Samantha Hill

Speculative Realism and Object-Oriented Ontology: a Critical Introduction

Instructor: Michael Stevenson
This is an online course (Eastern Standard Time)

If much of continental philosophy takes as its fundamental orientation a perspective that originates in the late 18th century, how equipped can it be to address issues of urgent contemporary concern: ecological crisis, the pre-eminence of digital technology, neuroscientific advances, and the blurring of the lines between humans and machines? Motivated by such concerns, and dissatisfied with the lingering dominance of the Kantian transcendental tradition, a number of (post-)continental philosophers have recently turned to forms of realism and materialism as frameworks for investigating a reality they regard as (contra anti-realists) independent of human cognition. Their approach, dubbed “speculative realism” and “object-oriented ontology,” de-centers the human perceiver, and opens up, as one observer notes, “a weird world, foreign to human experience and commonsense.” What’s the nature of the reality that speculative realism reveals?

In this course, we will read from several of the major works and papers of speculative realist philosophy, attempting to understand its objects, methods, and the diversity of ideas–encompassing science, nature, being, and nihilism–put forth by its loosely grouped adherents. Is it possible to reach the nature of things unrelated to human conception? What is the relation of materialism to realism? Does speculative realism offer a productive pathway to thinking through contemporary “real world” issues and crises? Or, is the movement a return to pre-critical metaphysics in the grand style–”metaphysical fairy tales,” to borrow Bertrand Russell’s judgment on Leibniz. Figures will likely include Quentin Meillassoux, Graham Harman, Iain Hamilton Grant, Ray Brassier, Levi Bryant and Isabelle Stenger.

Course Schedule

Wednesday, 6:30-9:30pm EST
June 17 — July 08, 2020


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