Strange Bedfellows: OOO and Networkological Relationalism . . .
As anyone following this blog has known, I’ve been hard at work on two book manuscripts that are (I hope finally!) nearing completion. The first one, which I’m REALLY hoping will be ready to go out looking for publishers towards the end of january break, is described here. The second one, the core of the networkological project, I’m hoping sometime towards the end of the summer, and it is described here.
While a prelim version of the first tiny section of the second book has been published here, most of the coolness of the networkological project I’ve kept under wraps, because it simply isn’t done yet. Things keep mutating, if slightly. Its like a giant crystal – alter one part, and it alters the whole. And of course, this is a manifestation of the very structure of the project. Its as labyrinthine as OOO is creepily yet productively simple (at least in its basic premises).
But I figure that it might make some sense, after the recent revelation in regard to Graham and Levi’s talks at UCLA, that my objections to OOO have vanished, to explain some of what I’ve recently described as the strong commonalities between OOO and what I’m working on.
But isn’t OOO built on the critique of relations?! And relationalism about reducing objects to mere sums of relations?
How networkological relationalism and OOO can have much in common might be difficult to ascertain at first, particularly when OOO in many senses articulated itself as a critique of relations. But the whole point of putting together this new form of relationalism is to avoid the problems of previous forms thereof.
Withdrawal via Networks
Firstly, the notion of WITHDRAWAL. Networkological relationalism puts forth the notion of the fundamental obstacle, which comes in many forms (privacy, potential, complexity, etc.). The point is, for the networkological perspective, all entities composed of/by networks withdraw. And in a variety of ways, and for a variety of reasons. This prevents the whole ‘hall of mirrors/pass the potato’ problem.
But why do entities withdraw? Some of this has to do with what I call ‘originary potential.’ If all in our universe is the result of ordinary matter/energy under the right conditions creating a ‘big-bang’, then the potential to produce any and all possible universes that could have resulted from the big-bang (as well as those relevant to other extreme sets of conditions) are present within all matter and energy. All that exists maintains the potential for radical self-differing in the right conditions, as various experiments in physics, not to mention nuclear energy of all sorts, demonstrate. And perhaps other types of self-differing as well. Every matter has within it the potential for radical self-differing, under a variety of extreme conditions, only a portion of which we have explored.
But there are other types of withdrawal of entities from knowledge of them. Many of these occur because no matter in the universe can trace the same worldline as any other, and hence, cannot know another matter from inside its own skin, so to speak. We cannot know the experiences of another human for the simple reason that we did not grow up in their bodies, and cannot insert ourselves into the worldlines of their experiences, all of which contributes in varying ways to their experience at the present moment.
Other types of withdrawal come from the fact that matter works at differing levels (a fundamental notion for networks!). For example, our conscious networks only ‘know’ what the sub-conscious levels of the brain pass on to them. But we cannot know all that these sub-conscious levels know, because otherwise we would have to be these levels. But we see this even with physical phenomenon. Water boils because of changes at the level of its molecules, but there are changes on the sub-molecular level that may impact the way it boils, and in a manner that a scientific observer would not know unless they switched the level of their analysis from that of molecules-water to that which includes sub-units. And while water cannot ‘know’ why it boils the way it does, we can say that its experience of boiling works in this leveled manner as well. Much of this is described by the notion of complexity (complex systems, etc.), which describes whenever wholes cannot be deduced from the aggregate sum of their parts.
All these types of withdrawal are avatars, so to speak, which ultimately derive from the ‘fundamental obstacle’ to knowledge described by the ‘network paradox’ – namely, that if all knowledge happens via networks, then the fact that networks necessarily foreground some things (nodes) which are linked to others (links), there are always grounds which are excluded. Nodes, links, grounds, and levels are the fundamental terms of the networkological project. The withdrawal via grounds and levels is built into the system at the get go, and particular obstacles to knowledge (withdrawal in OOO) are the results thereof.
The manner in which the network paradox is expanded from fundamental obstacle to its many avatars (nine in total) is complex and can’t be done here. Much of this is explained and expanded upon in regard to differences between knowledge and understanding, experience and consciousness, as described much more extensively in the manuscripts, but much more on that later.
