Participatory Spirituality for the 21st Century
In my research today I came upon this interesting article, “Here comes everything: the promise of object-oriented ontology” by Timothy Morton. (New link, old one broken.) It is of interest not only to speculative realism but also to some recent discussions on Caputo's ontology, modes of apprehension of such, and quantum theory. The article is 27 pages of text so I've culled some excerpts, lengthy in themselves.
Speculative realism...asserts the deep mystery of a Non-Nature....object-oriented ontology (OOO)...goes further than this, rejecting essentialist Matter.... OOO is a form of realism that asserts that real things exist--these things are objects, not just amorphous “Matter”.... OOO extends Husserl's and Heidegger's arguments that things have an irreducible dark side: no matter how many times we turn over a coin, we never see the other side as the other side--it will have to flip onto “this” side for us to see it, immediately producing another underside. Harman simply extends this irreducible darkness from subject–object relationships to object–object relationships.... Causation is thus vicarious in some sense, never direct. An object is profoundly “withdrawn”--we can never see the whole of it, and nothing else can either.... We've become so used to hearing “object” in relation to “subject” that it takes some time to acclimatize to a view in which there are only objects, one of which is ourselves.
The notion of the “withdrawal” of objects extends my term strange stranger to non-living entities. Strange stranger names an uncanny, radically unpredictable quality of life forms. Life forms recede into strangeness the more we think about them, and whenever they encounter one another--the strangeness is irreducible....the uncanny essence of humans that Heidegger contemplates extends to nonhumans.... The more we know about a strange stranger, the more she (he, it) withdraws. Objects withdraw such that other objects never adequately capture but only (inadequately) “translate” them....This is what “irreducible” means.
Rhetoric is not simply ear candy for humans: indeed, a thorough reading of Plato, Aristotle and Longinus suggests that rhetoric is a technique for contacting the strange stranger....[it] amplifies imagination rather than trying to upstage it, and it revels in dislocation, not location.... Harman's imagery differs from ecophenomenological ecomimesis that confirms the localized position of a subject with privileged access to phenomena.... Harman's rhetoric produces an object-oriented sublime that breaks decisively with the Kantian taboo on noncorrelationist scientific speculation....ekphrasis is not about the reaction of the (human) subject, but about rhetorical modes as affective-contemplative techniques for summoning the alien.
The aesthetic, as we shall see, is the secret door through which OOO discovers a theory of what is called “subject”.... Melancholia is precisely a mode of intimacy with strange objects that can't be digested by the subject.... To lapse into Californian, OOO is so about the subject. There is no good reason to be squeamish about this. The more the ekphrasis zaps us, the more we fall back into the gravity well of melancholy. Sentience is out of phase with objects, at least if you have a nervous system. So melancholia is the default mode of subjectivity: an object-like coexistence with other objects and the otherness of objects--touching them, touching the untouchable, dwelling on the dark side one can never know, living in endless twilight shadows. If the reader has experienced grief she or he will recognize this state as an object-like entity that resides somewhere within the body, with an amortization schedule totally separated from other temporalities (in particular, the strict digital clock time of contemporary life). Through the heart of subjectivity rolls an object-like coexistence, none other than ecological coexistence--the ecological thought fully-fledged as dark ecology . The inward, withdrawn, operationally closed mood called melancholy is something we shake off at our peril in these dark ecological times.
Melancholy starts to tell us the truth about the withdrawn qualities of objects. OOO thus differs from theistic ecophilosophy that asserts, “There is a Nature.” It maintains no absolute distance between subject and object; it limits “subject” to no entity in particular. Žižek's suspicion of SR to do with the “feminine” self-absorption of objects: precisely what he doesn't like about Buddhism. Changing “self-absorption” to “withdrawal” or “operational closure” discloses what's threatening about Buddhism: an object-like entity at the core of what is called subjectivity. Like ecomimesis, Harman's passage affirms a real world beyond mentation. Unlike ecomimesis, this world doesn't surround a subject--it's a world without reference to a subject.
If OOO construes everything as objects, some may believe that it would have a hard time talking about subjects--indeed, Slavoj Žižek has already criticized SR in general along these lines. This subjectivity is profoundly ecological and it departs from normative Western ideas of the subject as transcendence. Thus we see off Nature and its correlate, the (human) subject. I argue that OOO enjoins us to drop Matter just as we must drop Nature, and that this means that it can save the appearance of the most coherent and testable physical theory we have, namely quantum theory.
