Leaving the Trees

treedesertWe’re back with the trees again. Some have never really left them since Berkeley. Trying to turn the tables on his correlationist opponent Harman must cover up the absurdity in his own alternative, the problem of our supposed essential “inability to “know” the tree in the full sense”, this “inability” which is to be turned into a virtue rather than what it actually is, a party invitation to the sceptic. But Harman’s problem will be this, and it is no mere word-play: how does he know that he does not and can never know the tree in the full sense? How can he pre-empt the attempt at knowing, the labour of the concept? Has he looked at this tree from all angles (Husserl)? Has he asked others how they perceive the tree, consulted all possible conversational partners and their claims (Habermas), whether scientific, artistic, etc. etc. (Gadamer)? What exactly is he comparing his supposed structural privation of knowledge to? What standard is it with respect to which, all possible claims having been discussed, evaluated and explored, knowledge must forever fall short? It can be only this – some noumenal side to the tree (or the President) which, so the prejudice runs (for prejudice it is), can never be known, something which (now Kant morphs into Heidegger) ‘withdraws’ by its very nature, a withdrawal the philosopher asserts, posits, “alludes to”. What exactly is he comparing his lack of knowledge to? Frustratingly for the realist, it can be only this: a full match between thought and a reality in the last instance independent of itcorrespondence. Oh, ghosts of philosophies past that will not be exorcised!