Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Show Summary Details
More options …

Open Philosophy

Editor-in-Chief: Harman, Graham

Covered by:
DOAJ - Directory of Open Access Journals

Open Access
See all formats and pricing
More options …

Touching Without Touching: Objects of Post-Deconstructive Realism and Object-Oriented Ontology

Sam Mickey
Published Online: 2018-10-23 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/opphil-2018-0021


This paper presents a juxtaposition of the understanding of objects in Jean-Luc Nancy’s postdeconstructive realism and Graham Harman’s object-oriented ontology, particularly with reference to their respective notions of touch. Nancy incorporates a tension between the phenomenological accounts of touch and embodiment given by Merleau-Ponty, who focuses on the relationality of the flesh, and Levinas, who focuses more on non-relational alterity. Furthermore, Nancy does not accept the anthropocentric assumptions whereby phenomenology accounts for objects insofar as they correlate to human existence. Following the deconstruction of sovereign humanity, Nancy approaches what Derrida calls “post-deconstructive realism,” accounting for touch with regard to the relationality and alterity of all objects, human and nonhuman. However, abjuring the metaphysical interiority posited by panpsychists, Nancy admits that his philosophy cannot account for the discrete, atomistic differences between beings. Graham Harman agrees with much of Nancy’s philosophy, but he criticizes Nancy on this point, offering a corrective supplement in the form of his object-oriented ontology, which avoids panpsychism while nonetheless accounting for the discrete differences between objects.

Keywords: Jean-Luc Nancy; Graham Harman; object-oriented ontology; phenomenology; realism; touch; anthropocentrism


  • DeLanda, Manuel and Graham Harman. The Rise of Realism. Cambridge: Polity, 2017.Google Scholar

  • Derrida, Jacques. On Touching-Jean-Luc Nancy. Translated by Christine Irizarry. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2005.Google Scholar

  • Gratton, Peter. “The Speculative Challenge and Nancy’s Post-Deconstructive Realism.” In Jean-Luc Nancy and Plural Thinking: Expositions of World, Politics, Art, and Sense, edited by Peter Gratton and Marie-Eve Morin, 109-125. Albany: SUNY Press, 2012.Google Scholar

  • Harman, Graham. Guerilla Metaphysics: Phenomenology and the Carpentry of Things. Chicago and La Salle: Open Court, 2005.Google Scholar

  • Harman, Graham. “On Interface: Nancy’s Weights and Masses.” In Jean-Luc Nancy and Plural Thinking: Expositions of World, Politics, Art, and Sense, edited by Peter Gratton and Marie-Eve Morin, 95-107. Albany: SUNY Press, 2012.Google Scholar

  • Harman, Graham. Object-Oriented Ontology: A New Theory of Everything. London: Pelican, 2018.Google Scholar

  • Harman, Graham. The Quadruple Object. Winchester: Zero Books, 2011.Google Scholar

  • Harman, Graham. Quentin Meillassoux: Philosophy in the Making. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2011.Google Scholar

  • Harman, Graham. Towards Speculative Realism: Essays and Lectures. Winchester: Zero Books, 2010.Google Scholar

  • Harman, Graham. “On Vicarious Causation.” Collapse, 2 (2007): 171-208.Google Scholar

  • Harman, Graham. Weird Realism: Lovecraft and Philosophy. Winchester: Zero Books, 2012.Google Scholar

  • James, Ian. “Lucidity and Tact.” In Lucidity: Essays in Honour of Alison Finch, edited by Ian James and Emma Wilson, 9-19. Cambridge: Legenda, 2016.Google Scholar

  • James, Ian. “The Touch of Things.” Cultural Critique, 97 (2017): 203-227.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Levinas, Emmanuel. Totality and Infinity: An Essay on Exteriority. Translated by Alphonso Lingis. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1991.Google Scholar

  • Meillassoux, Quentin. After Finitude: An Essay on the Necessity of Contingency. Translated by Ray Brassier. New York: Continuum, 2008.Google Scholar

  • Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. Signs. Translated by Richard C. McCleary. Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1964.Google Scholar

  • Maurice Merleau-Ponty, The Visible and the Invisible. Translated by Alphonso Lingis. Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1968.Google Scholar

  • Morin, Marie-Eve. “Thinking Things: Heidegger, Sartre, Nancy.” Sartre Studies International, 15:2 (Winter 2009): 35-53.Google Scholar

  • Nancy, Jean-Luc. Being Singular Plural, trans. Robert D. Richardson and Anne E. O’Byrne. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2000.Google Scholar

  • Nancy, Jean-Luc. The Birth to Presence. Translated by Brian Holmes et al. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1993.Google Scholar

  • Nancy, Jean-Luc. Corpus. Translated by Richard A. Rand. New York: Fordham University Press, 2008Google Scholar

  • Nancy, Jean-Luc. Corpus II: Writings on Sexuality. Translated by Anne O’Byrne. New York: Fordham University Press, 2013.Google Scholar

  • Nancy, Jean-Luc. The Fall of Sleep. Translated by Charlotte Mandell. New York: Fordham University Press, 2009.Google Scholar

  • Nancy, Jean-Luc. “Interview: The Future of Philosophy.” Translated by B. C. Hutchens. In B. C. Hutchens, Jean-Luc Nancy and the Future of Philosophy, 161-166. Chesham: Acumen, 2005.Google Scholar

  • Nancy, Jean-Luc. Noli Me Tangere: On the Raising of the Body, trans. Sarah Clift, Pascale-Anne Brault, and Michael Naas. New York: Fordham University Press, 2008.Google Scholar

  • Nancy, Jean-Luc. The Sense of the World. Translated by Jeffrey Librett. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997.Google Scholar

  • Nietzsche, Friedrich. Twilight of the Idols. Translated by Richard Polt. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing, 1997.Google Scholar

  • Reynolds, Jack. “Merleau-Ponty, Levinas, and the Alterity of the Other.” Symposium, 6.1 (2002): 74-75.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

About the article

Received: 2018-07-21

Accepted: 2018-09-24

Published Online: 2018-10-23

Published in Print: 2018-10-01

Citation Information: Open Philosophy, Volume 1, Issue 1, Pages 290–298, ISSN (Online) 2543-8875, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/opphil-2018-0021.

Export Citation

© by Sam Mickey, published by De Gruyter. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 License. BY-NC-ND 4.0

Comments (0)

Please log in or register to comment.
Log in