“I Am Also of the Opinion That Materialism Must Be Destroyed”

Graham Harman’s paper on materialism in Society and Space is now freely available. It is a very interesting article – particularly (to me) because of his remarks on how to move from Whitehead towards ideas of object-oriented philosophy. I didn’t always find the treatment of Whitehead compelling, but I am not an expert, nor a philosopher. However, early on Harman claims that,

“The human – world relation is of obvious interest to humans, but it cannot serve as the foundation for philosophy. But we must avoid Whitehead’s tendency to reduce [original italics] the entities of the world to their interrelations. While this may feel like a breath of fresh air in comparison with the rigid old theories of substance, it makes a bad fit with reality – for it fails both in explaining how change could ever occur, and also in accounting for counterfactual cases such as the arrival of other relations.”

Harman cites some of his own arguments in support of the above quote and suggests we need to move towards Heidegger.

My interest here is in Whitehead, and Harman draws principally on Whitehead’s Process and reality . By contrast, Whitehead’s work in The Concept of Nature states that “The true relata are events.” To me, Whitehead’s arguments do not reduce entities to their interrelations. Rather, Whitehead does not ground space-time relations in an account where matter is the relata for spatial (or temporal) relations. But I don’t think this collapses everything into interrelations; a point I am working out in a new paper on space and the human-world relation.

This doesn’t negate Harman’s points, or his subsequent move to Heidegger, but I think with some development it could open up some room for a treatment of Whitehead that doesn’t see his project in as quite so reductive.

Object-Oriented Philosophy

My 2010 article of that title in Society and Space has JUST GONE OPEN ACCESS.

In related news, I’ve received publishers’ permissions to put another 5 or 6 of my past articles online, and it’s just a question of finding time to photocopy and scan them. (None of these publishers want an original PDF floating around, but are willing to let me post photocopied versions.)

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