31 January 2009

Harman’s Carnival of Objects

Filed under: First Lines, Ktismata — ktismatics @ 12:02 pm

The carnival tent rustles in the evening breeze, disturbing the moods of those who approach. Inside the tent are swarms of humans and trained animals; there are jarring sounds, strange ethnic foods, and shadows. For a few moments the music of a concealed organ is countered by the rumble of thunder, as emaciated dogs begin to whine. A small fight breaks out, soon to be halted by a sneering, scar-faced man. Suddenly, hailstones strike the roof of the tent like bullets, frightening everyone: the visitors, the fortunetellers, the unkempt and corrupted security guards, the monkeys sparkling with costume jewelry. At long last, the organ player’s morbid inner anger takes command, and he begins an atonal dirge that will last throughout the storm.

It’s not just the beginning: Graham Harman‘s Guerrilla Metaphysics reads like a work of philosophy written inside an alternative steampunk world, its streets teeming with mongrels and halfbreeds, its shops chock-full of mismatched collections of things both mundane and fantastic, both tangible and imaginary. This is a wonderful book. Is it wonderful philosophy? I couldn’t say; I have no reliable basis for rendering such a judgment. I regard metaphysics as a genre of fictional nonfiction in which the writer elaborates an alternate reality, a vast mise-en-scene on which any number of actors might later take the stage and multiple plots might unfold. In constructing such a reality it’s the scope and clarity and even the audacity of the thinker’s imaginative vision that prevail. Did I find Harman’s reality stimulating, thought-provoking, engaging? Absolutely. Is it true? I have no idea.

In his prior book Tool Being (which I haven’t read), Harman describes a world populated by countless separate objects that overlap one another in a multi-layered and crowded space. Though objects can encounter and even use one another, they are also permanently withdrawn from one another in vacuum-sealed isolation. In Guerrilla Metaphysics Harman explores how these essentially insular objects can possibly interact with one another.

I think the gist is this: Objects never interact directly; they do so only vicariously. An object possesses various properties or features or notes — eventually Harman says that the object is its notes. But it’s possible for one object to encounter another object’s notes as if these notes had been cut loose from the object itself. These loose notes float through a sort of plasm or charged medium that extends itself within the empty space separating discrete objects from each other. The objects don’t interact directly; rather, their separate notes encounter each other in the mediatory plasm. There the split-off notes from different objects might combine with each other, and it’s through this combination of notes that new objects are created. And in this creation it becomes clear that the notes never really disconnected themselves from their original objects. Rather, these objects have become components of the new composite object, linked to the whole through those specific notes that encountered each other in the plasm.

Now it might seem that this sort of creative encounter between discrete objects violates Harman’s basic premise that objects never encounter each other directly, especially since an object never really cuts its notes loose from itself and since an object is ultimately the same as its notes. Harmon says that what seems to be an external encounter between different objects is really taking place inside the “molten core” of an emerging new composite object. The original objects retain their integrity as separate objects, but as soon as their notes reach across the plasm to each other they’re already occupying a newly-formed inner space opening up inside the composite object that’s in the process of forming itself. The component objects remain essentially isolated from each other even inside the new composite object, however: their mutuality is limited to those particular qualities or features or notes that the composite object uses in holding itself together as a separate thing. So, for example, a bridge might use the structural strength of the steel of which it’s made yet fail to encounter the steel’s shine or color or molecular structure or ability to inspire football players. Or the phrase “a cedar is a flame” conjures up a composite metaphorical object that blends certain notes from the cedar and the flame (shape, jagged edges, etc.) while disregarding others (color, temporal persistence, destructiveness, etc.). The steel bridge and the metaphorical cedar-flame possess their own distinct essences that aren’t reducible to the notes of their component parts. And the component objects are never “used up” in the composites into which they’ve been absorbed: they always retain their own discrete objecthood, sealed away from those specific notes that are used in assembling the composite object.

