Quick Response to Tim Morton: On Lava-Lamps and Goo

I must confess, I like the fluidy metaphors. The speak to me and make me feel warm and fuzzy, just as I think Legos and such make the OOO folks feel warm and fuzzy (I must admit to loving legos, tho!).

But in reading Tim’s response to Adrian’s recent post, I can’t help but feel like the discussion is missing the boat a little (and I hadn’t read these posts when I wrote my last one!)

That is, I’m not sure that relationism are all about goo. Certainly for me, rather, it’s about context. Or my approach, be it relationalism or otherwise, is about context.

That is, I think that objects and relations are two sides of the same. Both, in their way, can be seen as withdrawing, to use OOO lingo. And I think if you eliminate the way either objects or relations withdraw, you miss something essential.

Because ultimately, what it comes down to, is that I think the object/relation distinction is kinda silly. I mean, there are entities, some are objects, some are relations, but all of them are related to contexts which exceed them. It is because of the manner in which context exceeds any aspect of what is, and any attempt to grasp/prehend/apprehend such aspects, that those aspects withdraw. Likewise, we could say that it is because of the manner in which aspects exceed their contexts that the whole, in a sense, withdraws.

Objects and relations are both aspects of the whole, as well as refractions thereof.

Why the fluids then? I think fluids metaphorize this nicely, because they sometimes solidify into solids, and sometimes don’t. Are they more fundamental than solids? Well, in the universe, fluids outnumber solids, mostly because solids are rather exceptional states. But as Tim points out, the fluid/solid distinction is one of level of scale anyway.

It seems Tim is annoyed that fluids reduce the multiplicity of what is to one-in-many goo of Spinozist substance. Then again, I’m fine with the notion that there are infinite substances, or one substance that differs potentially infinitely with itself. I don’t see these as mutually exclusive.

I guess I fail to see the problem with the object/relations dispute. Given the choice, I go with relation, but perhaps that’s a matter of style more than anything else. Maybe I’m a contextuationist. Give me context, please, whether it be fluid or solid!

No matter how you cut it, tho, lava lamps remain cheezy, but fun.

 

 

 

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~ by chris on January 12, 2011.

4 Responses to “Quick Response to Tim Morton: On Lava-Lamps and Goo”

  1. great post Chris! I agree that the World (perhaps what you call “context”) exceeds all of the “orientations”, or explanatory models, we seek to construct (to keep ousrelves fuzzy and warm).

    As you so insightfully remind us:

    “…objects and relations are two sides of the same. Both, in their way, can be seen as withdrawing, to use OOO lingo. And I think if you eliminate the way either objects or relations withdraw, you miss something essential.

    Because ultimately, what it comes down to, is that I think the object/relation distinction is kinda silly. I mean, there are entities, some are objects, some are relations, but all of them are related to contexts which exceed them.”

    Those who would demand we chose between the being and becoming demand too much. Let us take things and flows and hybrids and assemblages on their own terms, in context, with all the specificity that entials. Let us demand a world-oriented philosophy (WOO) instead.

    [with a rallying cry: "WOO not goo!"?]

    cheers-

  2. [corrected version]

    Great post Chris! I agree that the World (perhaps what you call “context”) exceeds all of the “orientations”, or explanatory models, we seek to construct (to keep ourselves fuzzy and warm).

    As you so insightfully remind us:

    “…objects and relations are two sides of the same. Both, in their way, can be seen as withdrawing, to use OOO lingo. And I think if you eliminate the way either objects or relations withdraw, you miss something essential.

    Because ultimately, what it comes down to, is that I think the object/relation distinction is kinda silly. I mean, there are entities, some are objects, some are relations, but all of them are related to contexts which exceed them.”

    Those who would demand we chose between Being and Becoming demand too much. Let us take things and flows and hybrids and assemblages on their own terms, in context, with all the specificity that entails. Let us demand a world-oriented philosophy (WOO) instead.

    [perhaps with a rallying cry of: "WOO not goo!"?]

    cheers-

  3. But, it’s “gooey,” Chris, because you don’t define what context is. Your ontology has no single, holistic context because, as you so often say, and rightly, that each thing has its own perspective. In fact, would there not be as many contexts as there are entities as such? What is, in fact, a context? This is where the goo meets the road, so to speak. If context is not made up of individual and particular things, precisely, then, what is it? It can’t be absolutely indeterminate — in fact, again, based on your own ontology, it has to be extremely selective and specific for each entity. How can one have a selective context if there isn’t anything out there to select from in the first place? Some things will matter to one entity that don’t matter in any way to another. But all of this implies that there are first individual entities to work with.

    Humans, with very powerful media, can only vaguely approximate the sensual context of a bat or a fly or a shark, and many of the elements efficacious to those organisms are simply not part of our context at all, except in the most abstract and diminished sense. Yet no one would want to say that the fly and the bat and the shark experience things that aren’t real or that are purely fiction, or entirely solipsistic just because our context is very differently structured. The only way one can say this is if individual entities are given ontological independence apart from any context. The only other solution I can see is a kind of absolute, ontological relativism in which perception = reality and reality = perception and no entities encounter any other entity, but only their own self-creation and self-reflection. Or, perhaps less severe, a kind of prime matter that is carved up and structured differently by each entity (how those entities are themselves already structured and carved up in the first place if there is only this unformatted matter would remain a mystery).

    • Yes, I go with the last option: “a kind of prime matter that is carved up and structured differently by each entity (how those entities are themselves already structured and carved up in the first place if there is only this unformatted matter would remain a mystery).”

      I think that they all do the carving of each other, the whole and parts all carve. But the carvings don’t necessarily line up, due to perspective, and sedimentation of perspective via form, etc.

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