Let's turn our attention to... things....how far “down things” does OOO really go? Are these things made of some kind of substrate, some kind of unformed matter? Does “withdrawal” mean that objects are impenetrable in some non-figurative, nonhuman sense? Do objects have a spatial “inside”? Surely they might. But the principle of irreducibility must mean that this inside is radically unavailable. It's not simply a case of the right equipment passing through it, like a knife through butter. Even a knife through butter would not access the butter in all its essential butteriness. The proliferation of things that ecology talks about--from trees to nuclear power--do not compromise a holistic Nature. Nor yet are they comprised of some intrinsic, essential stuff. To dispatch Matter, we must explore the most rigorous and testable theory of physical Matter we know: quantum theory.
Unlike some thinkers who discovered OOO in spite of deconstruction, I backed into OOO through deconstruction. SR tends to mistake deconstruction for nominalism, subjectivism and Meillassoux's correlationism.... Contemporary physics concurs with a principle tenet of Lacan and Derrida: there's no “big Other,” no device, for instance, that could measure quantum phenomena without participating in these phenomena. All observations are inside the system, or as Derrida puts it, “There is nothing outside the text” (or, in Gayatri Spivak's alternative, which I prefer, “There is no outside-text”). Arkady Plotnitsky has traced the affinities between deconstruction and quantum physics. People commonly misconstrue “there is no-outside-text” as nominalism: we can only know things by their names. Far more drastically, the axiom means: (1) Any attempt to establish rigid boundaries between reality and information results in unsustainable paradoxes; (2) Language is radically nonhuman--even when humans use it. It would be a mistake to hold that (1) is correlationism. “There is no outsidetext” occurs in a passage in which Derrida is analyzing Rousseau's position on Nature, so it's worth pausing here since this issue is directly relevant to ecocriticism. Derrida tacks close to the text he’s analyzing, which is why he appeals to close readers in the first place. He is not making a sweeping generalization about reality. Derrida is only saying, “Given the kind of closed system textuality that Rousseau prescribes, there is no outside-text.” That is, Rousseau can’t go around making claims about nature, not because there is nothing out there, but because the way he models thinking sets textuality up as a black hole....[but] Derrida abstained from ontology: he considered it tainted by the generalization-disease. Unfortunately this defaults to various forms of antirealism. Derrida's is a sin of omission.... OOO shares one thing at least with deconstruction--refraining from assertions about some general essence or substance at the back of things that guarantees their existence.
OOO is troubling for materialisms that rely on any kind of substrate, whether it consists of discrete atoms or of a continuum.... Certain uncontroversial facts, demonstrable in highly repeatable experiments, shatter essentialist prejudices concerning Matter.... Quantum phenomena are not simply hard to access or only partially “translated” by minds and other objects. They are irreducibly withdrawn.
OOO is form of realism, not materialism. In this it shares affinities with quantum theory. Antirealism pits quantum theory against its opponents, since quantum theory supposedly shows reality is fuzzy or deeply correlated with perception and so forth. In fact, quantum theory is the only existing theory to establish firmly that things really do exist beyond our mind (or any mind). Quantum theory positively guarantees that real objects exist! Not only that--these objects exist beyond one another. Quantum theory does this by viewing phenomena as quanta, as discrete “units” as described in Unit Operations by OOO philosopher Ian Bogost. “Units” strongly resemble OOO “objects.” Thinking in terms of units counteracts problematic features of thinking in terms of systems. A kind of systems thinking posed significant problems for nineteenth-century physicists. Only consider the so-called black body radiation problem. Classical thermodynamics is essentially a systems approach that combines the energy of different waves to figure out the total energy of a system. The black box in question is a kind of oven. As the temperature in the oven increases, results given by summing the wave states according to classical theory become absurd, tending to infinity.
