I'm growing more and more impressed one of Graham Harman's observations, one that he argues many times (just take a look at his blog, Tool-Being and Guerilla Metaphysics, for instance). This is his case that for about two hundred years, the game of being right in philosophy has most often been one of going meta.
What does going meta mean? Let Monty Python explain:
If you've ever been in this kind of argument, you'll know how intense it can get. Going meta is a great way to sneer at someone. You remove the rug from underneath the other's feet. Their mere immediacy is always false. It's the deep structure, the numinous background, the possibility of the possibility of the horizon of the event of being, that is more real, or better, or just more rhetorically effective, than anything else. In this mode, the egg of potentiality comes before the chicken of the actual.
(Interestingly, this mode is exactly what Monty Python exploit, in particular in the skit above. For a contrary mode, have a read of Aristotle. For sure he thinks that chickens come before eggs. It's one deep reason why he's so invigorating.)
The syndrome of going meta is repeated in countless different philosophical modes. It makes Marxism more similar to deconstruction than it is to OOO, for instance. It makes Heidegger more similar to Adorno than to Ian Bogost. A fact that Adorno would have found disturbing.
I'm not sure which part came first, the thinking or the acting out, but this meta syndrome seems strangely parallel with the basic ontology of modern life.
For instance, it's deeply responsible for the beautiful soul condition from which we mock anyone who dares to actually do something—the condition Lacan noted when he claimed “Les non-dupes errent.” Those who sit up high on the mountain sneering at us poor saps beneath, because they think they can see through everything, are the most deluded of all.
Modern life presents us with a choice:
1) The essence of things is elsewhere (in the deep structure of capital, the unconscious, Being)
2) There is no essence
At present I believe that the restriction of rightness and coolness to this choice is one reason why planet Earth is in big trouble right now. And I believe that the choice resembles a choice between grayish brown and brownish gray.
That's why I believe in option 3):
3) There is an essence, and it's right here, in the object resplendent with its sensual qualities yet withdrawn
And that's why I believe we are entering a new era of academic work, where the point will not be to one-up each other by appealing to the trace of the givenness of the openness of the clearing of the lighting of the being of the pencil.
What will that look like? Not sure, but I know it'll be an immense relief.