One consequence of Harman’s object-based reality is that the relationship between people and objects becomes a subset of the more general relationships among objects. So the relationship between a human thinker and the object of his/her contemplation isn’t categorically different from the gravitational relationship between a star and a meteor in some remote galaxy that’s never been detected by humans. In Harman’s universe, the meteor-star relationship is always vicarious: the two objects never encounter each other directly, never expose one another’s hidden essences. And the relationship between meteor and star always occurs inside of a composite meteor-star object. By extension, the human thinker never encounters the essence of that which s/he contemplates — the essence of things always recedes from human scrutiny. Further, human thinking about a thing never takes place from an outside, “objective” point of view — it always occurs on the inside of a merged thinker-thing composite object. I’m not sure how this thinker-thing composite object differs from Heidegger’s being-there or Meillassoux’s Correlation. Thinking-about, being similar to any other inter-object relation, encounters only those notes of the thought-about object that are useful in assembling the composite object called a “thought.” It seems to me that Harman’s realism doesn’t overcome epistemological uncertainty and relativism; rather, Harman just makes it less remarkable, less privileged, more similar to all other uncertain and relative relationships among the objects populating the universe.

Harman’s realism doesn’t privilege tangible material objects over imaginary objects. A metaphorical tree-flame and a centaur have essences and notes and can enter into vicarious relationships with other objects in ways are not fundamentally different from objects like horses and table lamps and movie theaters. If that’s so, and if the essence of every object withdraws from direct contact from any other object, then how can the object called “my mind” ever distinguish between a tangible material object and an imaginary object? In constituting an object, sensory notes encountered phenomenologically don’t seem privileged over other kinds of notes that manifest themselves in thought and imagination and words. On another post recently Sam asked me whether “God” counts as an object in Harman’s scheme. I said that it does, but I’m not sure how to determine whether the God-object is more like a horse or a centaur.

The other thing that struck me while reading Harman’s book is that I’m not sure how he accounts for the destruction of objects. I can see how the interrelationship of my mouth and a candy bar exploits only certain notes of the candy bar — taste, mouthfeel, nutrition — while disregarding the true essence of the candy bar. But as I eat, digest, and metabolize it, does the candy bar persist, along with its notes and its essence? Or does it eventually cease being a candy bar altogether? If so — if by eating it I destroy the candy bar — then hasn’t the candy bar entered into a direct encounter with my digestive system? Harman acknowledges in his book that he doesn’t talk about death and destruction. Still, I wonder how he accounts for these events that seem to remove objects from existence altogether rather than just incorporating them into composite objects.

I think that’s enough for now. Obviously I’ve skipped over vast tracts of Harman’s text and ideas by focusing on the parts that come to mind as I sit here writing this post. I’m also trying to think about the book from the inside, exploring the contours of the reality Harman has laid out for me. I generally resonate with the ideas, and I’m eager to think about implications for an “object-oriented psychology.” If readers would like clarifications I’ll do my best. I’m also open to correction if I’ve misconstrued or caricatured overmuch.



  1. Congratulations on Graham’s superlative applause for your reading!!!


    Comment by kvond — 31 January 2009 @ 3:50 pm

  2. Yes, I see that the carnival master calls it the best summary ever, so I guess I got the gist. Today I took a couple of books back to the library and, in keeping with the steampunk motif, I picked up The Scar by Mieville.


    Comment by ktismatics — 31 January 2009 @ 3:58 pm

  3. This was on the heels of him recently saying that the art of the book review was a lost art, or something of the sort, so, a kind of double laurel!


    Comment by kvond — 31 January 2009 @ 4:01 pm

  4. Was there anything in my summary that surprised you, Kvond? And have you been reading Prince of Networks? I know Dr. Zamalek has made it available online, but I’ve not seen any summaries. Perhaps I’ve not been looking hard enough. I presume it continues the theme of how objects interact, the issue of translation being somehow implicated. I should request my own e-copy from the author.


    Comment by ktismatics — 31 January 2009 @ 4:19 pm

  5. I have not read his GM, so I can’t speak to your summary, though I like the way you express what you do. I’ve read The Prince of Networks, (got my e-copy from Graham, and then had Kinko’s print it out for easier reading and a bookshelf presence). It is for the greater part an exposition of Latour, drawing out the metaphysical consequences of his positions, when they can be found. Worth reading, surely.


