Speculative Realism and Real Time

I just posted this to the empyre listserv, which has had a wonderful set of discussions about object-oriented ontology (what great timing, since I’m editing a chapter of my book on Speculative Realism on OOO). But one thing came up about the concept of time and OOO.

I am discussing this tomorrow, by the way, at the University of Tasmania in Hobart, where I’ll present some of my work on the need for thinking a real time.

I want to note one thing: for Harman, entities do not emit time. Time is but a “tension in its sensual qualities”–that is, not in the object’s “hidden” reality. See Harman’s diagram (see below) on p. 114 of the Quadruple Object. In his essay “The Road to Objects,” Harman sums up his view:

According to the object-oriented model only the present exists: only objects with their qualities, locked into whatever their duels of the moment might be. In that sense, times seems to be illusory, though not for the usual reason that time is just a fourth spatial dimension always already present from the start. Instead time does not exist simply because only the present ever exists. Nonetheless, time as a lived experience [i.e, within the sensuous—here he follows Husserl to the letter] cannot be denied. We do not encounter a static frame of reality, but seem to feel a passage of time. It is not pure chaos shifting wildly from one second to the next, since there is chance with apparent endurance. Sensual objects endure despite swirling oscillations in their surface adumbrations, and this is precisely what is meant by the experience of time. Time can be defined as the tension between sensual objects and their sensual qualities.[i]

Thus the relation of objects is “apparent” and at the “sensuous” level–not at the level of the real object and its real qualities. And thus things in themselves are forever in the present, which is doubling down on the metaphysics of presence.
This, to say the least, needs to be discussed whenever OOO comes up: since if objects in their reality are forever in the present, then how to explain objects such as music, films, or, as Harman discussed in a recent interview, “The Arab Street.” This is what Husserl realized in his time lectures of 1905-1911: moving beyond the mathematical, he noted that he must think how to adequately explain music, for example–hence his theory of protensions and retentions. And never mind Heidegger, Derrida, Deleuze, etc.
My task in my work is to think a real time, one that can account for different ecologies of time and their cultural measures. This, not correlationism, is the true legacy of the twentieth century thinkers such as Heidegger and Derrida.

[i] “The Road to Objects,” 176, my emphases.