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Philosophy Today


published on June 12, 2019

James Osborn

On the Difference Between Being and Object

If philosophy in the wake of Kant’s transcendental revolution tends to orient itself around a subjective principle, namely the human subject, then recently various schools of thought have proposed a counterrevolution in which philosophy is given an objective, nonhuman starting point. In this historical context, “object-oriented ontology” has sought to gain the status of first philosophy by identifying being in general with the object as such—that is, by systematically converting beings to objects. By tracing the provenance of this system to a key moment of late eighteenth-century German philosophy, this paper develops the idea of the difference between being and object in order to demonstrate that object-oriented thinking, contrary to its anti-Kantian claims, adheres to the central axiom of transcendental idealism, that this axiom contains an unsolvable paradox, and that Kant and Novalis give us the resources for a transformative philosophical project that meets the challenge of the cultural and theoretical turn to objects.

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