    Comment by kvond — 31 January 2009 @ 4:36 pm

  6. Clysmatics congrats on your swift climb to stardom, I notice you’re also on Dr. Fossey’s blawgroll (whereas I was removed) and KDD comes in here, which for her blawging habits is pretty incredible. As you become Dr. Harman’s Number One Fan, don’t forget that it was the Parody Center that made you what you are today, and introduced you to the mixed blessings of the Continental adumbrosphere. I made a mistake in the collage, by the way; I should have done you up as the girl who pushes Gina Gershaw down the staircase in SHOWGIRLS.

    By extension, the human thinker never encounters the essence of that which s/he contemplates — the essence of things always recedes from human scrutiny.

    I still don’t see of what concrete relevance this is for us humans? Are we to rediscover mescaline mushrooms and practise being ”one with the Universe” or is there an ecological meaning to all this, learning to appreciate the objects more? Is it a form of intellectual regressotherapy whereby we rediscover animism for the New Age? I keep getting the feeling that Dr. Harman prefers the objects to humans – this often strikes me with materialists.

    I just thought that animation’s known these revelations since at least the prehistoric caves of Altamira, for it has always seen the ”essence of the objects” and posited that they play on their own rules, cf. Svankmajer.


    Comment by parody center — 31 January 2009 @ 11:49 pm

  7. PC I’m surprised to see you entering the discussion, inasmuch as on an earlier thread you said you weren’t interested in reading about Harman’s ideas. On the other hand, you have often engaged me in discussion about some of my many obscure topics, testifying to an innate curiosity you sometimes deny in yourself. Speaking of Jodi Dean, I did write a post recently on I Cite noting the empirical connection between citing popular scholarly publications and being cited oneself, so perhaps this post will lift my star even higher in the firmament. But I also had a sense that this post might constitute a kind of public service for those who’ve been reading about speculative realism but who can’t quite get their heads around it. Being a non-philosopher I can function as a kind of translator, a role I attempted to perform previously in my posts about Meillassoux’s After Finitude. I must say, though, that Harman has gone out of his way to make his book readily accessible to the interested and thoughtful amateur. He even engages the ideas of various other philosophers, some of them rather obscure figures, in a deep and detailed but comprehensible manner. You might say he’s put some allure into it.

    “the essence of things always recedes from human scrutiny. I still don’t see of what concrete relevance this is for us humans?”

    A few posts back I did a short video post called Eclipse as Object. In the last 30-second segment I noted the connection between Harman’s idea of the object receding and Lacan’s idea of the Symbolic castrating humans from the Real. The implication in Lacan, I think, is that non-humans retain their essential connection with the Real whereas humans, by becoming language-users, lose this connection. Harman shifts the blame, as it were, to the Real itself: we didn’t cut it off, or cut ourselves off from it; the Real withdraws from us. And it withdraws not just from humans but from other animals, from trees, from rocks, etc. Language is not a privileged relationship with the Real, neither as a phallic probe nor as a castrating knife. The essence of a rock recedes from the gravitational pull exerted on it by the earth; the essence of a gazelle recedes from the predatory attack perpetrated on it by a lion. For both Harman and Lacan, then, direct connection with the Real is impossible, but the causes for this disconnection are different.

    Also, the Real for Harman isn’t some inchoate cosmic goo that distributes itself across the universe. Each object is unique and distinct; its Real is its own and nothing else’s. So the “one with the Universe” business is irrelevant, since the universe is characterized not by oneness but by a multilayered panoply of irreducibly diverse things. Per Harman, space isn’t what unifies everything in the universe on some cosmic grid; rather, space is what separates things from each other in their individual vacuum-sealed isolation.