By seeing the energy in the black box as discrete quanta (“units”), the correct result is obtained. Max Planck's discovery of this approach gave birth to quantum theory. Now consider perception, for the sake of which antirealism usually cites quantum theory. What does quantum theory show about our mental interactions with things? Perceptual, sensual phenomena such as hardness and brilliance are at bottom quantum mechanical effects. I can't put my hand through this table because it is statistically beyond unlikely that the quanta at the tip of my finger could bust through the resistance wells in the quanta on the table's surface. That's what solidity is. It's an averagely correct experience of an aggregate of discrete quanta. This statistical quality, far from being a problem, is the first time humans have been able to formalize supposedly experiential phenomena such as solidity. What some people find disturbing about quantum theory (once in a gajillion times I can put my finger through the table) is precisely evidence for the reality of things. (This is a version of an argument in Meillassoux, AF 82–5).
Quantum theory specifies that quanta withdraw from one another, including the quanta with which we measure them. In other words quanta really are discrete, and one mark of this discreteness is the constant (mis)translation of one quantum by another. Thus when you set up quanta to measure the position of a quantum, its momentum withdraws, and vice versa. Heisenberg's uncertainty principle states that when an “observer”--not a subject per se, but a measuring device involving photons or electrons (or whatever)--makes an observation, at least one aspect of the observed is occluded (QT 99–115). Observation is as much part of the Universe of objects as the observable, not some ontologically different state (say of a subject). More generally, what Niels Bohr called complementarity ensures that no quantum has total access to any other quantum. Just as a focusing lens makes one object appear sharper while others appear blurrier, one quantum variable comes into sharp definition at the expense of others (QT 158–61). This isn't about how a human knows an object, but how a photon interacts with a photosensitive molecule. Some phenomena are irreducibly undecidable, both wavelike and particle-like. The way an electron encounters the nucleus of an atom involves a dark side. Objects withdraw from each other at a profound physical level. OOO is deeply congruent with the most profound, accurate and testable theory of physical reality available. Again, it would be better to say it the other way around: quantum theory works because it's object-oriented.
Probing the quantum world, then, is a form of auto-affection. Bohr argued that quantum phenomena don't simply concatenate themselves with their measuring devices. They're identical to it: the equipment and the phenomena form an indivisible whole (QT 139–40, 177). This “quantum coherence” applies close to absolute zero, where particles become the “same” thing.
Implication and explication suggest Matter being enfolded and unfolded from something deeper. Even if it were the case that OOO should defer to physics, in the terms set by physics itself objects aren't made “of” any one thing in particular. Just as there is no top level, there may be no bottom level that is not an (substantial, formed) object.
To this extent, “object” (as a totally positive entity) is a false immediacy. Positive assertions about objects fail because objects have a shadowy dark side, a mysterious interiority like the je ne sais quoi of Kantian beauty. Is this nothing at all? Is there a path from the carnival of things to a bleak nothingness? Nihilism, believing that you have no beliefs, maintains that things emerge from an impenetrable mystery. Nihilism, the cool kids' religion, shuns the inconveniences of intimacy. We have objects--they have us--under our skin. They are our skin. OOO can't be a form of nihilism. It's the opposite view (relationism) that tends towards nihilism. Relationism holds that objects are nothing more than the sum of their relations with other objects. This begs the question of what an object is, since the definition implies a potential infinite regress: what are the “other objects”? Why, nothing more than the sum of their relations with other objects--and so on ad obscurum. At least OOO takes a shot at saying what objects are: they withdraw. This doesn't mean that they don't relate at all. It simply means that how they appear has a shadowy, illusory, magical, “strangely strange” quality. It also means they can't be reduced to one another. OOO holds that strangeness is impossible if objects are reducible to their relations. Since relationism is hamstrung by its reluctance to posit anything, it tends towards obscurantism. Relationism is stuck in a Euthyphronic dilemma: objects consist of relations between other objects—and what are those objects? An object as such is never defined. So while ecological criticism appears to celebrate interconnectedness, it must in the end pay attention to what precisely is interconnected with what.
This radical finitude includes a strange irreducible openness.
I think I shared this video earlier, deep in this thread somewhere.
Tying together some of the above posts--yes, intentional pun--perfect circles, spheres or cubes cannot tie into Borroean knots. There has to be some twists that don't fit into those perfect abstract and/or Platonic forms, forms which do not allow for the ties that bind. Hence such projected perfection is exemplified by a restricted complexity or economy, where suobjects have very clear and strict bi-valent dividing lines as in formal logic. No excluded middle. Everything is in its place within a perfect Whole. Whereas the twists of real suobjects allow the to meld in a general complexity or economy, blurring the strict distinctions while simultaneously forming inseparable bonds where the middle is included.
