There is no spoon? More OOO’s, electrons, etc.


A disgustingly cute set of slightly different toads. I'm not sure if I really like this, or slightly want to vomit. I lean towards the second. Some things are so bad they are hard to look past. The more I look at this, the more scared I get.

Just a quick response to Levi’s last post. Oddly enough, I find that when I blog early in my day, it primes my brain for writing later in the day. It actually seems to boost my productivity. Go figure. Anyway.

I think we actually agree on more things than it seems, despite some very different ways of phrasing things. Firstly, in no sense do I endorse naive realism, nor do I think OOO maintains that position, otherwise, all the talk of objects withdrawing would be meaningless, etc. So when Levi says, “What Vitale is missing, I believe, are the two core claims of OOO: First, OOO claims that objects are radically withdrawn from one another. Insofar as objects are radically withdrawn from one another it is impossible to represent an object”, no, I’m not missing that, because I think this point is essential to both OOO and ‘new’ (for lack of a better term) forms of relationalism. I’d only tweak it by saying that I think its impossible to ‘fully’ represent an object, but I think we basically agree here. We also agree, as far as I can tell, on all the transformation and translation stuff.

More areas we agree – that the human-object correlation has nothing special to it, because this type of correlations goes radically down to the level of electrons, etc. Levi does seem to worry at one point that “Vitale appears to be claiming that the object is the other object’s perspective on that object.” No, I don’t think that, I think my position is actually very close to the OOO on this one – an object can give rise to a whole host of perspectivally related ‘translations’, but it isn’t the same as any of these. In OOO terms, the object ‘withdraws’.

Here’s where things may get a little less clear:

Here we get all the perspectivism that Vitale might like. Vitale’s nephew translates the frog in one way, a snake translates the frog in another way, the expert in yet another way, and the electron in yet another way. These are all ways in which one entity grasps another entity, the frog.

My sense is that the electron does not ‘prehend’ anything even close to a toad or froggie, but rather, just a shift in the layour of the sub-atomic particles its navigating as it goes along. So what then is this lump of stuff in front of us? Toad, Froggie, or a lump of subatomic particles and forces? If the answer is all of these, each of which translates and withdraws differently in its own way depending on how it is prehended (by my nephew, the expert, and the electron, respectively), then many of my concerns with OOO are decreasing. Because then there are many answers to the question – what is that lump of stuff over there?

Of course, then, we need to wonder where these notions – froggie, toad, subatomic particles – come from, and how the objects which are these ideas relate to the objects which are the different types of stuff out there. When humans see that lump of stuff that ribbits and hops around, they may argue ‘cane toad or froggie’, but being without language, another cane toad might ‘know’ toad is different from a tree, but in a much fuzzier, less conceptually rigorous way than humans do. With electrons, we get even further from conceptuality. Electrons seem to ‘know’ they can’t go through protons, because these protons are translated into ‘electron world’, but not in the same way humans do when they say, with conceptual precision and linguistic demarction, ‘that is an electron, which is different from a proton.’

How does OOO account for these differenences? I ask this as a question, because I haven’t found this in any OOO text at this point. My sense is that IF OOO says that there are fuzzy, non-linguistic types of prehension that are done by cane toads and electrongs, getting fuzzier and less like human consciousness as you go down the scale, then I might agree with a lot of this. Because that would mean that the lump of stuff in front of me that ribbits and hops is froggie, cane toad, shifting density of sub-atomic particles, object of potential devotion, whatever, all of these and none of these, layered on top of each other. Furthermore, that even the division of parts and wholes becomes a question, because for an electron, the cane toad isn’t a distinct thing from the air around it, but simply a gradient to be crossed. There’s no ‘thing’ there. Which is not to say there’s no toad there, but rather, that the concatenation of stuff into parts and wholes can be radically different depending on one’s perspective.

A Kantian would say there’s a ‘toad in itself’ there. But when we take perspectivalism to its extreme, there is no toad unless our perspective allows that object to be whole, rather than broken into its parts.

If OOO allows that from some perspectives there may be no toad there, not even a lump of stuff (ie: the perspective of an electron), then neo-relationalism (I’m trying new terms here) and OOO might not be as far apart as I’ve thought.

I still have other worries about some OOO stuff, but that’s in my last post. But it may yet turn out that we are not seeing things all that differently, but rather, find different questions interesting, have slightly different emphases, and hence need to translate between slightly different languages, but might not be as fundamentally different as it at first seemed.

Then again, I don’t want to distract Levi too much from the work at hand, because like many others, I’m looking forward to reading it!

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~ by chris on June 12, 2010.

One Response to “There is no spoon? More OOO’s, electrons, etc.”

  1. Hi Chris–keep it up!

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