    “I just thought that animation’s known these revelations since at least the prehistoric caves of Altamira”

    Well of course animators always catch on to the Truth before the rest of us, but I understand your point: it’s fascination with the object itself, not just what use we can make of it, that distinguishes the artist’s engagement of the world — and I’d say also that of the philosopher and the scientist. Is it receptivity to the allure exerted by the objects of the world, or does the artist attempt to seduce the objects into giving up their secrets? Here’s a bit toward the end of Guerrilla Metaphysics:

    What distinguishes humans from animals is not some sort of critical distance from our surroundings, but rather an expansive fascination with all domestic and exotic things; no animal knows the gullible attachment to things that humans enact in the practice of religion or the labor of designing a submarine. We are not more critical than animals, but more object-oriented, filling our minds with all present and absent objects, all geographical and astronomical places, all species of animal, all flavors of juice, all players from the history of baseball, all living and dead languages. We do not remain in the holistic prisons of our own lives where things are fully unified by their significance for us, but face outward toward a cosmos speckled with independent campfires and black holes, packed full with objects that generate their own private laws and both welcome and resist our attempts to gain information. We even devote endless fascination to objects that turn out not to exist — empty fears, phantoms, rickety theories, cartoon characters, false friends, glacial highland monsters. No animal is ever duped or hypnotized as deeply as we ourselves can be. If we are critics and analysts, then we analyze only in order to gullibilize ourselves still further, inserting ourselves into worthier forms of naiveté than before. As we develop we become more innocent and more fascinated, not less so (pp. 238-239).


    Comment by ktismatics — 1 February 2009 @ 7:46 am

  8. i might have mentioned before that the one and only time i experimented with mushrooms, i was sitting on the bed and looking at the ceiling, and i gradually began to feel myself one with a pebble in it. it’s not that i ”empathized” with the pebble, graham’s account is more applicable: i felt that i and the pebble were distinctly separate and different (”individual”) while being, at the same time, identical forms of inanimate matter. but your account, helpful as it is, still does not explain exactly what consequences the launched thesis has for humanity. for example the idea that space separates objects in their individuality reminds me of a group of people listening to their i-pods while sitting in the same room, which ultimately is just another description of networked capitalism.

    re animation, i was talking in particular about the work of jan svankmajer, where the inanimate world, although it is re-animated for the purpose of the film, remains inaccessible to human protagonists, it is a world of zombie-objects whose ”essence” you never get to grasp even as they move with vivid life. ”dimensions of dialog” would be the right short to discuss in this regard, also, in regard to your query regarding the exitence of objects (do they disappear when swallowed)



    Comment by parody center — 1 February 2009 @ 8:25 am

  9. somehow comments are getting eaten up?


    Comment by parody center — 1 February 2009 @ 8:27 am

  10. Insofar as in both Lacan and Dr. Harman the essence of the Real is unknowable, I don’t see what the difference is vis-a-vis humanity. As I told dr. Sinthome a few times – while he was still reacting to my provocations, now he’s completely obsessed – who gives a toss whether the Real is material or divine, and how you label it, since for the human all that really matters concretely is it’s there all the time but simultaneously absent (”alluring” to use dr. Harman’s coinage), exerting a fatal influence in its very withdrawal.


    Comment by parody center — 1 February 2009 @ 8:41 am

  11. Thanks for the alert about comments getting eaten. I found three of your comments in the spam bucket, along with two from NB, commingled with the “tight ass massage” comments which I read only in private.


    Comment by ktismatics — 1 February 2009 @ 9:11 am

  12. “which ultimately is just another description of networked capitalism.”

    I refer you to this post at The Accursed Share, where Nick discusses politico-economic implications of object-oriented philosophy.


    Comment by ktismatics — 1 February 2009 @ 12:09 pm

  13. I think I get the gist of it: neither Tehran nor Washington, but Cairo! Yet another one of those neither-nor clauses (the object is neither with us, nor is it entirely apart from us). There are two paths to grandma’s house. By this the Marxists hope to overthrow greed, lust and sex (in that order) in favor of monastic hedonism, or something like that. Well I sure hope they succeed!

    I guess the deep lesson of all this in politics is that once you’ve ”delibinated” the objects e.g. President Bush or President Milosevic and realize that they’re not really in a relation to YOU as an individual, you stop seeing them as Deities and this is certainly more conducive to democracy than a libidinal investment.


    Comment by parody center — 1 February 2009 @ 1:19 pm

  14. Your last observation is interesting, PC. Both Lacan and Harman create the basis for fetishizing an object, its allure beckoning you to delve its secret essence that it always withholds. This desire to reach the elusive essence of a commodity can be and is manipulated in capitalism, where the unreachable essence = its hauntology = the capitalist’s profit on the difference between use value and fetish value. But both Lacan and Harman say that the attempt to reach the inner essence of a thing is futile, so ultimately they both present a basis of resistance to capitalist marketing.


