Sunday, February 19, 2012

Backing Away from Object-Oriented Discussion

I was talking to a friend about object-oriented philosophy who precisely encapsulated my misgivings with it.  He wrote,

"They seem intent on systematization of their viewpoint, but don't seem willing (or able) to acknowledge the shortcomings in their position."

While I applaud so much of the work in systematizing the position, especially because it is often uncelebrated work, even among those who have solidly constructed it I note a failure to acknowledge the shortcomings.  After months of engagement as I learned more and more of the field in general and several thinker's positions in particular, I have backed away.  Given that I have no interest in helping members of the field ticker with the internals of their viewpoint, I have little to say.  My critiques have been made, and I see not value in repeating them unless I were to become a specialist in the field and a dedicated critic.  Construction rather than destruction is my vocation.  I hope to engage with speculative realism more generally, as it is one of the few contemporary discussions of non-reductive realism.

To give ammunition to my supposed opponents, I think that one reason I am not compelled by object-oriented thinking is that I am not beholden to the concerns of contemporary continental philosophy, and thus the solutions that OOO provides are answers to questions that I am not asking.  I now have enough familiarity with OOO to know that I would not ask those questions that we do not have in common.  I do think that much may come of the new tradition, and I have a bit of advice.  Do not confuse systematizing your viewpoint with philosophical advance in general.

I still enjoin discussants to come chat, but I will in general keep the quiet on that subject that I have maintained for some time already.  Hopefully I will have much more to say about Americanist positions in the future.


  1. For those who are wondering, given his recent post, the friend with who I had this conversation was not Leon of After Nature or even a western philosopher. I am neutral on the subject, whereas Leon is not.

  2. I was thinking let's be more fair. Shortcomings of my own position:

    1. it's a functionalist account and therefore must leave much unexplained
    2. process metaphysics needlessly complicates established thought
    3. I do not adequately explain emergence
    4. I do not adequately explain how bodily nature becomes conscious phenomena
    5. I do not currently engage with many contemporary views
    6. I presume that there is no problem with the conversion from natural temporality to phenomenological temporality with little argument
    7. I presume Peirce's metaphysics without adequately defeating other views
    8. I presume a derivation of Dewey's metaphysics that itself presumes Peirce's without clearly delineating the two.

    Criticism is easy. Constructive criticism is hard.


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