The Trumpery of so-called Relationalism? Or, will the real relationalism please withdraw?
So my last post, on some good ole’ Groucho Marxism, is preface to why I find the recent Levi/Adrian exchange interesting. Like Adrian, I believe that OOO and procesurralism-relationalism-whateveryouwannacallit are like two sides of the same coin, something which Levi doesn’t agree with. I think the reason why I agree with Adrian on this is because of a difference between the way me and Adrian, and Levi and perhaps Graham, deal with the issue of language.
Language – and what to do with its relation to OOO – has always been at the center of the ‘who gets to decide’ debates I had with Levi over the last year. As is the relation of OOO to ‘the linguistic turn’ that I mentioned in my not-quite Damascal-journey post.
But I really do think language/semiotics is one of the ghosts haunting SR. Cause let’s face it, the whole NEED for SR was to get around, to some extent, the ‘prison house of language’ constructed by structuralism, and deconstructed by post-structuralism without putting anything new in its place.
A return to the things themselves! SR begins, in both object oriented and relationalist strands, with this call.
Which is why, I must say, I love Tim Morton’s idea of object-oriented rhetorics! I mean, think of a voltmeter, producing a metaphor of voltage conduction. A PA system producing a hyperbole of a voice. A microscope giving us a synechdochal view of the cells in some skin tissue. The irony of using stem cells to grow fix defects in adult humans.
All of which brings me to some Levi quotes:
The relationist wishes to argue that because the mouse dies when it enters a vacuum, it has ceased to be a mouse and that therefore the existence is relational or dependent on a milieu. As Tim points out however, the mouse hasn’t ceased to exist when shot into a vacuum, it has merely lost a very important quality or local manifestation: life. That local manifestation is dependent on relations to be sure, but the substantiality of the mouse remains, though perhaps it has lost some of its singularities . . . the structure of objects is to be understood in a manner akin to Derrida’s differance, where the substantiality of substance is essentially a temporal structure that produces itself in the order of time. As a consequence, the identity of an object is not an intrinsic feature of an object, but rather is a process through which substances produce themselves. As Hegel joked, if identity were identical it would not have to be said twice (A = A). In other words, repetition is essential to identity . . . Relations can always be detached. Objects can always enter into new relations . . . My thesis, of course, is such a claim confuses a quality of a mouse with thesubstantiality of a mouse. What is the mouse argument designed to do? It is designed to show that the existence of mice is dependent on a set of relations to a milieu.
I find several things said here quite problematic. That is, if you call me a relationalist! But what’s in name? I know that I have never recognized the caricature of relationalism that is generally described by Levi, and usually less so by Graham. But then Graham says something like this:
And furthermore, where are the withdrawn objects in Ivakhiv’s relationism or any other form thereof? There is no such concept in any relationist philosophy. Withdrawn objects being the very core of OOO, it follows immediately that the difference between OOO and relationism is not merely terminological.
Actually, Graham, had you read my recent posts in more detail (ok, that’s snarky, but sometimes I hear these sorts of things from the OOO’s, and it can get annoying . . . ), there are DEFINITELY withdrawals, at all levels of scale, in networkological relationalism!
Are they withdrawan objects? Well, depends on what you mean by the term, but I’d say yes, absolutely. Maybe then you wouldn’t call networkological thought a form of relationalism. Then again, I’m not sure that what Graham and Levi call relationalism is what I’d call relationalism, or that it resembles much what Adrian or Whitehead put forth. It certainly isn’t what I’d call relationalism, and I’m a relationalist (or so I thought . . . ).
So the OOO critique of so-called relationalism, isn’t this what Graham calls trumpery, when you attack a straw person that isn’t really there, but keep telling the real people behind it that they are made of straw?
For Whitehead, as for networkolgical relationalism, there is withdrawal AT EVERY POINT OF CONTACT BETWEEN RELATIONS. And you can call these points of contact objects if you choose, and argue that they in fact constitute relations, and vice-versa.
Does that mean these points of contacts are relations, or objects? Who cares?! These are just words, no? The question isn’t what words you use, but rather, how you link them. I can call the intersections of relations (which themselves connect entities), or the objects that constitute relations, meeces, for all I care.
The question is, what these meeces are linked to, and how. This is why Deleuze/Guattari say throughout Anti-Oedipus, don’t ask what it means, ask how it works.
Call me a perverse object-oriented philosopher, or a relationalist, or a meecist, so long as you don’t tell me that I think that relations determine objects, or that objects determine relations. To me, these are both clearly wrong.
On a closing note, the title of this blog post I think demonstrates what tricksy little objects words can be, because I’m not quite sure what the title means, and in fact, I think it means several things at once. Will the real relationalism please withdraw?