Speculative Realism @ CIIS: “Here Comes Everything”

[For a text review and audio recording of the presentations, click HERE.]

Here Comes Everything:An Introduction to Speculative Realism

Featuring Keynote Speaker Professor Jacob Sherman at 830pm

Food and beverages will be provided!

When: Friday, April 8th , 5:30-9:30pm (with a break at 7:15)

Where: The California Institute of Integral Studies, Room 210

5:30pm – “The History of Access: An Introduction to the Speculative Turn” w/ Adam Robbert and Sam Mickey

Since Kant initiated a Copernican turn in philosophy, the trajectory of philosophy has steered away from a serious study of ontology and metaphysics, entrenching itself ever deeper into epistemology, critique, and language analysis. Rather than studying the reality of things in themselves, philosophers have devoted the majority of their efforts to studying access, or the ways humans come to interpret things and the world. This move to access (i.e., correlationism) has had many benefits, from compelling critiques of philosophies and social systems to profound explorations of the relationships intertwining humans with the world.  However, a new movement is bringing forth with renewed intensity a passion for speculating about the weird and wild reality of things in themselves. Dubbed Speculative Realism, this movement questions philosophies of access and seeks to return to philosophical engagements with the real world. This short introduction to the history of access since Kant provides a background for the following presentations that, in their own ways, contemplate the meaning and value of the speculative turn.

6:00pm – “Ganga: River, Goddess, Thing” – Elizabeth McAnally

This presentation explores the philosophy of Bruno Latour through an account of Ganga, the Ganges River of Northern India.  By considering various perspectives of Ganga (including those from sciences, religions, and politics), it is possible to see how this river-goddess can be understood as a “thing” in terms of object-oriented philosophy, such that it is an actor in a complex network of relations.  Latour’s sense of water democracy can help us take into account multiple perspectives regarding Ganga, from local to international levels, bringing these perspectives into dialogue with each other so that comprehensive, long-term solutions to water issues can be reached.

6:25pm – “The Astonishing Depths of Things” – Sam Mickey

Sam will give an overview of Graham Harman’s object-oriented philosophy—a form of speculative realism—by highlighting Harman’s postsecular integration of three philosophical movements: 1) phenomenology, including Martin Heidegger (whose phenomenology indicates that all objects are withdrawn and not exhausted by theoretical or practical relations) as well as Emmanuel Levinas, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, and Alphonso Lingis (“carnal phenomenologists” who articulate the elemental medium through which things interact), 2) process-relational philosophy, particularly Bruno Latour and Alfred North Whitehead, for whom human-world relations are not primary but are merely a special case of any relation, different only by degree, and 3) occasionalist philosophy, which asserts that objects do not touch each other directly but only through occasional causation (Harman’s “vicarious causation”).  A call echoes throughout object-oriented philosophy and, hopefully, throughout most of 21stcentury philosophy: to rejuvenate our sense of astonishment and renew our contact with things themselves.

6:50pm – “Objects in Action: Promiscuous Explorations of an Ecological Realism” – Adam Robbert

Alfred North Whitehead is considered one of the most formidable philosophers of the 20th century, and certainly one of its most metaphysically inspired. Bruno Latour was perhaps one of the first to make serious use of Whitehead’s cosmology in an applied research setting.  Rethinking Whitehead’s “actual occasion” with the term “actor,” Latour initiated an ontological depiction of reality that led to a novel interpretation of the construction of scientific facts and a description of ecology that leveled the distinction between ecology and society without resorting to reductionism. At the beginning of the 21st century, Graham Harman sought to return to the adventure of metaphysics by again transforming the notion of the “actor” into the more general term “object.” Harman’s object-oriented philosophy follows both Whitehead and Latour, but adds a surprising twist: the withdrawn nature of all objects. Adam will engage objects to forward a notion of “ecological realism,” the startling suggestion that ecology is not the study of organisms in relation to their environments, but rather the study of objects in relation to their environments. Such an experiment in thinking lends to the unusual hypothesis: ecology goes all the way down.

— 20 Minute Break: Snacks and Refreshments! —

7:35pm – “Wizards, Corpses, and Ferris Wheels: The Ever-Weird Frontiers of Enlightened Activity” – Aaron Weiss

What can we learn from the dialogue between Graham Harman’s “Object-Oriented Ontology” and Buddhism? In his presentation, Aaron will articulate some of the work that lies ahead for those wishing to explore this uncharted territory. Incorporating themes of mindfulness, myth, and liberation into a discussion of interobjective relations, Aaron’s presentation will ask participants to think about these subjects in new ways, suggesting novel patterns of thought beyond both dualism and monism.

8:00pm – “Schelling’s Naturephilosophy: Platonic Lessons for Speculative Realism” – Matt Segall

In his study of Schelling’s naturephilosophy (Philosophies of Nature After Schelling, 2006), Iain Hamilton Grant offers a novel characterization that supplants the vitalist and idealist labels usually attached to him. The speculative realist movement is full of delightfully strange ideas, but Schelling’s naturephilosophy presents an especially surprising case study. Schelling breaks the correlationist circle imposed by Kantian transcendentalism by thinking the becoming of the universe with Plato, of all people, whose philosophy is generally considered to be the paradigm case of idealism. Grant’s reading of Plato’s physics challenges those who would call him a two-world metaphysician. Instead, Plato is interpreted as a participatory realist, struggling to account for the way Ideas are realized in the becoming of the universe. My presentation will review Schelling’s speculative response to Kant’s transcendentalism by focusing on three texts: Schelling’s “Ideas for a Philosophy of Nature,” Kant’s “Critique of Judgment,” and Plato’s “Timaeus.” I will argue for the plausibility of Schelling’s geocentric response to Kant’s Copernican Revolution, wherein the earth itself becomes the transcendental ground of human consciousness.

8:30pm – Keynote, “Participatory Realism: Two Cheers for Meillassoux” – Professor Jacob Sherman

**The title alludes to Finnegans Wake (“HCE,” “Here comes everybody”) and to the UCLA conference on SR and OOO (“Hello, Everything”).


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