May 9, 1968 |
Iowa City, Iowa
|Metaphysics, Realism, Occasionalism|
|Object-oriented ontology, tool-being, vicarious causation, allure|
Graham Harman (born May 9, 1968) is a professor at the American University in Cairo, Egypt. He is a contemporary philosopher of metaphysics.
Born in Iowa City and raised in Mount Vernon, Iowa, Harman attended St. John's College in Annapolis, Maryland, receiving his B.A. in 1990. He then pursued graduate study under philosopher Alphonso Lingis at Penn State University, receiving his M.A. in 1991. He received his Ph. D. from DePaul University in 1999. Harman authored an online sports column during his doctoral thesis work. He believes his academic writing style and productivity was improved as a result. Since 2000, he has been a member of the Department of Philosophy at the American University in Cairo.
Taking the tool-analysis as Heidegger's most important discovery, Harman develops what he calls an object-oriented philosophy which does justice to the autonomous existence of objects. Although working from within it, he finds the broad history of phenomenology to be deficient in that it constantly subordinates the independent life of objects to our (human) access to them. Against the Kantian tradition, his object-oriented approach considers the real life of objects to be fertile ground for a resurgent metaphysics. He affirms the absolute autonomy of objects from all other objects while aiming to "allude" to their interactions by means of metaphor.
According to Harman, everything is an object, whether it be a mailbox, a gas, the Commonwealth of Nations, Popeye, spacetime, a shadow or an eclipse. However, drawing on phenomenology, he does distinguish between two categories of objects: real objects and sensual objects (or intentional objects), which sets his philosophy apart from the flat ontology of Bruno Latour.
Central to Harman's philosophy is the idea that real objects are inexhaustible: "A police officer eating a banana reduces this fruit to a present-at-hand profile of its elusive depth, as do a monkey eating the same banana, a parasite infecting it, or a gust of wind blowing it from a tree. Banana-being is a genuine reality in the world, a reality never exhausted by any relation to it by humans or other entities." (Harman 2005: 74). Because of this inexhaustibility, claims Harman, there is a metaphysical problem regarding how two objects can ever interact. His solution to this problem is to introduce the notion of "vicarious causation", according to which objects can only ever interact on the inside of an "intention" (which is also an object).
Harman defines real objects as inaccessible and infinitely withdrawn from all relations and then puzzles over how such objects can be accessed or enter into relations: "by definition, there is no direct access to real objects. Real objects are incommensurable with our knowledge, untranslatable into any relational access of any sort, cognitive or otherwise. Objects can only be known indirectly. And this is not just the fate of humans — it’s the fate of everything. Fire burns cotton stupidly ..."
Cutting across the phenomenological tradition, and especially its linguistic turn, Harman deploys a brand of metaphysical realism that attempts to extricate objects from their human captivity and metaphorically allude to a strange subterranean world of "vacuum-sealed" objects-in-themselves: "The comet itself, the monkey itself, Coca-Cola itself, resonate in cellars of being where no relation reaches."
Expressing strong sympathy for panpsychism, Harman proposes a new philosophical discipline called "speculative psychology" dedicated to investigating the "cosmic layers of psyche" and "ferreting out the specific psychic reality of earthworms, dust, armies, chalk, and stone." Harman does not, however, unreservedly endorse an all-encompassing panpsychism and instead proposes a sort of polypsychism that nonetheless must "balloon beyond all previous limits, but without quite extending to all entities". He continues by stating that "perceiving" and "non-perceiving" are not different kinds of objects, but can be found in the same entity at different times: "The important point is that objects do not perceive insofar as they exist, as panpsychism proclaims. Instead they perceive insofar as they relate."
- Tool-Being: Heidegger and the Metaphysics of Objects (2002)
- Guerrilla Metaphysics: Phenomenology and the Carpentry of Things (2005)
- Heidegger Explained: From Phenomenon to Thing (2007)
- Prince of Networks: Bruno Latour and Metaphysics (2009)
- Towards Speculative Realism: Essays and Lectures (2010)
- Circus Philosophicus (2010)
- L'objet quadruple (2010). Original English text published as The Quadruple Object (2011).
- The Speculative Turn: Continental Materialism and Realism (2011) (with co-editors Levi Bryant and Nick Srnicek)
- The Prince and the Wolf: Latour and Harman at the LSE (2011) (with Bruno Latour and Peter Erdélyi; transcript of a discussion with Latour held in 2008)
- Weird Realism: Lovecraft and Philosophy (2012)
- Bells and Whistles: More Speculative Realism (2013)
- Quentin Meillassoux: Philosophy in the Making, 2nd Edition (2015)
- Series editor: Speculative Realism series published by Edinburgh University Press
- Levi Bryant, Nick Srnicek, Graham Harman (ed.), The Speculative Turn: Continental Materialism and Realism, repress, 2011, p. 279.
- Paul J. Ennis (2009-07-21). "ahb: Interview with Graham Harman". Anotherheideggerblog.blogspot.com. Retrieved 2011-09-21.
- Harman, G. (2009) Prince of Networks: Bruno Latour and Metaphysics. Melbourne: re.press.
- Graham Harman, Prince of Networks, 213.
- Graham Harman 2011, The Quadruple Object
- Home page
- Object-Oriented Philosophy
- numerous posts and links of Harman's talks, abstracts etc.
- Audio recordings of Harman's talks
- Frieze on Graham Harman
- Webpage for Collapse journal featuring contributions by Graham Harman and other "speculative realists"
- 16 unpublished articles
- Robert Nelson: Philosopher
- On the Horror of Phenomenology: Lovecraft and Husserl
- Interview/podcast with Graham Harman (2013)