Graham Harman and other proponents of object-oriented ontology (OOO) follow Whitehead in taking up the task of articulating a speculative metaphysics, which is a relatively untimely task, situated amidst multifarious post-Kantian prohibitions against metaphysics. In particular, OOO follows Whitehead’s “ontological principle,” affirming the irreducibility of actual entities. The relationship between OOO and Whitehead looks mutually beneficial. OOO benefits by getting support for its metaphysical orientation toward entities, things, i.e., “objects.” [Does it need to be reiterated that this is a general sense of object as entity, not the modern sense of object in opposition to (or participation with) subject?] Whitehead benefits by getting a boost in popularity, making Whitehead more relevant and interesting for contemporary thought. Despite this opportunity for mutual benefit, both partners aren’t totally into it. Harman refers to Whitehead regularly (including in his latest, Immaterialism), acknowledging Whitehead’s unique contributions to metaphysics. How do Whiteheadians respond? Let’s face it. It’s not the mutual admiration club. Guess what, OOO? Process philosophers just aren’t that into you. Continue reading
Tag Archives: Derrida
Below you’ll find the summary and a few blurbs: Continue reading
[The following is a proposal for a paper in a panel on new materialism and its significance for religion, affect, and emotion in the Anthropocene.]
Articulating multifarious ways that agency is distributed across all things—human and nonhuman—various theoretical schools are emerging that move beyond the anthropocentrism for which affective agency is solely or most fully embodied in humans. Including (but not limited to) new materialism, speculative realism, object-oriented ontology (OOO), and actor-network theory (ANT), each of these schools affirms the vibrant dynamics and unique capacities of nonhumans. They are particularly timely insofar as they address the challenges of the emerging geological epoch, the Anthropocene—a time when human actions, magnified by technoscientific media, are so pervasively intertwined with Earth’s systems that it is becoming increasingly superfluous to attempt to neatly separate humans from nonhumans. Among these new schools, object-oriented approaches stand out for their provocative claim that adequate theories must focus on objects—things. That contrasts starkly with more common theoretical orientations toward relations, processes, events, networks, biopower, and material conditions.
This paper provides an object-oriented account of affect in the Anthropocene, drawing specifically on Timothy Morton’s (hyper)object-oriented ontology and his claims that the Anthropocene is the age of ecology without nature and the age of animism without animism, that is, animism “under erasure” (sous rature). To facilitate an exploratory engagement with animistic affects in the Anthropocene, this paper presents Morton’s conception of objects, elucidating his relationship with new materialism, speculative realism, and ANT, and indicating how one can develop an intimate feeling for a hyperobject like global climate change by attending to the lameness, weakness, and hypocrisy of coexistence in the Anthropocene.
I posted a short piece a while ago about a few books on Plato, including one about Plato’s relationship to drugs (pharmaka). That piece gets a lot of views regularly, and it seems like people often find it by asking google, “Was Plato on Drugs?” I realize that the piece I wrote isn’t as explicit as it could be.
It’s worth being clear about this. The answer is simple: yes. Continue reading
Putting a book on trial? That’s exactly what happened in the 13th-century trial in which King Louis IX of France decided to hold a trial prosecuting the Talmud, a central book for rabbinic Judaism. Many documents from that trial have been translated and are available in a new book, The Trial of the Talmud: Paris, 1240.
The book lost that trial. However, the trial still holds relevant lessons for cultural contact and interfaith dialogue today. One of the main lessons is that interfaith dialogue puts too much emphasis on…dialogue. Peaceful religious coexistence is not always the result of dialogue or conversation. Instead of aiming at mutual understanding, where both parties have a proper knowledge of one another, it could be helpful to let different parties differ. Instead of hermeneutics , deconstruction (I’m siding with Derrida in the Gadamer-Derrida exchange).
Instead of religious coexistence facilitated with dialogue, I’m more interested in religious coexistence facilitated sans dialogue, indeed, sans voir, sans avoir, sans savoir. This resonates with some of Michael Schulson’s comments on the new translation of the documents from the 1240 trial.
