsure if the value of philosophy can or even should be reduced to such a description.

    If you leave these two deep (possible) objections aside I think that social value of philosophy can be seen in this way. There is a kind of en-visioning that occurs in the philosophical attempt, whereby the rigorous (and to some banal) pursuits of internal coherence, acts as a kind of Software testing (what happens if you run THAT social theory on THIS software). (Keep in mind we are still in the Kantian model to some degree.) But what makes GOOD software is the incoherence testing that gets done when you run it in all sorts of virtual scenerios.

    Now the big revoke against commentary philosophy is a revolt against trying to de-bug several well-running software programs, the scholasticism grinds the creative force of philosophy to halt. The bloggery attempts at philosophy, in particular some of the embraces of Speculative Realism (whatever that is) are people saying “Hey, I can design social software at home!” It doesn’t all have to come out of Microsoft and Apple. And yes, this is true.

    But de-bugging is still a really big part of the process. In fact it actually is more important than ever to the medium of blogged philosophy itself, lest the creative environment pass merely into the purely fictional side (philosophically incoherent side) Science Fiction. It is for this reason that the theories of Harman (and to a lesser degree Levi, etc) as they represent REAL philosophy, philosophy that has been to a greater degree de-bugged, should be matched up against the actual possibilities of its claims.

  44. Part of the problem is that you don’t seem very concerned with the “truth” of arguements (or their critical engagments, what you seem to call “negative” reviews).

    It might not seem that way, but I am. I’m not really solid yet on a particular theory of truth, but I suspect that in a lot of realms, truth has to do with the aptness of cognitive models. So in those places, even wrong ideas can be interesting and fruitful. Incoherent ideas tend to be the least interesting and fruitful. In the realm of formal systems, logic and coherence play even bigger roles, but a logically tight formal system doesn’t always lead to truth outside of that system. So basically, a lot of philosophy is more interesting than true.

    “You, Carl, and John Doyle actually don’t seem to find the discipline of philosophy very interesting”

    Except that I’m very interested in philosophy.

    in turn expressing disapproval for how others have responded to your post (i.e, other have not taken this rather “light” approach to books and ideas)

    I expressed disapproval of personal attacks and amateur psychoanalysis, and I expressed the opinion that name-calling was not pragmatically useful. I don’t disapprove of not taking the same approach as I do. I have my approach, other people have theirs. The disapproval in my comment was pretty much addressed to myself. I thought that was pretty clear. Sorry if it wasn’t for you.

    It is precisely the book review/movie review attitude towards the philosophical that ends up producing Harman’s own Pulp Philosophy, philosophy that really doesn’t need to be tested, criticized, or even read closely. Philosophy that is meant for, well, really non-philosophers.

    Wow, you sure can pull a lot of stuff from one statement. Making an analogy between some philosophical criticism and books reviews just doesn’t amount to a “book review/movie review attitude towards the philosophical”.

    Maybe I just wasn’t expressing myself very well. I think it is extremely important to read philosophy closely, and to be critical when evaluating its truth and goodness. But different bloggers have different approaches. I think I write better about ideas that I’m excited about.

    p.s. Larry King is the quintessential “positive reviewer” of films. When you see a good review by Larry King on the DVD cover you know that they could find no-one else to review the film in a good light.

    I read a couple of his reviews. They don’t exhibit the sort of passion I was talking about.

    I actually am someone who prefers critical reviews to films, reviews that can express with some thought how all the parts of the film fits together with a view towards a judgment; even if I disagree with the reviewer, at least I know where I stand.

    Cool. I do get the idea that we have very different sorts of personalities. I get more from certain sorts of positive reviews.

  45. Okay, now I’m reading Carl’s comment.

  46. AK: “Except that I’m very interested in philosophy.”

    Kvond: “From your description of what you look for in books, this interest strikes me as cursory. This can BROADLY be considered an interest in philosophy: “When I read books, I generally just enjoy the play of ideas. I’m excited when I see a surprising, thought-provoking idea, and I’m even more excited if the idea resonates or disharmonizes with the other ideas that are preoccupying me,” but what I said was that you were not interested in the DISCIPLINE of philosophy, which meant to imply the actual discipline required to DO philosophy, and not just be entertained by the “play of ideas” (which is cool enough in its own right).

    AK: “I expressed disapproval of personal attacks and amateur psychoanalysis, and I expressed the opinion that name-calling was not pragmatically useful.”

    Kvond: If this is directed towards me, then speak in specific terms with specific reference, unless this is just one more form of “name calling” and broad brushing.

    AK: “I think it is extremely important to read philosophy closely, and to be critical when evaluating its truth and goodness. But different bloggers have different approaches. I think I write better about ideas that I’m excited about.”

    Kvond: Sure. Then write about ideas you are excited about, but don’t be upset when others take the time to criticize ideas you bring up.

    AK: “Cool. I do get the idea that we have very different sorts of personalities. I get more from certain sorts of positive reviews.”

    Kvond: Cool. Then you should check out Larry King’s movie reviews.

  47. I like your comment, Carl. I think to a larger degree than most people would like to admit, our philosophical leanings are determined by our personalities, predilections, and personal aesthetic. My interest in the brain, cognition and modeling probably drive a lot of what I see as being “right”. Probably the same things that drive my philosophical tastes drove me toward CompSci. Probably the visual art that I find most enjoyable has a lot in common with the philosophy that I like best. I’m definitely not a confrontational person, so confrontational ways of pursuing truth aren’t going to work as well for me.

    On the other hand, I think that it’s possible that a lot of different philosophical systems end up being propositionally equivalent. In other words, you can express the same things with very different models, and there’s probably a way of expressing the truth that’s to everyone’s taste.

