It seems to me that Lee Braver is correct when he argues, in A Thing of This World, that Continental philosophy has been primarily an anti-realist school from the start. We differ only in that Braver heaps praise on this anti-realism, while I view it as an intellectual catastrophe. In any case, an alternative Continental philosophy has begun to emerge, in the shape of at least three major realist approaches in Continental thought in the twenty-first century:
1. The New Realism led by the Italian ex-relativist Maurizio Ferraris and the prolific German Wunderkind Markus Gabriel. Given that Ferraris’s own realist turn dates as far back as the early 1990s, he may deserve the title of the first blatantly realist philosopher of the Continental tradition. He also paid a heavy price for this, since it put a heavy and permanent strain on his relationship with one-time mentor Gianni Vattimo.
2. The realism of Manuel DeLanda, drawn somewhat counter- intuitively from Deleuze and Guattari, but developed with vigor and passion, and unremittingly realist in spirit.
3. The realism of the Speculative Realists gathered at the 2007 workshop at Goldsmiths, University of London. This was a loose confederation of separate realist approaches, and the four original members quickly went their separate ways.
Through the influence of these three approaches—and not those of New Materialism, which is a mostly rabid anti-realist movement—realism has finally achieved something like a critical mass in Continental philosophy. Far from fading away quietly, it is the subject of more books, articles, and conferences each year.
Thus, it may be a good time to consider possible future developments in Continental realism. Given the limited space available for the present article, the best I can hope to do is discuss the possible future of my own preferred Continental realism: object-oriented philosophy, or object-oriented ontology (abbreviated OOO, or “Triple O”). Since I cannot assume the reader’s prior familiarity with the object-oriented approach, I will begin by explaining its origins in Husserl and Heidegger, before moving on to consider the future prospects of OOO itself…