Recently I have read this and that about so called "object oriented ontology", mostly Graham Harman. Now I'm dealing with Ian Bogost, "What it's like to be a thing".

One of their line of argument looks like they try to decenter subjectivity. Not only humans, not only animals or living things should be possible bearers of subjectivity, but all "things" too. In that line of argumentation, a thing can very well be a thing for a thing.

But isn't that argument (or how I understand it) build upon a misconception of subjectivity? Or doesn't it at least change the notion of subjectivity in a way making it nearly unrecognizable? Today (cf. eliminative materialism) some are not even so sure anymore if subjectivity makes any sense at all, so it might well be justified to throw it away. But this too seems not to be the way of object oriented philosophy. Harmans fourfold still seems to have a "subjective" pole (sensuality).

Beside the noticeable fact so many of the "things" or "units" Bogost is mentioning in his many listings are man made stuff (correlationist police is watching), I do not understand how a thing can be a "thing" for a thing. My question is not emphasizing the "be", but the thing. Isn't that a concept? Or even a mere word in a language? And can stones have concepts and language?

Can a thing be exactly a "thing" for a thing?

  • 1
    Can you explain what the author means by claiming that a rock is a "bearer of subjectivity?" Sounds Bogost to me!
    – user4894
    Commented Feb 2, 2015 at 21:56

1 Answer 1


The argument that you mention certainly seems to change the notion of subjectivity, if it attributes subjectivity to, say, shoes... But I also think that it is not supposed to change the notion of subjectivity so much as to make it unrecognizable. We are still supposed to try and understand the life experiences of, say, shoes, as similar (however dimly) to our own life experiences. Because, however alien the inner lives of shoes are to us, our only hold in trying to understand them is still our own life experiences.

As to the link between subjectivity and conceptual abilities, let's remember that we do naturally ascribe subjectivity to animals such as dogs and cats. Yet, cats and dogs do not have conceptual abilities. Well at least not the kind of conceptual abilities that are expressed in speaking a human-like language.


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