  48. AK:

    1. “I think to a larger degree than most people would like to admit, our philosophical leanings are determined by our personalities, predilections, and personal aesthetic.

    2. “you can express the same things with very different models, and there’s probably a way of expressing the truth that’s to everyone’s taste.”

    Kvond: Hmmm. Our “taste” determines our philosophical leanings, but same same philosophical truth can be expressed to fit anyone’s “taste”.

    Would you like your “apple” painted by Monet or by Picasso, or Warhol or Titian?

  49. but what I said was that you were not interested in the DISCIPLINE of philosophy, which meant to imply the actual discipline required to DO philosophy

    Yes, that’s probably right. I don’t write philosophy. I write fiction and I blog about ideas. I do have urges to do things like go through Lacan with a fine-toothed comb and point out all of the idiocies, but the urges don’t last long. I don’t particularly like that about myself, but there you are.

    If this is directed towards me, then speak in specific terms with specific reference

    I did that, over at Ktismatics. The point in my comment wasn’t to impugn anyone in particular — just to express that I didn’t want to take part in it.

    but don’t be upset when others take the time to criticize ideas you bring up

    Oy. Not upset. Criticize away. As I said, the post was an expression about how I felt about my own approach.

    Cool. Then you should check out Larry King’s movie reviews.

    Ah, now I see. You’re not actually reading my comments.

  50. Kvond – You’re right – I overstated. If someone’s taste biased them toward, say, Freudian theory, there’s probably not a way of making a “true” model that would be to their taste.

    It’s interesting, though, that people who are biased toward a particular model are usually very keen to have it be true.

  51. AK: “I did that, over at Ktismatics. The point in my comment wasn’t to impugn anyone in particular — just to express that I didn’t want to take part in it.”

    Kvond: I’m sorry I don’t recall your pointed statements over at that site. why raise this issue here if you are not willing to speak to some details you hold in your mind, and the implication that I have conducted an undue psychoanalysis of someone. I honestly don’t know what you are talking about, and if you won’t name it, vaguely referring to it doesn’t do anyone any good.

    AK: “Oy. Not upset. Criticize away. As I said, the post was an expression about how I felt about my own approach.”

    Kvond: This is not the only thing you expressed, you expressed “annoyance” under a characterization of my response to the subject you raised. You like “positive” reviews, mine (or some other unmentioned) was just too “negative” and annoyed you:

    “It often annoys me that a vast majority of the book and movie reviews I run into are negative.”

    AK: “Ah, now I see. You’re not actually reading my comments.”

    Kvond: But I am.

  52. AK: “It’s interesting, though, that people who are biased toward a particular model are usually very keen to have it be true.”

    Kvond: Precisely. In a way similiar to how a painter experiences their painter to be “true” (that is revelatory of a reality of the world)…Titian would never accept that a woman should be painted as Picasso painted women, a philosophy expresses a relationship to the world that is a true one. The pursuit of this truth in philosophy occurs in particular ways, under narrow forms of argumentative expectation. Philosophy does not exhibit the looseness of aesthetic freedoms (and thus expression) that art does. It has less distance to its source. This pursuit of coherance is the difference between Science Fiction and Science (by analogy). It is this pursuit of “truth” that guarentees the rigor of the system of thinking, and thus its potential to help structure our thoughts and discoveries of the world.

  53. why raise this issue here if you are not willing to speak to some details you hold in your mind, and the implication that I have conducted an undue psychoanalysis of someone

    The comment directly preceding my original comment contained what I would call undue psychoanalysis. But the point was more general, as I’ve explained.

    you expressed “annoyance” under a characterization of my response to the subject you raised.

    The first statement in my comment was, “Actually, the more I think about this whole thing, the more I think that posting about it is a mistake”. The reference was to my post, in which I threw a couple of quotes out there, in a way that implied criticism without taking the time or work to actually build and present the criticism. This I see as being akin to what annoys me about many negative movie reviews. So, in effect, I was saying that I annoyed myself. It seemed clear to me at the time, and the negative vs. positive thing seemed a lot more sensible than it now does after having been exposed to your keen eye.

    For which I thank you 🙂

    Kvond: But I am.

    Asher, in comment #45: “I read a couple of his reviews. They don’t exhibit the sort of passion I was talking about.”

  54. Hey look over there everybody, is that Elvis? Oops, never mind.

    I’ve always thought (although not consistently practiced) that any fully adequate critique has to include both negation/ criticism and affirmation/ appreciation. It’s pretty rare that anything worth our attention does not deserve both in some measure or from some perspective. I don’t mind someone who focuses on one moment of critique as long as there’s space for the other, which seems to be what Harman, but not Asher, wants to foreclose. Of course the foreclosure of affirmation would be just as bad as the foreclosure of negation.

  55. I just happen to blog about philosophy because this is what feeds my artistic process.

    Hmmm, that’s eerily similar to something I remember saying on this thread.

  56. Hey look over there everybody, is that Elvis? Oops, never mind.

    My nefarious purpose is to push this thread over 100 comments by recapitulating four or five sentences until everyone’s eyes actually roll into their heads.

  57. AK: “The comment directly preceding my original comment contained what I would call undue psychoanalysis. But the point was more general, as I’ve explained.

    THIS is the comment above your reading that I was doing undue “psychoanalysis”:

    I wrote: “in turn expressing disapproval for how others have responded to your post (i.e, other have not taken this rather “light” approach to books and ideas)”

    Please. PLEASE tell me how this is psychoanalysis in any way at all?

    AK: “So, in effect, I was saying that I annoyed myself.”

    Kvond: Well, I’m certainly glad that my attempt to steer this thread back onto the original subject matter, as well as the intriguing things that Carl and I have brought up have denegrated into fibres of air. Excellent

  58. “My nefarious purpose is to push this thread over 100 comments by recapitulating four or five sentences until everyone’s eyes actually roll into their heads.”

