I’ve just finished Harman’s Guerilla Metaphysics, and I’m thoroughly confused by what he had to say about time and space in the final pages. The following is an initial attempt to sort through a small bit of the chaos he has made of the cosmos I am yearning to inhabit.
An object is anything that stands apart from the sum total of its relations. It is an entity defined by its unique difference from every other entity. Yet what exactly this difference is cannot be finally defined, since the object-in-itself recedes infinitely from any attempt to gain access to its essence. But the style of the object in question can still be more or less adequately described, since it leaves hints, omens, and signs in its wake.
Let us pick two objects in particular to examine: “I” myself and the Earth. The first object seems the most nebulous, or even numinous. Am “I” myself an object like every other, or does the self-consciousness represented and enacted by the use of the word “I” make me a singular difference? If “I” am not ontologically distinct, but simply another example of objects in general, then is there something like “I”-ness at the core of every object?
When beginning to examine the second object, Earth, I immediately realize that this object was only very recently translated by spacecrafts with cameras into the blue and green spheroidal shape that I am imagining in my armchair, my body still planted firmly on Earth’s apparently flat surface. I remind myself that a seemingly irreversible rush of technological translation and transformation has entirely shifted our perception of this strange Earth-object in a very short period of time. It makes me wonder if philosophy can return to objectivity without ontologizing the evolutionary process that seems to underly this shift. Can philosophy avoid respecting the way that “time is invention or it is nothing at all,” as Bergson put it? Maybe it is only our perception of the Earth that has changed so radically, but then again, had an alien stopped by to check on this planet’s progress just 20,000 years ago, could it have predicted atom bombs and astronauts? Perhaps these inventions are just newly discovered notes of the same Earth-object’s song, somehow in tune with the essence of this rock since it first cooled down and hid its molten core beneath the surface.
I am uncertain, but intrigued by what the strangeness of this Earth-object might mean for the status of “I” myself in any regime of objects. Must I decenter myself to such an extent that this “I” no longer belongs exclusively to me, but instead to the the inner space of every object? Close up, the Earth-object is evidently flat. From far away, it is round. What is the real object, in this case? Does the Earth know? Can it? Can I?