Many philosophers believe that Heidegger was the greatest philosopher of the twentieth century. His influence has long been felt not just in philosophy, but also in such fields as art, architecture, and literary studies. Yet the great difficulty of Heidegger’s terminology has often scared away interested readers lacking an academic background in philosophy.
Author Graham Harman shows that Heidegger is actually one of the simplest and clearest of thinkers. All the diverse topics of his writings, and all the lengthy analyses he gives of past philosophers, boil down to a single powerful idea: being is not presence. In any human relation with the world, our thinking and even our acting do not fully exhaust the world. Something more always withdraws from our grasp. Neither being itself nor individual beings are ever fully “present-at-hand,” in Heidegger’s terminology.
This single insight allows Heidegger to revolutionize the phenomenology of his teacher Edmund Husserl. The method of Husserl was to focus entirely on how things present themselves to us as phenomena in consciousness. Heidegger understood that the things are always partly hidden from consciousness, living a secret life of their own. Human beings are not lucid scientific observers staring at the world and describing it, but instead are thrown into a world where light is always mixed with shadow.
For Heidegger, the entire history of philosophy has reduced being to some sort of presence, whether by defining it as atoms, consciousness, perfect forms, the will to power, or even God. In this way, past philosophers have all chosen one specific kind of privileged being to represent being itself. Yet this is impossible, since being always partly withdraws from any attempt to define it. For this reason, philosophy needs to make a new beginning, one that would be just as great as the first beginning in ancient Greece.
The book ends by shedding new light on Heidegger’s concept of the fourfold, which is so notoriously difficult that most commentators avoid it altogether.
Are humans more special or important than the non-human objects we perceive?
How does this change the way we understand the world?
We humans tend to believe that things are only real in as much as we perceive them, an idea reinforced by modern philosophy, which privileges us as special, radically different in kind from all other objects. But as Graham Harman, one of the theory's leading exponents, shows, Object-Oriented Ontology rejects the idea of human specialness: the world, he states, is clearly not the world as manifest to humans. At the heart of this philosophy is the idea that objects - whether real, fictional, natural, artificial, human or non-human - are mutually autonomous. In this brilliant new introduction, Graham Harman lays out the history, ideas and impact of Object-Oriented Ontology, taking in everything from art and literature, politics and natural science along the way.
Graham Harman is Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at SCI-Arc, Los Angeles. A key figure in the contemporary speculative realism movement in philosophy and for his development of the field of object-oriented ontology, he was named by Art Review magazine as one of the 100 most influential figures in international art.
In this book the founder of object-oriented philosophy develops his approach in order to shed light on the nature and status of objects in social life. While it is often assumed that an interest in objects amounts to a form of materialism, Harman rejects this view and develops instead an “immaterialist” method. By examining the work of leading contemporary thinkers such as Bruno Latour and Levi Bryant, he develops a forceful critique of ‘actor-network theory’. In an extended discussion of Leibniz’s famous example of the Dutch East India Company, Harman argues that this company qualifies for objecthood neither through ‘what it is’ or ‘what it does’, but through its irreducibility to either of these forms. The phases of its life, argues Harman, are not demarcated primarily by dramatic incidents but by moments of symbiosis, a term he draws from the biologist Lynn Margulis.
This book provides a key counterpoint to the now ubiquitous social theories of constant change, holistic networks, performative identities, and the construction of things by human practice. It will appeal to anyone interested in cutting-edge debates in philosophy and social and cultural theory.