Mike Johnduff of Working Notes says that speculative realism
…is, in my view, a way of being a better Heideggerian than some Heideggerians. Why? It ends up enriching the Heideggerian analytic where Heideggerians might call the particular investigations in this new field “onticology,” a turn away from ontology or from our prereflective understanding of being being and towards beings. Speculative realism, however, in no way involves this turn back to the ontic, to beings (and, I might add, only a foolish reading of Heidegger would see every turn to the ontic as a step back, and not because Heidegger was tolerant of this, but because the ontological is not more proper in that way: it’s not unlike claiming, appealing to Darwin, that you are more evolved than your dog, when of course all species are the most evolved they are going to be at this moment).
Speculative realism involves, instead, taking the Heideggerian analysis, and then asking, ontologically, the impossible thing: what are these beings in their being, when we don’t take being as anything that originates from our stance upon beings. It means, to put it another way, deconstructing (or at least being clearer about) all that Heidegger did (intentionally and, especially, not) to link Dasein to the human, and being to a history that man has privileged insight into. The result is a knowledge of objects with the prereflective understanding of man subtracted: the prereflection is among beings, purely, if I can put it that way.
My question is simple: is not a human-subtracted knowledge of objects simply naturalistic science as we currently understand it? Does not a naturalistic description suffice for knowing how things are when we are not looking? I don’t understand how a human-subtracted knowledge of objects – an investigation into the “being of beings” – could be anything but an investigation into ontic properties. If we are “trying to talk about what the bridge is when you walk away from it” – would not a physical-engineering model be the best mode of discourse for doing so? If you want to subtract humanity, you need to lose metaphor and work with what physicists – the ultimate onticologists – have been using for years: mathematical equations. Vernacular language is simply too infused with human-centered metaphor to ever be useful in talking about how bridges are when no one is looking. So while I agree that onticology is not a priori a materialistic ontology, nevertheless, mathematical-physical discourse is arguably more useful than philosophical language when it comes to discussing bridges. Afterall, to paraphrase Dretske, engineering discourse will actually allow you to construct a bridge whereas object-oriented “philosophy” will not. Which one then is more truly object-centered?