    One down, 42 to go. Hey, where have I seen 42 before?

  59. Drat, Kvond beat me to it.

    Asher, I agree with Kevin that there was something lost in what we were talking about. I was especially interested in the analogy he drew to debugging as a model for philosophical adequacy, and thought that might catch your eye. What do you think?

  60. The pursuit of this truth in philosophy occurs in particular ways, under narrow forms of argumentative expectation. Philosophy does not exhibit the looseness of aesthetic freedoms (and thus expression) that art does.

    I don’t know. I think it’s perfectly fine for philosophy to play, as long as one explicitly states that one is playing, and doesn’t expect anyone to take it as having proven anything. The rigor can occur later, as it often does in science, but often it’s important to get ideas out there so that people can get excited about the possibilities and work on them.

  61. AK: “Hmmm, that’s eerily similar to something I remember saying on this thread.”

    Kvond: Yes, but it would seem that actually DOING philosophy, that is, critically engaging the philosophical positions of others, and then proposing philosophical positions of one’s own is what separates our two processes. You have renounced the “discipline” of philosophy (if I read you right), and I have not. For you the thought is “this is cool idea to play with” (it may feed my art), and for me its “look at this cool idea, I would really like to break it apart and see if its is a coherent way of looking at the world (it may feed my art). It seems that there is a question of degree here, or perhaps the difference between an all-positive review, and a critical engagment that MIGHT end of rather negative, but not necessarily so.

  62. THIS is the comment above your reading that I was doing undue “psychoanalysis”:

    My original all-philosophy-is-just-a-movie-review comment was comment #31, yes? The comment directly above it (comment #30) says:

    I’m even tempted to say… perhaps none of this is part of a larger capitalist attitude or anything like that, but maybe a symptom of Harman’s part-time, pre-career-philosopher, freelance journalist job? He speculates on philosophers like football or basketball players, creating fantasy sports teams to see who can do what, etc., speculating on who’s going to win the big series, etc. Is Harman the philosopher really just a more intellectualized version of Harman the sports writer?

    Undue psychoanalysis, in my book.

    Well, I’m certainly glad that my attempt to steer this thread back onto the original subject matter, as well as the intriguing things that Carl and I have brought up have denegrated into fibres of air. Excellent

    I liked those part of the thread. Let’s get back to those.

  63. AK: “I don’t know. I think it’s perfectly fine for philosophy to play, as long as one explicitly states that one is playing, and doesn’t expect anyone to take it as having proven anything. The rigor can occur later, as it often does in science, but often it’s important to get ideas out there so that people can get excited about the possibilities and work on them.”

    Kvond: As I have always said, I’m all on board with that. As long as its Science Fiction and not Science, and labeled as such. The labels are not really always clear, but Harman explicitly places the burden of a full philosophy upon himself, to distiguish himself from all the other people at “play”:

    As he writes of this burden: “when new, is that you’re always within a few inches of looking like a goof or a crank cooking up homebrewed philosophical systems in the basements and attics of the internet. What you have to do to avoid that impression is keep on reminding the reader of the absolutely compelling considerations that lead gradually to a model of this sort. It is the (for now) end result of many years of reflection, and I’m already becoming more comfortable playing with it and getting new results out of it.”

    If we are to take Harman seriously at his word, his own demand that he provide “absolutely compelling considerations” then we are to TEST the coherence of his thinking. He in fact begs us to do so, he wants to prove himself not a good or a crank. What I have protested are those that have disrespected his appeal and failed to actually read his claims closely, to treat it as it is labeled “Philosophy” and not Phi-fi.

  64. You have renounced the “discipline” of philosophy (if I read you right), and I have not

    “Renounced” is such a strong word. I’m just not motivated toward it or particularly good at it. But I am not particularly good at playing guitar, and yet I do so, not only with vim, but also with no small amount of vigor.

    For you the thought is “this is cool idea to play with” (it may feed my art)

    I also just really want to know things – like how the world really works. When I was a kid, I got a lot of grief from my family because I took everything apart — the phone, the stereo, the dishwasher, etc.

    So let’s say I’m reading Lacan, and I decide, after much deliberation, that it is seriously wrong-assed. I am driven to be sure that I’m right in my judgement, but there’s a certain point at which I simply put down the Lacan and back away. I am not driven (enough) to write a full, complete and coherent refutation of Lacan. I move on to ideas with more promise. If that makes me a slut, so be it.

  65. AK: “My original all-philosophy-is-just-a-movie-review comment was comment #31, yes? The comment directly above it (comment #30) says:

    [Bryan wrote]I’m even tempted to say… perhaps none of this is part of a larger capitalist attitude or anything like that, but maybe a symptom of Harman’s part-time, pre-career-philosopher, freelance journalist job? He speculates on philosophers like football or basketball players, creating fantasy sports teams to see who can do what, etc., speculating on who’s going to win the big series, etc. Is Harman the philosopher really just a more intellectualized version of Harman the sports writer?

    Undue psychoanalysis, in my book.”

    Kvond: Actually I find Bryan’s comment interesting on any number of levels. First of all, Harman’s own theorizing about allure (metaphysics) and paper-writing (methodology) nearly asks for such a comparison to be made. Harman has often expressed that Sports writing was a first love, and because much of the underpinning of the “truth” of philosophical pursuits has been undercut by Harman, one has to ask, what is the difference between the one and the other. Harman urges a simplification and superficiality to philosphical enterprises, and the question of “journalism” vs. philosophy (especially in a bloggery medium) is certainly of some importance. It has been blogged journalism that has spread the OOP meme, largely in an uncritical fashion.