    Comment by ktismatics — 1 February 2009 @ 2:30 pm

  15. But both Lacan and Harman say that the attempt to reach the inner essence of a thing is futile, so ultimately they both present a basis of resistance to capitalist marketing.

    That was in fact my original query, is this really ”resistance”, especially since I suspect in fully digital capitalism use value frequently equals fetish value, i.e. the object’s fetish allure cannot be distinguished from its economic value and there is no desire that isn’t ”mediated” economically? Or does it simply result in yet more withdrawal, more passivity.

    Shortly the solution seems kind of too simple, you just cut the Gordy’s knot. You just cease to invest in the objects, respecting their borders, as they respect your own.

    You should see Jennifer Lynch’s Surveillance. The premise is that we live for the gaze of the other, and in doing so constantly betray our desire. The mechanical camera is merely one of the channels through which surveillance is performed which is otherwise our ”ontological destiny”.


    Comment by parody center — 1 February 2009 @ 2:51 pm

  16. The danger of using anthropomorhized terms like “allure” is that it’s hard not to think of this sort of inter-object plasmic field in ways that don’t convey something like sex appeal. And I think it’s true that marketing people can enhance the allure factor of a commodity. Is it something they put in the object, or is it a kind of extra electrical charge with which they jolt the plasmic space between potential consumer and commodity? Either way, it can be intentionally manipulated, which suggests that allure is either yet another feature or property or note, or else the alluring plasm itself has an independent effect on the objects.

    In today’s post on Latour, Dr. Zamalek says this:

    The real distinction is between occasionalists and empiricists, the latter leading naturally to skepticism. In other words, either you start from individual things and see problems with their relations, or you start from things as already related and deny that they necessarily have any individuality outside the relation… everyone is currently turned toward pre-individual dynamisms and to fluxes that outstrip any definite individual state; the process of individuation is more fashionable than fully formed individuals, which are treated as ultra-reactionary intellectual fossils decreed by joyless authority figures. However, the price of this is fashion is simply too high. If the pre-individual is the alpha factor of your universe, you’re never going to be able to get individuals again, and our world is one of individuals.

    I don’t understand why empiricism would need to deny equal footing to individual objects, even if these objects are the product of pre-individuated forces. I guess it’s because the material from which individuals emerge has to be regarded as undifferentiated goo, while the forces are the source of differentiation acting on that goo. But by the same token, I don’t understand why occasionalism wouldn’t attribute some sort of autonomy to the forces operating in the inter-object plasm without reducing those forces to the energy equivalent of undifferentiated goo. Why not allow multiple forces, each with its own properties and notes? Why not regard forces too as object-like in this regard?

    Just some thoughts.


    Comment by ktismatics — 1 February 2009 @ 4:26 pm

  17. Since I woke up this morning thinking about this issue of undifferentiated energy, I wrote a separate post about it.


    Comment by ktismatics — 2 February 2009 @ 9:59 am

  18. “When truth is nothing but the truth, it’s unnatural, it’s an abstraction that resembles nothing in the real world. In nature there are always so many other irrelevant things mixed up with the essential truth.” Aldous Huxley. I wonder if this sort of connects with Harman’s object insularity. Is it ‘natural’?


    Comment by samlcarr — 13 February 2009 @ 12:33 am

  19. I hope I’m grasping what you’re seeing here, Sam, but feel free to steer me back on track if I’m diverging.

    I’d say that truth-as-abstraction is part of what Harman is arguing against. The truth of an object: is this a meaningful phrase only when humans or other sources of sentience contemplate the object? Or is an object’s truth intrinsic to that object itself, regardless of, or even in spite of, anyone’s efforts to grasp that truth? Harman veers toward the latter conception: objects have essences or truths intrinsic to themselves. What Kvond per Spinoza wants to assert, I believe, is that even inanimate objects have intrinsic truth not because truth is a non-sentient property or quality that can apply even to inanimate rocks, but that even the rocks are somehow imbued with a sentience that permeates the universe; i.e., panpsychism. Harman rejects panpsychism; instead he says that human sentient categories like truth aren’t all that different from non-sentient properties like essence and allure, properties that act within and between all objects, sentient or not. This is the commitment that unites all the Speculative Realists: an attempt to think about a universe independent from the thinking beings that now happen to occupy part of that universe.

