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Counter-Objectivities: Philosophy after the Object


Admission requirements

Admission to this course is restricted to:

  • BA students in Philosophy, who have successfully completed their first year, and who have also completed at least 10 EC’s of the mandatory components of their second year, including Philosophy of Mind or Concepts of Selfhood.

  • Pre-master’s students in Philosophy who are in possession of an admission statement, and for whom this course is part of their programme.


The object determines in modern occidental thought not only the totality of the world, but the totality of thought itself. No objectivity without the object, but also no subjectivity: in fact, no subject. The subject emerges as a correlate of the postulated object, as the latter’s substantiality is determined by Descartes as extension. The object amounts thus to the fixity, stability and permanence of an extended thing. In turn, the world becomes objective.

This course queries the object, by examining how this notion is recast in the 20th and 21st century, retracing the horizon of enquiry and opening thus a space of unprecedented creativity. Heidegger’s things, Benjamin’s works of art, Derrida’s traces, Deleuze’s becomings, Serres’s quasi-objects, Latour’s networks, Morton’s hyperobjects and Bennett's thing-power are the provisional foci around which this space articulates itself, the foci from which our writing of non-objects begins.

Course objectives

The aim of the course is to familiarise students with diverse philosophical styles and help them thus craft original responses to questions surrounding the objectivity of the object, its status and the manifold counter-figurations that can help interpret and transform the world, in radical, promising ways. In order to do so the course engages directly with primary texts in a series of close readings.

Although clearly defined, the spectrum of theoretical positions encompassed by the course is deliberately broad. In order to sustain the focus on primary texts, a rather limited amount of secondary bibliography is given, as a suggestion of further directions, rather than as commentary on the course’s readings. Independent research will be required to enhance these readings, but more importantly the student's own analytical, critical and synthetic skills in order to open up and engage with the texts. Each session comprises of one primary and one or two secondary readings, all of which are integral.

Students who successfully complete the course will have a clear understanding of:

  • the tradition in which the notion of the object emerged and how it informed subjectivity, relationality and worldhood.

Students who successfully complete the course will be able to:

  • obtain a comprehensive appreciation of the responses of the past century to the impasses of the object-paradigm;

  • reflect critically, compare and evaluate these responses;

  • apply this spectrum of theoretical insights to things surrounding us, things we encounter as well as things we use and make;

  • appreciate diverse stylistic modes of rigorous philosophical writing - and to be able to explore, adopt and adapt elements these modes in one’s own writing, while preserving one’s own voice;

  • become familiar with the practice of close reading;

  • develop a theoretical vocabulary, which will extend beyond the aims of the course.


The timetable is available on the following websites:

Mode of instruction

  • Seminars

Class attendance is required.

Course load

Total course load 10 EC x 28 hours = 280 hours

  • Attending lectures and seminars (13 weeks x 3 hrs): 39 hours

  • Study of compulsory literature (12 weeks x 10 hrs): 120 hrs

  • Preparation assignment(s)/presentations: 25 hrs

  • Preparation for discussion of essay drafts: 10 hrs

  • Writing paper: 86 hrs

Assessment method


  • Paper of 5,000 words: 60%

  • 30 mins Presentations: 30%

  • Participation: 10%


The final mark for the course is established by determination of the weighted average of several subtests.


The resit consists of an essay of 5,000 words (60% of the total grade). It is possible to revise the essay already submitted. The grades for other exam components (presentation, participation) remain in place. No separate resits will be offered for the presentations. Class participation is required for taking the resit. Students who have obtained a satisfactory grade based on the first examinations cannot take the resit.

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.


Blackboard will be used for:

  • Uploading materials for study, including notes or slides and library links to the readings.

  • Communication with the students, including further course description and ccouncements.

Reading list

Primary texts

  • Descartes, René, Principles of Philosophy, transl. by V. R. Miller and R. P. Miller, Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishing, 1982. (Specifically Part II: 'On The Principles of Material Objects', pp. 37-77.)

  • Heidegger, Martin, “The Origin of the Work of Art”, in Off the Beaten Track, trnsl. by J. Young, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002.