[I]ntellectual examination can actually interfere with the daily realities of religious coexistence. Above all, religious groups need to be respected, and to see that someone is making an active effort to coexist with them. Listening is important, for sure. But some of the details of religious traditions don’t make for easy hearing. To repurpose an old saying about marriage: in interfaith relationships, it’s wise to be a little deaf.
Coexistence, not through dialogue and vision, but through a touch of deafness and blindness.
Although I’m not a specialist in Buddhist studies, Buddhist discourses and practices are definitely included among my general research interests. One of the things I’ve been following for years now is the developing relationship between Buddhism and deconstruction (specifically Jacques Derrida’s deconstruction). The groundbreaking work to forge that relationship came in 1984 with the publication of Derrida on the Mend, by Robert Magliola. For Magliola, the Buddhism-deconstruction encounter is staged through a comparative analysis that shows a lot of affinities between Derrida and Nagarjuna (a “founder” of the Madhyamaka school of Buddhism, the path of the middle way). Subsequently, Magliola’s work has been a key reference point for further discussion.
Along with Magliola’s text, another important resource is Harold Coward’s Derrida and Indian Philosophy (1990), which situates Magliola’s Derrida-Nagarjuna comparison within the broader context of Indian philosophies. Coward focuses too much on speech (a typical problem for deconstructionists), but there are some good chapters connecting Derrida not only with Nagarjuna but also with nondual Vedanta of Shankara and the evolutionary spirituality of Aurobindo.
It is interesting to note that Magliola and Coward published their works before Derrida’s ethico-religious turn (before the messianic without a messianism, before the apocalypse sans apocalypse, before his allusive piece on religion for a conference on the island of Capri, before the regular reiteration of tout autre est tout autre). The writings from the last decade of Derrida’s life are much closer to Judaism than Buddhism, making him look more like a “young Jewish saint” (Cixous) than Nagarjuna, or in other terms, more like a mohel than Manjusri. This doesn’t mean that there is nothing left to say about Buddhism and deconstruction. Quite the opposite. Derrida’s religiously oriented writings provide even more points of Buddhodeconstructive contact. Along those lines, one of my ‘forthcoming’ books is titled The Mohel and Manjusri.
Much has been written in this century on Buddhism and deconstruction. Some of it still stays with language and semiotics, as in Youxuan Wang, Buddhism and Deconstruction: A Comparative Semiotics (2001). Other works focus more on ethics and religion, like the essays in Deconstruction and the Ethical in Asian Thought, edited by Youru Wang (2007). That anthology includes discussions of Derridean and Levinasian ethics in relation to ethics in Buddhism and other Asian religious traditions.
Another notable anthology that highlights ethico-religious dimensions of the Buddhism-deconstruction encounter is Buddhisms and Deconstructions, edited by Jin Y. Park (2006). That book includes an afterword by Magliola, reflecting on how the dialogue between Buddhism and deconstruction has developed in the decades since his groundbreaking work on the topic. Park has subsequently become the most prolific and influential writer on this topic, with the wide reception of Buddhisms and Deconstructions along with her articulation of a Buddhist postmodern ethics in Buddhism and Postmodernity (2008). As the latter title indicates, Park is extending the discussion beyond Buddhist connections to Derrida/deconstruction to the wider field of Buddhist connections to postmodern philosophy. This extension is further evident in her work with Gereon Kopf editing the anthology, Merleau-Ponty and Buddhism (2009).
In close proximity to this whole discussion of Buddhism and deconstruction is the Kyoto School of Japanese philosophy, which brought continental philosophy into contact with Buddhism starting in the early twentieth century with Kitaro Nishida. My own thinking has been deeply influenced by the Kyoto philosopher Keiji Nishitani, who studied under Heidegger for a short time before completing his PhD at Kyoto University (his dissertation is on Bergson and Schelling). I’m far from catching up on recent research regarding the Kyoto school, but I’m looking forward to checking out the anthology Japanese and Continental Philosophy: Conservations with the Kyoto School (2011), edited by Bret Davis, Brian Schroeder, and Jason Wirth. Quot libros quam breve tempus!