    I’d say that both panpsychism and speculative realism resist the idea of abstract truth. Panpsychists would put truth inside a sentient universe coming to know itself. Speculative realists would put truth inside objects, regardless of whether anyone ever can know these truths. But truth as an abstract property, decoupled from objects and those who contemplate them, is for both groups part of the rejected heritage of Western idealism.


    Comment by john doyle — 14 February 2009 @ 6:22 am

  20. an attempt to think about a universe independent from the thinking beings that now happen to occupy part of that universe.

    but HOW, clysmatics – how can you exit your own brain?

    the idea seems to me not more serious than a puzzle in the donald duck magazine.


    Comment by parody center — 14 February 2009 @ 10:46 am

  21. Wow, how do you exist your brain? I would want to know how you got into your brain in the first place.


    Comment by kvond — 14 February 2009 @ 2:42 pm

  22. What a clever slip. How do you exit your brain? An interesting spatial concept.


    Comment by kvond — 14 February 2009 @ 2:46 pm

  23. “how can you exit your own brain?”

    That’s what puts the “speculative” in speculative realism. As I said somewhere in this thread I believe, I read metaphysics as if it were a genre of fiction, as if Grandma Death in Donnie Darko had really published her book The Philosophy of Time Travel. Graham Harman’s book feels like medievalism brought into the 21st century, with its unapproachable essences, accidents, and transubstantiations. I love this sort of thing. When I write about portals I’m thinking about two alternate realities that don’t touch each other directly, but only through the reality traveler’s encounter with some temporary space-time heterotopic opening where the two realities overlap without merging. I think it’s impossible to assert that this picture is true or to subject it to falsification protocols, but I find it sort of liberating when I feel oppressed by a uniform zombified universe, or where like Dominic in his book about the Cold World I feel like the only zombie in a vital universe that excludes me.

    But back to the philosophical issue. Meillassoux is explicit about it: since the Enlightenment science has been making progress exploring the universe, while during this same time continental philosophy has been denying the possibility of this sort of progress. Humanity is solipsistically locked inside perception, cognition, social structure, and language, unable to encounter the universe for what it is: this, says Meillassoux, is the common conclusion of Descartes, Locke, Hume, Kant. Meillassoux says that continental philosophy needs to break out of its Ptolemaic human-centeredness in order to provide a systematic apologetic for what’s already been demonstrated, namely that science can and has gotten out of the head and into the world.

    Harman’s agenda is similar in the sense of breaking through solipsism. On the other hand, he has less interest in allying with science, which is by definition a distinctly human way of encountering the world. Meillassoux wants to know why this sort of encounter can succeed in knowing things-in-themselves; Harman wants to show that the scientific encounter isn’t fundamentally different from two rocks encountering each other on the dark side of the moon.

    Why do this? Well, why explore the non-human world at all, as scientists do, and photographers, and poets? Partly because we get something out of it as humans, but partly because these things draw our curiosity, as if they exert some sort of allure, or as if through human minds the universe comes to know itself… Are these “why” questions best answered by the empirical science of human motivation, by metaphysical speculation, by self-reflection, or by fiction?


    Comment by john doyle — 15 February 2009 @ 7:26 am

  24. “how you got into your brain in the first place.”

    It’s an interesting question, Kvond, this relationship between self and brain. I wonder what Harman would do with this question. Your brain is an object, and your self is also an object. Is self a component of brain, along with other components that encounter each other inside the molten core of the brain? Or is brain a component of self, along with other components…? I’m guessing that Harman would say “both”: object A can be a component part of object B AND object B can be a component of A, both at the same time. Neither is reducible to the other; each has a withdrawn essence that evades direct contact with the other. Curious.