    I also feel that there are strong and significant Capitalist/Object-Oriented connections. Now, is Bryan being unkind to make the inferrence that Harman might be nothing more than a sports writer dressed up as a philosopher, perhaps. Has he overstated his case a bit, perhaps. But it is not a substance-less comparison, and has very little to do with psychoanalysis. (Though I do think issues of REAL psychoanalysis are also of some importance in these dialogues.)

    Harman places great emphasis on his aesthetics. This means of course, his own aesthetic choices are fair game for criticism.

  66. AK: “I also just really want to know things – like how the world really works. When I was a kid, I got a lot of grief from my family because I took everything apart — the phone, the stereo, the dishwasher, etc.

    So let’s say I’m reading Lacan, and I decide, after much deliberation, that it is seriously wrong-assed. I am driven to be sure that I’m right in my judgement, but there’s a certain point at which I simply put down the Lacan and back away. I am not driven (enough) to write a full, complete and coherent refutation of Lacan. I move on to ideas with more promise. If that makes me a slut, so be it.”

    Kvond: I’ll leave the Lacanian influenced Parody Center to decide if you are a slut or not (I think I know where he’ll go on that), but this is exactly the point. If you like to take things apart, it would be curious that you take exception to those who like to do the same, just because they aren’t what you want to investigate.

    The oddest thing is, when you started this thread, your post seemed to say: “Hey take this thing apart” I guess I misread your invitation. It was much closer to, “Hey look when you push this thingamajiggy this thing happens, when you push this other thingamajiggy this other thing happens”. So be it.

  67. Carl: “I was especially interested in the analogy he drew to debugging as a model for philosophical adequacy, and thought that might catch your eye. What do you think?”

    Kvond: I actually would be interested in what YOU think since you were the one with the strongest reservations towards the value of philosophy, and the division of labor framework which required such an answer.

  68. Okay, Kvond. This is the last I’ll say in clarification. Your stamina in misconstruing me is greater than my stamina in defending myself.

    Actually I find Bryan’s comment interesting on any number of levels.

    Awesome. It’s also a personal insult, mean-spirited, and not well-supported. I’d rather read a criticism of Harman’s actual work. And I think that if you applied the same fervor to critiquing Brian’s description that you have to my comments, you too would find it lacking.

    Harman places great emphasis on his aesthetics. This means of course, his own aesthetic choices are fair game for criticism.

    For you. Not for me.

    If you like to take things apart, it would be curious that you take exception to those who like to do the same

    I don’t consider speculating wildly and publicly about someone’s motivations to be “taking things apart”. I would call that “speculating wildly”. And I don’t take exception to people – just to their actions.

  69. I was especially interested in the analogy he drew to debugging as a model for philosophical adequacy, and thought that might catch your eye. What do you think?

    I like it — it’s got some serious aptness. And in software development, there are coders and testers. It’s considered very bad practice to have coders test their own programs, and it’s widely discouraged to have coders test *anyone’s* programs. Good coders are generally not very good testers. It’s a different set of skills.

    I’m a good software architect, a fairly good coder, and a horrendously bad tester.

    I also think the part about designing software at home is pretty apt with respect to philosophy blogging. As I said on my erstwhile blog, I don’t want to try to do that. I want to engage in the creative part of the process — to write semi-frivolous utilities that are not expected to do any serious work.

    I don’t think there is any problem at all with someone developing software at home. If they expect their software to be seen as industrial-strength shit, though, it will need to withstand a beating by those whose talents lie in administering beatings.

    So I disagree with a lot of what Graham and Levi have said equating people who criticize with trolls or other multi-hued members of the bestiary, or saying that they don’t have projects of their own. Criticizing is a project, and it’s one that I especially respect because I understand what is required to do it but lack the talent for it myself. I have that same respect for software testers. All of the talented testers who have worked for me are drowned in constant praise (which is not the usual state of affairs in the software industry).

  70. The sense in which my praise for testers is dissonant with my statements about negative reviews brings into relief the nature of the inadequacy of the latter.

  71. AK: “Awesome. It’s also a personal insult, mean-spirited, and not well-supported. I’d rather read a criticism of Harman’s actual work. And I think that if you applied the same fervor to critiquing Brian’s description that you have to my comments, you too would find it lacking.”

    Kvond: Actually Bryan’s remarks come out of an on-going discussion we have been having, in public, over the merits and consequences of Harman’s theory, one which I have written a great deal (and I strongly suspect that you have read very little of). That you are unfamiliar with the critical background of these comments (and I don’t entirely agree with them, but they are worth rasiing) and are calling for “support” only is the mark distance from the issue. Instead of reading the critical engagement of the issue (as it seems), you have simply swept these statements into the “psychoanalysis” bin, one of the more curious uses of “psychoanalysis” I have encountered, where “psychoanalysis” means “personal attack”.

    Further of course Harman himself and Levi have worked hard to frame their critics in quite personal terms. I have engaged this as philosophically as possible (from the issue of Vampirism, to blogger identity, to Nietzschean hatred). There are substantive things to be said on these issues, and I do believe there are substantive things behind Bryan’s dismissal. It was not rhetorically kind, and I can accept that. Separate the chaff from the wheat, do not throw the germ out.

    AK: “[quoting me] ‘Harman places great emphasis on his aesthetics. This means of course, his own aesthetic choices are fair game for criticism.’

    For you. Not for me.

    Kvond: No, quite simply, if his theory is to be taken seriously on its own terms. Harman claims its not just WHAT is being said that is of importance, but HOW it is said. It is a major point of his (if you have read him beyond the level of the “play of ideas”). It naturally follows to look to the HOW of what Harman is saying. It comes from taking his thinking seriously. If you are merely saying that you don’t desire to take Harman’s thinking very seriously, sure.

    AK: “I don’t consider speculating wildly and publicly about someone’s motivations to be “taking things apart”. I would call that “speculating wildly”. And I don’t take exception to people – just to their actions.”

