Replies to Replies on Objects vs. Relations (Part 354.221, and counting)
The amount of verbiage that can be created in so short a time on these blog-a-ma-thingies is really astounding. The problem is that its hard to keep up with reading it all (at least if you’re doing something other than blogging!), then keeping it all in your head to comment on at a given time before there’s more posted.
A few points of response.
1. PARADOX: I do think that OOO generates paradoxes, contra Levi, and in previous posts I’ve roughly grouped them into genesis/dissolution, distinction, and change. These cease to be issues in the phenomenal realm because of perspective – each entity which grasps the world (prehension, perception, affection, etc.) does so from its perspective, based on its spacetime location, sedimented filters, etc. The result is a split world – phenomenal graspings laid over a gooey, virtual real of which little can be said, but which is necessary as that which links together the graspings in their interconnected, changing semi-incompossible disjunctive unity.
But I fail to see how the importation of what seems to me like a perspectival judgments (ie: ‘that lump of matter at that spacetime location over there is Paris!’) into the realm of the ‘real’ doesn’t bring with it either perspective or paradox. If you bring perspective into the real, then you need a level below IT to make sense of things. But if you don’t do this, then you have paradox, of the classic Parmenidean sense (‘how can an object change and yet remain itself?’), a little less those employed by Zeno, but certainly in the sense employed by Derrida. I haven’t been following ‘the Derrida debates’ lately, but I do take his deconstruction of boundaries, for example, when he talks about pictures and framing, to be quite nicely done, if not completely original. How does OOO evade these sorts of issues when talking about the real without either 1) importing perspective, but doing it on the sly, or 2) simply ignoring the critiques of boundaries and the like which are as old as the start of philosophical enterprise in Greece? I fear we have 1, while doing 2, but denying both. Unless, that is, I’m missing something. While I doubt I could have a Tim Morton-like conversion, I’d be more than happy to be like, ok, NOW its much clearer. That has yet to happen, however, and till then, I think the onus is on the folks who propose this to be convincing!
2. AGREEMENT: I do agree with OOO on many fronts. For example, I do agree that Paris has existed, as a concept, for quite some time, and has (as Whitehead would say) a form of ‘objective immortality’ because of this, as does everything else that has ever existed. I also agree that Paris has exo and endo relations, but I feel that the boundaries between these are fuzzy, determined by the particular Paris intended. Paris is in fact a fuzzy network, as I see it, between the graphemes of the roman alphabet ‘P-A-R-I-S’, the phonemes used to pronounce these in multiple languages, the near infinity of things said in relation to the phoneme-grapheme networks, the worldline in spacetime associated with this place in these many descriptions, the matters which have shiftingly become part of Paris and then moved on, any entity which has ever encountered Paris, the reveries, dreams, artworks, films related to these, etc. To be perfectly Leibnizian, all that has or will ever exist is related to Paris in one way or another, for all is contained in each, mirrored and refracted, if differently. And if and until time and space collapse, each and every aspect of this universe will continue to withdraw, if differently, from any and all graspings thereof.
3. PERSPECTIVE: Levi says:
However, here they violate the principles of their own ontology because if it isperspectives that individuate entities, they cannot say that there is more than one perspective on the same entity precisely because there is no entity upon which there could be more than one perspective.
To this I’d reply: entities individuate other entities, they co-individuate, by their interaction. When a proto-electron smashes into a proto-photon, we have no idea of knowing if they exist before this, but we know they drag each other, in a sense, into existence by means of the event of their collision. The event is the co-individuation of all that is a part of this event. Anytime we try to generate continuities between events, this is another event, and mereologically (a favorite Levian word!), they encircle each other. In some senses, this leads to a pointilistic universe (and this is why Whitehead feels that Bergsonian continuity of the virtual cannot be the case), but just because we cannot know what happens between events at the quantum scale does not mean that nothing happens, there are limits to human knowledge here, and perhaps more fundamental physical limits at stake, because you can’t use standard philosophical argumentation, based on things like positions, continuity, etc., on entities which literally seam smear space and time. But for macroscopic entities, we can say that a single dog runs over a single lawn, at least as shorthand, even if its particles keep changing underneath it.