    Comment by john doyle — 15 February 2009 @ 7:33 am

  25. Another thing: Harman says that, by retreating into the structural-linguistic sphere, continental philosophy ceded to science the ability to talk about the rest of world. Now, as empirical science increasingly probes the psychosociolinguistic realm and increasingly succeeds in finding things out just as it has in the nonhuman realms, metaphysics finds its little iceberg melting away even underfoot. Speculative realism becomes an attempt to preserve metaphysics from entire irrelevance. Note also that, if Meillassoux’s project succeeds, it’s liable to reconcile continental philosophy with empirical psychology. Harman’s project feels more like atheistic theology to me.


    Comment by john doyle — 15 February 2009 @ 9:42 am

  26. yes well it’s the spirit of today’s collages, assemblages, resamplings and recombinations… still, you haven’t answered my question: if one’s thoughts about the objects, as any other thoughts, depend on some entity, hosted by the brain, which generates them, and unless you’re able to migrate or transmogrify that entity, you’d have to either kill yourself or resort to science fiction, in order to think about the unthinkable objects. which altogether doesn’t sound very smart to me.


    Comment by parody center — 15 February 2009 @ 11:48 am

  27. “you’d have to either kill yourself or resort to science fiction, in order to think about the unthinkable objects.”

    Sounds like an Eddie Izzard routine: “Cake or death?!” I’ll have the cake please.


    Comment by john doyle — 15 February 2009 @ 12:27 pm

  28. Clysmatics your stubborn refusal to critisize your new fetish object, whom I cannot accept first of all because he doesn’t have Shaviro on his blawgroll just because Shaviro still likes Kant, and second of all because __________________, only makes me want more parody. Later you will say it was my fault that I got so foul mouthed.

    something unrelated, or perhaps more relevant for your other blawg: I saw a 3D version of Disney’s BOLT, an unremarkable movie, but the technique is fascinating. The eyes don’t hurt anymore, so you can completely enjoy the depth-effect. I suddenly had gorgeous visions of virtual theater, where static compositions gain a new value because you can get closer than in conventional theater, and yet you retain a sense of physicality. It was wonderful. My only fear is that the technique, as usual, will be drowned in its conventional function, as a gimmick, instead of opening new imaginative vistas.


    Comment by parody center — 15 February 2009 @ 1:07 pm

  29. Haven’t seen Bolt, but you may enjoy Neil Gaiman’s 3D Coraline more.I’m sure there’s lotsa of room for the confirmation of a Lacanian Universe there.


    Comment by kvond — 15 February 2009 @ 1:50 pm

  30. PC in my subsequent post about gravity-as-object you’ll find more direct critique. I can’t recall if it’s here or there, but I did remark that this sense of a withdrawn essence of the alluring object does convey a sense of fetishism. I confess I’ve not been following the more recent discussions, in part because I’m now withdrawing my essence from this sector of the blogosphere. I’d love to be able to write a book about alternate realities that carries itself the way Harman’s Guerrilla book does, but he says he gets more blog hits now than total sales of all his books combined, so what’s the point unless one already has tenure.

    I offered three nice responses to recent comments, but since you and Kvond have now moved on to gossip and Disney I’ll go back to finishing my post about the Boulder Film Festival on the other blog.


    Comment by john doyle — 15 February 2009 @ 2:19 pm

  31. I completely withdraw my last comment.


    Comment by kvond — 15 February 2009 @ 2:30 pm

  32. Kvond you really could be less snarky given that I defended your ass over at dr. Sinthome’s; I didn’t HAVE TO do that, but I kind of like your snarkiness. Anyhow I’m not championing Lacan really, I still have unresolved questions of my own- like the one about castration, which I think I will not figure out til I’m gone. Dr Sinthome is one of the few blawgers who figured out that Spinoza and Lacan don’t have to be in conflict, because the ”gap” (the lack) is not something Lacan posited as a postulate. The question is rather, how and why is it produced.


    Comment by parody center — 15 February 2009 @ 2:56 pm

  33. I doubt that Kvond is being snarky, PC. He might be honoring the stay-on-topic ethos. Plus he knows your love of the Lacanian universe and is now sending you some of that love.

    When you withdraw your comment completely, Kvond, does it hunker down in its vacuum-sealed insular essence next to but completely separate from all the other comment-objects in the universe? In my reading and trying to understand your comment, am I by that very act failing entirely to make direct contact with that comment?


