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 An object is profoundly “withdrawn”--we can never see the whole of it, and nothing else can either....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... 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.

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Do you expect, once Bryant and Morton and others hammer out a description of substance and objects that they all generally agree on, that that description will thereafter be good for all time?  That they will have arrived at the final philosophical description of reality, beyond which there is no possibility of change, revision, development, or replacement?


Going back to p. 10 of the thread I referenced TDOO chapter 1.4, where Bryant attempts to answer the question of how we can think beyond thinking to the ontological ‘given.’ I quoted from that chapter and commented:

 1.4: “Is it self-evident that any thought must include the thinker or that the thinker is thinking the thought? While I certainly concede the thesis that in many instances we are capable of self-reflexively thinking the thought that we are thinking a thought, I am much more circumspect about the claim that all thought is necessarily reflexive. Were this the case, then it would seem that thought is impossible, for we would fall into an infinite regress…. What we need here is something like Sartre's ‘pre-reflexive cogito’ which thinks something without simultaneously thinking itself. Yet if such a cogito is possible, and indeed it appears necessary, then we have a thinking that doesn't simultaneously posit itself but which is completely absorbed in what we are thinking.”

All of which proves that our thinking isn’t necessarily always correlational but can be ‘direct’ with the world of objects from a pre-reflexive cogito. It doesn’t appear to be so much a question of access because there is no reflexive self that needs access when one is being this necessary condition for reflexitivity. Which reminds me of several of my previous discussions about our pre-reflexive awareness being not of the world but being in the world. This embodied realist notion is not necessarily a correlationist argument in that such being is not limited to humans or even animals but inherent to all suobjects. Granted this being is different for each, one of the suppositions of epistemology he grants. Yet it also grants autonomy to the suobjects in themselves.


So obviously Bryant's or Morton's philosophy of the object will not be a final philosophy, for such philosophy is actual. And it also doesn't seem that there withdrawn substance will ever be a final substance, since they admit to its finitude and changeability. That's one of the things I like about their substance. Yet one of the things I like about Derrida's khora is that it cannot be defined and thereby 'changed,' since it doesn't enter into that field. How to reconcile those two preferences coherently? Haven't a clue at this point.

Theurj:  All of which proves that our thinking isn’t necessarily always correlational but can be ‘direct’ with the world of objects from a pre-reflexive cogito. It doesn’t appear to be so much a question of access because there is no reflexive self that needs access when one is being this necessary condition for reflexitivity. Which reminds me of several of my previous discussions about our pre-reflexive awareness being not of the world but being in the world. This embodied realist notion is not necessarily a correlationist argument in that such being is not limited to humans or even animals but inherent to all suobjects. Granted this being is different for each, one of the suppositions of epistemology he grants. Yet it also grants autonomy to the suobjects in themselves.

I'm not sure I follow your argument here.  The quote by Bryant doesn't seem directly relevant to what I was saying, so I'm thinking I must be missing something, or else you are reading something in what I'm saying that I don't intend.  I don't think the question of the reflexivity of thought or the question of a thinking which posits itself in the act of thinking has direct bearing on this issue.  I think the correlationist-seeming claim of Wilber is an acknowledgement that there is an embodied being, subject to growth or maturation and other contingencies, doing the thinking.  He could very well be absorbed in his thinking, without self-reflexively considering himself as the thinker, and yet that thinking will be uniquely enacted by him as a sentient being of such and such a species, such and such a culture, level of development, etc.

As I mentioned above, while I'm still learning about this and getting clear on the various SR and OOO perspectives, it appears to me the main objection to correlationist thought (and various Kantian strains in philosophy) is to its anthropocentrism.  Harman argues that we need a metaphysics which doesn't reduce everything to the relationship (and correlation) of "human and world."  We need a metaphysics, for instance, which can describe the relation of fire to cotton (as he puts it in The Quadruple Object) as much as the relationship of human to fire, or human to cotton, and treats all forms of object-relations as being on equal footing (in other words, an anthrodecentric model). Such descriptions are necessarily speculative, in his view, but nevertheless necessary.

