Environment and Planning D 28 (5):1-17 (2010)

Authors
Graham Harman
American University in Cairo
Abstract
This paper criticizes two forms of philosophical materialism that adopt opposite strategies but end up in the same place. Both hold that individual entities must be banished from philosophy. The first kind is ground floor materialism, which attempts to dissolve all objects into some deeper underlying basis; here, objects are seen as too shallow to be the truth. The second kind is first floor materialism, which treats objects as naive fictions gullibly posited behind the direct accessibility of appearances or relations; here, objects are portrayed as too deep to be the truth. One major thesis of this paper is that these two forms of materialism are parasitical on one another and need each other's resources to make sense of the world. The second major thesis is that both forms of materialism thereby stand condemned, and that philosophy must be rebuilt from the individual objects that the two forms of materialism disdain. These points are made through a detailed consid- eration of the book Every Thing Must Go by the analytic structural realists James Ladyman and Don Ross, which has gained a surprising following among some speculative realists in continental philosophy. Ladyman and Ross claim to preserve objects by treating them as ``real patterns'', but they do so at the price of destroying their autonomous reality. Furthermore, they are unable to tell us whether the mathematical structures they see as the basis of human knowledge are also the basis of reality itself. In short, their ontology is scientism for scientism's sake (or `Bunsen burner realism') and must be eliminated in favor of a genuine realist metaphysics of objects.
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