Echoes

[Update: Unfortunately, the argument Tim and Levi are making right now, namely, that I can’t prove my claim that the OOO arguments on the epistemology/ontology divide aren’t adequate, this goes both ways – they can’t prove that my arguments to the contrary aren’t convincing either. Ultimately, we need a common language if we are to agree on anything, and that is what seems to have broken down . . .]

Tim and Levi have some interesting new posts up in regard to recent discussions. As per usual, Levi’s is a bit accusatory, but still very smart, and Tim’s is smart and a warning, yet not accusatory.

Here’s the sum of what I’m thinking. If OOO wants to argue that the universe is a hat, and I say, well, you need argument to prove that, ultimately, I can’t disprove that the universe is a hat by means of discourse. Nor can I prove that their arguments aren’t solid by arguments. “Well, the universe doesn’t look hat-like, no felt or anything” . . . “That’s because you haven’t tried the hat on yet!”, etc.

Is OOO doing this? No, I don’t think so. But I think with the responses to the ontology/epistemology divide in the last year’s worth of  process/relation debates, I think it’s leaning that way, or at least, that’s how it looks from here. I can’t seem to see standard philosophical arguments in the responses I get, just circles, and seems the feeling is mutual.

The question of course, is why? It seems to me that OOO and process/relational thought right now have hit a disagreement about what it means to argue this point. We’ve stopped having a common language. There’s no simple way to solve that until we can negotiate common terms and methods again.

To get to the posts themselves, I think Tim’s totally right – the fundamental gesture of power in relation to knowledge is the diagnosis of the other as stuck in ideology, or mysticism, while you are the one in the position of science. I’m not sure we ever get beyond this. Whenever there’s a ‘we’ that agree on basic terms, methods, axioms, etc., this is always in contradistinction to a those who don’t. Of course, the question is how to do this less violently, to make room for listening to others, to plurivocalize one’s discourse, to continually attempt to listen for forms of alterity which have been closed off.

I find there’s a double bind here. On the one hand, I want to say that in dodging what I consider a ‘proper philosophical response’ to processuralist claims, that OOO isn’t playing the game we call ‘philosophy’ fairly. Then again, no new philosophy ever does, at least, not fully. Rather, it redefines the very terrain of what that could mean.

But what then do we call inconsistent philosophy, or poorly argued philosophy, and how do we distinguish it from philosophy which is simply different? This is, I think, the million dollar question.

Take the case of Chinese philosophy. Most of the classics of Chinese philosophy, the works of Hsun-Tzu, Chuang-Tzu, even the neo-Confucianists. None of these theorists present ‘arguments’ in the traditional, western sense. And yet, they are without question philosophy, and fantastically interesting philosophy, even if Kant or Descartes might not have recognized them as such. No matter what one says about these philosophies, they are consistent with what they set out to do, and in relation to their own terms.

My concern is that I don’t think that OOO has dispatched the relational-processural critique in a manner which will satisfy itself at a later date. Its account of the shift of epistemological to ontological terrain, in the manner described in my preceding posts, doesn’t hit me as philosophically holding water. Then again, perhaps it is more important that a philosophy be interesting, useful, inspirational, etc. . . .

So what? OOO can stamp its feet and say it’s arguments do hold water, and process folks can stamp their feet and say it doesn’t. And that seems to be the situation right now. Ultimately, we will learn how to speak a language we can negotiate with each other again, or we won’t.

But I guess part of me feels that OOO wants it both ways here. They want to be judged by the basic tenets of philosophical argument that govern the general post-structuralist/continental philosophy community up until now, at least for the most part, but not for this single area of discussion. A symptomatic blindspot that OOO would rather not see.

Over time, a consensus will emerge on this issue, which does not mean it will be right, but merely, that a consensus will form. Ultimately, Levi and Tim are right, there is no way that I can prove them wrong. I do feel that an echo chamber has emerged, a specular relationship, and some degree of ‘if I shout louder than you folks, you’ll go away and that means my arguments are right.’ Now, this hits me as insecurity. And long term, a losing strategy for OOO, even if short time a sure winner.

What I meant by ‘cult’ is precisely this echo chamber. And we all live in these, the issue is one of degree. And Levi is right, there’s no way I can show whether or not my sense of the echo chamber is my own biases coming through, or a real echo chamber in contemporary OOO.

It’s just that when I deal with OOO, I keep having the feeling that something, somewhere, is really off, and I think it’s this epistemology/ontology issue. And if enough people oneday feel this way as well, well, I guess OOO will deal with it then. Right now, it’s really too early to tell.

Levi’s right that to call others insane is to delegitimize their discourse. Of course, I did not call OOO insane. But I do think that perhaps when it comes to the epistemololgy/ontology issue, perhaps it is simply using a different mode of adjudication than what I’m used to in continental philosophy these days. And that is its right. But it hits me as inconsistent. For whatever that’s worth.

Honestly, I really should just stop posting on OOO. Would certainly make my life easier. But there’s lots of us process folks around, someone else will end up with the same issues later on. My sense is that if I go away, and Adrian goes away, like others have, it’s only a matter of time. OOO will have to learn to speak to process folks, or ultimately, I think it will be a weakness for OOO.

Why do I care? I dunno, I find it fascinating that what I see as a great philosophy with one fundamental catch to it is becoming really popular, but no-one’s patching the hole in the boat. I guess I should stop caring. But I like OOO, and the potential it has, and I don’t want to stop reading about it, but every time I deal with OOO, I feel like I end up having an itch that I can’t seem to scratch . . .

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~ by chris on January 16, 2011.

One Response to “Echoes”

  1. […] on that later, maybe. In the meantime I think this set of posts [1, 2, 3] from Chris Vitale is something like an emperor-has-no-clothes moment for OOO, both in terms of its […]

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