April 11, 2018

“[…] no object or thing in this type of society is fully enjoyed for its sheer materiality.”1

Maybe it isn’t either fully despised for its’ sheer materiality? There seem to be a positivism when discussing Objects and Things which might colour ones perspective on them. We are to revalue their materiality and complex interconnectedness as to fully appreciate them. But then what of the objects we shouldn’t like? Shouldn’t there be a space for us to dislike the Vortex as a Thing? Graham Harman claims Heidegger excludes things (objects) he personally deems unworthy. “The jug” becomes a Thing while technological devices are dismissed as Objects. Harman then goes on to make a case for giving all Things and Objects the “philosophical dignity they deserve”. 2 This idea is expressed in Arjun Appadurais “The Thing Itself” when looking at India for inspiration on how to deal with Things 1 , in Hito Steyerls “A Thing Like You and Me” the Thing is praised for its own materiality and social life 3, Bruno Latour uses the Thing to suggest a new direction for Critique 4, and Jane Bennett argues for the potential catalyst “Thing-power materialism” can become for a more ecologically sustainable direction 5 — the list goes on. Everyone likes Things. Everyone wants us to care for them critically.

If one where to ask any of these authors directly, they would surely include Despised Things, within this philosophical care, but yet they seem missing from the texts themselves? We want to care for our Cherished Things, but what are we actually to do about the Things we want to annihilate? How are we to care for them? The language of these texts seem to point me towards appreciating these Things (once again, if asked directly, I assume they would deny this), but this surely can’t be the case? It appears to me not far from the grotesque pride of power contained within the Anthropocene term — “We made this! We have this power!”. 6

Are we not doing the same thing as Heidegger again, just under the guise of including everything? Or can this idea, built around Cherished Things, be extended to Despised Things? Or does this category of positive examples of Cherished Things actually include the Despised Things — does it actually include everything? Does it include the Vortex?

Anton Lindström

1. Appadurai, ‘The Thing Itself’, Public Culture (2006) 18 (1), pp. 15-22.
2. Harman, ‘Heidegger on Objects and Things’, Making Things Public (2005), MIT Press, pp. 268-271
3. Steyerl, “A Thing Like You and Me”, e-flux journal, Vol. 15 (2010)
4. Latour, ‘Why Has Critique Run out of Steam? From Matters of Fact to Matters of Concern’, Critical Inquiry, Vol. 30 (2004), pp. 232
5. Bennett, ‘The Force of Things: Step towards an Ecology of Matter’, Political Theory, Vol. 32, No. 3 (2004), pp. 347-372
6. Turpin, ‘Introduction’, Architecture in the Anthropocene (2013), pp. 3


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