Bogost, Ian. What is like to be a thing (2012)
Bryant L, Diference and Givenness (2008)
Bryant, Levi R., Toward a Speculative Philosophy (2011)
Bryant, Levi R., The Ontic Principle: Outline of an Object-Oriented Ontology (2011)
Anton Amo (c1703-55), who was born and died in Guinea, today’s Ghana. For two decades, Amo studied and taught at Germany’s foremost universities, writing in Latin. His book, Antonius Gvilielmus Amo Afer of Axim in Ghana, bears a subtitle that describes the author: ‘Student. Doctor of philosophy. Master and lecturer at the universities of Halle, Wittenberg, Jena. 1727-1747.’ According to the World Library Catalogue, just a handful of copies, including those in the original Latin, are available in libraries around the world.
Amo was born a century after Yacob. He seems to have been kidnapped from the Akan people and the coastal city of Axim as a young boy, possibly for slavery, before being brought via Amsterdam to the court of Duke Anton Ulrich of Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel. Amo was baptised in 1707, and he received a very high-standard education, learning Hebrew, Greek, Latin, French, High and Low German, in addition to probably knowing some of his mother tongue, Nzema. The great polymath G W Leibniz (1646-1716) frequently visited Amo’s home in Wolfenbüttel when he was growing up.
In Amo’s most thorough work, The Art of Philosophising Soberly and Accurately (1738), he seems to anticipate the later Enlightenment thinker Kant. The book deals with the intentions of our mind, and with human actions as natural, rational or in accordance with a norm. In the first chapter, writing in Latin, Amo argues that ‘everything knowable is either a thing in itself, or a sensation, or an operation of the mind’.
He elaborates in the next paragraph, stating that ‘for the sake of which cognition occurs, is the thing in itself’. And in the following demonstration: ‘Real learning is cognition of things in themselves. It thus has the basis of its certainty in the known thing.’ Amo’s original wording is ‘Omne cognoscibile aut res ipsa’, using the Latin notion res ipsa for the ‘thing-in-itself’.
Today, Kant is known for his notion of the ‘thing-in-itself’ (das Ding an sich) in Critique of Pure Reason (1787) – and his argument that we cannot know the thing beyond our mental representation of it. Yet it is acknowledged that this was not the first use of the term in Enlightenment philosophy. As the Merriam-Webster Dictionary writes on the term thing-in-itself: ‘First known use: 1739.’ Still, that is two years after Amo’s main work was turned in at Wittenberg, in 1737.
— aeon.co, The African Enlightenment. The highest ideals of Locke, Hume and Kant were first proposed more than a century earlier by an Ethiopian in a cave
A Thing of this World: A History of Continental Anti-Realism
This paper explains the nature and origin of what I am calling Transgressive Realism, a middle path between realism and anti-realism which tries to combine their strengths while avoiding their weaknesses. Kierkegaard created the position by merging Hegel’s insistence that we must have some kind of contact with anything we can call real (thus rejecting noumena), with Kant’s belief that reality fundamentally exceeds our understanding; human reason should not be the criterion of the real. The result is the idea that our most vivid encounters with reality come in experiences that shatter our categories, the way God’s commandment to kill Isaac irreconcilably clashes with the best understanding of ethics we are capable of. I explain the genesis of this idea, and then show it at work in Heidegger and Levinas’ thought. Understanding this position illuminates important aspects of the history of continental philosophy and offers a new perspective on realism.
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“Ontology is the philosophical study of existence. Object-oriented ontology (“OOO” for short) puts things at the center of this study. Its proponents contend that nothing has special status, but that everything exists equally—plumbers, cotton, bonobos, DVD players, and sandstone, for example. In contemporary thought, things are usually taken either as the aggregation of ever smaller bits (scientific naturalism) or as constructions of human behavior and society (social relativism). OOO steers a path between the two, drawing attention to things at all scales (from atoms to alpacas, bits to blinis), and pondering their nature and relations with one another as much with ourselves” – Ian Bogos
OOO is not correlationist: “The correlationist strategy consists in demonstrating that the object can only be thought as it is given, and it can only be thought as it is given for a subject. In drawing our attention to givenness for a subject, correlationism thus demonstrates that we can never know what the object is in-itself, but only what it is for-us. In short, any truth one might articulate is not a truth of the world as it would be regardless of whether or not we exist, but only a truth for-us” –
If you’re interested in OOO then there are few scholars better equipped to guide you than Levi Bryant, Ian Bogost and Timothy Morton. In 2010 all three scholars presented on a panel at the RMMLA conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico. This 90 minute recording offers an accessible introduction to OOO (Bryant – 0-36:37), the influence of OOO philosophy on scholarly practices (Bogost – 36:27-105:44), as well as the resonance between object oriented ontology and climate change (Morton – 105:44-134:31). Direct Link Download
The term “object-oriented philosophy” was coined by speculative philosopher Graham Harman in his 1999 doctoral dissertation “Tool-Being: Elements in a Theory of Objects” (later revised and published as Tool-Being: Heidegger and the Metaphysics of Objects). For Harman, Heideggerian Zuhandenheit, or readiness-to-hand, refers to the withdrawal of objects from human perception into a reality that cannot be manifested by practical or theoretical action. Furthering this idea, Harman contends that when objects withdraw in this way, they distance themselves from other objects, as well as humans. Resisting pragmatic interpretations of Heidegger's thought, then, Harman is able to propose an object-oriented account of metaphysical substances. Following the publication of Harman's early work, several scholars from varying fields began employing object-oriented principles in their own work. Levi Bryant began what he describes as “a very intense philosophical email exchange” with Harman, over the course of which Bryant became convinced of the credibility of object-oriented thought. Bryant subsequently coined the term “object-oriented ontology” in 2009 to distinguish those ontologies committed to the an account of being composed of discrete beings from Harman's object-oriented philosophy, thus marking a difference between object-oriented philosophy (OOP) and object-oriented ontology (OOO).
