Speculative Realism Pathfinder

This guide was created to help students, faculty, and other interested parties find materials related to the emerging school of philosophical thought known as Speculative Realism. I have linked most of the items listed in the Fundamental Texts section to their Google Books entry in an attempt to make this guide useful to all; Google Books lists the prices of various book retailers and has a "Find in a Library" link which can be used to find a freely-available copy near you.

A. Reference Websites

These sites provide useful overviews of the Speculative Realism movement as well as its many variants and sub-species. While they range in depth from a blog aggregator with hundreds of posts to a brief encyclopedia entry, all are valuable overviews of the field.

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Speculative Realism – Wikipedia: A public-edited introduction to the genre of philosophy known as Speculative Realism. This is a good starting place for those unfamiliar with philosophical lexicons. Almost all of the major Speculative Realists who have published books also have their own separate Wikipedia entries.

Cover image of Collapse Volume II

Collapse Vol. II – “Speculative Realism”: The Collapse journal has strong ties to speculative realism, including this feature issue containing essays by premier speculative realists Ray Brassier, Quentin Meillassoux, Graham Harman, and Reza Negarestani.

Speculative Realism Blog Aggregator: A one-stop site for posts by bloggers associated with the Speculative Realism movement. It might be hard to keep up with the quantity of content on the Aggregator but it does give an idea of how much of the blogosphere participates in Speculative Realism debates.

Eliminative Materialism – Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: A thorough overview of what is considered a sub-species of Speculative Realism. Eliminative Materialism has been published on throughout the 1990s and is much more well-documented than much of the Speculative Realism school of thought.

What is Actor-Network Theory?: As with Eliminative Materialism, Actor-Network Theory has been around since the 1990s and is of great interest to the Speculative Realist theorists. This excellent website provides concise definitions of the theory from a multitude of scholars while linking to the cited works and providing further reference sources at the very bottom of the page.

A Lexicon of Onticology: A glossary to terms used by object-oriented philosopher Levi Bryant, compiled by Bryant himself and hosted on his blog Larval Subjects (see below). It is not only useful that all the technical terms are defined in one place, but the Lexicon also points out where borrowed terms originate, i.e. "Actant (Bruno Latour)". "Onticology" is the word Bryant uses to describe his own philosophy.

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B. Blogs

Speculative Realism promises to be the first philosophy meaningfully engaged with Web 2.0: several of its primary figures are bloggers. The movement gains momentum from discussions between graduate students, interested amateurs, and philosophy professors alike. Many of the bloggers listed here make an effort to respond to intriguing comments posted on their blogs and welcome public debate.

Larval Subjects by Levi Bryant: An excellent and accessible blog by Collin County Community College Professor of Philosophy Levi Bryant. Bryant’s blog is an especially great starting point for those interested in speculative realism because on his Blogroll he denotes speculative realist blogs with an asterisk.

Speculative Heresy by Ben Woodard, Nick Srnicek, and Taylor Adkins: This trio of graduate student bloggers have created perhaps the most comprehensive resource of all via a collaborative approach. This blog is notable for its tabs featuring Resources (a collection of pertinent articles), Events (conferences and speeches), Faculty (a list of hyperlinks to speculative realist professors), and Translations (hard-to-find translations of works by major French theorists).

Object-Oriented Philosophy by Graham Harman: Harman, Associate Vice Provost for Research and member of the Philosophy Department at the American University of Cairo, quickly became one of the most-visited and prolific bloggers when he started this blog, which addresses not only speculative realism but also issues of writing style and challenges for would-be philosophers.

Another Heidegger Blog by Paul John Ennis: This blog houses a multitude of interviews with speculative realists and related philosophers, including fellow-bloggers Levi Bryant, Nick Srnicek, and Graham Harman. Ennis is a graduate student of philosophy at University College in Dublin, Ireland.

Naught Thought by Ben Woodard: Like most Wordpress blogs, Naught Thought features useful tags on each article which can help identify its topic and whether or not it specifically addresses Speculative Realism. Woodard is a graduate student in philosophy at the European Graduate School.

The Accursed Share by Nick Srnicek: As Srnicek’s personal blog, this deals more with issues of politics and social change using the tools of Speculative Realism and Actor-Network Theory. However, it also functions as a source of conference and call for papers information. Nick Srnicek is a PhD student at the London School of Economics.

Complete Lies by Michael Austin: A pithy blog which frequently sums up inter-blog debates and provides the author’s own opinion. Austin is a graduate student at the Memorial University of Newfoundland and frequently updates the Wikipedia page for Speculative Realism under the name Zorio.

Eliminative Culinarism by Reza Negarestani: Hosted by Urbanomic, publisher of the Collapse journal, Negarestani's blog is perhaps the most rigorously academic of all the ones listed herein, being composed not of causal observations but full-fledged articles fit for publication in any journal. Negarestani's writing is quite jargon-rich so beginners might want to steer clear of this one.

Ecology without Nature by Timothy Morton: This blog shares a title with a book by Morton and deals with object-oriented ontological approaches to ecology. As such, Morton's themes and arguments resemble the other two OOO theorists on this list, Graham Harman and Levi Bryant.

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C. Fundamental Texts

While Speculative Realism may be the first philosophical movement to fully benefit from social media and other recent web trends, the most serious work is still done in the form of dense texts littered with citations from theorists old and new. Here is a list, far from comprehensive, of the first few speculative realist books which founded the school of thought and are generally representative of its views. Each text is linked to its Google Books entry; for a freely-available copy, click the "Find in a Library" link on the left-hand side below the list of booksellers.