And it is this 'middle' which also attests to the different views. In the restricted version it is 'creative' side of the oppositional poles, i.e, causal over relative. Whereas in the general version it is that which ties the knot of the oppositions, being both and neither so that they can never fly apart. And as I've discussed ad nauseum, this kind of middle is entirely immanent, being created and constructed per any machine. In humans it takes the form of image schemas, where we've seen that they arise in the middle of any classical abstract hierarchy. They are khora, differance, and also tie together the various aspects of a human holon: real, symbolic, imaginary. Or the 4 quadrants, if you prefer. In non-human suobjects khora expresses differently particular to their forms. Hence I changed the phrase to image stigmata as a more general rhetaphor for this process.
Actually, interestingly, I had been thinking about posting this link earlier today -- it's something I was looking at last year, when I was first thinking about this topic -- which shows an interesting mathematical relation (through inversion) between a trefoil (borromean-esque) structure, spheres, and wild knots. It is not something I understand well, mathematically, but I was vaguely sensing that something could be done with this to connect Slot's spheres with these other approaches.
Here is a copy of my abandoned ITC 2013 presentation proposal (replaced now by a presentation on my Sophia Speaks paper):
Presentation/Paper Proposal for ITC 2013
Borromean Rings and Quadruple Objects: Methodological Pluralism for the Integral Kosmopolitan
The Object-Oriented philosophers, Levi Bryant and Graham Harman, have recently elaborated proposals for integrative, transdisciplinary models of research based on the principles of Object-Oriented Ontology. Specifically, Levi Bryant’s alethetics and Graham Harman’s post-Heideggerian quadratic model of objects both aim to provide philosophical foundation for inclusive, transdisciplinary approaches to knowledge generation. Given the centrality of Integral Methodological Pluralism (IMP) to Integral Theory, and the focus of this conference on Integral kosmopolitanism, I intend to explore in this paper the relationships of these Object-Oriented transdisciplinary models to Ken Wilber’s IMP (as three contemporary examples of integral thinking). To establish background for this study, I will briefly review the history of the speculative metaphysical and object-oriented philosophical movements with which Bryant and Harman are associated, focusing in particular (for the benefit of Integral readers) on the relationship of the aims of speculative metaphysics to Ken Wilber’s post-metaphysics, and on the influence of Roy Bhaskar’s Critical Realism on Bryant’s onticology. In scope, neither Bryant’s nor Harman’s integrative models will be found to be as comprehensive as Wilber’s IMP, but in terms of analytic and integrative power, I contend both make several important contributions. Namely, Bryant’s model, based loosely on the Lacanian Borromean Knot, conceives of three interlocking (but separable) orders – the Real, the Symbolic, and the Imaginary – that may be related to each other in various ways and linked in different assemblages, graphically represented by a fourth ring, the sinthome. Harman’s fourfold model is similar in some respects to Wilber’s quadrant model, but it presents the four “poles” or quadrants as marked by various generative tensions and attractions, which may allow for a more dynamic conceptualization of interdisciplinary relations. Critics of Wilber’s model have noted the lack of dynamism in his four-quadrant model, and have also pointed out various inconsistencies in the ways that some of his zones are associated with different disciplines. In this paper, I will consider several OOO-inflected readings, or reinterpretations, of Wilber’s IMP, and will also explore how these three approaches, used independently, might serve generative complementary and adversarial functions in an Integral Kosmopolitan research program.
A. Meillassoux’s Legacy: Speculative Metaphysics in Modern Academia
1. Another bend in the postmodern turn: Post-correlationism
B. The Rise of Cthulhu: Object-Oriented Ontology Eats Derrida Alive
1. The metaphysical ingestion of the gifts of postmodernity
2. The post-postmodern rehabilitation of ontology
C. Some Representative Approaches
1. Levi Bryant
a. Influences: Bhaskar’s Critical Realism: Varela’s autopoietic theory; Lacan
2. Graham Harman
a. Influences: Heidegger (esp. his tool analysis); Latour; Islamic philosophy
3. Timothy Morton
a. Influences: Ecological Thought; Derrida
D. “OOO, Meet IT”
1. Reflections on the philosophical presuppositions and aims of IT and OOO
a. The relation of speculative metaphysics to post-metaphysics
2. Methodological Pluralism as the Democratic Heart of the Integrative Impulse
II. Here Come the OOMP’a Loompas (Object Oriented Methodological Pluralisms)
**(Open with Alien Phenomenology Exercise: OOO-inspired experiential)**
A. Levi Bryant’s Alethetics
1. Philosophy as non-philosophy: dealing, not with truths, but with the exploration and
creation of frames or lenses which allow for the discovery of (frame-specific) truths
2. The 3 Orders
a. The Real (as a dimension of objects, as a ‘zone’ of inquiry)
b. The Symbolic (as a dimension of objects, as a ‘zone’ of inquiry)
c. The Imaginary (as a dimension of objects, as a ‘zone’ of inquiry)
3. The Borromean Knot and the Sinthome (SLIDES: Borromean Knot images)
a. Structure: overlapping or interlinking but not ‘touching’; the rings hang together,
but all come apart if any one ring is ‘cut.’
