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The Philosopher’s New Clothes: An Introductory Survey into Object-Oriented Ontology

I haven’t written much this summer because, as you know if you follow me on Twitter, I have been involved in a summer-long research project. As I mentioned at the start of my last post, Latour and the “Arche-Fossil,” “[o]ver the past many weeks I’ve been doing research into Speculative Realism and Object-Oriented Ontology (SR/OOO) by reading the works of Quentin Meillassoux, Graham Harman, Ian Bogost, Bruno Latour, and Levi Bryant.” This project has culminated in 6 chapter paper entitled The Philosopher’s New Clothes: An Introductory Survey into Object-Oriented Ontology that will be bound and published at my local university and will, of course, be available for you all to read here.

The abstract, for those interested, is:

My project for the past 10 weeks has been the study of the philosophical movements of Speculative Realism and Object-Oriented Ontology as developed by a few prominent philosophers: Graham Harman, Bruno Latour, Levi Bryant, Ian Bogost, and Quentin Meillassoux. My paper starts by analyzing the critical stance post-Kantian philosophy takes and its view (dubbed “correlationism” by Meillassoux) where subjectivity reigns supreme and knowledge of any real world external to the mind is impossible. I then examine Harman, Bryant, Bogost, and Latour’s philosophies and explicate their views as well as compare and contrast them to each other. The project concludes with a chapter where I reflect upon these individuals’ ontologies and offer my own ontology of objects. My hope is that this project will serve as the first building block in a larger project aimed to aggregate the wide ranging and disparate views of Speculative Realists and Object-Oriented Ontologists. In the end, this longer term project is intended to serve as a primer, if you will, for those interested in Speculative Realism and Object-Oriented Ontology.


John LOOOcke – An Object-Oriented Ontological Critique of Lockean Property Acquisition

Part 0: Meta

What follows is a retooled version of a paper I wrote a while ago for a political science class. I did some reworking and editing both to make the argument better as well as to make sure the formatting was decent (eg. photos, relevant addons, etc.), but nevertheless, I hope you enjoy it!

 Part 1: Introduction

Although John Locke’s conception of the generation of private property from common property is profound in that it provided a new, pre-materialist[1], model of understanding how private property and value are created, it, like so many other historical models, has its own issues. Specifically, Locke’s view of nature as the common gift given by God to man in order to exploit for his own devices – namely for man to act upon and change to create value and property – is a fundamentally troublesome way of viewing the world because it defines humans as the sole arbiters of valuation and value creation by elevating the ontological status of humans above non-human objects in the world thus privileging an anthropocentric mindset. The creation of, what I call, an arborescent ontology that is inherent in this mode of thinking not only has been the justification for the destruction/objectification[2] of Indigenous Peoples (among other, “lesser” beings) and the expansion into America that Locke mentions, but also is a poor epistemic starting point for understanding policy making and governmentality as it already assumes some inherent “natural order” or teleological end point and is not self-reflective. This paper serves to function as an object-oriented ontological/epistemological critique of Locke’s concept of value creation and the implications thereof – the implications being arborescent ontology – in favor of a less hierarchical[3], more or rhizomatic ontology – flat ontology.

Before continuing, however, I feel as though some key terms and concepts ought to be defined and described in order to avoid confusion later on. Although I am using words like “arborescent” and “rhizomatic” in their Deleuze and Guattarian sense, I do not intend to drag along the baggage that comes with Deleuze and his seeming disdain for non-human object focus. When I say “arborescent ontology” I mean a very hierarchical focus on understanding being in the world such that one’s description of is very rigid and tree-like, that is to say very “unidirectional”.[4] When the rhizome is discussed (in the context of rhizomatic forms of knowledge), I mean less rigid and more free flowing – that is, grass like – forms of knowledge and understanding (at the least, bidirectional and arguably polydirectional).[5] Finally, when object-oriented ontology is discussed, I feel like there is no better definition than the following one given by Ian Bogost: [6]

Ontology is the philosophical study of existence. Object-oriented ontology (“OOO” for short) puts things at the center of this study. Its proponents contend that nothing has special status, but that everything exists equally–plumbers, cotton, bonobos, DVD players, and sandstone, for example. In contemporary thought, things are usually taken either as the aggregation of ever smaller bits (scientific naturalism) or as constructions of human behavior and society (social relativism). OOO steers a path between the two, drawing attention to things at all scales (from atoms to alpacas, bits to blinis), and pondering their nature and relations with one another as much with ourselves.[7]

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