Professor of Philosophy at The European Graduate School / EGS.
Graham Harman (b. 1968) is a professor at the American University in Cairo, Egypt, and professor of philosophy at The European Graduate School / EGS. He is one of a handful of contemporary philosophers who are constructing the position called speculative realism—other prominent members include Quentin Meillassoux, Ray Brassier, and Iain Hamilton Grant. Harman’s specific position centers on what he terms Object-Oriented Ontology.
Born in Iowa City, Graham Harman attended St. John’s College, in Annapolis, Maryland, where he received his BA in 1990. Under the supervision of Alphonso Lingis at Penn State University, he received his MA in 1991. Eighth years later, Harman received his PhD from DePaul University. His doctoral dissertation, entitled Tool-Being: Elements in a Theory of Objects, was later published under the name Tool-Being: Heidegger and the Metaphysics of Objects (2002) and constitutes the kernel of his doctrine. In 2000, Harman became a member of the Department of Philosophy at the American University of Cairo.
Since 2002, and the publication of his doctoral dissertation, Harman has written: Guerrilla Metaphysics: Phenomenology and the Carpentry of Things (2005), Heidegger Explained: From Phenomenology to Thing (2007), Prince of Networks: Bruno Latour and Metaphysics (2009), Towards Speculative Realism: Essays and Lectures (2010), Circus Philosophicus (2010), The Quadruple Object (2011), Quentin Meillassoux: Philosophy in the Making (2011), Weird Realism: Lovecraft and Philosophy (2012), and Bells and Whistles: More Speculative Realism (2013). Additionally, with Levi Bryant and Nick Srnicek, he was the editor of The Speculative Turn: Continental Materialism and Realism (2011). He is also the series editor of Speculative Realism, published by Edinburgh University Press, and a co-author of The Prince and the Wolf: Latour and Harman at the LSE (2011), with Bruno Latour. Aside from these publications, Harman has written and published numerous essays on twentieth-century philosophy, Speculative Realism, and Object-Oriented Ontology.
The term object-oriented philosophy was coined by Harman in his doctoral dissertation, but it was Bryant who rephrased it, and thereby gave the movement its current name, object-oriented ontology. Harman himself considers his specific position—object-oriented ontology—to belong to a larger set of philosophies grouped under the name speculative realism.
Speculative realism is a contemporary movement in philosophy that opposes itself to the most prevalent forms of post-Kantian philosophy, which it characterizes as correlationist. The name itself is taken from the first conference held to present this new philosophical position and its developments. Held at the University of London, Goldsmiths College, the conference featured the four philosophers listed above—Brassier, Grant, Meillassoux, and Harman. A second conference, entitled Speculative Realism/Speculative Materialism, was held two years later at the University of the West of England, in Bristol, UK. The name itself is credited to Brassier, although a similar term—“speculative materialism”—had already been used by Meillassoux to describe his own position.
Significant differences exist amongst speculative realists, but there is a common and unifying resistance to all philosophies of human finitude, as inspired by Kant, in both the analytic and continental tradition. Moreover, all the variants of speculative realism share a common aim of defeating both correlationism and all “philosophies of access.” The concept of correlationism was developed by Quentin Meillassoux in After Finitude (2010), wherein he defines it as “the idea according to which we only ever have access to the correlation between thinking and being, and never to either term considered apart from the other.” Philosophies of access, on the other hand, are grouped by the common privilege of human being—in particular their supposedly exclusive capacity for thought and understanding—over all other forms of being. According to speculative realism, both the philosophies of access and correlationism are forms of anthropocentrism. In brief, the objective of speculative realism, in all of its modalities, is to overturn certain forms of idealism dominating contemporary philosophy, which, for instance, privilege human being over other forms, and replace them with their specific form of realism.