~ Discuss relation to key OOO notion of withdrawal
b. Intrinsic Meta-Level Pluralism: More than one Borromean Knot
c. Enactive Assemblages: The sinthome as synthetic / metaparadigmatic operator
B. Graham Harman’s Quadruple Object Ontology
1. A Post-Heideggerian Fourfold
a. Harman’s discussion of the strengths of fourfold models
b. Harman’s fourfold: Real Objects, Sensual Objects, Real Qualities, Sensual Qualities
2. Dynamic Interrelations (SLIDES: Quadruple Object Images)
a. Ten possible dynamic polar relations (yielding time, space, essence, eidos)
3. Quadruple object as model for methodological pluralism
a. Irreducibility of four poles, irreducibility of disciplines ‘within’ any pole
b. Ten intra-quadratic tensions as generative metaparadigmatic field lines
III. Reflections (Note: This section, abbreviated here, may comprise much more of the bulk of the actual presentation; this will be fleshed out and clarified as research proceeds)
A. Wilber’s Integral Methodological Pluralism (IMP)
B. Critical Comparisons of IMP and OOMP (SLIDES: Images of 8 Zones)
C. Creative Syntheses and Conjunctive Uses of IMP and OOMP (SLIDES: Images of
~ Review other knot-theoretic alternatives
In the Not Knot video linked earlier they distinguish hyperbolic space from regular space. And in the former we get what appear to be inconsistencies or contradictions from a regular space perspective but what are in fact paraconsistencies given the frame of reference, that of a curved rather that straight space. Hence those twists and curves allow for the sorts of folds and knots not possible in plane geometry, opening up interesting possibilities.
But my Muse immediately spoke and said: "But even those that promote hyperbolic space assume it is something that exists independently of the objects within it, a matrix in which objects move and have their being." And here I'd agree with Bryant (and Einstein) that space curves under the gravitational force of mass. And it doesn't do so in perfectly geometrical or mathematical forms like some sort of Platonic ideals. Mass is not perfectly or evenly distributed so the curvatures of space so produced are rather quite twisted, thus making our abstract attempts to iron them out into perfect forms rather vain and narcissistic. Hence even hyperbolic Borromean knots are just too tidy and perfect, and assumes that ideal spaces and forms presage material forms in some sort of involution.
Two vlogs on Latour's Gifford Lectures, posted over on Matt's Footnotes2Plato.
And here is the first of Latour's Gifford Lectures: Facing Gaia.
Discussing a "political theology of nature," in which he articulates homeomorphic equivalencies across these domains.
In starting to read the 1st lecture he used the word pleonasm. It's new to me and I like it, reminding me very much of Kennilingam's style. From dictionary.com:
Also of interest is that Latour is using 3 concepts: demos, nomos and theos.
Excellent - thanks for the link, Joseph. I'm thinking maybe I should collect the Latour posts from this thread and give him a thread here of his own.
Thanks for the Cube of Space correlations, Joe (and for those you've also drawn to Harman's work). I need to understand the actual meanings within the Cube of Space model itself better to get the connections you are making (not knowing much at all about the Tarot, for instance).
I really should start a Latour thread (I will when I have time), but for now, listening to his first lecture and reflecting on the initial distinctions he is drawing, not only do I see him involved in an exercise of tracing Panikkarian homeomorphic equivalencies, but I also see correlations to other aspects of Panikkar's approach: his cosmotheandrism (cosmos, theos, andros), for instance, and his distinctions between mythos and logos. More on this later.