Sectarian Realism

This is in response to the news regarding Speculations and is taken from an email I sent to Paul last night when asked about my thoughts going forward with the journal.

I’m not sure what I think the plan should be going forward. I think an SR journal would be appreciated and useful. One thing that worries me is the prospect of (for lack of a better term) “crowding the market.” SR is young. I’m not sure I understand the benefit of every “club” within it having its own journal. That’s how orthodoxies are formed and dialogue avoided. I work in psychoanalytic theory and you see the same thing there; they all begin with the basic assumption that there is something called an unconscious but other than that Freudians, Kleinians, Jungians and Lacanians have nothing to do with each other. They don’t even want to talk to each other. They certainly don’t learn from one another. There is no room for conversation or disagreement or debate but only for exegesis of the master or adherence to their principles. I don’t like the idea of Collapse devolving into a love of neuroscience (and I’m not saying it is necessarily, though that’s clearly how Graham sees it and I’m sure he’s not alone; I haven’t read the last volume but am anticipating the next one), with the vitalists setting up their own little clubhouse before certain people decide we’re all politically naive (or dangerous!) and start their own journal for contemporary Marxism, etc, etc. Pretty soon each of us end up in isolation running our own little journal and we might as well have just started blogs (which we all already have anyway).

I guess I had always hoped that there would be a general journal for SR all along. The important thing is to be excited about the work being done. I don’t like the unnecessary emotion brought in to intellectual work, with one group sneering at another. Frankly it seems stupid and arrogant. I’m not going to go to Anthony or Reid and tell them Laruelle isn’t worthwhile just because I happen to disagree with his understanding of science or his treatment of Deleuze or whatever, just as I wouldn’t tell Nick he’s wasting his time with politics or Ben that there’s no point in grappling with the concept of slime or the work of Lovecraft. Just because we disagree with each other about things (and I’m not saying I disagree with the aforementioned examples at all!) doesn’t mean I am not genuinely excited about their work or the future of philosophy. I disagree with Graham for example on things related to causality, possibility, and will, which is exactly what I was writing about for the journal, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like him or his work. It’s invigorating to read someone you disagree with on things and understand why and talk it out. I don’t see any merit in walling ourselves off from each other anymore than I see the merit in imagining some grand break in the history of thought. We’re always in dialogue, we might as well be honest about it and open to it.

To put it simply, I’d rather be park of a big tent full of excitement and conversation than a little tent where nothing happens.


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5 responses to “Sectarian Realism

  1. Generally I think a journal devoted to SR in general is a better idea and even more in keeping with the title of the journal. I do hope, however, that this doesn’t somehow lead to the exclusion of OOO related articles. There’s no reason, I think, that the article you’re working on should be abandoned or that there couldn’t be issues devoted to particular variants of SR.

  2. Levi,

    I don’t see any reason to exclude object-oriented writings from the journal. I don’t see any sort of “split” between SR on the one hand and OOO on the other; I take SR as an umbrella term signifying many different philosophies. My point in sharing this was essentially that there is much more to be gained from having a more general journal where the various contemporary realisms can engage one another rather than holing up with those they agree with and patting each other on the back.

  3. Agreed. I worry that a journal devoted exclusively to any of the branches of SR would peter out rather quickly as it’s such a niche thing at the moment. Also, a more broadly construed journal will assist in a sort of cross-fertilization through debate and variations. My position, for example, is almost a sort of hybrid between Grants and Harman’s in certain ways, despite my rather limited knowledge of Grant’s work.

  4. Paul Ennis

    @Levi: OOO related articles are welcome for sure. I suppose it all depends on the types of articles submitted but I suspect there is enough diversity among us all to keep holding up that broad umbrella.

  5. To put it simply, I’d rather be park of a big tent full of excitement and conversation than a little tent where nothing happens.

    But the snacks in the little tent are so much tastier!

    I know that as a troll I probably should be gloating, but all of that mockery aside, I’m generally sad to see these sorts of tactics with “big names” pulling out and therefore intimidating the enthusiastic youth. As skeptical as I am about all things objetological, it’s all I’ve been reading on blogs for the past year or so, so seeing a journal with new and thought-provoking essays would have been nice (and I’m sure it’ll still happen). However, I’m also reminded that despite all that talk about how SR/OOP is different from the academic business as usual, it’s clearly not that different. There’s certainly ways of going about it that do not involve pulling out of a promising project because you disagree with one of the contributors/editors – it’s just childish.

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