“The safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato.”
–Alfred North Whitehead

Object as subject-superject, or why Harman is wrong about Whitehead

Graham Harman and Alfred North Whitehead have a lot in common, but they differ in what they say about substance as a metaphysical category. I think Harman overstates this difference. Whitehead suggests “the whole universe consists of elements disclosed in the experiences of subjects” (Process and Reality, p. 166). This multiple disclosure of the One is an ongoing creative process, where the momentary subject (or “superject”) who apprehends the universe’s local appearance becomes a monad, a word Whitehead remarks “expresses [the subject’s] essential unity at the decisive moment, which stands between its birth and its perishing” (PR, p. 88). In this moment of concrescence, “the many become one, and are increased by one.”

Whitehead, then, does recognize the way in which an actual entity withdrawals from its relations and qualities: it does so precisely as a subject. An object’s (or “subject-superject’s,” in Whitehead’s terms) private subsistence apart from the sensual world is fleeting, almost immediately perishing back into the world, but because in this brief moment it enjoys and decides upon the ideal possibilities of its own future, it adds something new to the cosmic process. An object is withdrawn, for Whitehead, because this enjoyment and decision can never be directly caused by any of its relations.



10 responses to “Object as subject-superject, or why Harman is wrong about Whitehead”

  1. Graham Harman’s “The Quadruple Object” available on Amazon (via Object-Oriented Philosophy) « Minimal ve Maksimal Yazılar Avatar

    […] Object as subject-superject, or why Harman is wrong about Whitehead (footnotes2plato.com) […]

  2. Gary Smith Avatar

    I have a philosophy or way of doing philosophy that is very different from yours, which is really irrelevant, but I, nonetheless, sure do like your way of writing. It is smooth and clear and very orderly. It is a sheer pleasure to read. And your appearance on Youtube is downright pretty. Like most young people you do carry on and on about others a little too much for us older guys, who are all ready all too familiar with them, and not enough about your own philosophy, which would be of much more interest—at least to me. Thanks for the good read.

    1. Matthew David Segall Avatar

      Thanks for stopping by, Gary. I’ve been posting videos on youtube for about 4 years, and many of those posted in the last 2 or 3 have mostly consisted of my attempt to digest the ideas I’ve encountered while in graduate school. You’ve reminded me of the importance of putting the books down once in a while to let my own perspective develop more freely.

  3. Process Ontology in Schelling and Whitehead « Footnotes to Plato Avatar

    […] and in this sense, every object has its own time. As I’ve outlined, albeit briefly, in another post, Whitehead does not entirely reduce the substance of an object to its relations as he is often […]

  4. […] “connectionist” though I’m throwing him in with the PP camp).  Similarly, Matt Segall has, on several occasions, posited that Whitehead himself does not in fact reduce any entities to […]

  5. Towards a Cosmotheandric Re-orientation: Response to Knowledge-Ecology « Footnotes to Plato Avatar

    […] withdrawnness) precisely because it is a process of becoming (I’ve developed the reasons why here and here). 37.774929 -122.419415 Advertisement Eco World Content From Across The Internet. […]

  6. Further evidence that Whitehead was already object-oriented… « Footnotes to Plato Avatar

    […] Object as subject-superject, or why Harman is wrong about Whitehead (footnotes2plato.com) […]

  7. Individuals and the Whole in Process Ontology | Footnotes to Plato Avatar

    […] is something I’ve explored in connection with Harman’s object-oriented ontology (HERE and HERE). Harman points to process ontologists like Whitehead and says they ignore the irreducible […]

  8. Levi Bryant Misreading Whitehead? « Footnotes 2 Plato Avatar

    […] think Bryant is making the same mistake about Whitehead that Harman makes. See my earlier post in response to Harman. 37.774929 -122.419415 Rate this:Share this:FacebookTwitterDiggEmailPrintLike this:LikeBe the […]

  9. Phenomenology and Ontology: Merleau-Ponty, Whitehead, and the Flesh of the World | Footnotes 2 Plato Avatar

    […] that Whitehead reduces individual occasions of experience to their global relations (HERE, HERE, HERE). Like Varela, who attempts to displace the old substantialist self with a more […]

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