Third Impression: Graham Harman
One thing I forgot to mention in the previous post was that the organizers for some reason impressed by an idea that I had used for a project “Incremental Intentions”. I showed the project to Enver Otku when we were getting to know each other on the first day. I did not realise Otku was impressed by this idea at the moment. A couple of days later I was approached by Huseyin, who has a very Bob Dylan-ish personality, to discuss their ideas for a piece of land they were developing which would host future summer schools and camps like this one. On the last day of the summer school I got the opportunity to the see the site with Ege, Ilke, and Eldem (if I remember the name correctly), along with two very excited dogs. The site was absolutely amazing, with some really spectacular views of the mountains towards the East. I gave a few suggestions on how to sequence the development of the site and the project. They were more than welcoming and open in hearing my thoughts. Later that day, Ilke dropped Otku and me to Izmir airport, which was a nice surprise.
Harman: The main attraction of the OOO Summer School was of course the Graham Harman himself. The context for the summer school was to in a way celebrate twent years of the publication of Tool-Being, Graham’s first publication, from 2002. In many ways, the publication of this book marked two interesting turns, difficult and tense as they can get, in the continental philosophy scene: 1) the turn towards the question of Realism -which either had a minor and even side-lined representation and 2) to turn the focus of philosophy to ontology once again. For some one like me, a new comer, these things hardly mattered when I first picked up Harman’s books. What mattered to me was that I was able to navigate this discipline or field called as philosophy with much more excitement and engagement than I, honestly, sometimes haven’t done with architecture or urbanism, disciplines I am trained in. In any case, it was a fitting occasion to attend the summer school and have an opportunity to be able to meet the philosopher himself -who has inspired me so much so far.
Harman arrived on the afternoon of the first day of the summer school. We soon learned that he has contracted COVID. Despite that, Harman mustered quite a bit of energy, maintained social distance as much as he can, wore his mask often, and with no fuss at all delivered his first lecture on schedule on the first day. The following day he was well rested and he gained quite a bit of momentum even in his delivery of lectures. He took all questions that came his way and I was truly impressed by the range and intensity of questions that were raised. He even encouraged all the participants to get in touch with him or discuss with him through the day. Many of us did. At lunch on the second day many people slowly gathered around Harman and many topics started unfurling. Especially the young students of philosophy had so much to share and talk to him. Harman keenly listened to everyone, responded whenever necessary, but never refused anyone of a discussion. Many topics of discussion emerged during lunch and dinner: sports, theology, religious studies, his future in the academic and philosophical circles, future of philosophy, his thoughts on Affordance theory, his own intellectual trajectory, among many other topics. He even took out a few minutes to discuss my idea for my dissertation proposal. I had a ton of things to speak with Harman, but somehow they all vanished at the moment of discussion. Overall, Harman came across as a person who is a very keen and open listener and a very subtle and sharp respondent. One of the colleagues pointed out an interesting aspect about Harman – his ability to not only remember people’s names but also their works -if he has come across in a more direct manner. Which I noticed as well.
Some points of discussions that came up with colleagues in the evenings:
Replace Object with Subject – Hegelian OOO?: Another suggestion that Ceyhan (pronounced Jehaan) is to replace the Real Object with the Hegelian Subject. Ceyhan’s suggestion, whatever his reasons and thoughts behind this idea might be, reminded me of the debate on OOO and panpsychism. If the fire does not access the real being of cotton, and vice-versa, then both fire and cotton are still sensing something about each other. And I see how replacing the Real Object with Subject might lead in an interesting direction with respect to the question of Panpsychism. I am not yet convinced on the subject matter, but provisionally I am with Harman when he refutes and resists OOO as a full blown panpsychism.
irfan and ilm: Ceyhan, besides taking very Kantian and Hegelian critique of Graham, made a very interesting comment in one of our discussions. While walking back to Ahmet’s car after a wonderful lunch, me and Ceyhan ended up talking about Sufism. Upon asking Ceyhan, if he knew what Irfan and Ilm meant, Ceyhan elaborated that Irfan is something like wisdom and Ilm is more like science or knowledge. He immediately made a remark about Harman, along this line: “I found Harman to be more on the side of Irfan rather than Ilm. I see myself more on the side of Ilm, and I would like to have equally Irfan as well.” It was a wonderful observation, one which Harman will be more than happy to agree, I guess. As Harman has repeatedly mentioned ‘philosophy is not wisdom or a form of knowledge, but it is a love of wisdom’. Or, philosophy as a path of learned ignorance.
Need for Real Time: On the last day, two points of discussion were brought forward by Hakan, for the closing session. (Harman was expected to attend all the intermediate sessions, but he and his wife had COVID). The two points were: 1) Energy (something that is brought forward in Rise of Realism) and 2) the question of time as problematised by Arjan Kleinherenbrink in his paper “The two times of objects”. The second point came up in the lecture presentations by Graham himself, and it was not really taken up further than raising the point. Except on the last day when Hakan was pointing at a possible way to introduce another kind of time (I do not recall what Hakan’s solution to the problem was at the moment). With respect to the first point, energy and its lack in OOO, Hakan contrasted Manuel DeLanda’s ontological starting points (matter and energy) with Harman’s (form and Sincerity). After Hakan’s presentation, I requested Hakan if I can add some thoughts with respect to the idea of energy in Harman’s system? Hakan kindly offered me the time. I had thought about this aspect after reading Rise of Realism, and had written a very short blog post perhaps last year of so (link). In my short presentation, I tried to approach the problem from another starting point, than the one I had outlined in the blog -while keeping some of the aspects from the blog. To put it briefly I thought it would be wonderful to elaborate the idea of energy in OOO if you start, not from Form, but from immaterialism. This avoids the materialist route of assuming that energy, like matter, is an omni-present field. The implication of this is that all energy is produced within a local causation (something that I would like to develop further). Another implication of this is that one need not depend on a precise mapping of chemicals firing neurons to understand what love, emotions, aesthetic experience, etc. are. These are interestingly energetic in their own way -not necessarily in an electromagnetic way only. Secondly, there are at least three ways in which Harman alludes to energy of objects: 1) Magnetism, 2) Emanation, and 3) Tension. Hakan encouraged me to develop these ideas further and publish it as well –I really thank Hakan for that encouragement. Hoping I will be able to type-out these thoughts and build them nicely soon.
In the next post I will briefly recollect my visit to first ever Greek ruins (in Turkey) called Ephesus.