Author: joe

Wednesday, 24 November, 2010 - 23:51

- on the excess in the image-world.

... there is an absolute gulf between Heidegger's readiness-to-hand and presence-at-hand. No real passage between them is possible, since the tool as a brutal subterranean energy and as a shining, tangible surface are utterly incommensurable ... it should be clear that every entity is ready-to-hand ... in the primary sense of "in the act of being", of unleashing itself upon the environment ... All of reality ... lies in a state of "metabolism" between the unchecked fury of tool-beings and the alluring facades through which we alone encounter them. (The Theory of Objects in Heidegger and Whitehead)
I always find myself deployed amidst a specific geography of objects, each of them withdrawing from view into a dark primal integrity that neither our theories nor our practices can ever exhaust. (A Fresh Look at Zuhandenheit)
If an object is always a vast surplus beyond its relations of the moment, it has to be asked how those as-yet unexpressed qualities are stored up for the future ... I am convinced that objects far exceed their interactions with other objects, and the question is what this excess is, and where it is. (The Revival of Metaphysics in Continental Philosophy)
Towards Speculative Realism by Graham Harman

I'm not attempting (or competent, not being a philosopher) to address the what and where of the excess of Harman's objects. I'm initially interested in Harman's way of characterising the presence of objects, and how different it is to Heidegger's attitude to Vorhandenheit. Where the latter denigrates the coming-to-presence of things in the world (as Harman notes, through the insistent epithet, 'mere'), the latter is always keen to celebrate it. Surfaces shine, sparkle and glitter; they are volatile, luminous, phosphorescent, radiant, resonant, dazzling; with faces, haloes, auras. This is not to say that he is less complimentary towards the withdrawing, strife-filled unleashing of the ready-to-hand, volcanic, turbulent, violent, primal tool-beings as they surge and thrust into the world.

Indeed this rich and exuberant world-surface constantly coming into action and awareness - the sensuous menagerie of the equally-footed animate and inanimate entities that jostle and strew the ground of the universe - seems to me to be just as excess-bearing as the long withdrawing surplus borne by the irreducible and unreachable inner core of real objects. That image world is right there, burning incessantly, coming about its business, hurtling out of the future rather than left over from the inertia of the past.

So I wonder then, what if we took the same steps with Harman's take on the "Heideggerian drama of revealed and concealed" as we took with Goffman's front and back personae: what the revealed hides is not a concealed substance, but its absence. Can we remove the 'effects' part of 'surface-effects', since there is now no causal agent hidden from view? Can the performance of the image be what facilitates the existence of the executant reality?

I realise of course that I'm veering away from Harman's specific arguments here, toward either Husserl's magical intentional objects which bleed sensual qualities without decohering, or toward re-instating a Kantian a priori apparatus which provides the form for the world's inhabitants to take up. But I'm not equipped to argue these points. Rather I just want to dispel hidden realities which betray their appearances, or illusory facades which belie some more authentic realm. Perhaps it is the same impulse which makes me recoil from the psychoanalytical requirement of a furniture of the mind - an unconscious which structures the conscious without permitting access to it. I don't want to bridge the abyss: I want to obviate the need for the bridge by unconjuring the abyss - closing the gap.

Thus I'm willing to concede I'm master of nothing, just as long as I can also say that friends who may turn out to be backstabbing machinators and sophists made themselves so not out of an inevitable and inscrutable essence, but because of the actions and interactions that they and I perform and enact - hence leaving the door open for such outcomes to be inverted: should we present alternative images, then we should unfold alternative executions in the world.

Categories: Graham Harman, Martin Heidegger, vorhandenheit, zuhandenheit, presence-at-hand, readiness-to-hand, surface, image, executant, world, being, gap,
Comments: 5


"I just want to dispel hidden realities which betray their appearances, or illusory facades which belie some more authentic realm... I don't want to bridge the abyss: I want to obviate the need for the bridge by unconjuring the abyss - closing the gap."
Conjuring the gap! Precisely. The world is much more intimate in nature that the gap-conjurers would have us believe.
Here is what I wrote on my blog some time ago:
I think that when we investigate into how perception works in the world, and in ourselves and other animals, we never actually find some inter-mediate gap between two entities where qualities ‘appear’ to one or both of those entities in excess of any entity’s actual constituent-being.
You can the entire post on 'Emanating Sensations and Immanent Properties' here:

Author: michael Sent: 2010-11-30 19:58:27

i just posted a riff off your post here:
I'd be interested in your comments.

Author: michael Sent: 2010-12-01 08:00:36

michael, thanks for your messages, I'll certainly have a look at your posts today. I love the idea of us being "intimate" with the world around us :-)

Author: joe Sent: 2010-12-01 08:56:39

Sounds good Joe. I love the notion of intimacy as well. I almost use it as a formal term to signify both the deep embeddedness of all things in the cosmos, as well as our ability to know it (at least partially). Ontological intimacy allows us to experience the Real world directly but partially.

Author: michael Sent: 2010-12-01 16:51:57

I've responded to your post over at your blog, michael, but repeat it here too:
I'm very much on board with your emphasis on immanence, and am reminded of Albert Hoffman's remark that there is no objective reality separate from our nervous system. So we are in a constantly shifting ecological relationship with the world in which we are enmeshed. I'm also attracted to the notion of embodied knowing that isn't just centred on representational knowledge, but that considers touch, care and intimacy as fundamental aspects of the connection between people and things, as well as understanding and cognition. I don't yet fully understand Graham's position on vicarious causation, so need to look into that, but nevertheless find a melancholy trouble in the idea that real things in the world are hopelessly cut off from each other… an uncanny feeling at odds with the exuberance of his account of the sensuous realm.

Author: joe Sent: 2010-12-01 18:46:08

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