  • Benjamin, Walter, “The Work or Art in the Age of its Technological Reproducibility”, in The Work or Art in the Age of its Technological Reproducibility and Other Writings on Media, Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2008.

  • Derrida, Jacques, “Differánce”, in Margins of Philosophy, Brighton: Harvester Press, 1982.

  • Deleuze, Gilles and Guattari, Felix, A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, transl. by Brian Massumi, Minneapolis: Minnesota University Press, 2005. (Specifically Chapter 10: '1730: Becoming-Intense, Becoming-Animal, Becoming-Imperceptible…', pp. 232-309.)

  • Serres, Michel, The Parasite, transl. by L. R. Schehr, Baltimore: The John Hopkins University Press, 1982. (Specifically 'Theory of the Quasi-Object', pp. 224-234.]

  • Latour, Bruno, Reassembling the Social. An Introduction to Actor-network-theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005. (Specifically, 'Third Source of Uncertainty: Objects too Have Agency', pp. 63-86.)

  • Morton, Timothy, Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology after the End of the World, Minneapolis: Minnesota University Press, 2013. (Specifically 'A Quake in Being: An Introduction to Hyperobjects' and Part I: 'What Are Hyperobjects?', pp. 1-95.)

  • Bennett, Jane, Vibrant Matter, A Political Ecology of Things, London: Duke University Press, 2010. (Specifically, 'Preface', pp. vii-xix; and Chapter 1: 'The Force of Things', pp. 1-19.]

Secondary texts

  • Descartes, René, Meditations on First Philosophy, ed. and transl. by J. Cottingham, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003. (Specifically Sixth Meditation: The existence of material things and the real distinction between mind and body, pp. 50-62.)

  • Heidegger, Martin, “The Thing”, in Poetry, Language, Thought, trnsl. by Albert Hofstadter, New York: Harper & Row, 2001.

  • Heidegger, Martin, Being and Time, transl. by J. Stambaugh. New York: SUNY, 1996. (Specifically 1.III: 'The Worldliness of the World', pp. 59-105.)

  • Benjamin, Walter, “Experience and Poverty”, in Selected Writings II.2 (1931-1934), ed. by M. W. Jennings, H. Eiland and G. Smith, trnsl. by R. Livingstone and Others, Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2005.

  • Derrida, Jacques, “Ousia and Grammé”, in Margins of Philosophy, Brighton: Harvester Press, 1982.

  • Derrida, Jacques, “Khôra”, in On the Name, transl. by D. Wood, J. P. Leavey Jr. and I. McLeod, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1995.

  • Gilles and Guattari, Felix, A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, transl. by Brian Massumi, Minneapolis: Minnesota University Press, 2005. (Specifically Chapter 1: 'Introduction: Rhizome', pp. 3-25; and Chapter 15: 'Conclusion: Concrete Rules and Abstract Machines', pp. 501-514.)

  • Serres, Michel, “Mathematics & Philosophy: What Thales Saw…”, in Hermes: Literature, Science, Philosophy, London: The John Hopkins University Press, 1982, pp. 84-97.

  • Serres, Michel, “The Origin of Geometry”, in Hermes: Literature, Science, Philosophy, London: The John Hopkins University Press, 1982, pp.125-133.

  • Latour, Bruno, “On actor-network theory. A few clarifications plus more than a few complications”, Soziale Welt, vol. 47, 1996, pp. 369-381.

  • Latour, Bruno, “Why Has Critique Run out of Steam? From Matters of Fact to Matters of Concern”, Critical Enquiry, vol. 30, 2004, pp. 225-248.

  • Morton, Timothy, “Here Comes Everything: The Promise of Object-Oriented Ontology”, Qui Parle: Critical Humanities and Social Sciences, vol. 19 no. 2, 2011, pp. 163-190.

  • Bennett, Jane, “Encounters with an Art-Thing,” Evental Aesthetics vol. 3, no. 3, 2015, pp. 91-110.

  • Bennett, Jane, “Systems and Things: A Response to Graham Harman and Timothy Morton,” New Literary History vol. 43, no. 2, 2012, pp. 225-233.


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