    Kvond: Hmmm. I don’t read Bryan as taking exception to the “person” Graham Harman, but rather in making a connection between his admitted self-interest in sports writing, and the aesthetic of both his philosophy and sports writing itself. Perhaps it is amiss, but this is not a “Harman is a bad person” kind of statement. As for his “motivations”, motivations are curious things. I for instance find Harman’s theory to be one huge projected “orientalization”. Does this mean that as a white American guy living in exotic colonialized Egypt he has a motivation to orientalize both Egypt and the world itself. Well, kinda, but it isn’t the point. Whether its conscious or unconscious doesn’t really matter. And if Harman is only unconsciously a “sports writer” at heart, and it reflects the kind of characterizations he makes of philosophy, the question remains.

    I for instance have a very strong sports interest. I’ve spent a lot of time analyzing sports teams, sports situations, as part of my pleasure of the world. If someone found this out about “me” and then said that I had a kind of “sports” mentality to my analysis, I would say “Hey, sure, why not? Sounds interesting.” If my philosophy became only a “symptom” of my sports interest, it would be largely due to the very paltry and incoherent nature of my philosophy. Instead I just become a more interesting person, and my sports observations all the more philosophical.

    Let’s put it this way, YOU read Bryan’s comments in terms of his PERSON, and not their possible idea content because you are are taking “exception” to him. You can not interpret his actions without making assumptions about his imagined mental states. “Actions” without beliefs, wants, desires are just mechanical spasms. Your dichotomy of person vs. action is a false one.

  72. Kvond – if you split long comments up into several comments, it will help in reaching the 100 comment mark.

  73. Hmm, Asher, while your comment about me “psychoanalyzing” Harman suggests more a lack of not really knowing what psychoanalysis is, I’ll admit that my comment was probably mean-spirited. Nevertheless my intention was not to simply hurl insults or to engage in some sort of dreaded BIG BAD CRITIQUE!!!!, but provide a somewhat humorous explanation for Harman’s attentiveness to the “behind the scenes” academic and institutional trends in philosophy. In some ways, his project is deeply infused and, in my opinion, inseparable from his “how to game the system” sort of advice, whatever merits it may or may not have qua advice.

    More so, it’s been shown repeatedly that Harman tries to “predict” who the next big figures are, how the figures he’s chosen are going to be big soon–just not yet–and how this all figures into institutional and extra-institutional politics and networking. All of the emphasis is on forging strong connections, making alliances, picking trends that are on the upswing, etc. To put it modestly, I find all of this a bit disheartening, and ultimately it makes it difficult for me to treat Harman’s writing as anything more than an elaborate ruse of making eccentric, carnivalesque connections between famous and “unknown” authors, etc., just for eccentricity’s sake, to appear “as if” it were something more than it is.

    Perhaps it’s my Inner Kant, but, in light of all of this talk about WHAT IS PHILOSOPHY? (and isn’t this really the question that philosophy is always troubled by, philosophers always writing their own version of how to answer the question, etc.) shouldn’t we accept that philosophy is something more than speculating on figures, predicting trends, and using thought as a means to an end in search of stronger networks—that philosophizing is rather an end in itself?

  74. But seriously – I can understand how you would see Bryan’s comments as being analytical and fair game rather than being mean-spirited. I’ve read quite a few of your posts and his about orientalism, speculation, etc., and I understand that you and he are using facts in some way to support your claims. Many of the reiterations of these ideas in comments threads seem like overkill, and contribute to a sense that you are “going after” Harman in a way that begins to seem obsessive. It’s a perception that you’ve helped to create, whatever your motives.

    I admit that I’m using the word “psychoanalyze” in a very colloquial way. What I’m talking about is speculation about internal reasons why someone acts the way they do. If I said “Freud was probably molested as a child — that’s why his theories are so centered around sex”, I would not necessarily be doing so out of the desire to “trash” Freud. But my speculation wouldn’t be of much value unless I could rigorously support it. And the more I supposed about what made Freud theorize in the way he did, and the more negative was the light in which I placed Freud, the more rigorous my support would need to be.

    In my little moral backwater, I think that speculations about people’s internal motivations and intentions that can’t eventually be proven rigorously should be avoided at all costs. It’s not because they’re not true — it’s because it is too easy to construct something that is fairly coherent and seems to be true. I think it’s possible to reach the truth and be charitable all along the way (unless the person being confronted is just plain evil), and I think there is pragmatically a better probability of convincing people that you are right if you have been charitable along the way and have still knocked down their arguments. Truth isn’t about whether people are convinced by you or not, but truth loses freedom when it’s not believed.

    What I’m saying doesn’t apply to a lot of what is said about what Harman sees as making for good philosophy. He’s said a lot of that explicitly. But it does apply to the sportswriter stuff. We can read Harman in light of the sportswriter hypothesis, but it doesn’t really take us anywhere, because you’re never going to prove that this really informs his philosophy.

  75. shouldn’t we accept that philosophy is something more than speculating on figures, predicting trends, and using thought as a means to an end in search of stronger networks—that philosophizing is rather an end in itself?

    Yes, definitely. But Harman himself would probably say that. And he’d probably say that this is not at all what he’s doing. I do not think it is possible to prove that this is what he’s doing, and the likelihood is that one’s “case” is going to end up sounding like a murder case where only circumstantial evidence is presented.

  76. Maybe it would be an opportune moment then to make a pedantic, Levi Bryant-esque bifurcation and state that whereas Kvond has gone to great lengths to show how Harman is metaphysically incoherent, I’m mostly trying to justify why I don’t think Harman is interesting (necessitated by the baffling and bewildering array of people who don’t agree with me on this, and the sudden way in which his thought has reshaped much of the blogospheric terrain—uncritically, in my opinion).

