January 27th, 2011

S.C. Hickman

On Graham Harman's reflections on philosophical list making...

"...some people want to think that philosophy is a model that isomorphically copies the outer world, and they feel so strongly about this that any other way of looking at it gets treated like unhinged relativism. I think that’s a failure of imagination."
     - Graham Harman

Harold Bloom's theory of influence regards the development of Western literature as a process of borrowing and misreading. He also used the term misprision to describe the process by which strong writers misread or misinterpret their literary predecessors so as to clear imaginative space for themselves. This process can also be thought of as including philosophical influence as well. The reading and misreading and misprisioning process is always an ongoing process in the life and thought of any philosopher and is without doubt more of a truism than not.

In a couple of recent blog posts, here and here, Graham Harman makes a few observations regarding philosophical list making. He'd recently read a description of a philosophical list contributed by James Garvey in his book The Twenty Greatest Philosophy Books, which sparked a few reflections (see list below). As he sees it the defining touchstone of the controversy in this list resides in the figure of Hegel. There is a great divide in the list that comes before and after Hegel. Harman chooses Hegel as the pivotal figure over Kant - as against those, especially Analytic philosophers, who might see Kant as the more pivotal figure: "I’m taking the liberty of ruling these people flat-out wrong. Hegel’s a great philosopher, period. One of the five greatest for sure." Why Hegel? He tells us that “Post-Hegelian philosophy” is probably a good name for what we’ve been doing for the past 200 years, and it’s still a pretty live issue."  


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