I'm a philosophy student that tends to post about really serious things unseriously and about really unserious things seriously.

I was once described as a "beautiful, intelligent iguana".

4th June 2012

Post reblogged from tanacetum vulgare with 8 notes

OOO stuffs


Maybe I’m missing something here, but Graham Harman is always railing against what he calls “Philosophies of Access” for denying reality to anything outside the human mind, which, sure….? That’s a thing some people do? But it seems so obvious to me that what he should be railing against is simply using it as a basis for ontological claims, but acknowledging that the problem of access remains an epistemogical issue. The problem of access is irresolvable! That’s why it never goes away.  So… sure we can “epoche” it if we want to talk about ontology without having to do backflips through an irresolvable minefield, but we can’t do away with it, because it just isn’t possible to throw it out.

Please, tell me if I’ve missing something. This just seems so absurdly simple and obvious to me I feel like I must have missed something.

Tell me if I’m not answering your question, but the problem here seems to be the “epistemological fallacy” as outlined by Bryant - basically conflating ontological and epistemological claims. We can’t “think” objects outside of a mental sphere, we can’t know them epistemologically, but we can posit their existence ontologically. Here’s a small quote from his book “Democracy of Objects”:

We have seen why this is so, for our experimental practice is only intelligible based on a series of ontological premises and these ontological premises cannot be reduced to our access to being. They are ontological in the robust sense. These ontological premises refer not to what is present or actual to us. Indeed, they refer, as we will see, to beings that are radically withdrawn from any presence or actuality. And as such, they are genuinely ontological premises, not epistemological premises pertaining to what is given.

In recognizing that the epistemic fallacy emerges from foundationalist aspirations on the part of philosophers, Bhaskar hits the mark. It is the desire for a secure and certain foundation for knowledge that leads philosophy to adopt the actualist stance and fall into the epistemic fallacy. These decisions, in turn, ultimately lead to correlationism. In raising the question, “how do we know?” and seeking an argument that would thoroughly defeat the skeptic or sophist, the philosopher concludes that only what is present or given can defend against the incursions of the skeptic. But what is present or given turns out either to be mind or sensations. Therefore the philosopher finds himself in the position of restricting all being to what is given as actual in sensations. From here a whole cascade of problematic consequences follow that increasingly lead to the dissolution of the world as a genuine ontological category.

Personally, I would recommend reading this section of his book, because the problem Bryant talks about here is one I still don’t totally get, and the fallacy he describes here is one I fall prey to a lot. Basically, I can’t do justice to it by describing it here.

Here’s a link to the book: http://openhumanitiespress.org/Bryant_2011_The%20Democracy%20of%20Objects.pdf

If you go to page 57, he starts discussing the epistemological fallacy there, and it continues somewhat for the rest of the chapter (not terribly long, I promise - I hate overburdening people with reading in lieu of my not being able to answer something).

In sum, I think Harman realizes that the notion of access is an epistemological problem, and one he fully assumes. This is why he posits that being are ontological withdrawn, and why he disagrees with Meillassoux so much on the issue of finitude. I think what Harman’s so against is that people commit this fallacy so often: even when they try to claim a realist ontological position, they conflate this with the epistemological problem of access, and then end up in some variant of correlationism. He, like Bryant, wants to separate the two categories (with good reason, I think), so that a fully realist ontology, and the consequences of such, can be explored.

I hope that answered your question.

Tagged: Levi BryantGraham Harmanphilosophy of accessOOOobject-oriented ontologycorrelationismDemocracy of Objectsspeculative realism