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 An object is withdrawn, for Whitehead, because this enjoyment and decision can never be directly caused by any of its relations.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 Replies to “Object as subject-superject, or why Harman is wrong about Whitehead”

  1. 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. 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.

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