    Such a task is kind of paradoxical, since on the one hand I’m inclined not to read that much of his work to begin with, yet to justify why I’ve come to this decision adequately, I’d really have to read all of it. Maybe I’ll just accept that my criticisms will never live up to the majestic thing-in-itself you’re positing, whereby the quantity of evidence given is dialectically sublated into a qualitative transformation, and then you realize that I was right all along and trumpets squeal, etc.

    But at the very least, the reasons for why one finds such and such appealing or not, whether such a thing can be conceptually grounded, is I think worth exploring. Obviously, that would be an aesthetic question, so perhaps in a dialectical way I end up sharing Harman’s basic logic or “attitude” of regarding things aesthetically (not to be confused with pseudo-psychologizing people, which, like “vulgar Marxism,” is something that’s always attacked but never espoused… so I don’t really know what if any usefulness such a pseudo-concept is). Nevertheless, when all is said and done, as a designer with a passion for theory, or a theorist with a passion for design, I reject Harman’s aesthetics, simply put. And maybe I’ll leave it at that.

  77. AK: “Many of the reiterations of these ideas in comments threads seem like overkill, and contribute to a sense that you are “going after” Harman in a way that begins to seem obsessive.”

    Kvond: Well, of course this is coming from someone who thinks philosophy is interesting because its a “play of ideas”. My degree of investment in philosophical truth (and the local melieu of blogged philosophy) is “obsessive” to you (nice diagnosis doctor). No doubt my length philosophical posts are obsessive, my exploration of ideas and details in general. Let’s just say, I am not you.

    I am just a person who took his philosophy seriously, investigated it closely (spending a lot of time doing so), and found it fraudulent and deeply problematic. In addition to this I found the community response to his thought quite hyopcritical. You free of course to ignore my posts (as you clearly haven’t read them closely to assess their philosophcial worth), or diagnosis them from afar.

    If I am obsessive, you are triffling. Nice.

  78. Additionally, on the topic of “psychoanalyzing” people—while rejecting everything you’ve said on the issue as irrelevant, since my point about Harman’s sports-writerness was more of an aesthetic evaluation—I disagree with your pragmatic and pathetic “let’s leave people’s lives out of this!” plea, drawing a simplistic line between thoughts and biography. Obviously, the details of people’s lives offers no replacement for analysis of their ideas—as if there is anyone stupid enough to argue this—but is more reserved for a sort of parenthetical “No wonder then that X …” I’m reminded of a Zizek reading of Adorno, in which some theoretical issue at odds with Zizek’s Lacanian-inflected analysis ended with a small quip about how Adorno adopted his mother’s maiden name, rejecting the Nom-du-Pere, as in “(No wonder Adorno, like Malcolm X, refused his father’s name).”

    So, despite the fact that I am not advocating crude psychologizing of either Harman or anyone else, there is a place for biographical details to play an important role here, and not to leave things off on a note suggesting that you’re somehow right about this, with that quasi-demogagig shit about Freud and molestation.

  79. Well, of course this is coming from someone who thinks philosophy is interesting because its a “play of ideas”.

    But I’ve expressed other reasons why I value philosophy, and you’re passing those by.

    My degree of investment in philosophical truth (and the local melieu of blogged philosophy) is “obsessive” to you (nice diagnosis doctor).

    I’m not saying that it’s obsessive. I’m saying that it seems obsessive. Others have expressed that impression – I don’t think I’m nuts. But you point out something that is uncomfortable for me, even in my moral clarity — that it’s almost impossible to engage just at the level of the text and not read anything into motivations or intentions. I could have done searches and pointed out the number of comments you’ve made about X, the number of reiterations of the same point, etc., etc., and I wouldn’t really be saying anything.

    I think your investment and your level of detail are admirable. On the occasions when you’ve speculated unduly about motivations, I think it’s a bad approach. You seem to be expressing my disapproval as something more general than what it is.

  80. I disagree with your pragmatic and pathetic “let’s leave people’s lives out of this!” plea, drawing a simplistic line between thoughts and biography.

    Except that that’s not my plea. I’m saying that it’s better to stick to what can be supported well.

  81. I’m mostly trying to justify why I don’t think Harman is interesting

    And spending so many words on it doesn’t seem ironic to you?

  82. Okay, I quit now. We’re obviously not going to get anywhere near 100, and I’ve already let myself down enough for one day.

    ‘Night all. Kvond – best to you, and to you too, Bryan.

  83. “And spending so many words on it doesn’t seem ironic to you?”

    … that was kind of the whole point of my comment.

  84. “If I am obsessive, you are triffling. Nice.”

    It’s good to have that settled, then.

    Speaking of nice, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being nice. I don’t even think it’s pathetic or pusillanimous or triffling, necessarily, although it can be. I’m not entirely nice, but as close as I come to a universalist ethic is that people matter, our relationships matter. Attacking people and rupturing relationships is no small thing to me. Breaking now to move us along toward 100.

  85. I entirely agree with Kevin and Bryan that the examination of contexts and motives is germane to the work of understanding and critique. As an intellectual historian I very much take this for granted – what distinguishes us from the philosophers we study is precisely that we look around the edges of ‘pure’ ideas to find their framing contexts and motives. And there are plenty of philosophers, all of them in the Marxist tradition for example, for whom the examination of context and motive is absolutely central. In fact I’ve been bemused by the Levi/ Harman critique of critique simply on the basis of its apparent ignorance of this tradition, whatever Levi may say about being a Marxist. Breaking now in the quest for 100.

