The Conspiracy of Objects

  • Roland Végső University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Keywords: objectivity, language, translation, fiction, Kant, purposiveness, speculative realism, democracy of objects, flat ontology, conspiracy theory


The task this essay set for itself is a reconsideration of the status of the “object” in contemporary forms of philosophical realism that postulate “flat ontologies.” I argue that the theoretical construction of the “object” often comes about in these ontologies through a fetishistic disavowal that effectively makes these objects speak. As a result, the construction of the generalized field of objectivity (according to which everything that exists is an object) passes through a double articulation. On the one hand, since contemporary realism defines itself as a rejection of all forms of linguistic idealism, it also tries to shift the focus away from human language as the primary medium of the construction of objectivity. On the other hand, however, this demotion of language proceeds in these works simultaneously with the elevation of the concept of “translation” to an ontological principle: these non-linguistic objects exist through their perpetual translations of each other. The fetishistic disavowal at work in realism (we know very well that objects do not speak, yet we act as if objectivity had to be construed as a field of translation) introduces the modality of fiction into the very heart of objectivity. This fictional dimension constitutive of objectivity can be described through an engagement of the Kantian notion of “purposiveness.” I argue that these translations that supposedly constitute objectivity rest on the fundamental presupposition that guides the entire Kantian system: we must presuppose purposiveness even where we can detect no evidence of it at all. Hence, today, the theory of the “democracy of objects” must be supplemented by its necessary correlate, a theory of the “conspiracy of objects.”


Download data is not yet available.


Agamben, Giorgio, Means Without End. Notes on Politics, trans. Cesare Casarino and Vincenzo
Binetti, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis 2000
Benjamin, Walter, “On Language as Such and on the Language of Man”, trans. Edmund
Jephcott, in Selected Writings. Volume 1, 1913-1926, ed. Bullock, Marcus and Michael
W. Jennings, Harvard University Press, Cambridge 1996
Bogost, Ian, Alien Phenomenology, or What It’s Like to Be a Thing, University of Minnesota
Press, Minneapolis 2012
Bryant, Levi, The Democracy of Objects, Open Humanities Press, Ann Arbor 2011
Dragstedt, Albert (ed. and trans.), Value. Studies By Karl Marx, New Park Publications,
London 1976
Fisher, Mark, Capitalist Realism. Is There No Alternative?, Zero Books, Winchester 2019
Friedman, Thomas L., The Earth is Flat. A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century, Picador,
New York 2007
Greengard, Samuel, The Internet of Things, MIT Press, Boston 2015
Harman, Graham, The Quadruple Object, Zero Books, Winchester 2011
— Tool-Being. Heidegger and the Metaphysics of Objects, Open Court Press, Peru, Illinois
Husserl, Edmund, “Foundational Investigations of the Phenomenality of the Spatiality
of Nature: The Originary Ark, the Earth, Does not Move”, in Merleau-Ponty, Maurice,
Husserl at the Limits of Phenomenology, Northwestern University Press, Evanston 2003
— Ideas Pertaining to a Pure Phenomenology and a Phenomenological Philosophy, First
Book, trans. F. Kersten, Martinus Nijhoff, The Hague 1982
Jameson, Fredric, “Cognitive Mapping” in Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture, ed.
Nelson, Cary and Lawrence Grossberg, University of Illinois Press, Urbana-Champaign
Kafka, Franz, The Trial, trans. Breon Mitchell, Schocken, New York 1999
Kant, Immanuel, Critique of Judgment, trans. Werner S. Pluhar, Hackett, Indianapolis
Lacan, Jacques, “Science and Truth”, in Écrits, trans. Bruce Fink, Norton, New York 2006
Latour, Bruno, Reassembling the Social. An Introduction to Actor-Network-Theory, Oxford
University Press, Oxford 2005
— We Have Never Been Modern, trans. Catherine Porter, Harvard University Press, Cambridge
Mbembe, Achille, Necropolitics, trans. Steven Corcoran, Duke University Press, Durham
Meillassoux, Quentin, After Finitude. An Essay on the Necessity of Contingency, trans. Ray
Brassier, Continuum, London 2009
Oliver, Kelly, Earth and World. Philosophy After the Apollo Missions, Columbia University
Press, New York 2015
Végső, Roland, “Current Trends in Philosophy and Translation”, in The Routledge Handbook
of Translation and Philosophy, ed. Rawling, Piers and Philip Wilson, Routledge,
New York 2019
Whitehead, Alfred North, Process and Reality. An Essay in Cosmology, Macmillan, New
York 1978
How to Cite
Végső R. The Conspiracy of Objects. FV [Internet]. 2020Dec.31 [cited 2021Apr.15];41(3). Available from: