The Concept of Infrastructure – Harman

Graham Harman — The Concept of Infrastructure

Heidegger’s Tool Analysis 

  • Theories about things are always not the things 
  • Things are not exhausted 
  • This is not a distinction between theory and practice — it is a distinction between humans and objects. It is not pragmatism — our relations to things comes through our use of them. This has nothing to do with consciousness and unconsciousness. Theory and practice both distort the thing – as it withdraws. 
    • Derrida comes out of Heidegger — trying to push against onto-theology
  • It’s not just that human’s can’t get the thing 
  • Islamic philosophy — fire burning cotton 
  • Any two things are not going to be able to make exhaustive contact with one another (from the black into the black – Fludd)
  • The trick of German idealism — you can’t think the unthought because it turns it into a thought
  • Noumenon / Phenomena is actually internal to the phenomena

Objections — Against Objects

  • Undermining — by going downward to its pieces (atomism)  — cannot account for emergence. We can speak of things that are able to exist with their composite elements changing. (Emergence: When sum have some retroactive effect on its parts)
  • Overmining — More common in modern and post modern philosophy. Everything is language, socially constructed, power, event, effects… No substances. You cannot explain change this way: the real must be different from the actual. 
  • Latour — there is nothing hiding behind things — everything is relations (Whitehead, Dewey) 
    • Unformatted mass with no articulation … committed to the idea that things are determined by their relations
    • Industrial metaphor of truth — the ‘circulating reference’ between a line of actors which translate differences from one actor to the next.  Usable truth…
    • Occasionalism
    • Pandora’s Hope — Jolio links politics and neutrons — 
  • Tristan Garcia
    • The difference between the constituent and its effects is the thing
  • Harman
    • The thing is between constituent and its effects is the thing
    • The Third Table — Eddington
    • Artwork is not reducible to its physical constituents
    • The artwork is also not how it makes you feel 
    • Even when you create the object itself — 
    • The aesthetic works are better guides than the science — as they exist between undermining and over mining philosophies

Other Object Philosophies

  • Aristotle / Liebnitz 
    • Not good at dealing with nature / machines … complex elements 
    • Liebnitz — man is a substance, but a circle of men is not?
  • Kant
    • Tragedy of ‘not being able to access’
  • Latour / Whitehead tradition
    • Being able to talk about anything of any size 
    • Objects last instantaneously — the is no durability
  • Phenomenology 
    • Brentano (Freud’s Prof) — any mental act has a object, immanent objectivity ()
    • Kasimir Tardovski (Poland) — double up realities: copy in the mind and a real thing outside the mind
    • Husserl — didn’t like Tardovski’s mapping, as he wanted absolute knowledge. He kept Tardovski’s dualism but he pushed it all into experience (phenomena) 
  • Hume / Kant — they give the mind the notion of causation instead of God
  • Latour — secular ‘mediators’ allow — Frederick Jolio and the connection of neutrons and politics. There are different kinds of 
  • Not tearing things down — food criticism — Daniel Dennett makes fun of wine tasters — you need to get at things elusively in order to capture the spirit of things
  • Naive epistemology? No – relations. (Pan-psychic?)
    • Kant’s epistemological problem is a badly formulated ontological problem
    • Epistemology should be the rift between two relations, not a human problem
    • There should be one relation between entities – a general causal problem
    • Epistemology assumes that people and things is a radical rift
    • Just because I’m human and I have more access to the interactions between myself and objects, doesn’t mean I can’t access 
  • Latour’s politics
    • Latours a Hobsian
    • Never any court of appeal outside of the network 
    • Human society is mediated more by non-human entities than human ones (institutions, materials)
    • Carl Schmidt — there is no transcendence 
    • Publics emerge on an issue by issue  

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