Within speculative realism there are four primary variations, corresponding to the significant philosophical differences amongst the four primary members of the school: speculative materialism, as developed by Meillassoux; transcendental materialism or neo-vitalism, as developed by Grant; transcendental nihilism or methodological naturalism, as developed by Brassier; and object-oriented philosophy, as developed by Harman.
As mentioned above, the roots of Harman’s Object-Oriented Philosophy are stated in his doctoral work—Tool-Being: Elements in a Theory of Objects. Heidegger’s famous distinction, developed in Being and Time, between readiness-to-hand and presence-as-hand—or Zuhandenheit and Vorhandenheit—forms the basic distinction from which Harman begins. Following Heidegger, he contends that readiness-to-hand involves the withdrawal of objects from their human purposes, be they practical or theoretical, and into a reality other than that of their human use or deployment. Moreover, Harman adds that this status of being—and its fallout of withdrawal—is not exclusive to human interaction with objects, but rather, that withdrawal is a universal characteristic of being—as readiness-to-hand—in its interaction with any other object whatsoever. Harman’s ontology, in other words, is one of the object themselves, and not one wherein they are defined by practical action, or use, or networks of signification. The reality of objects—and for Harman, everything is an object—cannot ever be exhausted by any single relation or a set of relations with other objects. Otherwise stated, even the most intimate relations between objects only unlocks one another’s realities to a minimal extent—there is no deep or profound encounter or interaction between two or more objects, rather, all interaction is through the limiting status of readiness-to-hand, from which the reality of any object has always already withdrawn.
Briefly stated, object-oriented philosophy, or as Levi Bryant has renamed it, object-oriented ontology—along with the rejection of anthropocentrism and correlationism—also refuses any and all philosophies that undermine or “overmine” objects. From this framework, there are five basic principles of this philosophy: anthrodecentrism, critique of correlationism, rejection of overmining and undermining, preservation of finitude, and withdrawal. Harman’s philosophy belongs to the philosophical orientation of speculative realism, within which it is one of the four variants; within object-oriented ontology itself, there are—along with Harman’s own theory—three further variants: onticology as developed by Levi Bryant, hyperobjects as developed by Timothy Morton, and alien phenomenology by Ian Bogost.
Harman’s assumption is that the true site of philosophical thought is not to be limited to the relationship between the world and the human subject, rather, the true site of thought are objects and relations. Harman’s profound rejection of philosophies of access and all forms of anthropocentrism demands that he extend this conclusion to all object and relations, even to relations between two non-animate objects. A further consequence of this is that Harman must downplay the exceptional status of Dasein, i.e., its supposed ontological priority. In the place of being(s) defined by way of their relations and positions in the hierarchy of being, Harman proposes the concept of substances that are irreducible to both their material composition or human function and their relation to another object. In brief, Harman’s thesis is that all objects exceed every relation in which they exist, as well as the sum of all such relations.
Harman, Graham, trans. In Praise of the Whip, by Niklaus Largier. Zone Books/MIT Press, 2007. ISBN: 189095165X
Heidegger, Language, and World-Disclosure
Harman, Graham, trans. Heidegger, Language, and World-Disclosure, by Cristina Lafont. Cambridge University Press, 2000. ISBN: 0521662478
The Speculative Turn: Continental Materialism and Realism
Harman, Graham, Levi R. Bryant, and Nick Srnicek, eds. The Speculative Turn: Continental Materialism and Realism. re.press, 2011. ISBN: 0980668344
Another Response to Shaviro
Harman, Graham. “Another Response to Shaviro.” In The Allure of Things. Process and Object in Contemporary Philosophy, edited by Roland Faber and Andrew Goffey. Bloomsbury, 2014. ISBN: 1472525205
Objects and Orientalism
Harman, Graham. “Objects and Orientalism.” In The Agon of Interpretations. Towards a Critical Intercultural Hermeneutics, edited by Ming Xie. University of Toronto Press, 2014. ISBN: 1442643536
Harman, Graham. “Gold.” In Prismatic Ecology. Ecotheory Beyond Green, edited by Jeffrey Jerome Cohen. University of Minnesota Press, 2013. ISBN: 0816679983
Harman, Graham. “Crisis.” In Survival Kits, edited by Deborah Ligorio. Sternberg Press, 2013. ISBN: 3956790189
Speculative Collaboration with Graham Harman
Harman, Graham, and Marta Kepka.”Speculative Collaboration with Graham Harman.” In With one an(d)other. Self-published, 2013: 75-85.
