Shaviro on OOO – Stratospheric Objects in flux?

Steve Shaviro has some really brilliant insights up regarding OOO:

I find this helpful and suggestive; the assertion of objects’ withdrawal is how Harman avoids panpsychism. (And indeed, in Harman’s article on panpsychism in the Skrbina anthology, he says that not all objects are conscious because objects not involved in relations are asleep).

I reject the idea that objects are ever apart in a vacuum or without relation, as I think that the withdrawn-objects thesis is an unnecessary extension of Harman’s prior observation (which I accept) that no object is ever exhausted or fully grasped by all the other objects that prehend it. Even in sleep, one’s withdrawal from the world is not total. And this goes together with the Whiteheadian claim that all entities have experiences, and mentality — a version of panpsychism, I think, but one where mentality does not necessarily imply consciousness.

But what I find most useful about Fox’s analysis is the suggestion that withdrawn objects perform for Harman the role that flux does for Bergson or Deleuze, and that (somewhat differently) actual entities, as opposed to the enduring entities that are societies, do for Whitehead. We get two levels in all these thinkers, as follows:

  • —Harman: real objects vs. sensual objects
  • —Deleuze: potential (flux) vs. actual (fixed objects)
  • —Whitehead: actual entities vs. societies of enduring objects.

This helps my argument in two ways. First, because it gives more specificity to my claim that Harman doesn’t take temporality, or becoming, or the processes by which objects come into being and fall out of being, seriously enough. And second, because it suggests a different distribution of terms than the one I made in my book (where I equated Deleuze’s virtual vs. actual with Whitehead’s eternal objects vs. actual entities).

A lot of this is I think similar with what I’ve been trying to say in regard to OOO and the odd Whiteheadian notion of ‘eternal objects.’ That is, if objects with no relations have ‘gone to sleep,’ my argument has been that we have no way of knowing whether or not objects are in fact eternal, and only ingress, a la Whitehead, when the occasion calls for them (producing what Graham calls ‘sensual objects’ from ‘real objects’, or Whitehead’s ‘eternal objects’ and ‘actual occasions’).

I mean, if we can’t know anything about these objects, how could we KNOW if they’re not eternal? Not that this is what either Graham nor Levi have argued. But if objects withdraw (to an ontological stratosphere of some sort), how could we know they don’t relate in the realm in which they withdraw? Or even, as Steve has now suggest, maybe they flow up there?

If so, I honestly think this would be exciting, REALLY exciting. It does get us on to Whitehead turf, and there’d be questions in need of answering. But I think I’d prefer to deal with those questions than otherwise. This move also really gets us on Leibniz turf (which is where Whitehead gets this from), with his whole monad, viniculum, and matter (which some critics have argued is divided up into the ‘bodies’ of monads).

Anyway, these are fascinating issues, and perhaps areas where OOO and neo- or networkological relationalism might start to have more in common.

(PS – ‘Stratospheric Objects in Flux’ has the same number of syllables as the infamous Andy Warhol/Factory flick ‘Elevator Girls in Bondage.’ Just saying.)


~ by chris on June 15, 2010.

One Response to “Shaviro on OOO – Stratospheric Objects in flux?”

  1. […] This is why I think, for one, that object-relational approaches are a great corrective to past models, but as they are they are incomplete. Steve has argued that if the withdrawn objects communicate somehow with each other, perhaps in some sort of withdrawn flux, this might make us relationalists a bit less worried, because it would fill out the picture a bit. I tend to agree (for more on this, see here). […]

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