To return to Levi’s point, however, I think he’s oversimplifying the terms of the debate. There is no ‘same entity’ there before or after an individuating event, whether in quantum or macro terms. We can, however, postulate something virtual, a flux of something shadowy underneath. At least, this is the Deleuzian solution. But it would be a mistake to say it is composed of objects.
4. PASSIVITY: One’s filters cannot make an objects be one thing or another at will. The whole edifice of Whiteheadian prehension, and negative prehension, can be applied here to cultural terms as well. If I say my dog is a tomato, no-one will agree with me unless I present arguments. The more subjects network to my position, the more that belief becomes seen as true. Whether or not it is true or false is simply a false question, and I’ve answered Levi several times with the Nietzschian/Foucaultian response to this, but he seems to not want to address this.
5. POLITICS: I think that despite what seems a passionate anti-semitism and passionate anti-homphobia on his part, Levi is still inappropriate in his use of Matthew Sheppard or Naziism as examples. By saying, ‘I’m not saying Chris and Adrian are homophobic or Nazis, BUT . . . ‘, that still puts the burden on us, at least rhetorically, to take the blame off of ourselves. Its the ‘So when did you stop beating your wife?’ catch-22. As someone who is fully aware of the role of enunciatory positioning in Lacan, I think Levi should know better.
Once again, I will summarize. Saying that gays or jews ARE x, y, or z is NOT an issue of ontology, and this is why Levi’s position on this doesn’t fly. Let us return to the neutrino:
. . . if all is perspective, doesn’t Chris’s existence dissolve because neutrinos don’t perceive Chris as Chris, but rather pass right through him indifferently. Is Chris prepared too claim that he doesn’t exist because neutrinos don’t have a point of view on him? If not, then why do humans get to be genuine substances such that they are not constituted by a point of view, whereas everything else is denied this autonomy?
Yes, I exist to Levi and Adrian, but not to the neutrino. I ‘vanish.’ I am not ‘grasped’, prehended, what term you want, by the neutrino. But this has nothing to do with my existence AS SUCH, but only with my EXISTENCE FOR the neutrino, Levi, Adrian, etc. ‘Existence for’ is mediated by perspective. Which is why people can anything they want about gays, jews, but this has nothing to do with what people ARE.
What is there, then? What can we say that ontology speaks to? Appearance. That the world appears at all. THAT is the proper ground of ontology. But unlike the traditional human-centered approach, following Whitehead, I believe this can be applied down to all levels, non-human actors, chalk and cheese, even neutrinos.
If you want a fuller reply, go to one of my previous post (second half on this one) where I’ve talked about the more Nietzschian and Foucaultian approaches to these issues.
As I’ve said before, I haven’t ‘muddled’ the terms of the debate, I disagree as to the way its constituted, and I hope Levi can see the difference. But please, Levi, stop asking me and Adrian when we stopped beating our wives.
6. RESPONSE TO ADRIAN: I wish I now had the steam to properly give Adrian’s recent posts their due! But I have friends coming over soon. A quickie response. I’m not fully sure I think that the difference between OOO and relational approaches is simply our different languages. I do agree with Adrian that objects withdraw, but oh so many of them! In fact, I think one could say that every quantum event withdraws. But I do think that the debates Adrian has rightly emphasized, which focus on issues of genesis/dissolution, distinction, and change, are important. I’m not sure we are all saying different versions of the same thing. Not sure if that’s really what Adrian’s getting at, though, I need to read his posts again. But I do agree that we need both processural/relational and object oriented language. I just think the OOO folks take some of the object-sided stuff too far, and the result is scholasticism – am I the same Chris if I eat a different breakfast cereal? Then again, I don’t think I’m giving Adrian’s posts their due, gotta go reread when I get back home.