  86. However, I also entirely agree with Asher about the rigorous standards of evidence that should be applied to examination of contexts and motives. In this connection I really liked the old piece by William Clifford on “The Ethics of Belief” (1877) recommended recently by Miles Rind at Perverse Egalitarianism. The essay is about the conditions of legitimate inference, and the basic standard proposed is that we have right to believe only on such evidence which is before us, with inference permissible only insofar as it prudently accords with prior experience.

    In the famous snake-oil and sportswriter analyses of Harman I actually think Kevin and Bryan have amply met this burden over a whole series of posts (verging, truth be told, on mere reiteration). It’s true the evidence is circumstantial, but circumstance is precisely what’s being examined. There’s enough to warrant an inference, a hypothesis, and perhaps a belief about those circumstances. Do we reach the level of ‘fact’ with such procedures? No, but if we’re restricted to the description of facts without warranted inference the whole field of philosophy goes away. 100 here we come.

  87. I also think that Kevin is correct when he notes that Harman has pretty directly pitched his flag on a charismatic notion of philosophical allure which absolutely invites, even demands, engagement with his person. On the other hand I agree with Asher that life is too short and good alternatives too many to keep wallowing in unalluring philosophy and personalities. Although I understand and appreciate the value of the public work of debunking, I don’t think it’s mandatory for everyone nor do I think there’s a lack of seriousness in arriving at the informed conclusion that something is crap and just dropping it. If Harman is the White Whale he doesn’t need whole fleets of Ahabs chasing him. And speaking of White Whales, surely now you all can sail us on for eleven more comments so Asher can harpoon 100.

  88. Returning briefly to the original post, scientists spend most of their time exploring “how translation takes place” as specifically as possible, without necessarily thinking much about whether “translation” is the right term for it. In empirical psychology, for example, there’s a reasonable amount of discussion about distinguishing causality from correlation. But these discussions are mostly methodological: can my claims of demonstrating a causal relationship between variables A and B be justified on empirical and statistical grounds? Philosophers typically regard these intramural disputes as shallow, but that’s how the scientific work progresses. Conversely, philosophers are going to be disappointed if they expect much philosophically-relevant ontologizing to come out of scientific praxis.

  89. Carl: “Although I understand and appreciate the value of the public work of debunking, I don’t think it’s mandatory for everyone nor do I think there’s a lack of seriousness in arriving at the informed conclusion that something is crap and just dropping it. If Harman is the White Whale he doesn’t need whole fleets of Ahabs chasing him. And speaking of White Whales, surely now you all can sail us on for eleven more comments so Asher can harpoon 100.”

    Kvond: This is the thing, and it goes to your past interest in the organizational powers of the internet and blogging. There is a kind of political dimension to what is going on (and Mikhail idenitified it before as Realpolitik). There is of course the explicit political dimension of all this talk about Neoliberalism, a fence on which Levi finds himself painfully impaled, but there is also a substantive “networking” politic, in which Harman, though a campaign of dissemination (either conscious or unconscious) has propagated his “theory” (in name only, as a kind of brand), and is doing so via a loose association now with Levi Bryant. The horse he was riding in Speculative Realism took off from under him, and he has latched into another horse, so to speak. Its not that Harman is the “White Whale” (no one actually takes him seriously enough to read him closely, and certainly no one thinks he is actually making sense with his claim that we have to fuse Husserl and Heidegger together), its Harmanism. This was the whole thing about the Speculative Bubble accusation, (and the idea had enough “allure” to take off like wildfire). Because the Speculative Bubble requires a host of a number of nodes, indeed it requires a 1,000 tiny Ahabs. In a certain sense there is a google game going on, a game of search engines. The reiteration of debunking occurs now in contexts where the Idea that there is a “movement” called Speculative Realism, and that there is a legitimate philosophy within it called “Object Oriented Philosophy” is spread. When searches for the one occur, a reader comes in contact with the other. Perhaps you think that this is meaningless, but this thread is a very good point. It began with a supposed attempt to deal with the REAL position of two of these objectologists. Levi then came in with his usual bluffery and bafoonery and entirely skirted the issue of the very deep differences between Harman and himself on the role of science. I came in, and believe me I don’t go around googling OOO/OOP trying to set the record straight, I came in, running into this crap in my usual rounds and set the often surpressed differences between these two “allies” (it is utterly ignored by Levi who is fighting for his internet life, and refuses any substantive critique of Harman, at least until pressed hard to admit someting). It turns out that the original poster isn’t at all very interested in finding out the differences between the two thinkers on science, but just wanted a play of ideas, fine. But for me who takes ideas seriously I consider it worthy to point out ONCE again, in THIS context, that these guys are not in the same boat, and they aren’t even sailing the same sea. In otherwords, when this blog post in googled, there is at least a modicum of resistance to the inflation of these two people and their ideas. I know you don’t care much about ideas, and Asher something of the same, but I do. Let’s just say ideas are my “obsession”. I write a great deal about ideas though. Surely in the blog world I have written prospectively about Spinoza more than any writer in the world. Googles can find almost no other blog content. My concerns with Harmanism are but a spin-off on my concerns with Spinoza and my general ideational leans towards the world. Harmanism is interesting because these are people I have had discussions with, and it feeds off of networks I am participant in.

    As for the “white whale” of Harmanism, the Speculative Bubble of it, I was pretty much done with criticizing Harman’s work. I had closely read his essay on Causation, posted at length on it. Nobody really read what I had written closely, and it vanished into the ether. But then, largely due to the rudeness with which Levi and Harman treat others, their potential to make enemies, there developed a natural resistence to Harmanism. Then came the Vampire attacks (and the email abuses), and well, ideas and situations collided. Harman’s metaphysics was showing itself in a particularly nasty way, and Levi’s virilient modification of it was even worst. The Vampire affair was a social argument which was about the authority and authenticity of real bloggers, the substance of their writing (without projects), and indeed it required both a critical response, but also a social action response. In fact the tendency to post private email communication was starting to spread from node to node, and it had to be checked (or so many of us felt). And we did check it. So the whole thing calmed down again.

