Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Harman Critiques Bryant

Graham Harman has posted a comparison of himself and Levi Bryant, which I find very informative, and I would like to emphasize a critical point:

"The danger is that we become trapped in a model in which the real is too indeterminate and the sensual is too determinate– a model in which the real apple has no qualities but just capacities, while the apple of experience is overly defined by all of its qualities, so that an added fleck of color as I rotate the apple is enough to constitute a brand new apple of experience.

In other words, the real apple would be undermined (by turning it into a capacity rather than an object) while the sensual apple would be overmined (by turning it into a bundle of qualities). This is, I think, one of the primary dangers faced by Levi’s philosophy as it goes forward, and I believe his lack of interest in Husserl (quite common among those of Deleuzian inspiration) will make him pay a price. For it is only from Husserl that we learn the flaws in the “bundle of qualities” theory of experienced objects.

It follows from this point that Levi doesn’t see the experienced world as itself split between objects and qualities, so there is no internal tension within the sensual realm for him."

I would disagree that we learn that "only from Husserl," but that's beside the point, as the last of my quoted lines is exactly the line of criticism that I have been pointing at, though from a completely different and informative angle. For us non-specialists, we can but nudge and motivate a critique.

In closing, I agree with Harman that Berry's post was not "sufficiently useful" to merit a response. Though it was thought-provoking, an internationally known scholar is likely only to respond to a criticism that is either novel or crystallizes a problem. I think there was too much invective and lack of clarity, but let this be a challenge to him to produce a publishable-level articulation. As for myself, I will get back to the criticism for which I am a specialist ... let me tell you the dangers of supposing that all desire is available to reflective and cognitive awareness....

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