Sunday, February 17, 2013

Realist Magic

Tim Morton's new book is out, Realist Magic. I'm just starting to read it so some initial thoughts below.

There is a search function for this e-version. I was surprised and dismayed that there is not one mention of 'hyperobjects' in the entire text. I started reading the Intro and it's a tough read for me due to my prior complaints about his lofty and affected 'literary' style. So I skipped to the first chapter and it is easier going but far from easy for me. It seems he is trying to make the book an expression of his content, a work of art about art. And that's fine. Perhaps it's just that I'm not attracted to his art. With art I know when I'm attracted or not but I don't necessarily know why or how. And his style just doesn't do it for me.

I still appreciate some of the ideas in a general sense though. As but one example, the mereology without a top or bottom that I included in real/false reason. Except that he also doesn't find a middle and that's where image schemas and basic categories come in for cognitive linguistics, being in the middle of hierarchies without top or bottom and grounding or 'embodying' them. (I.e., basing them on 'objects,' as Morton might say?) Granted that doesn't seem to be like the 'middle' to which he refers:

"If there is no top object and no bottom object, neither is there a middle object. That is, there is no such thing as a space, or time, 'in' which objects float. There is no environment distinct from objects."

I also like the mereological reference to Cantor's empty set, which is absent from the more Aristolelian set theories of the MHC. I made vague references to this in the real/false reason thread, but my knowledge of math is pathetically lacking so I cannot make a more firm criticism of the MHC on this grounds as yet. This also refers back to the intro where they used Garfield and Priest's essay "Nagarjuna and the limits of thought" in refuting the law of the excluded middle,* which the latter used to support the emptiness of emptiness doctrine. I also did the same in "letting daylight into magic," but again, such mathematical logic is over my head so I cannot make coherent arguments about it.

And interestingly enough, Nagarjuna's philosophy is known as the 'middle way' between nihilism and essentialism, which is what Morton is trying to prove with OOO and given his own Buddhist background. But again, it is not the type of top, bottom or middle to which he refers otherwise. I'm sure I made this connection with Madhyamaka's 'ultimate' middle and the middle ground of basic categories somewhere, since both are grounded in dependent origination. And curiously enough, but of these middles are 'excluded' from the like of the MHC, given its implicit reliance on the formal law of the excluded middle.

I've only read about a third of chapter 1 but will continue because I like the ideas despite being expressed in an unattractive art form.

* "The ultimate truth is that there is no ultimate truth" (10).


  1. Another reference in the intro is Graham Priest's book In Contradiction.* Just check out the table of contents in the free preview. A couple of relevant highlights: chapter 1.5, "the demise of hierarchy"; chapter 2.2, "the cumulative hierarchy: it's lack of rationale"; chapter 2.3, "...and it's inadequacy in category theory"; chapter 10, "set theory and the philosophy of mathematics."


  2. I like this quote from the intro of RM, consistent with my criticism of MHC:

    "Because objects are themselves and not-themselves, the logic that describes them must be paraconsistent or even fully dialetheic: that is, the logic must be able to accept that some contradictions are true. Objects are dangerous, not only to themselves, but even to thinking, if it cleaves to rigid consistency. If thinking refuses to accept that objects can be dialetheic, it risks reproducing the dualisms of subject and object."


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