This essay is a critique of actor-network theory (ANT), vitalism, and object-oriented ontology (OOO, or “speculative realism”), as advanced by Bruno Latour, Jane Bennett, and Graham Harman and his colleagues. It focuses on the contradiction within these newer philosophies. Each holds that objects interact with one another in their own hidden ways, that objects are mysteriously indifferent to the human world, and that human subjectivity itself is just another object. Such a view is described as “posthuman” and is often called “flat ontology” (after Manuel DeLanda). The problem, however, is that each of these newer philosophies exhibits a very strong humanism and a rather traditional ontology in that they claim to hear things “speak,” recording things’ voices, registering their presence, and heeding their indifference. Indeed, this ontology is so traditional as to be just another instance of logocentrism and ontotheology, those ancient traditions in which things speak their being and call out yearningly to the observer. This essay contends that scholars working in these areas would recognize these problems if they adopted a more inclusive conception of the history of thought—a history more attentive to medieval philosophy and mysticism (Meister Eckhart and John Duns Scotus) as well as certain strains of modern idealism (Fichte) and vitalism (Bergson)— in which the resources of medieval mysticism are addressed. Failing to adopt a perspective genuinely open to the Middle Ages, these areas sustain a humanism that is anything but posthuman.

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