When I said correlationist-seeming in relation to Wilber's approach, that is because I don't think it's quite the same as the view to which the SR and OOO folks are objecting.  Although I'm not positive about this, I'm suggesting here that the postmetaphysical, enactive view is not anthropocentric and therefore (at least partially) escapes the SR/OOO critique.  It is definitely not species-centric.  In Wilber's description above, yes, he is describing how our accounts of the world will vary according to our stages of development, but he is basing this on a cognitive/biological account of how autopoietic organisms enact their own environments.  So, this is also a kind of speculative metaphysics, in that it attempts to speak for non-human beings -- all holons -- as well.  (SR and OOO go a bit farther, in describing inanimate object-to-object relations, though Integral approaches this in conceiving of atoms, molecules, etc, as holons that also 'selectively'/'enactively' engage with other holons and objects). 

Theurj:  So obviously Bryant's or Morton's philosophy of the object will not be a final philosophy, for such philosophy is actual. And it also doesn't seem that [their] withdrawn substance will ever be a final substance, since they admit to its finitude and changeability. That's one of the things I like about their substance...

Yes, I like that aspect of it, too.  But its changeability suggests that its form and content can't be fully separated from the condition of the speculative philosopher.  This is where the correlationism specter rears its head.  What is posited as true for objects apart from humans is also a human-positing, subject to change.  This doesn't mean we can't or shouldn't posit in that way; I'm happy holding both in tension.  Perhaps correlationism can't be banished altogether, but we can attempt speculatively to think with other things, and to think things apart from us...?

I'm still thinking aloud -- not entirely satisfied with what I wrote above.  Perhaps the Integral move beyond anthropocentric correlationism could be described as a kind of dizzying, decentered correlationism, which doesn't focus on "things themselves" but on holons or sentient beings, for each of which there is a kind of self-world correlation (in that the structure of these autopoietic beings selectively respond to and translate other objects and beings). 

Correlationism meets with this relevant objection from Bryant:

The first point to note with respect to the correlationist's argument is that it seems to ignore the fact that this argument already concedes the existence of at least one object. What object is that? Certainly not the existence of the tree. Rather, the correlationist concedes the existence of the amoeba. In order for the amoeba to grasp anything as anything at all, it must exist as an entity, substance, or object. In short, the correlationist's argument can only get off the ground through the presupposition of at least one entity. And this is a central reason that arguments about how observers constitute objects are unconvincing: these arguments always forget that the observer is an object.

I think it's fair to say that Wilber's approach is not saddled with the problem that Bryant identifies, in that it admits at the outset a multiplicity of sentient beings, which, as holons, are also always objects.  OOO could help Integral think better about objects, and perhaps to think beyond the holon-construct (and/or to better recognize the elusiveness or withdrawnness of holons or objects), but there is already a sense in which Integral is object-oriented.

On the other hand, it seems to me that OOO still retains a correlationist element, in that its strange mereology and its denial of a singular 'world' or 'nature' posits an object-worldspace correlation (with objects selectively and uniquely registering, translating, and responding to an environing object-space).  What is 'world' and 'object' for any given object is, in some sense, enacted and unique to the object or object-type.

What do you think?

I appreciate your commentary and hope to respond soon. I worked late tonight in preparation to leave tomorrow morning to head up to Dallas for a weekend dance convention. I'll be out of touch for a few days and will respond when I get back and catch up.

Cool -- have fun!

For future reference:  Theological Implications of Object-Oriented Philosophy.


Here's an excerpt:


Theological Implications of Object-Oriented Philosophy: Factishes, Imperatives, and Cthulhu

by Sam Mickey

This paper explores the theological implications of Graham Harman’s philosophy.  The paper has four parts: 1) a brief overview of Harman’s philosophy; 2) an account of his postsecular adaptation of phenomenological, process, and occasionalist philosophies; 3) an extrapolation of three ways of figuring God(s) using Harman’s object-oriented philosophy; and 4) a consideration of some benefits of further developing object-oriented theology.

