The Graham Harman Reader
By: Graham Harman / Zero Books / $29.95
Overview: The Graham Harman Reader is the essential compendium of shorter works by one of the most influential philosophers of the
twenty-first century. Written in Harmanís typical clear and witty style, the Reader is an essential resource for veteran readers of Harman and newcomers alike.
Verdict: The writings in this volume are split into seven chapters. The first concerns Harmanís resistance to both downward and upward reductionism. The second chapter contains works that develop the specific fourfold structure of Object-Oriented Ontology.
In the third, we find Harmanís novel arguments for why causal relations between two entities can only be indirect. The fourth chapter discusses why aesthetics deserves to be called first philosophy.
The fifth chapter contains Harmanís underrated contributions to ethics and politics, and the sixth deals with epistemology, mind, and science. A concluding seventh chapter contains several previously unpublished writings not available anywhere else.
Taking it from the top, for the man is someone you will want to know from the off, Graham Harman is a distinguished Professor of Philosophy and Liberal Arts Program Coordinator at SCI-Arc. He was born in 1968 in Mt. Vernon, Iowa, and earned his BA from St. Johnís College (Maryland), his MA from Penn State University, and his PhD from DePaul University.
He is the author of eighteen books, most recently Art and Objects (Polity, September 2019). Graham is the 2009 winner of the AUC Excellence in Research Award. In 2015 he was named by ArtReview as the #75 most powerful influence in the international art world, and in 2016 was named by The Best Schools to their alphabetical list of the 50 most influential living philosophers.
Ok, all that now said and done, my own personal favorite of the chapters is Two, The Fourfold Object, where the contemporary philosopher of metaphysics, attempts to reverse the linguistic turn of Western philosophy; terming his ideas as object-oriented ontology.
Harman begins by introducing a distinction between truth and knowledge along with their relation to the doing of philosophy. For him philosophy is not about truth or knowledge though it seeks and approaches both.
Instead it is about reality which cannot, nevertheless, be approached directly but only indirectly.
With this he begins to give the reader an introduction to his version of realism which is not very realist as I understand that term. But nor is Harman an anti-realist in the traditional sense. Rather, shall we say, he seems to straddle the fence.
But, if that chapter isnít to your prose taste, there are six others to choose from, including Harmanís resistance to both downward and upward reductionism, his novel arguments for why causal relations between two
entities can only be indirect, his thoughts on why aesthetics deserves to be called first philosophy, his underrated contributions to ethics and politics, the sixth dealing with epistemology, mind, and science, the book of collective enthrallment closing on a rather splendid seventh chapter; which contains several previously unpublished writings not available anywhere else.
In closing, and as I havenít attested to yet, this book is a behemoth of a testament, in both contained knowledge and the actual physical weight and size of it, of that you have my word!
Running at over 600 pages, the book is, and without a shadow of a doubt, the singular most all-encompassing read on any subject matter that I have had the privilege to sit down with in the past decade or more. I hope it is for you all too.
About the Author - Graham Harman is Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the Southern California Institute of Architecture. He is the author of more than twenty books, most recently Architecture and Objects.
He currently resides with his wife in Long Beach, California.
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