Hyperobjects via networks
Beyond this, the networkological perspective also has a series of concepts with many similarities to HYPEROBJECTS. Combinatories, or organized networks of networks, have many aspects in common with hyperobjects, particularly that they can be dispersed. There are also plexes, or quasi-living ‘wideware’ combinatories, entities like languages that evolve in relation to human beings. And elsewhere in the project, the notion of ‘structure’ is used to explain how it is that dispersed matters, like the substance ‘silicon’ can have similar forms. Structure is the manner in which similarities in worldlines create similarities in forms, even in radically dispersed matters, thereby producing generalities in matter described by terms such as substances, species, etc.
In this sense, entities like oil spills can be understood as structured dispersed matters which, as combinatories follow specific rules as relevant to their form, itself a manifestation of the action of relational structure. None of this, however, eclipses the various manifestations of the funadmental obstacle to knowledge, which describes what OOO calls ‘withdrawal’ in many forms.
Anyway, I’ve included some brief excerpts from the manuscript, still in process, to give a sense of how some of these ideas are expressed more formally there. The sections listed here are not contiguous in the original manuscript, but I selected a few segments that might illustrate a bit of what I described above.
Networkological relationalism all looks, sounds, even tastes different from OOO in very many ways. But the end results are oddly resonant.
Combinatories. When entities interact with each other, they give rise to networks at higher levels of scale. Individual grains of sand give rise to the aggregate of a pile of sand of which they are a part. But some entities enter into more structured relations. When a structured relation, beyond mere aggregation, exists between entities in a society, this society is known as a machine, or combinatory, and the rule which describes the relation between the entities in question is known as a combinatorial. The simplest type of combinatory is ephemeral, and occurs when networks intersect in a temporary yet structured manner. Many combinatories, however, persist over time, and develop complex combinatorials between them. There are many types of combinatories, and the combinatorials that describe these can be single or multi-level, rigid or fuzzy, static or dynamic, unified or dispersed. When all the matters of combinatory are physically connected, we say its body is unified, but when its matters are not physically connected, we say they are dispersed. Across all the major types of combinatory, there are two general poles govern the types of combinatories that exist – the intricate and the complex. An intricate combinatory, also known as an intricate, links many objects with each other according to series of rules whereby the parts determine the potentials of the whole. An engine, for example, is such a combinatory, as is a contemporary digital computer. Such devices rarely surprise us, for they are designed in a manner which maximizes the role of matter and actuality in their construction. Intricate combinatories are often controlled by external patterns, or top-down control systems. A complex combinatory, also known as a hypercominatory, mental combinatory, or mind, is a combinatory which links networks of elements, at another level of scale, by means of a complex combinatorial, that is, a combinatorial which emphasizes the potential sides of its elements, the ability of all aspects involved to give rise to the new and to exceed the sum of their parts. Combinatories are generally more complex when they are continually and dynamically related to energetic systems which are metastable, thereby providing conditions which are between order and disorder within the environment of that combinatory. Human languages, for example, are complex combinatories, and it is the relation of language to humans, just as it is the relation of humans to the sun, which allows both humans and their languages to continually surprise us, for the sun, humans, and language are metastable systems, each in their own way. Most natural combinatories are complex, while most combinatories designed as tools are intricates. Ultimately, however, the intricate/complex distinction is one of degree. When a mind is observed by another conscious mind from outside, the second mind may attempt to map out the rule involved in the combinatorial which describes the first, but such an attempt is always necessarily only that, due to the impossibility of accessing another mind directly. Furthermore, when a mind attempts to map its own combinatorial, it will not be able to fully do so, because this would require full access to all the combinatorials of the combinatories of which it is composed, as well as full access to its own combinatorial, which is impossible because that very combinatorial is what allows any such mapping to occur. Due to impossibility of directly accessing another mind, as well as the impossibility to access its own workings, no mind is able to fully understand its own workings either. These issues of access will be discussed in full in later sections, but for now let it suffice to say that despite these limitations, it is still quite possible for minds to operate in the world, to map combinatorials by means of their indirect effects in the world, and for minds to operate within and understand in varying degrees the world around them, more about which will be said in greater details later in this work.
