Weird Realism: Harman and Lovecraft

I’ve been reading and enjoying Graham Harman’s new book, Weird Realism: Lovecraft and Philosophy (Zero Books, 2012).  This is a great book, regardless of whether you already know the general outline of Harman’s philosophy and/or have any interest in Lovecraft. 

At the very least, I would recommend the book for Harman’s fun and illuminating uses of “ruination,” whereby he shows what is most effective in a sentence or phrase by juxtaposing the original version with alternative (ruined) versions of the passage. 

Harman’s proclivity for sincerity comes through in the style and the content of the work, as does his humor.  Consider the comment he makes when reflecting on Hume, “the patron saint of the philosophical debunker”: “though debunking has its uses, the clearing away of rubbish is a secondary chore best done once per week” (57-58). 

A guiding analogy for the book: As Hölderlin is to Heidegger and subsequent continental thought, Lovecraft is to Harman and weird realisms, e.g., object-oriented philosophy.  Whether Lovecraft will or should become a philosophical staple, I don’t know.  In any case, I very much like the idea that what might seem to be merely pulp fiction is here brought to a philosophical plane with sincerity and humor.  Even more than that, it’s fascinating (and horrifying) to get a sense of the strange realities that Lovecraft has in store for philosophy. 

Reality itself is weird because reality itself is incommensurable with any attempt to represent or measure it.  Lovecraft is aware of this difficulty to an exemplary degree, and through his assistance we may be able to learn about how to say something without saying it — or in philosophical terms, how to love wisdom without having it.  When it comes to grasping reality, illusion and innuendo are the best we can do. (51)

Be afriad: an uncanny thing, a good deed, a joyful leap into the abyss

A massive and sudden emergence of uncanniness, which, familiar as it might have been in an opaque and forgotten life, now harries me as radically separate, loathsome.  Not me.  Not that.  But not nothing, either.  A “something” that I do not recognize as a thing.  A weight of meaninglessness, about which there is nothing insignificant, and which crushes me.  On the edge of non-existence and hallucination, or a reality that, if I acknowledge it, annihilates me.  There, abject and abjection are my safeguards.  The primers of my culture. 

Julia Kristeva, Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection, trans. Leon S. Roudiez (New York: Columbia University Press, 1982), p. 2.

 

Being there when the situation needed you, some third eye finds the right thing to do somehow; then, like coming up with an idea when thinking, it sticks to the bones like a paradigm.  The hard thing is to be ignorant and concerned and afraid the next time.  Out of that ignorance and concern and fear alone the good deed, the brave deed, could come. 

Alphonso Lingis, Body Transformations: Evolutions and Atavisms in Culture (New York and London: Routledge, 2005), p. 152.

 

In every exhilaration we sense the possibility that the final leap into the abyss will be experienced as joy.

Alphonso Lingis, Dangerous Emotions (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2000), p. 162.