Objets et Architecture/Objects and Architecture
Harman, Graham. “Objets et Architecture/Objects and Architecture.” Translated by Martin Richet. In Naturalizing Architecture. Naturaliser L’architecture : ArchiLab 2013, edited by Marie-Ange Brayer and Frédéric Migayrou. Editions HYX, 2013. ISBN: 2910385825
Objects are the Root of All Philosophy
Harman, Graham. “Objects are the Root of All Philosophy.” In Objects and Materials. A Routledge Companion, edited by Penolope Harvey, Eleanor Conlin Casella, Gillian Evans and Hannah Knox. Routledge Chapman & Hall, 2013. ISBN: 0415678803
Undermining, Overmining, and Duomining: A Critique
Harman, Graham. “Undermining, Overmining, and Duomining: A Critique.” In Add Metaphysics. Essays and Assignments, edited by Jenna Sutela. Aalto University Research Laboratory, 2013. ISBN: 9526049543
Aristotle With a Twist
Harman, Graham. “Aristotle With a Twist.” In Speculative Medievalisms. Discography, edited by EileenJoy, Anna Klosowska, Nicola Masciandaro, and Michael O’Rourke. Punctum Books, 2013. ISBN: 0615749534
Harman, Graham. “Maximum McLuhan.” In McLuhan’s Philosophy of Media – Centennial Conference, edited by Joni Van Den Eede, Joke Bauwens, Joke Beyl, Marc Van den Bossche and Karl Verstrynge, 11-26. Koninklijke Vlaamse Academie van België voor Wetenschappen en Kunsten, 2012.
Meillassoux’s Virtual Future
Harman, Graham. “Meillassoux’s Virtual Future.” In Continent. Year 1, edited by Jamie Allen, Paul Boshears, Nico Jenkins, Adam Staley Groves, and Vincent W. J. van Gerven Oei. Punctum Books/continent, 2012. ISBN: 0615736890
All Space is Real, All Time is Sensual
Harman, Graham. “All Space is Real, All Time is Sensual.” In Real Things. Oliver Francis Gallery, 2012: 11-15.
On Interface: Nancy’s Weights and Masses
Harman, Graham. “On Interface: Nancy’s Weights and Masses.” In Jean-Luc Nancy and plural thinking. Expositions of world, ontology, politics, and sense, edited by Peter Gratton and Marie-Eve Morin. State University of New York Press, 2012. ISBN: 1438442262
Badiou’s Relation to Heidegger in Theory of the Subject
Harman, Graham. “Badiou’s Relation to Heidegger in Theory of the Subject.” In Badiou and Philosophy, edited by Sean Bowden and Simon Duffy. Edinburgh University Press, 2012. ISBN: 0748643516
The Third Table
Harman, Graham. “The Third Table.” In Documenta 13. The Book of Books. Hatje Cantz, 2012. ISBN: 3775729518
On the Supposed Societies of Chemicals, Atoms, and Stars in Gabriel Tarde
Harman, Graham. “On the Supposed Societies of Chemicals, Atoms, and Stars in Gabriel Tarde.” In Savage Objects, edited by Godofredo Pereira. Imprensa Nacional-Casa da Moeda, 2012. ISBN: 9722720716
Heidegger’s Fourfold, McLuhan’s Tetrad
Harman, Graham. “Heidegger’s Fourfold, McLuhan’s Tetrad.” In The Swedish Dance History, edited by Mårten Spångberg, 216-238. Inpex, 2011.