Potential. All matrix has within it the potential for self-differing. Potential is emergence under the aspect of the future in the past (emergence that will have occurred), while the actual is emergence under the form of the past in the future (emergence which is always already different from what it was). From originary matrix to any bit of matter within the world, it is fundamentally unknowable whether the potential to be different present in any actualization is the result of mind or matter, or due to internal or external causes at a given localization in spacetime or scale of affection. This unlocalizable fundament of self-differing, present within all matrix, is potential, and it is the same whether considered as originary potential or the potential within everyday matter, for these are different sides of the same. All matrix has this potential, another dimension different from that which is under consideration at any given instance (as determined by the relevant networks of reference), and this is what manifests itself via emergence within networks at all levels of scale, and gives rise to the emergence of networks within each other at all levels of scale. It is important to note that potential is not some magic entity, but rather, part of the manner in which the universe is intertwined within itself. When any individual entity in the world acts differently from what is expected, we would have to be able to observe that entity from all positions within spacetime, including those within the entity in question, to be able to determine the extent to which the difference thereby manifested comes from aspects of that entity, or some aspect of its context. Beyond this, however, it is also impossible to know if, on a quantum level or below, there is some aspect of what is which renders it somewhat indeterminate. Within quantum mechanics, researchers still debate whether or not the fundamental indeterminacy of quantum fluctuations is due to the influence of minute shifts within the context of the quantum event in question, conveyed in a manner which is too delicate for our instruments to detect, or whether these fluctuations are the result of something present within the particles and sub-matters in question. Beyond this, there is no way to know, at least within contemporary science, whether or not there might not be influences which we simply cannot sense, which come from beyond the confines of our universe, simply because the universe is the horizon of our current experience. The notion of potential, as well as the limits it imposes upon our knowledge, is thus simply the result of the limitations inherent in our perspectival relation to the rest of what is. In this sense, there is nothing magic or transcendent about this crucial notion. Rather, its form is determined by the relational nature of what is, as well as the inherent limitations to particular types of knowledge which are necessary aspects thereof.
Mind. Mind is the interpenetration, within a dimensional privacy, of the condensation of localized aspects of the world by the delocalized aspects thereof, as mediated by the originary potential present within a given localized matrixal entity. Relation is what mind does, and without mind there is no relation and therefore no networks. Without mind there would be no understanding of space, time, unitary bodies, locations, potential, actualization, distinctions, nor relations. Extension within matrix via matter and mind gives rise to all of these. While self-differing gives rise to extension, without mind there would be dispersal but no separation, connection without relation, for it is mind that carves the world into distinct elements, as well as brings them together via relation. Both separation and relation are therefore aspects of mind, thereby indicating the manner in which mind and matter enfold each other. From the self-differing of what exists matter comes to know itself via mind, thereby overcoming the extension created by its self-differing with itself, if in a different manner. In this sense, if time is a fourth dimension, then mind is like a fifth dimension, not in some vague spiritual sense, but in a precise terminological sense, for if mind is interior to matter as its ability to react to that which surrounds it, the notion of interiority employed is one which is different from that used in regard to the four traditional dimensions of space and time. If energy is the potential within matter to configure itself differently, mind is the potential within matter to understand itself, to split itself up and re-relate to itself based on differences in location within extension. While matter and energy are strictly convertible within physics, as two different forms of the same thing, mind is matter to a higher power. And while quantum potentials are matter in only a diffuse and dispersed sense, they certainly possess mind, as evidenced by the manner in which they actualize. It must not be thought, however, that mind is a magical substance. Rather, it is simply the manner in which matter relates to itself within experience. It is result of the opening within matrix which allows it to experience itself as relation. Extension, privacy, obstacle, perspective, these are many manifestations of the same self-differing whereby matrix emerges as world.
