The theories Harman offers are entitled Object-Oriented Ontology, setting on aesthetics, due to a timely requirement: what is out there to be recognised. For Harman, OOO is to define in particular the bonds and tensions between things through an ontological focus on their constituents and effectives (p51). He also presents a method that replaces the typical modern model of subject-object binary by a quadruple structure designed by himself.
// The Problematic Quadruple
In the quadruple structure, Harman put in category the real object(RO) and real quality(RQ), the sensual object(SO) and sensual quality(SQ). The sensual pair SO/SQ is originally of the subjectivity as discussed by Husserl and Heidegger, and the real pair RO/RQ comes from theory of the objectivity propelled by Leibniz's concept of essence to which Harman addresses. The quadruple structure can be seen as a design for organising various propositions into harmony relationship.
If it were Harman’s intention to identify the subject sensation as objective then there would be a rupture in epistemology that he has to appropriate. Differed from the modern solitary meditation bequeathed by Descartes’ cogito “I think that I am”, Harman emphasised on “it is that it thinks” instead (p192). The difficulty appears as letting objectivity liberate subject or corrupt.
To my view, Harman is presenting new epistemology by reasoning ontology. The precedent epistemological theory are aware of a duty for self behaviours and so ready to be blamed for being false or untrue. But Harman’s OOO recedes such moral ability to a nihilist inertia asking for excuses. It is not disputable to view it as certain retrograde in humanity as resigning subject to the object. It is an emancipation of subject as well as a surrender to self-knowledge.
Avoiding the subjective, OOO finds itself a canny way to enable moral revision trans-disciplinarily. The moral revision allows it to announce a harmony relationship between human beings and everything else, by leveling off human being as equivalent to things. It sees everything as sensual matter, rather than spiritual or energetic. Therefore the spiritual intellect that human beings preserved is eliminated. It proves that Harman favours Latour’s secular perspective more than Whitehead’s metaphysical one (p166).
// Aesthetics Replacing Metaphysics
Despite the problematics, there are still interesting topics offered by Harman. Firstly, he features aesthetics as the first philosophy replacing metaphysics (p260), and as the positive understanding of the mission of art (p102) which for the postmodern anti-aesthetics is the context instead.
Harman regards aesthetics to metaphor. For him, metaphor is the aesthetically objective presentation of real objects (RO), since real objects(RO), for Harman, are withheld from any access or relation (p181). Accordingly, Harman regards knowledge to paradigm. It refers to Kuhn’s paradigm shifts. Harman pronounces that knowledge aesthetically attains grasp of the real qualities (RQ) from the sensual object (SQ) (p170). Real quality (RQ) can be found in the unnoticed background assumptions that make it visible to us (p189). This unarticulated “background assumptions” is the setting of paradigm.
Metaphor represents real objects, while paradigm attains real qualities. It seems that for Harman metaphor and paradigm are the two capacities to distinguish the real from the sensual, in other words, to realise what is originally sensual. Is it not at all but a mundane process to objectivise what is subjective?
Regarding metaphor and paradigm, Harman is suggesting the determined process of realisation as object-oriented. It is encouraging human practice to fulfill its function through following the information gathered from the object. Since the subjective nature of aesthetics that determines qualification, he attempts to objectivise aesthetics in a way in which paradigm controls quality. For Harman, as long as inhabiting in the quadruple structure of object-oriented ontology, the mission of art as aesthetics would receive universal value.
The second interesting topic concerns with logic as speculative. Harman introduces the term vicarious causation - a logical process that takes place in the theatrical model of aesthetics (p149-150). As a logical process, vicarious causation performs the function to justify a particular kind of knowledge: knowledge without truth. That is the knowledge of Kuhn’s paradigm.
Since Harman established OOO on the safe-ground of aesthetics where ascribes to no scientific truth, it imagines the human cognitive mind as a site, or a theatrical stage, for speculation. Apparently, speculation is his answer to the question of truth. Speculation is a compelled belief, an artificial truth, which Harman called “justified untrue belief”. The aesthetics as cognitive site creates its own object in the very act of believing it (p181), so as to believe OOO.
// Eventual Wake?
However it is said the aesthetics of metaphoring and believing exhausts not the human subject, but that of the object, I notice that a process of qualification from information to knowledge has involved. This is a process that can hardly prevent itself from truthification, unless it excludes the believing in speculation. For believing entails the will to truth. Knowledge without truth doesn’t force itself to be believed but does apt to be appreciated by virtue, by a good aesthetics.
Paradigm as knowledge without truth, is best written by Kierkegaard, as Harman quotes, “that we will never have enough proof to justify our life-choices, but must make a decision despite incomplete evidence”(p192). It is true to life-choice as well as to aesthetic-choice. If it is not exhausting subject, then there should be an inexhaustible object affordable. For Kierkegaard, it is Christianity. What is it for OOO?
I would not like such a question to mark the eventual wake of Harman's labouring inferences. If it is the digital object of essentially computation that inspired Harman expanding the theory to everything, it will help a lot resend OOO back to computational aesthetics, the subject of Fazi. For the process of metaphor-aesthetics has been widely exercised in the contemporary digital art.
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