Did I finish the Fukuyama dive this week like I said I would? No. Are you gonna do something about it? Nope.
These notes are pulled from a few online lectures I’ve listened to by Graham Harman. I still haven’t read any of his books but the signals are good that he’s a person worth reading directly. In the meanwhile, hat tip to Jordan Peacock, the high priest through whom I have seen Harman’s Word.
These notes are light sketches of Harman’s thoughts and philosophy, and maybe in time I can run through again with a darker pencil and hash the details out.
1. The 20th Century, as seen from the 23rd Century
In one lecture, Harman makes some broader claims about the big influencers of the last century that I thought were helpful. In the broadest of broad strokes, the 1900’s will likely be defined in the sciences by relativity and quantum theory and the earliest attempts to unify them. In the humanities, though, Graham claims that it was figure-ground interplay that would define the century’s thought:
- Sigmund Freud’s emphasis on the [background] unconsciousness translating into [foreground] noticeable behavior and thought. The truth value of the theory is irrelevant, it’s been a tremendous influence, a source of reaction for major schools directly afterwards and an intellectual break from what preceded it.
- Marshall McLuhan’s “The Medium is the Message”, which from our relative proximity still kinda goes in and out of style, is considered by Harman to be currently underrated.
- Clement Greenberg, who oversaw the movement of the artistic avante-garde from Paris to New York City prior to WWII, and who defended Jackson Pollock and early prominent American artists who demonstrated awareness of the canvas on which they worked. Apparently in some circles he is currently seen as kitschy, which might be the sign of his ultimate success. More on him later.
- Martin Heidigger, who reversed Husserl’s phenomenology. Husserl argued that one should focus not on the hidden objects but instead on the details of experience. Heidigger claimed that we deal with equipment as hidden and withdrawn backgrounds. These tools and details usually only emerge into view when they’re broken: a sudden cough, or a strange noise brings background processes to the forefront.