Quandary. All attempts to know matrix have limits. These derive from both the open, intertwined, and extended manner in which emergence manifests itself within the world, but also from the inherent difference between knowledge and understanding. When an attempt is made to capture aspects of the world within knowledge, its conceptual and representational form mesh better with some aspects of the world, but less with others. This is because aspects of the world may be relatively static, situated, and isolated for periods of time, even if they are ultimately necessarily relational in nature. When an attempt is made to fix these relatively reified aspects of the world in knowledge, entities which use these forms of knowledge to organize their relation to the world may do so without experiencing large difficulties coordinating their relation to the world, or within the systems of knowledge they produce. But as knowledge approaches more liminal, processural, emergent, extended, or otherwise unreifiable aspects of the world, the result is paradox, quandary, and infinite regress. This limit to knowledge is what is known as thefundamental obstacle. There are three sides to this obstacle. From an epistemological-diagrammatological perspective, the fundamental obstacle and its varied aspects are the result of what is known as the network paradox. Networks foreground aspects of the world, such that what is left out forms the network’s ground. Any attempt to know the ground in question results in the formation of a new network, but the same problem is ultimately reproduced within this new network formation. Even when an attempt is made to know the world via a series of nested and interlinked dynamic networks, there will always be that which grounds this complex meta-network, and which therefore connects it to the open. In this sense, the structure of inside, boundary, outside is found, if differently, in each of the fundamental obstacle’s manifestations, and these correspond in their way to node, link, and ground, respectively, with each node itself being composed of networks nested within it in turn. The infinite regresses which occur within paradox and quandary are a function of the manner in which the network paradox plays itself out in a wide variety of forms. From an ontological perspective, the fundamental obstacle appears as the quandary of emergence. Emergence is the name given to the self-containing aspects of the world. Since all the world is emergent, if in differing degrees of intensity and in different forms, this means that different aspects of the world will evidence the paradoxical nature of networks in differing degrees and in different forms. The intersection of the network paradox and the quandary of emergence give rise to the fundamental obstacle in its many appearances. However, there is also an ethical aspect to the fundamental obstacle as well, namely, the appeal of the other. Since emergence is fundamentally unknowable, giving rise to paradox within systems of knowledge in its wake, this means that all systems of knowledge must be seen as provisional tools to increase understanding, rather than ends in themselves. The world as emergent is continually in relational and in-process. This means that its otherness from what we know is continually appearing. Only when we continually listen to this appeal can we use knowledge in a manner which is less reifying, more relational, and hence, less paranoid in structure.
Privacy. The fundamental obstacle emerges in the world in a wide variety of forms. The simplest of these, one which impacts the manner in which matter comes to understand itself in extension, is known as the obstacle of privacy. When a distinction arises within the world, certain difficulties arise in regard to determining the origin of such a distinction. In regard to a given segment of matter, it is impossible to ultimately know whether or not such a distinction is the result of the potential within matrix to differ with itself, the result of networks which have affected the network from without, or from within at different levels of scale. One manner in which this difficulty manifests itself in the world occur whenever mind localized in matrix, or ‘a’ mind, attempts to know an aspect of another. This is known as the obstacle of privacy. From the outside, mind is often read as a hesitation or unpredictability over multiple trials between alternate courses of action, indicative of what is commonly called a decision between alternatives made at another level than that in question. A level of affection of this sort is that defined when one mind works to apprehend the potential for difference within one particular localization within its networks of affection. When a stone subjected to stress breaks one way and not another, a flock of birds swerves one way or another, or a human decides to choose one path over a seemingly identical alternative, we see examples of this very potential indicative of the presence of mind within matter. It is fundamentally unknowable whether or not external factors, either without or within the entity in question, determine these seemingly random choices (for this would ultimately lead to infinite regress), or whether the instability of originary potential (which could itself lead us on the search for its origin in another infinite regress) is at work, for ultimately, these are two ways of saying the same. These are all examples of the obstacle of privacy. The privacy which manifests in such circumstances, like mind and potential of which it is a part, goes all the way down, and is present at every level of scale within matrix. It must not be thought that there is some magic barrier within what is, however, which causes this obstacle. Firstly, it is impossible for any two entities to be in the exact same place, and share the exact same history, at the same time, for only in such an impossible case would it be possible to those two entities to share the same mind. But furthermore, even if this were possible, even the mind making a decision cannot tell the extent to which it’s own decisions are the result of external factors, internal factors, or its potential for self-differing. This hindrance to knowledge, which will be discussed in detail later, is known as the obstacle of decision.