December 8th, 2010

S.C. Hickman

Circus Philosophicus: Graham Harman and the Return to Mythologies of the Mind

“Platonic myth meets American noir in this haunting series of philosophical images: from gigantic ferris wheels to offshore drilling rigs.”
     - from the blurb for Circus Philosophicus by Graham Harman

In a recent interview Graham Harman spoke of the simplicity of philosophical thought, and how philosopher's of the "Heideggerian sort, as a group, are not primarily motivated to catalogue all the fascinating concrete details in the world. That impulse can be found in zoology, botany, linguistics, anthropology, and other such fields. By contrast, philosophers tend to be great systematizers, which means great simplifiers as well. In my view, to understand a philosophy means to understand a handful of basic intuitions from which the entire philosophy unfolds."[1] The Heideggerian influence is prevalent in most of Harman's philosophical corpus, and in fact he does not deny it, for he is "convinced there was no greater philosopher in the twentieth century than Heidegger, and no better way to orient your own thinking than with a thorough top-to-bottom survey of his thought." (ibid.) He goes on to tell us that in the Summer of '97 he was reading "Heidegger like a fiend" but was also reading both Whitehead and Zubiri. He goes on to show how his stance in regard to Heidegger changed, saying,

"Whitehead explodes the atmospheric Kantian bias still at work in Heidegger, which places the human-world relation on a pedestal above all other relations in the cosmos. The Sein/Dasein correlate strangles Heideggerians intellectually, to such an extent that they don’t even see it as problematic. But they are hardly alone in this predicament. Look at someone as brilliant as Zizek, so energetic and original, yet so strangely convinced (through his admiration for German Idealism) that the subject is a unique point of rupture with the rest of reality, a special flaw in the cosmic diamond. Heideggerians may use different metaphors, but essentially they say the same thing. But with Whitehead, who is truly a great philosopher and rarely read in continental circles, some of the great lost elements of pre-Kantian philosophy return to the fore.

 

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