Graham Harman, “On Actors, Networks, and Plasma: Heidegger vs. Latour vs. Heidegger”, LSE, 2007/11/29

The Information Systems Research Forum hosted a talk …

Though Heidegger continues to solidify his status as the consensus “great philosopher” of the twentieth century, there are some obvious points of difficulty with his ontology. Latour strikes an effective blow on two of these points. First, he restores agency to non-human actors. Second, he revives a taste for concrete discussion of specific kinds of objects (trains, apricots, volcanoes).Yet there is one key weakness in Latour’s ontology that must be addressed: his relationism. The reality of an actor, for Latour, is defined by the way it affects, modifies, or perturbs other things. This leads to problems that I will review in my talk, and which are only partly remedied by Latour’s intriguing new concept of plasma.

Surprising resources for a new realism are found in Heidegger’s fourfold of earth, sky, gods, and mortals. Transforming Latour’s army of onefold actors into an armada of fourfold objects, we find a Heideggerian alternative to Latour’s shapeless molten plasma. Latour corrects Heidegger’s Dasein-centrism, but at the same time Heidegger counters Latour’s overinvestment in relationality. In this way, object-oriented philosophy crossbreeds the virtues of its two ancestral heroes.

Graham Harman seminar

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David Ing blogs at coevolving.com , photoblogs at daviding.com , and microblogs at http://ingbrief.wordpress.com . See .

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