Similarly, if Levi-Strauss is a “critical” philosopher, this is because he shows how certain ethnographic phenomena are dependent upon certain structures of thought and language (the famous structures). If Derrida is a critical philosopher, then this is not because he shows how “the conditions of possibility are also the conditions of impossibility” (though he shows this too), but more fundamentally because he shows how “things” like differance, arche-writing, trace, etc., are conditions for manifestation or phenomenality or texts.
Foucault is a critical philosopher because he shows how power and discourse are conditions for the regimes of the visible and articulable within a punctualized historical framework. And, of course, the phenomenologists are critical philosophers as they show how a particular phenomena is dependent on a constitution and giving through intuition (though contemporary phenomenology has moved far beyond these beginnings). [...]
No, a call to reject the model of critique is instead a call to reject the form of the Kantian argument whereby philosophy is to investigate the relationship between a subject and an object, our mode of cognition of objects, as if our access to objects were exhaustive of what objects are. Here the argument would be that this mode of philosophizing conflates two distinct questions: the question of our access to objects and the question of what objects are. There are all sorts of problems with this conflation– and I’ll outline a number of them in The Democracy of Objects –but in the meantime I cannot recommend highly enough Roy Bhaskar’s A Realist Philosophy of Science which, in many respects, is a foundational text for speculative realist ontology.
If the anti-realists are really serious about their positions, if they’re really serious about being “critical” in the ordinary language sense of the term, then they’ll take the time to actually read through Bhaskar’s arguments and work through them. In the absence of such a challenging encounter, I cannot but feel that the so called “critical philosophers” (in the precise philosophical sense of the term) are not repeating a dogma (in the worst possible sense of the term) of the last 300 years of philosophy, rather than really advancing a critical argument.
The Democracy of Objects: An Essay in Object-Oriented Ontology
Projected Table of Contents
1. Introduction– What is the relation between relations and relata? The relation between relations and relata as a key problem in contemporary epistemology and ontology as a result of the anti-realist turn which argues that philosophy should interrogate our mode of cognition of objects rather than objects themselves (i.e., our relation to objects); The problem with relational conceptions of being; realism as a four letter word, the difference between realist epistemology, anti-realist epistemology, anti-realist ontology, and realist ontology; not your daddy’s realism; a respectful nod to Lee Braver; outline of the book.
2. Copernican Revolutions– What is humanism?; A diagnosis of the Ptolemaic orientation of contemporary philosophy; the call for a true Copernican ontology, arguments for a transcendental realism; the difference between transcendental realism, empirical realism, and transcendental idealism; the problem with epistemological and ontological relationism. Here I will rework a number of Bhaskar’s arguments for realist ontology while distinguishing my ontology and, more broadly, object-oriented ontology from Bhaskar’s position. In addition to this I’ll probably take up some of Harman’s critique of the arguments of transcendental idealism as well. What is a transcendental argument? Transcendental realism and transcendental idealism; blackboxes. Surprise. [...]
7. Objects of Interpretation: Latour’s thesis that all objects interpret one another, not just humans interpreting the world about them or texts interpreting texts; the theory of translation among split or withdrawn objects; Doctrine of black boxes; the “withdrawal” of objects. Basically an account of what happens when objects interact with one another and how no object is a vehicle for other objects in-forming another object through a transparent, frictionless medium; entropy and work; the problem of ports and firewalls or how do objects communicate?; the doctrine of selectivity or “not all objects communicate!”
And in the meantime, I agree with him that people in our vicinity ought to be reading Roy Bhaskar’s A Realist Philosophy of Science more seriously and more frequently. When a book still feels fresh at age 35, it’s a good sign. [...]
One of the thrills of authors such as Bhaskar and DeLanda (who admires Bhaskar a great deal) is that they give a rather different story in which it is the anti-realist alternative that looks fossilized and oppressive and in need of being left behind. [...]
Hence the great value of Lee Braver’s A Thing of This World, which with all the candor required by the present situation, pretty much says: “yup, continental philosophy is an anti-realist movement all the way.” And though in my view Braver ought to be a lot angrier about that fact, I think he sizes up the situation perfectly well. (I disagree on his big gap between early and late Heidegger, and also disagree with the near-total exclusion of Husserl from his history, and also with the celebration of Foucault and Derrida in the last chapters. But he’s a strong reader of all these texts anyway, and has emerged as a rather important author among the younger continentals due to the encyclopedic power of his book.)