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

OOO and Anthropos: Graham Harman responds

Adam Robbert and Graham Harman have both posted responses to my post about the anthrodecentrism of object-oriented ontology.

I think Adam’s summary of my position as regards the relationship between divinity, nature, and humanity is quite accurate. He chose Raimon Panikkar‘s term “cosmotheandrism” to describe my approach. I’m definitely sympathetic to this characterization and have worked Panikkar’s ideas into several essays on panentheism.

Harman responded in particular to my assertion that OOO needs to articulate its anthropological and theological foundations to avoid spiraling into nihilism.

He writes:

Since footnotes2plato doesn’t seem inherently opposed to the OOO project, I assume that when he says that “OOO needs to unpack its own theological and anthropological implications,” he doesn’t mean that the way to do this is by restoring human being to its previous grandiose eminence. I don’t think footnotes2plato means that nihilism automatically results from putting all beings on the same footing, and if he did mean that I would argue against it.

I don’t think, after Copernicus, Darwin, and Freud, that philosophy should or can re-instate humanity as God’s uniquely chosen species, singled out from all other life. I also don’t think nihilism necessarily follows from a flat ontology. It all depends on how we construe the relationship between Cosmos and Anthropos. The species Homo sapiens is not identical to the Anthropos; rather, the latter represents the ideal toward which our species, like all other life, is striving. I follow much ancient Hermetic thought in construing the Anthropos as an archetype active throughout the Cosmos, a potential form of manifestation that, at least on our planet, has been most closely approximated by Homo sapiens. I, like Teilhard de Chardin, think there is a direction to evolution, a curve toward greater complexity and consciousness expressed through deeper interiority. Given enough time, and as a result of the influence of divine lures, the Universe tends to evolve the capacity for a deeper feeling of Beauty, a clearer sight of Truth, and a stronger will for Goodness. I think overcoming nihilism requires articulating a coherent “cosmotheandric” scheme, wherein the role of the human is to more fully realize its potential as a representative of the Anthropos on planet Earth.

I need to unpack some of these thoughts further, but I’m running out the door now. More soon!



6 responses to “OOO and Anthropos: Graham Harman responds”

  1. SR/OOO and Nihilism: a response to Harman and Bryant « Footnotes to Plato Avatar

    […] About the Author « OOO and Anthropos: Graham Harman responds […]

  2. […] been some follow up around the blogosphere. Matt, over at Footnotes to Plato responds to Graham here and me here. Tom Sparrow of Plastic Bodies has a nice follow-up here. Over at After Nature, Leon […]

  3. almafarag Avatar

    Hey Matt, I think Heidegger in his “Letter on Humanism” actually expresses a crucial aspect of the sentiments behind Harman’s and Bryant’s misgivings regarding ‘the divine’. (It’s almost funny how the word ‘object’ appears in this paragraph but the intended meaning is clearly in line with OOO and anti-correlationalism). So here it goes:

    “To think against “values” is not to maintain that everything interpreted as “a value” – “culture, “art,” “science,” human dignity,” “world,” and “God”- is valueless. Rather, it is important finally to realize that precisely through the characterization of something as “a value” what is so valued is robbed of its worth. That is to say, by the assessment of something as a value what is valued is admitted only as an object for man’s estimation. But what a thing is in its Being is not exhausted by its being an object, particularly when objectivity takes the form of value. Every valuing, even where it values positively, is a subjectivizing. It does not let beings: be. Rather, valuing lets beings: be valid – solely as the objects of its doing. The bizarre effort to prove the objectivity of values does not know what it is doing. When one proclaims “God” the altogether “highest value,” this is a degradation of God’s essence. Here as elsewhere thinking in values is the greatest blasphemy imaginable against Being. To think against values therefore does not mean to beat the drum fro the valuelessness and nullity of beings. It means rather to bring the lighting of the truth of Being before thinking, as against subjectivizing beings into mere objects”

    1. Matthew David Segall Avatar

      Thanks for this excerpt. I agree with Heidegger here. I would not want to say that God is the highest value. When Whitehead employs the term “God,” he isn’t referring to an “object” in Heidegger’s sense, but to that actual occasion underlying the ideals and feelings of every being. So God is not something to be valued, God is the very source of values.

      1. almafarag Avatar

        I see, but we can extrapolate and say that thinking in terms of teleology (meaning) and hierarchy is evaluative and therefore reductive… creativity as a principle is more broader and much more neutral than a scheme of truth, beauty and goodness allows for…

  4. Cosmos, Anthropos, and Theos in Harman, Teilhard, and Whitehead « Footnotes to Plato Avatar

    […] OOO and Anthropos: Graham Harman responds (footnotes2plato.com) […]

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