We have all reason to rejoice that the things which environ us are appearances and not steadfast and independent existences; since in that case we should soon perish of hunger, both bodily and mental. (Hegel)
If aesthetics is first philosophy, perhaps we should replace the question “why is there something rather than nothing?” with “why does what is, appear?” This is the question that underlies my concerns with Harman’s withdrawn objects. Harman does think that objects do appear despite their withdrawal, and the relationship (tension?) between real objects and the sensuous objects, in which they appear and through which they interact, is central to his philosophy. Harman (or, I should say, Guerilla Metaphysics; doubtless he’s written more on this since) doesn’t address the question of how these sensuous objects appear, and I have difficulty seeing how his philosophy could explain that. If the object is wholly withdrawn, how could anything of the object appear? Indeed, in what way would the appearance of a wholly withdrawn object be the appearance of that object, rather than some other object? In this way, it seems to me that Harman’s theory actually risks destroying the objects it is supposed to be celebrating: if there is no way of understanding the connection between the table and the appearance of a table, in what sense is the thing genuinely a table, or a horse, or The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire?