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.

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~ by chris on August 22, 2010.

6 Responses to “Replies to Replies on Objects vs. Relations (Part 354.221, and counting)”

  1. Chris,

    It’s not an “are you still beating your wife?” question, but something that follows directly from your own formulations. In your previous post riffing on Hjelmslev and in a number of other posts, you write:

    Its all images, all perspectives, all grapsings, all the way down. But there is no ’correct’ underneath at any given spacetime location – even spacetime is a grasping of the universe by itself by means of its constituents. The boundaries between semiotics and ontology break down in this sort of generalized, radicalized epistemology, to the point at which the very distinctions between these become one of aspect rather than firm distinction.

    .

    If this is true, then my worries follow directly from your claims because you’ve made the claim that perspectives make objects what they are. Consequently, you are either a) dishonest, or b) inconsistent when you write the following:

    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.

    Within the framework of the ontology you are proposing, these issues have everything to do with ontology precisely because the view of a Nazi is a perspective and you have claimed that perspectives make entities what they are. It’s as simple as that. Further, let’s not forget that you were the one who, in a previous post, claimed that politics trumps ontology. Here I am pointing out political consequences of your ontology.

    However, in the final paragraph I cite above I now encounter you defending the object-oriented position. You write, “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.” This is what Graham and I have been arguing quite clearly all along. Perspective has nothing to do with existence as such. That existence is what it is regardless of any other entity’s perspective on that existence. That’s OOO in a nutshell. You’re using our own arguments to defend your position.

    Philosophers are generally an extremely anal lot when it comes to language and how language is used. This is the whole problem with your use of language. You keep saying that objects are perspectives, rather than enunciating the much more modest thesis that objects have perspectives on one another (OOO’s thesis). This is why you get charged with the things I charge you with and which follow directly from how you articulate your position. You might not like those examples, but they follow directly from how you have articulated yourself.

    As for the issue of paradox, a paradox is a formal contradiction in a proposition such as follows from the question of “Who cuts the Barber’s hair when the Barber of Seville cuts everyone’s hair except those who cut their own hair.” OOO has quite clearly stated that objects can change, that they are produced out of other objects, and that they are destroyed when a certain number of their components are destroyed. You might disagree with these claims or accounts of the genesis and destruction of objects, but there is nothing paradoxical here. Continuing to refer to these accounts as suffering from “paradox” indicates either that you’re being dishonest or that you don’t understand what a paradox is.

    • Levi-
      At the start of your comment here, you quote me, and then say that “If this is true, then my worries follow directly from your claims because you’ve made the claim that perspectives make objects what they are.” I did nothing of the sort, nor will I. You are twisting my words, most likely unintentionally, but still, it happens consistently!
      My sense is that you are hearing what you want to hear. When you talk to someone with a radically different view, and see your own inverse reflection, isn’t that a sign the discourse is happening, in Lacanian terms, in a relation of mirroring rather than dialogue? I fear that is what keeps happening here.
      You say it further down too, “you have claimed that perspectives make entities what they are”. I’ve never said that, never will, nor do I believe it. I can’t say that enough times.
      The mistake you make, and KEEP making, is in the last word, ‘are’. That’s where you keep getting wrong what I’m saying. You convert everything into ontological issues, but this simply isn’t the way I, or most theorists, look at the role of perspective (natural or cultural) in the world.
      Which is why I have said, and will continue to say, that I don’t think ANY ‘perspective’ on someone, such as ‘gay, jewish, etc’, says ANYTHING about what something ‘is’. Which is why I disagree, radically, with your reading of my politics. You keep putting words in my mouth.
      I’ll say it again, I DO NOT think that “perspectives make entities what they are” – those are YOUR WORDS. I don’t think ontology has anything to do with words like jewish, gay, etc.
      Then later you argue that I start sounding like an object-oriented philosopher by arguing that existence for is different from existence as. But this difference does not make me an object-oriented philosopher, because I don’t believe that we can say that there are things like chalk or cheese within the realm of ‘existence as,’ the real of the real.
      And the reason why I refer to paradox in regard to OOO is that I feel that the account of change, genesis, distinction, etc. that is given by OOO works in the phenomenal realm, but not in the realm of the real, of which very little can be said, but of which OOO seems to want to say a helluva lot.
      You keep seeing your own straw-person in what I’m saying, but in the process of stuffing me into one of those straw-people, you don’t realize I’m saying something different. Something that doesn’t fit into the ‘x or not-x’ mirror play here. But there is more than one way to disagree with OOO, one which is not determined by its vanishing mediators.
      This is why I’ve come to the conclusion that our discussions are becoming counterproductive, and that I should spend time on other things. Sorry to be curt like this, but dude, you keep twisting my words! And that’s not getting us anywhere.
      If you stop putting words in my mouth like this, though, perhaps I’ll find our conversations productive again, but at this point, I only see impasse. With any luck, the impasse will eventually fade, but for now it seems to just repeat.

  2. Chris, honest question here. What do you perceive to be the meaning of “relation” in OOP? I get the endo and exo bit. My sense, especially relative to the Derrida conversations, is that there is some equivocation of terms going on though.

    • well, yes, there are endo and exo relations. but I think things get a little funky when we try to distinguish which are which, because then we need something like an essence, a master-signifier, and this imports a perspective into the entire problematic. My sense is that OOO wants to have its cake and eat it, importing either a god’s eye or subjectively tinged view (and these are obverse and reverse if the subject in question thinks they see as god sees) into the realm of the real from the realm of the phenomenal, but I’ve said this at greater length and clarity elsewhere.

  3. Levi, one way out of the perspecitivism problem you raise is to suggest perspectives aren’t under the control of the subject the way philosophy tended to place the relation. Once again Peirce is the obvious philosopher here. For him it was the object and not the interpreter that determined the interpretation via a sign. The inverse of the normal relationship. I believe Derrida moved in that direction as well, although I wish to avoid the Derrida wars again. The point is that if one moves from the subject to the object or at least a middle place (which I think is one way to take Derrida) then I think many of the problems of perspectivism disappear. Indeed I think perspectivism is primarily a problem due to the place of internalism in philosophy. With the move to externalism (either via Peirce amongst the pragmatists or via Heidegger via that whole group of phenomenologists) I think this takes a very different shape.

    What I think is valuable in OOP is that object perspective. But I think it might go a bit too far. (But as I’ve been at pains to note, this may just be my ignorance)

  4. […] the desire to pursue that discussion much further (and for more on this, see the comments section here, particularly my final comment). This is not the way philosophical arguments usually end, but my […]

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