It is Warm Out There/Il fait chaud là-bas
Harman, Graham. “It is Warm Out There/Il fait chaud là-bas.” In Isabel Nolan. Intimately Unrelated = Intimement Sans Rapport, edited by Graham Harman and Declan Long. The Model/Musée d’Art Moderne, 2011. ISBN: 0956717918
Harman, Graham. “Rogue Planets/Schurkenplaneten.” Translated by Otmar Binder. In Ralo Mayer: Woran glauben die Motten, wenn sie zu den Lichtern streben? edited by LENTOS Kunstmuseum Linz, Stella Rollig, Kunsthaus Basel, and Sabine Schaschl. Verlag für moderne Kunst/Lentos Kunstmuseum Linz/Kunsthaus Baselland, 2011. ISBN: 3869842512
Response to Shaviro
Harman, Graham. “Response to Shaviro.” In The Speculative Turn. Continental Materialism and Realism. Edited by Levi R. Bryant, Nick Srnicek and Graham Harmanre.press. 2011. ISBN: 0980668344.
On the Undermining of Objects: Grant, Bruno, and Radical Philosophy
Harman, Graham. “On the Undermining of Objects: Grant, Bruno, and Radical Philosophy.” In The Speculative Turn. Continental Materialism and Realism, edited by Levi R. Bryant, Nick Srnicek, and Graham Harman. Re.press, 2011. ISBN: 0980668344
Towards a Speculative Philosophy
Harman, Graham, Levi Bryant, and Nick Srnicek. “Towards a Speculative Philosophy.” In The Speculative Turn. Continental Materialism and Realism, edited by Levi R. Bryant, Nick Srnicek, and Graham Harman. re.press, 2011. ISBN: 0980668344
War, Space, and Reversal: Paul Virilio’s Apocalypse
Harman, Graham. “War, Space, and Reversal: Paul Virilio’s Apocalypse.” In Philosophy after Hiroshima, edited by Ėdward V. Demenchonok. Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2010. ISBN: 1443812986
Zero-Person and the Psyche
Harman, Graham. “Zero-Person and the Psyche.” In Mind That Abides. Panpsychism in the New Millennium, edited by David Skrbina. John Benjamins Publishing Company, 2009. ISBN: 9027252114
The McLuhans and Metaphysics
Harman, Graham. “The McLuhans and Metaphysics.” In New Waves in Philosophy of Technology, edited by Jan Kyrre Berg Olsen Friis, Evan Selinger, and Søren Riis. Palgrave Macmillan, 2009. ISBN: 0230220002
Bruno Latour and the Politics of Nature
Harman, Graham. “Bruno Latour and the Politics of Nature.” In Humanity at the Turning Point. Rethinking Nature, Culture and Freedom: Essays on Contemporary Philosophy, edited by Sonja Servomaa. Renvall Institute for Area and Cultural Studies, University of Helsinki, 2006. ISBN: 9521030607
Heidegger on Objects and Things
Harman, Graham. “Heidegger on Objects and Things.” In Making Things Public. Atmospheres of Democracy, edited by Bruno Latour and Peter Weibel. MIT Press; ZKM/Center for Art and Media in Karlsruhe, 2005. ISBN: 0262122790
A History of Palestine. From the Ottoman Conquest to the Founding of the State of Israel
Harman, Graham, and Gudrun Krämer, trans. A History of Palestine. From the Ottoman Conquest to the Founding of the State of Israel. Princeton University Press, 2008. ISBN: 0691118973
In Praise of the Whip
Harman, Graham, and Niklaus Largier, trans. In Praise of the Whip. Zone Books, 2007. ISBN: 189095165X
Heidegger, Language, and World-Disclosure
Harman, Graham, and Cristina Lafont. Heidegger, Language, and World-Disclosure.Cambridge University Press, 2000. ISBN: 0521662478