Meeces, Objects, and Relations (oh my)
Here’s what I know. Firstly, when I pick up a mouse, I link a lot of sensual qualities together (furriness, tail, ears, sniffing) together at one space-time durational juncture. What’s in my hand is relatively distinct from the rest of what is in my perceptual field right now. I also know that in my culture, this thing is called a ‘mouse.’ We could have chosen another word, like meece, if we wanted. We could also call it a ‘gray’, and link it as one huge hyperobject with every other gray thing in the world, ‘oh, this is a gray’!.
We could also call it ‘gray’, used as a noun, a Mortonesque hyperobject which includes all gray things in the world, each of which is only a tiny representative of grayness. So when I walk on a beach near an oil spill, and bend down and touch the sand, sniff my fingers and see oil on it, and say, ‘oh, and oil spill’, the oil on my fingers is simply an instantiation of the hyperobject ‘oil spill’. The matter in my hand is part of a dispersed object, and I get only one dispersed bit, a part which is synechdochic of the whole. I take this form of synechdoche to be part of the rhetoric of objects, so to speak.
But which is right? I don’t believe there is a ‘right’ here, but rather, a set of linkages. If I link this mouse up to other mice, it is a mouse, while if I link it up to other grays, it is a gray. It is all these things, and none of these things.
Take the example of my dog. To him, this thing we call a mouse is NOT a mouse. If I look down and say, ‘oh, my dog sees a mouse’, I’m using human shorthand, but to be precise I should probably say, ‘oh, my ‘dog’ ‘sees’ a ‘mouse’’ Because nature does not divide up dogsness, mouseness, or seeing the ways we do.
How does nature divide the world? What a silly question (I just asked)! Certainly the distinctions between dog and mouse, say, are overdetermined, plurivocal. Every potential object or relation can be divided differently by every possible encounter with every other potential object or relation within the durational extension of what is. And THIS is why every object and/or every relation, DEPENDING ON HOW YOU DEFINE THESE TERMS, withdraws, always, at every point and scale of every evental interaction within the universe (and beyond, if there’s a multiverse, but this just extends the domain of the question . . .).
Point is, I don’t buy the ‘objects vs. relations’ distinction. These are just words. The question is, what do you DO with them?
To my dog, there is no mouse. Does a mouse die when it gets shot into space? Well, if you ask the mouse, I’m sure he won’t answer you either way, because first you’d have to explain to him what a mouse is.
But to me, there’s a mouse, and he dies. Poor mouse. And I think, to throw a little Kripke in there, in every possible universe I can imagine with an English speaking me in it, there’d be a dead mouse there, but to a German speaking person, it’s a Maus, and to sylvester the cat it’s a Meece, and all and neither of them are ‘right’, because it’s a question of linking objects and words, and all are sensible, depending on the world in question, and all those worlds co-exist, layered on top of each other.
So yes, the mouse does withdraw. So does the word mouse, and in fact, all the parts of each. And they also relate, but these relations – which I see as both extensions of objects, and extended into objects, both exhuasting and determining objects and vice-versa – also withdraw.
A perverse object-oriented ontologist I be . . . if you’d call me an object-oriented ontologist in the first place. All depends on how promiscuous is one’s ontology.
PS – the stop-motion animated video that starts this post is called “Out of a Forest”, one of my favorite recent music videos. Its to the song ‘Slow Show’, by Brooklyn band The National. Its really sooo melancholy, and I guess poor dead mice made me think of it. The video’s about a bunch of bunnies, actually, not quite mice. But its so wonderfully done . . .