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"Intentional Objects for Non-Humans"

Graham Harman

The title of this lecture obviously has two parts : one about non-humans, and the other about intentional objects. These two topics are not the same. Even if we accept a pure panpsychism in which all humans, animals, plants, and stones are equally perceptive of other things, it would not automatically follow that they perceive objects. Normally, a panpsychist theory would be the most shocking part of any lecture— but at a conference on “non-anthropological subjectivity” like this one, listeners will already be prepared to grant subjectivity to beings such as flowers and grains of dust. The part about objects will be the more surprising of the two parts today. If we define “object” as that which has a unified and autonomous life apart from its relations, accidents, qualities, and moments, we can see that objects remain very unpopular in philosophy today. They might sound too much like old-fashioned substances, and in our time everyone is united in cursing and whipping those substances : Our friend Quentin Meillassoux has given a brilliant analysis, in After Finitude, of the “correlationst” attitude in philosophy. The correlationist thinks that there is no human without world, nor world without human, but only a primal correlation or rapport between the two. Hence, the object has no autonomy for the correlationist. In franker terms, the object does not exist. For the empiricist, there is also no object, since there are only bundles of discrete qualities. The unified object is a fiction produced by customary conjunction in the habits of the human mind. There are no objects for empiricism. What about materialists ? They might seem to be the most object-friendly of all thinkers. But they are not…

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