One way to summarize this book would be to state that, in a way, Alien Phenomenology is to the everydayvisual experience as John Cage was to the everyday acoustic experience (bear with me!). Bogost draws heavily on photography, specifically the work of Stephen Shore, in revisiting the commonplace from the perspective of the objects themselves. Bogost uses Shore’s work to deconstruct the artifice of the constructed photograph, demonstrating the pervasiveness of meaning, as Cage did with his work on the fallacy of silence. Indeed, the fallacy that OOO wishes to expose is that of correlationism and so Bogost focuses on mediations of the everyday, such as McDonald’s packaging and the unique characteristics of light sensors in various digital cameras, in order to propose alternative phenomenologies, thereby decentering that of the human. The book as a whole challenges its readers not to adopt OOO wholesale but to become an explorer of the everyday, an amateur carpenterof commonplace things.
“The Ontic Principle” (free PDF version here Link)
“The Democracy of Objects” (free PDF version here link)
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“Where the 19th century saw a rush of composer-pianists, now the 21st brings the era of the composer-programmer…”
Much of OOO scholarship attempts to demonstrate that philosophy (at least, the phenomenological/ontological variety) moves much too fast. For at high-speeds, a simple unexamined conclusion can propagate at an alarming rate. In such cases, the syllogism becomes an enthymeme and the solution that follows solves a false problem. This is one way of summarizing Harman’s Tool-Being, which claims that Heidegger committed an oversight early in his career that then propagated throughout the rest of his work. Harman revisits the tool/broken-tool dichotomy, reversing the enthymeme back into a syllogism to demonstrate just where Heidegger veered off course. The result is a slowing down of ontological inquiry. This simple change of pace suggests that other philosophers should look back, back towards the initial premises that establish the relationship between vorhandenheit and zuhandenheit.
“The Object strikes back: An interview with Graham Harman”. Lucy Kimbell (2013) link
Manuel De Landa lecturing about the relationship between immanence and transcendence, focusing primarily on the materialist world of Gilles Deleuze concept of immanence during a seminar called Gilles Deleuze and Science“ at the European Graduate School in Saas-Fee, Switzerland. Manuel De Landa discussed the works of Henri Poinacaré and Réne Thom in relation to the topological thinking of Gilles Deleuze, specifically on differential calculus using topological thinking. Public open lecture for the students and faculty of the European Graduate School EGS Media and Communication Studies department program Saas-Fee Switzerland. 2009 Manuel De Landa
Manuel De Landa is, among other roles, a philosopher, media theorist, film maker, and artist. As these, he has inhabited and lived between the intersections of thinking and creativity, uncovering the interstices which link historically separate autonomous fields to each other. Beginning in the late 1970s in New York where he produced a number of underground 8 and 16 mm films, De Landa has been at the forefront of creative thinking, working at the outer edges of media theory and incorporating the work of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari into his ideas. Manuel De Landa holds the Gilles Deleuze Chair of Contemporary Philosophy at the European Graduate School as well as teaching at Columbia University, the University of Philadelphia and the School of Visual Arts in New York City.
De Landa's close reading of Deleuze and Guattari, and more importantly his continuation or extension of their ideas, sees the creative potential of philosophy in a new materialism. In his writing he seeks to expand on the notion of a total unity, through assemblage, of multiple singularities. His work focuses on the idea that our rational view of the world in stable, solid structures is at best limited; instead he seeks clarification through the concept of liquidity, in which the liquid structures, constantly on the verge of chaos, have the greatest potential for creation. De Landa rejects viewing the world through a solely anthropocentric perspective and instead gains insight through an insistence on viewing nature from a non-anthropocentrically hierarchised environment. In this liquidity, De Landa see the power to self-organize and further, the ability to form an ethics of sorts, one untouched by human static control, and which allows an existence at the edge of creative, flowing chaos.
This unique vision comes to the fore in De Landas A Thousand Years of Nonlinear History, in which he analyses history as a confluence of infinite variation, a flow of dynamic processes without rational, or traditional, order. De Landa sees in his history instead a revived form of materialism, liberated from the dogmas of the past. The history then presented is one of flowing articulations rather than one conducted along a linear, static construction. Moving beyond a concept of binary oppositions, De Landa instead sees a past of infinite bifurcations, a flowing, liquid unfolding which exposes a collective identity from a myriad of points and perspectives.
Manuel De Landa has written and published extensively since the early 1990s. His published work includes War In the Age of Intelligent Machines (1991), A Thousand Years of Nonlinear History (2000), Intensive Science and Virtual Philosophy (2005), and most recently A New Philosophy of Society: Assemblage Theory and Social Complexity (2006).
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Iteration, Reiteration, Repetition: A Speculative Analysis of the Meaningless Sign.
Freie Universität, Berlin, 20 April 2012
My main concern, for some years now, has been the capacities of thought: what exactly can thought do? My thesis (which may seem bizarrely classical) comes down to saying that thought is capable of the ‘absolute’, capable even of producing something like ‘eternal truths’; and this despite the various destructions and deconstructions that all traditional metaphysics have undergone over the last century and a half. I began to develop this position in 2006 in After Finitude (AF), in a form that, to my mind, made possible an original reactivation of materialism; and it this investigation that I wish to continue to pursue here.
Speculative Realism: Problems and Prospects