Month: July 2012

Graham Harman interview at fasanyic

Here. Good, clear read, though he again discusses his notion of time, which I still find quixotic:

Time in my model is nothing but the tension between sensual objects and their sensual qualities. What gives us the sensation of time passing is the fact that the same sensual objects endure for a certain period even though there is a constant shimmering of qualities along their surface….From this model it should become clear why time is always reversible but space never is, or never perfectly so. Time concerns nothing but the superficial drama of surface qualities swirling atop a sensual object that is somewhat durable but ultimately unreal. (My emphases)

He then mentions memory and such as that which “reverses” time since it’s just sensual anyway. But I’m also not clear what space not being reversible means. Does this mean that things cannot change their relation. I can only suppose so, since space itself is itself an inner relation of the object between its real self and its  sensual qualities, which obviates questions about spacial relations among different objects, as in Heideggerian deseverance, which calls into question previous ideas of space.

Well played Kotsko

He finds a Zizek quote that allows one to review a book without, um, reading it. And given the his Less Than Nothing is 1200 pages, that’s quite a help:

The same principle of “less is more” holds for reading the body of a book: in his wonderfulHow to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read, Pierre Bayard demonstrates (taking an ironic line of reasoning which is ultimately meant quite seriously) that, in order to really formulate the fundamental insight or achievement of a book, it is generally betternot to read it all–too much data only blurs our clear vision. For example, many essays on Joyce’s Ulysses–and often the best ones –were written by scholars who had not read the whole book; the same goes for books on Kant or Hegel, where a truly detailed knowledge only gives rise to a boring specialist exegesis, rather than living insights. The best interpretations of Hegel are always partial: they extrapolate the totality from a particular figure of thought or of dialectical movement. As a rule, it is not a reading of a thick book by Hegel himself, but some striking, detailed observation–often wrong or at least one-sided–made by an interpreter that allows us to grasp Hegel’s thought in its living movement.

I must admit it’s my first thought when reading the quick reviews already out on the book: did they really read all of it?

Harman on Meillassoux and the Future God

Here. He discusses how he those portions of L’Inexistence divine made their way into his Meillassoux book.

So this bats down the idea that he somehow selected these excerpts maliciously. But here’s another theory going around. At the U of Tasmania, I was talking with someone who knows the French scene well and had heard that Meillassoux was distancing himself from speculative realism and this part of his work in particular.

At which point, I said: well there’s not just his dissertation and the 2003 revision, but also the fact that the “Spectral Dilemma” and other essays mentioning the Future God have been published by him in just the past couple of years. This is a position he has had for some 15 years. As Harman says:

The theory of the virtual God, and everything connected with it, is not some discredited piece of Meillassoux juvenlia that he might wish to hide in a box in the attic. He is quite proud of it, will be publishing a full-blown systematic version of it, and is rather skilled at defending it.

Well, the latter is debatable based on the evidence thus far–he makes no mention of the problem of evil and the whole literature combating his depiction of a world with God as it stands; has no way to differentiate between the possible God and any other Great Being being possible, etc. One can have a theology like George Costanza: the only God would be one that persecutes me even more, etc. Let’s let George at it:

George: God would never let me be successful; he’d kill me first. He’d never let me be happy.

Therapist: I thought you didn’t believe in God?

George: I do for the bad things.

There is nothing more off-putting to me about Meillassoux’s work than this future God stuff. But then, I’m a thinker of finitude.

When you used to read the critique of eternity in Heidegger and Derrida, part of the affect was that this pinning of presence to the eternal was itself some sort of hope for the eternal human, but you would think no one actually puts those two together. Meillassoux does. And frankly, his writing on this is sovereignly hubristic (judging the dead now as having no meaning unless they are resurrected [recall, he is thinking about the Holocaust and other mass killings–think about that for a moment], giving no argument but presupposing what a God-given world would be, etc.).

I’ve given a couple of lectures on this part of his work here in Australia–if you have any sympathy for his work, I suggest you don’t lead with that if you want to convince people he’s an important thinker. (That’s wasn’t my task–mine was to point out problematic conceptions of time, which he shares with Badiou in important ways.)

No, this is a central part of his writing since 1997: communism is not of this world, but literally of the next. Only a God–“an ontological rupture”–can save us.