Andrew Cole at Artforum:
Amid all the excitement about object-oriented philosophy, no one has paused to work out how talk about these new terms for relation is supposed to improve radically on the concept of “relation” in the history of philosophy. The problem is that the original sins of “relation” are not rendered entirely clear in Harman’s and his followers’ writing, apart from glib remarks about poststructuralist relationality, systems theory, and human observation. There’s really no need to overturn the concept of relation in the cursory manner of the object-oriented ontologists, because there’s already plenty in the history of philosophy since Aristotle to instruct us that relation is not always human or correlational, reciprocal, or even fixed or permanent, or anything more than a “moment” of relating that’s always vanishing by dint of becoming and decay. That’s why philosophers in the late Middle Ages commonly distinguished between relationes reales, relations among all entities apart from human perception, and relationes rationis, those relations we’ve reasoned out in our inspection of the world. Kant, for his part, knew that relation is not only aesthetic (what Aristotle derided as the “said-of” of relation; i.e., that relation is what we make of it). Rather, he understood that the problem of relation is exactly the same as the problem of the thing-in-itself: There are relations in the noumenal world, but we cannot think them directly because we have access only to phenomenal relations, the imperfect representations of noumenal relations. The human version of relation, in other words, isn’t the same as noumenal relation, and isn’t the only kind of relation. This idea is all over Kant’s lectures in metaphysics, which none of the object-oriented ontologists seem to know.