Philosophy has always been a field I admired from afar, and this book was my first entry into the subject. I chose it because as a video game programmer I was interested to hear Bogost's unique perspective on the topic. It addresses (in the most general way possible) the problem of experience, from the viewpoint that humans must occupy no special place in the order of things, and they are simply one of an infinite number of objects capable of 'experiencing' the world. How then does the coffee cup, camera, or chile pepper's experience compare to our own? 'In ways impossible to understand', Bogost argues, and it is taken for granted that these objects do indeed 'experience' in some sense of the word. He asserts that the only way we can approach an understanding of this experience is through the blunt instrument of metaphor, as blunt as describing to a blind man that the color red yields a sensation like fire.
What drew me to this book was the idea of addressing the problems that will be posed by artificial intelligence in the (surely) not too distant future, specifically how we might construct a sense of meaning such that AI beings could be regarded on the same level as their human counterparts. I found what I was looking for in this book, albeit indirectly as Bogost doesn't touch on the subject of AI at all. Perhaps more correctly, he instead focuses on the much lower-fidelity objects of our universe: houses, cameras, the microchips of the Atari, etc. I found the book to be strongest when exploring the imagined experiences of specific objects, describing 'carpentry', which is Bogost's term for works of philosophy that don't include writing (like building a game on the Atari, or creating a house that can sense), a form which he argues yields insights seldom explored and potentially more powerful than writing. That argument of course leads the reader to wonder why then he is reading a book instead of consuming carpentry, a question which also finds the admitted answer that writing is what's required in the philosophy field to get ahead and be noticed. Bogost may want to break out of the shell that philosophy has constructed for itself, but he still has to play by the rules at least part of the time.
So what is the value of the system of thought this book introduces? What does Bogost aim to achieve by promoting it? It felt throughout the book that the author was arguing that 'objects should be regarded in their own right', and that science, art, and all culture is woefully human-centric. He seems to suggest in one instance that the television show 'The Wire' inadequately presented the perspective of objects, focusing solely (and incorrectly) on the human beings of its story and not on the inner worlds of the graffiti, crack pipes, and miscellaneous objects instead (the results of such a focus I can imagine would result in a show watched by even fewer people than 'The Wire'). Is this a problem that really needs addressing, that we are not considering the world from the point of view of objects? What would we as humans gain by taking such an approach? To which the book answers with the implied rejoinder, why should human objects, among all objects, be the ones that must gain? However as the book itself makes clear elsewhere, our experience is inexorably tied to our humanity, and to realize that but still insist that we not put ourselves at the center of our world felt unjustified.
As a tool for viewing the world, the philosophy espoused in this book was at its weakest when addressing the topic of morals. What are the morals of objects? Are we violating the morals of the chile pepper when we chew it up? It is impossible to fathom except as a metaphor of a metaphor of a metaphor, the book asserts, and as a result the very concept of morals itself is exploded, which feels like an untenable position for a philosophy to lie in. Perhaps starting from the position that morals must exist and working backwards would yield a more useful philosophical tool, but that is not the goal here. And indeed I approached the end of the book wondering what the goal of this school of thought was, if it was indeed none of the above? The final chapter's title 'wonder' seems to hint at the best explanation.
As a newcomer to formal philosophy this book was a difficult read at times, and it is not written with the newcomer in mind, brandishing lots of references to other philosophers and metaphysical positions which were completely lost on me. Nevertheless, it ultimately offered a lot of value, giving a new perspective on the supremely alien nature of the familiar world around us, and I can imagine the structure of thought here as one that may form the foundation for understanding a future world where we are not the only sentient objects.