On Speculative Realism
Today we will devote ourselves to contemporary philosophy, more precisely speculative realism and object-oriented ontology. In my opinion, this is a very important issue.
I have to admit that I haven’t interpreted speculative realism entirely correctly, starting with Quentin Meillassoux. It seemed to me as if in his defense of new materialism, his struggle of the subject against the subject, his apology of the eventuality, the proposal within the framework of the philosophy of the Copernican Revolution to displace the subject from its central position and to relocate it to the periphery, that there is something archaic in all of this, reminiscent of the materialism of the 19th century, of uncritical positivism, not least because of his criticism of Deleuze, whom he accused of his various “vitalisms”.
To be honest, all of this left me with the rather impulsive impression that we are dealing with a kind of “correction” of postmodernism with something archaic, a slightly less critical view of intellectually imperfect materialism, a realism from days gone by.
I have to admit that it was a mistake. I did not fully understand Quentin Meillassoux. I believe that philosophy is an endeavor in which we have to admit our own mistakes, otherwise, we will lose any trust that is placed in us.
In other words, it initially seemed to me that all phenomenology, including every kind of Heideggerism, Husserl, and structuralism, its postmodern varieties, were being ignored by the speculative realists, and I was completely wrong.
In fact, by the time I became more familiar with their ideas, I understood that they are not as naïve as they are anachronistic people who are afraid of postmodernism, like Jürgen Habermas. Habermas is an example of a backward-looking philosopher who, upon encountering postmodernism, realized that the spirit of the Enlightenment was in danger and thus began to swing in all directions to defend modernity.
I also thought of speculative realism as a kind of “archaic modernity”, but that’s not the case here.
Graham Harman puts everything in order because his path to object-oriented ontology begins with Heidegger, which corresponds to phenomenology, which is not excluded but included in speculative realism. Speculative realism is not about slipping back into modernity in any way, but about the most authentic form of postmodernism. It represents a continuation of postmodernism, its deepening, an advance into the depths of postmodernism – a highly avant-garde, I would like to add.
In my opinion, this is a serious undertaking, the descent into the depths of postmodernism, in a sense its continuation and at the same time the refinement of its strategy. It all really matters and it all fits together.
So if the object-oriented ontology is about the rehabilitation and justification of the object as follows, if the goal is the liberation of the object from the subject, then it is neither about a pre-phenomenological realism, nor positivism or materialism, but a post-phenomenology. And that, in turn, is a completely different matter.
Building on Heidegger, Harman defines the object as “being at hand”, i.e. something “practical” or “being at hand”.
Essentially, it is an object in the Heideggerian sense as one of the existential of Dasein, as a shape of Dasein. When we apply Husserl’s methodology, it is the noema that exists in the process of the intentional act. Consequently, it is not a pre-phenomenological, naive object, the way it was used by the materialists in the 19th and even 20th centuries, rather it is a multi-layered object.
Harman and other thinkers working with the object-oriented ontology understand that when we talk about the object, we are talking about a field within existence, in the midst of the intentional act. Consequently, at first glance, the object is basically a projection of our subjectivity.
But what is subjectivity? We are not dealing here with the Kantian subjectivity, the subjectivity of the old, pre-phenomenological phase, but with something new, the Heideggerian subjectivity, which contains the criticism of the subject as such. Heidegger’s destruction leads to a certain disruption of the status of classical subjectivity, the so-called “platonic” subjectivity, and establishes a new worldview based on the thinking of the present, of existence, and on the basis of the deconstruction of traditional metaphysics.
From this, it follows that the subjectivity with which the object-oriented ontology is concerned already includes Dasein, so that is the presence of Heideggerian thinking that defines the world and objects as existential. That is the object of the underlying existential experience. Everything starts from this point.
The object is therefore not the hallucination of the classical subject, in a sense a concept that already appears in Hegel, a spiritual construct that is inscribed in the external world, rather the object is in a sense a fundamental existential experience, an existential in the Germans.
In order to underpin the autonomy of the object and to liquidate the subject, Harman liquidates not only the subject but existence itself. While recognizing that the object exists as an existential of Dasein, he says, “Wonderful, let’s exclude this existence and settle on the epoch of existence.” This is an interesting proposition. And he asks us to do the following: “Let us remove the thing from its essence as a tool, as an instrument, as a noema, as something at hand, let us free it from existence and preserve something of the structure of its phenomenological description!”
But how can that be achieved?
To achieve this, it is necessary to turn intentionality inside out. It is not a matter of replacing the object with existence, but of wiping out an existence, man, and even thinking in itself to such a degree that the phenomenological element of thinking takes on independent significance. The instrument is not enlivened by the strengthening of its life, but by the weakening of life, of existence.
The creation of the object-oriented ontology, the transition to the world of things – which is the prerequisite for artificial intelligence, post-humanistic philosophy, “silicon thinking”, Silicon Valley, silicon botox medicine and so on – all of this replaces human consciousness and the body as a tool with prostheses and mechanical spare parts.
Hence, precisely speaking, the object-oriented ontology seeks to create a substitute for consciousness.
This results in David Chalmers thesis of the “difficult problem of consciousness”, which in my opinion is losing the status of a so-called official philosophy. As it is commonly said, globalists are everywhere, and this “difficult problem of consciousness” is promoted everywhere by such particular foundations. Therein lies the gravity of philosophizing. Hence it begins with analytical philosophy and ends with philosophy itself. Those who ask the question about the “difficult problem of consciousness” have already been written off, so to speak, from the so-called “normal philosophy” and are on the way to the silicon brain. This means the institutional obliteration of philosophy.
Usually, analytical philosophy is institutionally anchored, whereas object-oriented ontology and speculative realism are the work of more avant-garde, marginal, and extra-institutional figures who are more strongly promoted on this path and who have continued along with it, they are even more delusional – so to speak, more fun and “correct”, but also more delusional.
