Questions for Object-Oriented Thought
Levi has asked some great questions of relational thought lately, and I will try to dive into them as soon as I can (most likely later this week). But coming out of the recent ‘objects vs. relations’ debate, I have some questions for object-oriented thought as well.
I ask these out of genuine curiosity, I don’t know the answers, and if either Graham or Levi or any others in the OOO/OOP crowd have written or blogged on these, please direct me to the right sources (print, blog, etc.) I’m coming into these conversations a little later than some of the others, so please forgive me if these have already been dealt with in the blogosphere long ago (I likely wasn’t reading them back then!), or if they are already mentioned somewhere I missed in an OOO/OOP text.
However, if these issues aren’t addressed in OOO/OOP texts, they then shift to concerns, questions I’d like object-oriented thought to answer and would be worried if it couldn’t.
Here’s my questions:
1) DISTINCTNESS: Within OOO/OOP, are all event-particles, and all aggregates thereof, distinct objects?
For OOO/OOP, is every physical entity in all of existence an object (we’ll get to mental objects in my second question)? If we follow Whitehead, every quantum ‘event-particle’ is an object (‘actual entity’ or ‘actual occasion’ or in earlier works, a term I prefer, ‘event-particle’), as are all aggregates thereof. Furthermore, each of these is a distinct object, for each refracts the whole of what is, if differently, in regard to its particular worldline and location in spacetime. This is where Whitehead gets holographic/Leibnizian. And yes, I realize objects are split between real/sensual, but I think with this and all following questions, these questions are still valid (and hence, when I say object in these questions I mean in its split sense).
2) QUALITIES/CLASSES: How does OOP/OOO account for the existence and/or creation of classes for/within objects? Where do classes come from?
Whitehead calls qualities, notions like ‘green’ or ‘threeness’, for example, ‘eternal objects.’ The reason why is that for Whitehead, meaning has to come from somewhere, and he’s trying to build what we’d call an immanent ontology. Meaning/qualities/ideas/types can’t come from nowhere, they must be part of the primordial nature of all that is (and yes, this is where his notion of an immanent ‘god’ shows up, I’m quite ambivalent about his use of that term). In addition, these qualities cannot be created or destroyed -any possible combination of matters must have a matching combination of qualities as virtual potentials of existence. For example, when something is a hue between green and blue, the ‘eternal objects’ (or qualities) or greenness and blueness ‘ingress’ in the ‘actual entity’ in question in relevant proportion. I’m not convinced Whitehead needs to have ideas be ‘eternal’ in this sense, its the one area I think Whitehead succumbs to OFM (‘old fashioned metaphysics’).Why does he do it? Firstly, by avoiding saying that qualities are simply either created by humans and projected on the world, or abstracted by humans from the contours of the physical world, he avoids Cartesian/Kantian dualism and moves towards a more Spinozist/Leibnizian quasi-monist frame. But I think he avoids one pitfall (dualism) and falls in another. Because the other main reason why he makes qualities eternal is because if they’re not, then somehow he’d have to come up with an account of their genesis from matter. Which becomes problematic for many reasons. Firstly, he presupposes qualities in his description of event-particles, so he’d get himself into a chicken-and-egg paradox (how could they give rise to what they presuppose?). But I think the deeper reason why Whitehead avoids the question of the genesis of qualities/types is because of the massive ‘can of worms’ this would open, as described so well by Derrida (on ‘originary repetition’ in Grammatology), Lacan, evolutionary linguistics, etc. The question of the genesis of qualities is I think where Whitehead founders, but I think he points us to the task at hand for ourself, particularly if we are trying to understand objects today in a non-dualistic way. The point of this all is that I think Whitehead’s similarities to aspects of OOO/OOP points to a crucial question: How does OOP/OOO account for the existence and creation of classes within/of/for objects? Where do classes come from? Graham at one point says the following on this issue: “Aristotle already introduced the notion of substances that don’t last forever, and I see no reason to regress to before that insight, even though Leibniz unfortunately does.” I agree with his critique of Leibniz here (which is where Whitehead is getting his approach from), but there must be an alternative account to put in its place (is Aristotle enough?). Considering the conundrums we reach when abandoning the ‘eternal’ aspects of qualities, what is the OOO/OOP position on these things?
3) LIMITS OF OBJECTS: Is there anything that is not an object, or which becomes an object, or stops being an object, and how would we know? That is, how do objects interact with their limits (before, after, transition)?
This question links the preceding two, and goes back to Adrian’s questions on when an object starts or stops being an object, or transforms from one object to another. I’d like to know, if ‘pre-objects’ of some sort become objects, or objects go out of existence or transform, what evidence would we see, either from outside or inside? I realize that objects come in and out of each other’s sensual experience, but does this mean that when this happens the new objects in which one contains another jump into existence ex nihilo? And if so, does this get us into the sort of terrain as Badiou and events?
4) NAMING OBJECTS: When one object transforms into another, at what point does it cease to be the same object – and more importantly, who/what gets to decide this?
It seems to me that the to separate one object from another, or to decide that one is part of another’s whole, requires a perspective from which to decide, and hence, some aspects of subjectivity (ie: Niklas Luhman on observation as a ‘cut’). For example, if a bit of water freezes into ice, are these two different objects, or two forms of the same? And is such a determination made no matter who and what observes, or doesn’t observe, this transformation? And if not, what (point of view) makes such a determination, and with what set of criteria? Are there necessary/sufficient conditions to determine transformation, and if not, why?
5) EXCESS/RESERVE: Where does the excess/reserve presented by each object come from, and can it be created, destroyed, or transformed?
I agree, objects in the world must have an excess/reserve, something which withdraws from the rest of the world (hence the real/sensual object split). My question concerns the genesis, dissolution, and transformations of this excess/reserve. Does each sensual object simply get a ‘reserve/excess,’ and if so, where does this come from? Is this reserve like a bundle of Deleuzian singularities (ie: triple point in H20), or is it something more than this (ie: object a)? Can this reserve/excess be destroyed? That is, when one object no longer ‘experiences’ another, and the object containing them both vanishes or goes into latency of some sort, where does it go?
General note: In some sense, these are the same set of concerns asked from different points of view – as a relationalist, I do tend to see things as refractions of each other. That doesn’t mean these questions are the same, merely that they are related – in fact, by being asked from the same perspective.