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

Sam Mickey 1
  • 1 University of, San Francisco, United States of America


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.

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