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Philosophy Today

Volume 63, Issue 1, Winter 2019

Justin L. Harmon
Pages 101-124

Excessive Materialism and the Metaphysical Basis of an Object-Oriented Ethics

The aims of this paper are twofold: (1) to critique Graham Harman’s avowedly nonrelational object-oriented ontology from the shared relational vantage of ethics, social philosophy, and feminist new materialism; and (2) to articulate the metaphysical basis for a materialist ontology that serves at once as a posthumanist metaethic, or, as I call it, proto-ethic. The nascent movements of speculative realism and object-oriented ontology suggest some fruitful strategies for challenging the anthropocentrism of the post-Kantian philosophical landscape. They do so, however, by simultaneously foreclosing the possibility of thinking with these strategies to address moral and political problems, insofar as they characterize the real as fundamentally nonrelational. I argue that Harman’s adopted noumenalism is ultimately self-undermining, and offer as an alternative a materialist account of reality as intrinsically phenomenal, where phenomenality is unpacked as the excessive, ongoing source of proto-ethical norms to which every human ethical system implicitly appeals.

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