Both Chalmers, with his “difficult problem of consciousness”, and especially Harman tries to replace it metaphysically, accepting that it is indeed a complex problem, but they argue that its complexity lies between material structures, the brain tissue, and material thinking, wherever such exists, and that in fact, it is simply necessary to think the mechanical analysis of the thought process through an entirely new school of philosophy, solving the difficult problem of consciousness through the destruction of consciousness. If there is no awareness, then there cannot be a problem of awareness. Their aim is not to show how this “non-material, subjective presence” is born from the material, but to show which will be the case when there is no consciousness at all. How will the brain function when it is alive but not thinking? It lives its life but does not produce thoughts. This is exactly what analytical philosophy leads to, step by step towards the obliteration of philosophical vigilance.
The object-oriented philosophers turn this into a program that aims to eradicate human thought, to see what will come after, how the unconscious mind will think. Thus, the “difficult problem of consciousness” is solved by the annulment of consciousness and then, as you imagine it, we will understand everything as it is – how the human brain and the non-human brain can exist once they meet what Consciousness has done. The difficult question of consciousness is liquidated through the liquidation of consciousness.
This is roughly the path that Harman took. He suggests turning phenomenology in relation to the object inside out, but without assigning the qualities of the subject to the object. That is very important.
If one simply extinguishes existence, then the norms related to their environment, the so-called conditioned objects, will be transformed and mutate. The less existence is projected onto being at hand, onto the tool, onto one’s own views, the more the being at hand will not be understood from the point of view of the hand trying to grip something, for example, a hammer or any other object. We see that the latter was created for the hand to drive in nails. The hammer has no being of its own, except as a tool that is at hand – the word “handle” refers to the “hand”. It is an object, a tool.
However, Harman suggests looking at things this way: We agree to the manipulation, but not with the hand that it takes to do it. Imagine the handle of a hammer separated from the hand that grasps it. Then the handle would have a different name – it is only called a handle because it is at hand and the hand serves as a tool. But if we assume that the worker, the construction worker who has artfully hammered nails in the course of human history, is dead, what would happen to the hammer? What is the fate of the hammer if the worker who uses it no longer uses it?
If so, Harman believed that sooner or later the hammer would begin to live its own life. First, he will realize that it is made up of two parts – the handle that no one will ever grasp again and that can peacefully turn into a plane, or pop up in a work table similar to the one it was left on. In the opposite case, a metal part that has not been used for a long time can be welded on if it touches other metals. It can be lifted up by the wind, poured into a sand mold, and so on. But he can also bask in nuclear waste, provided that humanity is destroyed in a nuclear war. The fate of this hammer, this item, will continue in one way or another. In the opposite case, a metal part that has not been used for a long time can be welded on if it touches other metals. It can be lifted up by the wind, poured into a sand mold, and so on. But he can also bask in nuclear waste, provided that humanity is destroyed in a nuclear war. The fate of this hammer, this item, will continue in one way or another. In the opposite case, a metal part that has not been used for a long time can be welded on if it touches other metals. It can be lifted up by the wind, poured into a sand mold, and so on. But he can also bask in nuclear waste, provided that humanity is destroyed in a nuclear war. The fate of this hammer, this item, will continue in one way or another.
As a result, there is a gradual eversion of all existential, upside down, associated with this object. With this begins the movement in this object, which is ensured by the reality of the extinguished existence – its consciousness and its subjectification.
This is the phenomenological, Heideggerian basis of the object-oriented ontology: the object continues to be a constituted subject. It is not the strong, hard subject that exercises power here – and this is exactly where Deleuze’s suggestion comes into play – the paranoid subject that reinforces itself and tears others apart, but rather the one who begins to dissolve and becomes schizophrenic. According to Deleuze and Guattari, this “subject” dissolves in the schizo masses. In the context of this step-by-step self-denial and self-division, a kind of metaphysical suicide takes place; existence begins to create objects with its own decomposition, which leads to the animation of these objects. For example, in some David Lynch films, such as the Twin Peaks series, the actor speaks with his own leg.
When the figure gets lost in the forest, it suddenly begins to speak with its own leg, which answers with its own voice. In other words, the leg, a subordinate, dumb, obedient thing, a slave to the human brain, suddenly demonstrates the qualities of autonomy, has its own preferences about where to go, can get angry, and so on. As object-oriented ontologists say, this is a “parliament of organs” or, to use the words of Bruno Latour, the new ontologies of the creation of hybrids between subjects and objects. The talking leg is an example of the state of independent objects. Consequently, the object of the object-oriented ontology becomes a reality that the object takes on an independent significance from the subject insofar as when the subject is abolished. And that object itself will be wiped out.
So the subject is not really “abolished”, rather it is left alone. In this case, the subject is not understood as a pre-phenomenological subject, but as a post-phenomenological one, as existence.
In other words, the object-oriented ontology ultimately leads to a process that culminates in the abolition of existence. This is a process. If we say that we have to abolish existence so that we then get the object of the object-oriented ontology, then this statement is false. If we abolish existence, then we will have no object-oriented ontology and certainly no objects. Rather, the objects live and, as vampiric black holes in reality and virtuality, suck life not from falling, dying existence, but from a kind of necrosis. This is the ontology of necrosis, the gradual creation of dead tissue in a living body. The object-oriented ontology wants to focus on this process.
This introduction to speculative realism may be more astute, at least for me, as I haven’t quite correctly understood that this is the case.
In Reza Negarestani, I have discovered a new author who goes even further in this direction, addressing necrosis to the point where we speak of the post-human, hellish beings that will come into the world as part of the process of the animation of objects and the living incarnation of the object-oriented ontology.