    Then recently as the Speculative Bubble grew, suddenly the importance of my past work in Harman gained some relevance. It seems I have been the only person to take him seriously enough to criticize his actual claims, and not just toss them about in a “play of ideas” arena. Its happening again, within the social landscape of blogging, where Levi has banned a bunch of readers he is dying to have the attention of, and the question of pseudo-anonymous blogging raises its head. We have people posting things like “Speculative Realism is an internet driven philosophical movement marked by its two great bloggers Levi and Harman who do all they can to answer all questions posed to them” (paraphrased). Its hard to separate out the ideational from the social, but as a Marxist-one I would think you would understand that practices inform connections which inform ideas.

    Should the whole thing be ignored? Perhaps. I don’t think much about it most days at all. Its only when I stumble into it. In the meantime I feel that all my reiteration has actually had very good effect. It actually has gotten some people to READ Harman’s essay on causation closely (even if Levi Bryant hasn’t). Its gotten my critique of Harman’s Orientalism out into the air, a philosophical critique that I feel is very important, not just to Harman but to a great deal of philosophy, and its brought the entire “Speculative Bubble” frame of analysis to both philosophy in general, but also to internet blogging contributions to philosophy systems building. Hell, even this one thread is not a waste, at least the philosopher-as-software-designer analogy has been born, and may even produce some interesting thoughts of value. Its messy stuff, thinking is, I’m surprised you don’t embrace that, man of the material world that you are. Sometimes it’s not about mano y mano, white whales versus captains.

  90. It turns out that the original poster isn’t at all very interested in finding out the differences between the two thinkers on science, but just wanted a play of ideas, fine. But for me who takes ideas seriously

    Really actually final time for me: you are misrepresenting me, and it dulls your point.

    I take ideas very seriously. That is why I am disappointed with my own approach in just “throwing things out there”. I have read Harman’s essay, and I’ve read several detailed critiques of it. I’ve spent time evaluating those critiques, and thinking about how they work and why they’re valid or invalid.

  91. AK:Really actually final time for me: you are misrepresenting to me, and it dulls your point.

    I take ideas very seriously. That is why I am disappointed with my own approach in just “throwing things out there”. I have read Harman’s essay, and I’ve read several detailed critiques of it. I’ve spent time evaluating those critiques, and thinking about how they work and why they’re valid or invalid.

    Kvond: I have yet, in almost a hundred posted comments, seen you take up the substance of the differences between Harman and Levi on the issue of science. If indeed you cared about the ideas you raised, where is the pursuit of the contrast you exposed? I have yet to see you “care”.

    As for misrepresenting your deep interest in ideas, in our discussion I have only seen you express that once, a long time ago you are very interested in digging into Lacan, you did so, and became disenchanted. Other than this you have explicitly said that you read books for the play of ideas, and a preference for positive movie review types of engagements with philosophy. Between these two evidences, I take the latter as more characteristic of your position.

    Of course our evaluations of others are always under revisement. As I read more of your critiques of ideas I will surely change my mind. All that I have really encountered of you is an engagement with John Doyle (who also is of the “play of ideas” school of thought, no crime), and Carl who doesn’t think that philosophy is very important at all (but may be changing his mind).

    Hey, we all do our own things with philosophy. Its no big deal. I find that I take it more seriously than you do. Maybe not. Who knows.

  92. Kvond – I’m perfectly cool with that. You’re working with a characterization that may or may not be correct, based on the sort of evidence you find compelling. It’s kind of like what Levi was arguing for with “multi-level” readings. I see no reason for you to “believe” what I say of my internal mental states. But I don’t want to argue with a characterization of myself, so I’m bowing out of that.

  93. Asher, its not about characterizations and internal mental states. If you want people to say about you “Gee, this guy takes ideas really seriously!” then take ideas seriously. Or, why should you care if people think you take ideas seriously or not?

    Someone like Carl SAYS he doesn’t take ideas seriously, but in his actual practice seems to (which I find interesting).

  94. Hey Carl and Asher, I’d say I called it about right, wouldn’t you?

  95. “Conversely, philosophers are going to be disappointed if they expect much philosophically-relevant ontologizing to come out of scientific praxis.”

    I’m coming around to that point of view, but I’m not quite there. I was trying to get Levi to talk about how he sees this working -whether philosophically-relevant ontologizing will always be expected to be an argument about conditions of possibility, whether there’s a possibility for empirical “truths” to be converted into philosophical ones, etc. – but we didn’t get far with it. I think that might have been an interesting discussion.

    I am now thinking that reading some Bhaskar might be useful to me. Some of what he presents as transcendental arguments seem strikingly similar to the un-rigorous and playful ideas I’ve posted about “virtuous circularities” (as Alexei calls them) between theories and metatheories.

  96. Another frivolous thought, related to my last comment and to John’s comment about fiction ontologies in the other thread:

    Is is possible to make a scientific “ontology” philosophical by making its workings act as a presumption in a philosophical theory? For example, if I took the details of cognitive neuroscientific theory as premises, could I treat it as a logical, formal system, make inferences from it, etc. as if it were a purely philosophical ontology? The formal system would remain a “plaything”, disconnected from what would justify it as being true, but it would be subject to all of the other expectations of “serious” philosophy.

  97. Bhaskar’s book is good. And I’m beginning to suspect that many simultaneous ontologies are possible, as with the neuroscientific one you gesture toward, each one occupying or slicing through some aspect of the real.

  98. Eh, what the hell. 100.

  99. Woohoo!

    Well, if nothing else this thread has provided an indirect refutation of Harman’s theory of causation — because it has definitely exhausted me.

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