After Finitude cover image

After Finitude: An Essay on the Necessity of Contingency by Quentin Meillassoux: Meillassoux’s book is considered the prototypical Speculative Realist work, introducing the pivotal concept of “correlationism” and setting this new realm of philosophy apart from its predecessors. ISBN-13: 9780826496744 (hardcover), 9781441173836 (paperback).

Cover of Speculations Volume
    I

Speculations: a peer-reviewed, open-access journal devoted specifically to issues of speculative realism and object-oriented philosophy. The first issue was released on August 1st, 2010; see the announcement on Another Heidegger Blog which provides links to a free pdf download, the print edition via Lulu, and individual article pdfs.

Cyclonopedia cover image

Cyclonopedia: Complicity with Anonymous Materials by Reza Negarestani: Cyclonopedia is a fiction novel that engages heavily with the issues at the heart of this philosophy. While this genre-bending book may not technically be a work of theory, it is equally ill-placed beside contemporary fiction and many philosophers consider it part of the emerging Speculative Realist canon. ISBN-13: 9780980544008 (paperback).

Cover image of Guerrilla Metaphysics

Guerrilla Metaphysics: Phenomenology and the Carpentry of Things by Graham Harman: Harman’s use of humor and concrete examples make his writing an excellent starting place for those usually intimidated by philosophical writing. Herein, he turns phenomenology on its head, using it as a tool to investigate “the objects themselves” rather than mere human perception of objects. ISBN-13: 9780812694567 (paperback).

Cover image of Nihil Unbound

Nihil Unbound: Enlightenment and Extinction by Ray Brassier: In one of the more difficult works in the field, Brassier draws on the jargon-dense “non-philosophy” of contemporary François Laurelle, arguing for a nihilistic reduction of human existence and renewed focus on material reality. ISBN-13: 9780230522046 (hardcover), 9780230522053 (paperback).

Cover image of Reassembling the Social

Reassembling the Social: an Introduction to Actor-Network Theory by Bruno Latour: Latour is one of the most established of the speculative realists, having published numerous books through the 1980s to present. This book is a good overview of a certain species of Speculative Realist thought which focuses on how networks, i.e. the connection between active agents, constitute society. ISBN-13: 9780199256044 (hardcover), 9780199256051 (paperback).

Cover image of Philosophies of Nature after Schelling

Philosophies of Nature after Schelling by Iain Hamilton Grant: In his first original book, Grant argues for a renewed focus on the inorganic realm, drawing supporting arguments from 19th-century German philosopher Friedrich Schelling and arguing against the legacy of Immanuel Kant, which is seen as unjustly privileging the position of humans in existence. ISBN-13: 9780826479020 (hardcover), 9781847064325 (paperback).

Cover of The Speculative Turn

The Speculative Turn: Continental Materialism and Realism edited by Levi Bryant, Nick Srnicek, and Graham Harman: an excellent introduction to the emerging field of Speculative Realism, featuring a breadth of essays by almost all major theorists associated with the movement, including Ray Brassier, Manuel DeLanda, Iain Hamilton Grant, Francois Laruelle, Bruno Latour, Quentin Meillassoux, Reza Negarestani, and all three of its editors. The re.press website features a free pdf download of the entire volume. ISBN-13: 9780980668346.

Cover image of Tool-Being

Tool-Being: Heidegger and the Metaphysics of Objects by Graham Harman: Harman’s first book is an interesting case study in how Speculative Realists use the philosophical methods of previous generations to their own ends, as Harman singles out a specific passage by Heidegger and explores its manifold consequences, in the process going further than Heidegger dared to venture. ISBN-13: 9780812694444 (paperback).

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D. Interviews

I find interviews with philosophers to be some of the best introductory material, as they tend to use concrete examples and comparisons/contrasts with similar thinkers to distill their positions into concise nuggets of wisdom. Speculative Realism has been fortunate to have numerous interviews published across various websites around the Internet. Below is a brief list, compiled primarily from the stellar blogs Philosophy in a Time of Error and Another Heidegger Blog. Some credit belongs to the folks over at Speculative Heresy as well, who have a list of interviews under their incredible Resources tab, including the one with Meillassoux which I was not aware of.

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E. Terms

Speculative Realism is generally considered “a useful umbrella term, chosen precisely because it was vague enough to encompass a variety of fundamentally heterogeneous philosophical research programmes.” (Brassier, 2009) These philosophies, while at once radically different from one another, could be said to find some coherence in their opposition to correlationist philosophies; to quote Ray Brassier again, “the only thing that unites us is antipathy to what Quentin Meillassoux calls ‘correlationism’—the doctrine, especially prevalent among ‘Continental’ philosophers, that humans and world cannot be conceived in isolation from one other—a ‘correlationist’ is any philosopher who insists that the human-world correlate is philosophy’s sole legitimate concern” (2009). An analogy could be drawn to the term “postmodernism,” which is used to label a very diverse set of theories which nonetheless could be said to be united in their opposition to the modernist project of enlightenment.

To the terms themselves! Each is listed alongside the theorist(s) whose positions were at one point identified with the term.

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Last updated: April 22nd, 2012 - fixed broken links to Speculative Turn & added a few interviews with Harman & Bryant. Updated my current position.

Eric Phetteplace
Emerging Technologies Librarian
Chesapeake College

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