Bogost on Time and OOO

Here. He writes:

Recently Peter Gratton has been worrying about Harman’s concept of time. “Time,” Gratton summarizes, “is but a ‘tension in its sensual qualities’—that is, not in the object’s ‘hidden’ reality.” The thing that needs to be remembered here is that Harman’s sensual object only exists in the experience of another object in the first place; it’s not some persistent abstraction. Gratton concludes that “things in themselves are forever in the present,” and then wonders how something like music or film can exist, which are time-based. But again, we must remind ourselves that objects have different senses of presence, both in themselves and in relation to other units. Time is on the inside of objects.

It’s unclear here whether Bogost is taking his distance from Harman, or not. But in any case: for Harman time is the “tension” between the sensuous object and the sensuous quality–that is, it is at the “surface level” of the object. It is not interior to it. For him, objects are forever in the present. Now, if time is at the surface of where things relate (for Harman and Bogost, objects only relate to one another through their sensuous surfaces), then it is not within the object. Moreover, that “objects have different senses of presence” can’t help, since time is on the surface, not within them, and moreover, it’s not clear what different “senses” of this would mean. Again, if objects are forever in the present–recall we have a long tradition of naming essences and such, and Heidegger et al. blew a hole through this thinking–then no, you can’t explain the continuous objects Husserl was after: music, films, etc. The interior of the object withdraws from time at the sensuous level; that much is clear in Harman. I raise this, because otherwise we risk tautology (I’ve gone through every discussion Harman has of time): time is not a box, but happens at the sensual level. But it can’t be at the level of the “real” object, since then it wouldn’t be withdrawn, but related to other things. But since it’s not related to other things, it’s at the level of the sensuous.


Bogost responds to the above here:

…any relation immediately generates a new object: [quoting Harman] “insofar as we somehow connect with a real object outside us, giving rise to perceptions of sensual trees, mailboxes, or blackbirds, we have somehow liked with that object to form a new real object.” Time may be a tension between sensual qualities and sensual objects, but the sensual object can only be birthed within the encounter of confrontation in the first place. [my emphasis]

Harman’s fourfold account of objects might be best understood as an account of object texture rather than object discreteness; Graham called it a “bumpy ontology” in Zagreb recently. The items in the fourfold are not on an even playing field with one another, rather, they describe a kind of infinitely recursive structure in which sensual objects are always jutting out from real ones.


  1. Pingback: Ian Bogost
    1. Thanks Joseph. I’m working with a couple of sets of quotes where Graham says something different. But it’s a question I’ve had and thought I would raise…

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