Graham Harman is a philosopher from the United States with roots in the continental philosophical tradition.  He is a founding member of two emerging schools of thought, speculative realism and object-oriented philosophy.  The term object-oriented philosophy was coined by Harman in 1999, and speculative realism emerged as a movement in 2007 at a conference in London that featured Harman along with the movement’s other founding members (Ray Brassier, Iain Hamilton Grant, and Quentin Meillassoux).  Speculative realism is the newer and broader movement.  As speculative, it enacts a return of metaphysics to continental thought after centuries of post-Kantian prohibitions.  As realism, it affirms a reality that exists independent of any human access, thus critiquing “philosophies of access,” according to which humans cannot speak of a reality independent of thinking but can only access the correlation between thinking and being.

Harman’s philosophy is a kind of speculative realism that proposes a metaphysics of objects, attempting to account for the reality of things without reducing them to their constituent parts or a pre-individual continuum (“undermining”) or to their appearances, effects, or relations (“overmining”).  Harman articulates this metaphysics by drawing on many philosophical sources, including specific attention to the following: 1) phenomenology, especially Heidegger (whose tool analysis indicates that all objects are withdrawn and not exhausted by theoretical or practical relations), and to a lesser extent Levinas, Merleau-Ponty, and Alphonso Lingis (“carnal phenomenologists” who articulate the elemental medium through which things interact), 2) process-relational philosophy, particularly Alfred North Whitehead and Bruno Latour, for whom human-world relations are not primary but are merely a special case of any relation, different only by degree, and 3) occasionalist philosophy, which asserts that objects do not touch each other directly but only through occasional causation (Harman’s “vicarious causation”).

Harman’s metaphysics precludes ontotheology, which explains all objects according to one exemplary object (God), and it also precludes secularism, such as any naturalism, materialism, or skepticism that would explain objects according to natural laws, material relations, mechanisms, or habits of the human mind.  With an openness to religious realities that is neither ontotheological nor secular, object-oriented philosophy could be called postsecular (although Harman does not use this term).  Harman’s postsecularity is evident in his integration of philosophies that carry heavy theological baggage, specifically the French and Islamic philosophies of occasionalism (in which God provides the occasions through which all causation happens), Whitehead’s philosophy (which has been foundational for the entire school of process theology), and phenomenological philosophies (which have expressed theological tendencies even before the debated “theological turn” in phenomenology).  In short, the lack of an ontotheological God in Harman’s philosophy does not preclude the reality of a different God or gods.  Indeed, object-oriented philosophy makes room for an object-oriented theology, wherein divinity can be articulated in at least three ways.

1) God is one object among others, analogous to a fetish or, more perhaps more appropriately, to what Latour refers to as “factish gods,” which have real autonomy and are not merely constructed (although Harman and Latour would define this autonomy differently).  2) God is infinitely other, expressing imperatives not only to and from the faces of other humans (Levinas) but to and from all human and nonhuman objects.  3) God is a withdrawn no-thingness that, according to Roland Faber, bears some resemblances to the God of process (Whitehead) and occasionalist (al-Ghazali) philosophies and, according to Harman, resembles Cthulhu—a colossal, terrifying, and indescribable extraterrestrial monster known as the sleeping God of H. P. Lovecraft’s “weird fiction.”  In sum, any deity is an object, and even objects that are not deities nonetheless express and receive imperatives of divine otherness, and such otherness is an apophatic mystery such that the reality of objects is unexpressed, “dormant,” infinitely withdrawn.  [Read the rest here.]

Bryant blogged today about Harman's comments on Derrida, and further clarifying Bryant's previous post on Derrida. It may or may not add some clarity to the above questions.

