The Touch of Things

31 Aug 2017

Steven Shaviro’s The Universe of Things is both an illuminating critical account of the development of speculative realism to date and a significant contribution to speculative realist thought in its own right. Its principal philosophical engagement is with Graham Harman’s object oriented ontology (hereafter OOO) via the philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead. As Shaviro himself puts it: “My aim is both to show how OOO helps us to understand Whitehead in a new way and, conversely, to develop a Whitehead inspired critique of Harman and OOO” (Shaviro, 27). Along the way he gives us important philosophical discussions of other leading figures who have been associated with the term speculative realism, most notably Quentin Meillassoux and Ray Brassier, but also, to a slightly lesser extent Iain Hamilton Grant and Levi Bryant. This is accompanied by discussions of Emmanuel Levinas and François Laruelle, French thinkers who have influenced the development of some of the different stands of speculative realism. Shaviro also makes some helpful contextual reference to a wider supporting cast including Bruno Latour, “new materialists” such as Jane Bennett, Rosi Braidotti, and Elizabeth Grosz, recent French thinkers (e.g. Deleuze) and a to wider canon of modern European and Anglophone analytic philosophy as well as to contemporary philosophy of science (e.g. James Ladyman, Don Ross).