    Comment by john doyle — 15 February 2009 @ 3:04 pm

  34. JD: Actually the essence of the object of my comment withdraws even from me, all the while sending out an alluring dancing of lights, drawing all of us in closer to its powerful blackholeness.

    PC: I want to be diplomatic as to your spectacular defense of me over at Dr. Sin. For understandable reasons that only you know. I was not being snarky (why is it that the whole universe loses its sense of humor when you enter the room?

    As to Lacan and Spinoza, at risk of violating the very honor I paid to topic centrality, of course they are not in conflict, Althusser’s entire political philosophy can be seen as the marriage of the two. (I now withdraw from the thread, as if I were not already withdrawn).


    Comment by kvond — 15 February 2009 @ 3:22 pm

  35. This universe losing its sense of humor remark — doesn’t it convey at least a hint of snark? For PC’s amusement I shan’t delete it unless he insists. I know little of Althusser, but isn’t it true that he murdered his wife?


    Comment by john doyle — 15 February 2009 @ 4:43 pm

  36. Like I said, the whole universe has lost its sense of humor – if you have to explain a joke, it isn’t a joke…or, you simply are in the wrong company.

    You can delete the comment if you like.


    Comment by kvond — 15 February 2009 @ 4:45 pm

  37. Dude, I thought you withdrew. C’mon Kvond, be a sport — what’s the joke mean? Is it some kind of Spinozan humor-permeating-the-universe allusion? “Simply the wrong company” — is that a secret-code joke too, or should I take it personally?


    Comment by john doyle — 15 February 2009 @ 4:52 pm

  38. Continuing this line of inquiry… I’ve been reading some guy’s 30-part prose-poem, and realized that your joke would make an excellent greeting card message. We need some interesting visual image on the cover, then you open the card and it says:

    “Why is it that the whole universe loses its sense of humor when you enter the room?”

    This card, priced at $4 in specialty stationers’ located mostly in college towns and ultra-urbane urban zones, would sell only sporadically. Next to it on the shelf would be other cards in the same line, with sayings that include:

    “If you have to explain a joke, it isn’t a joke… or, you simply are in the wrong company.”

    “The essence of the object of my comment withdraws even from me, all the while sending out an alluring dancing of lights, drawing all of us in closer to its powerful blackholeness.” (Think of the cover-art possibilities for this one.)

    “I completely withdraw my last comment.” (gets the recipient wondering what that might have been)

    “I now withdraw, as if I were not already withdrawn.”


    Comment by john doyle — 15 February 2009 @ 5:15 pm

  39. From Wikipedia:

    On 16 November 1980, Althusser strangled his wife, Hélène Legotien née Rytmann, to death, following a period of mental instability. There were no witnesses except Althusser, and the exact circumstances are debated with some claiming it was deliberate, others accidental. Althusser himself claimed not to have a clear memory of the event, saying that, while he was massaging his wife’s neck, he discovered he had strangled her. Althusser was diagnosed as suffering from diminished responsibility, and he was not tried, but instead committed to the Sainte-Anne psychiatric hospital. Althusser remained in hospital until 1983. Upon release, he moved to Northern Paris and lived reclusively, seeing few people. He continued to work and write, but published little.

    I wonder how one goes about acquiring a diagnosis of “diminished responsibility”? Seems like a “get out of jail free” card, doesn’t it?


    Comment by john doyle — 15 February 2009 @ 5:20 pm

  40. Clysmatics it seems that I was under the wrong impression that Kvond was in a conflict with Lacan, but this is an
    oversight on my part for which I apologize. This is why it
    sounded snarky, Kvond.

    I’d be interested to hear more about that Althusser thing.

    Otherwise since Kvond bases his act on the Cheshire cat,
    he shouldn’t be surprised that the room suddenly goes
    silent (that’s the desired effect after all) – and this works
    beautifully on the obsessive narcissistic cat, because the
    one thing she can’t deal with is being kept on edge and
    having to solve riddles. The kitten is very STRAIGHT that way.


    Comment by parody center — 15 February 2009 @ 7:49 pm

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