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The Universe of Things

On Speculative Realism

2014
Author:

Steven Shaviro

The Universe of Things

An up-to-the-moment critique of a recent turn in philosophical thought

Steven Shaviro explores the common insistence of speculative realism on a noncorrelationist thought: that things or objects exist apart from how our own human minds relate to and comprehend them. Bringing together a wide array of contemporary thought, The Universe of Things is an invaluable guide to the evolution of speculative realism and the provocation of Alfred North Whitehead’s pathbreaking work.

Steven Shaviro has long been the most dignified and helpful of Speculative Realism’s critics. In this new book, in prose devoid of rancor or backstabbing ambition, he patiently develops the metaphysics of Whitehead into an alternative to the four main strands of Speculative Realism: object-oriented, speculative materialist, vitalist, and scientistic. Shaviro’s arguments will interest both the supporters and the detractors of this still young philosophical movement.

Graham Harman, author of Bells and Whistles: More Speculative Realism

From the rediscovery of Alfred North Whitehead’s work to the rise of new materialist thought, including object-oriented ontology, there has been a rapid turn toward speculation in philosophy as a way of moving beyond solely human perceptions of nature and existence. Now Steven Shaviro maps this quickly emerging speculative realism, which is already dramatically influencing how we interpret reality and our place in a universe in which humans are not the measure of all things.

The Universe of Things explores the common insistence of speculative realism on a noncorrelationist thought: that things or objects exist apart from how our own human minds relate to and comprehend them. Shaviro focuses on how Whitehead both anticipates and offers challenges to prevailing speculative realist thought, moving between Whitehead’s own panpsychism, Graham Harman’s object-oriented ontology, and the reductionist eliminativism of Quentin Meillassoux and Ray Brassier.

The stakes of this recent speculative realist thought—of the effort to develop new ways of grasping the world—are enormous as it becomes clear that our inherited assumptions are no longer adequate to describe, much less understand, the reality we experience around us. As Shaviro acknowledges, speculative realist thought has its dangers, but it also, like the best speculative fiction, holds the potential to liberate us from confining views of what is outside ourselves and, he believes, to reclaim aesthetics and beauty as a principle of life.

Bringing together a wide array of contemporary thought, and evenhandedly assessing its current debates, The Universe of Things is an invaluable guide to the evolution of speculative realism and the provocation of Alfred North Whitehead’s pathbreaking work.

The Universe of Things

Steven Shaviro is DeRoy Professor of English at Wayne State University. He is the author of several books, including Without Criteria: Kant, Whitehead, Deleuze, and Aesthetics and Connected, or What It Means to Live in the Network Society (Minnesota, 2003).

The Universe of Things

Steven Shaviro has long been the most dignified and helpful of Speculative Realism’s critics. In this new book, in prose devoid of rancor or backstabbing ambition, he patiently develops the metaphysics of Whitehead into an alternative to the four main strands of Speculative Realism: object-oriented, speculative materialist, vitalist, and scientistic. Shaviro’s arguments will interest both the supporters and the detractors of this still young philosophical movement.

Graham Harman, author of Bells and Whistles: More Speculative Realism

Shaviro has done a tremendous service by detailing in clear and precise prose the key tenets and developments of what has come to be known as the “speculative realist” tradition in contemporary continental philosophy. A standard reference and a useful guide for many years to come.

Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

Shaviro’s summaries of the four Speculative Realists’ main doctrines are helpful to beginner and advanced student alike.

TLS

The Universe of Things is the most important monograph yet to address Whitehead’s relevance for contemporary philosophy.

Los Angeles Review of Books

As for The Universe of Things, I found it to be extraordinary.

Configurations

The Universe of Things

Contents

Acknowledgments
Abbreviations

Introduction: Whitehead and Speculative Realism

1. Self-Enjoyment and Concern
2. The Actual Volcano
3. The Universe of Things
4. Panpsychism and/or Eliminativism
5. Consequences of Panpsychism
6. Noncorrelational Thought
7. Aisthesis

Bibliography
Index