In this provocative new book, two leading philosophers examine the remarkable rise of realism in the continental tradition. While exploring the similarities and differences in their own positions, they also consider the work of others and assess rival trends in contemporary philosophy. They begin by discussing the relation between realism and materialism, which DeLanda links closely but which Harman tries to separate. Part Two covers the many different meanings of realism, with the two authors working together to develop an expanded definition of the term. Part Three features a spirited exchange on the respective virtues and drawbacks of DeLanda's realism of attractors and singularities and Harman's object-oriented theory. Part Four shifts to the question of the knowability of the real, as the authors discuss whether scientific knowledge does full justice to reality. In Part Five, they shift the focus to space, time, and science more generally, and here Harman offers a defence of actor-network theory despite its obvious anti-realist elements.
Lively, accessible and engaging, this book is the best attempt so far to clarify the different paths for realism in continental philosophy. It will be of great value to students and scholars of continental philosophy and to anyone interested in the cutting-edge debates in philosophy and critical theory today.
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.
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.