My only point about pre-reflexive awareness is that Bryant offered it as one example of how to account for the apparent contradiction to his argument that he too participates in correlationism. As you note, his ontological claim that objects are a certain way comes from his human understanding, from his epistemological assumptions, and hence he too participates in the epistemic fallacy. It seems in the referenced section he uses a pre-reflexive cogito, a prehensive unification in Whiteheadian terms, to grant that all objects have a direct, 'embodied' apprehension with the world as it is given, and thus not correlationist in the sense that such apprehension of, or perturbation by, the world requires a human understanding. I.e., all objects have an 'interior' (or endo-relations) all the way down.

As far as the enactive paradigm not being correlationist, I agree that it is consistent with Bryant's notion of exo-relations. I think he might disagree though that an object has to 'enact' in its environment. It seems it's not just a matter of an object retaining a withdrawn capacity but that it never has to enact with its environment at all. I agree with you that if that's what he's saying I don't buy this either, since the only possible object that can do this is 'dark,' of which there are no examples.

Now Bryant's recent post on Harman and Derrida (above) notes that one aspect of differance is deferral, not differences between other objects (another meaning of the term). And that he agrees with deferral in that it criticizes a metaphysics of presence and onto-theology, as it posits that no object has a present 'essence' it itself, that it remains withdrawn even from itself regardless of its relations. And it is here that Bryant might disagree with one aspect of a kennilingual approach, since the latter retains an ontotheology of presence, a hierarchy of being that transcends and includes lower forms of being and is oblivious to the withdrawn nature at the root of suobjects. As discusssed above, for Derrida at least this withdrawn khora is not a mere absence but the root of any relational pair, i.e, is not itself relational. It seems Bryant is trying to equate his withdrawn aspect of objects with this notion of deferral. Or as he says, use it in a new way to support his thesis. (As to whether it is indeed 'new' is debatable.)

Hi, Ed, thanks for your responses.  Hope you had a good weekend at the dance convention.  I had something of an OOO weekend -- reading The Quadruple Object, reading three chapters from The Speculative Turn, and waking up at 4 am on Saturday and going downstairs to write out about four pages of notes on the interrelations between, and mutual challenges posed by, OOO, Integral, quantum, and SpinbitZ-ian perspectives.  I may turn those notes into a post or blog at some point.

As you have noted also, there's some interesting overlap between Harman's or Bryant's accounts of objects/substances and Wilber's 4Q holons.  Endo- and exo-relations correspond roughly with the interiors and exteriors of any holon or actual occasion.  Harman, in one of his pieces, talks about the interiors of objects and goes so far as to say that the only reality is the interiors of objects.  I'm not quite sure I follow what he's saying, though.  On the surface, it appears he's either denying the reality of, or interpretively reducing the other 'quadrants' to, the notion of 'interior.'  But this may not be the case, as I'll explain in a moment.  And while Bryant allows for both endo- and exo-relations, he seems to disagree that they all necessarily 'come together' (tetra-enact) -- holding instead that it is possible for an object to be wholly withdrawn, without any relations at all. Which, from an Integral perspective, would be a privileging or an absolutizing of the upper quadrants. 

Harman's view may differ from Bryant's to some degree, in that he says the withdrawn substance is not the 'bottom' of reality (which Bryant's wholly unrelated dark object would appear to be, in representing the ultimate 'end' or 'extreme' of his view on withdrawal).  Harman says that even a withdrawn substance emerges from deeper relations, acknowledging that substances are both situated in and withdrawn from relations that go all the way up and all the way down. He acknowledges that any substance or object is composed of smaller objects, and often part of larger objects (similar to a holonic view), and that the smaller objects are themselves composed of even smaller objects, infinitely.  He acknowledges that the infinite regress is often seen as problematic, philosophically, but says he prefers it to the other options (that reality rests on some ultimate turtle, or that reality rests on a turtle shell without a turtle).  So we have a view where relations are objects, and objects are relations, and (as I understand it) all objects are simultaneously withdrawn from both endo- and exo-relations.  In my mind, this is a philosophy of emergence -- related to point one of the four characteristics of living systems that I posted earlier: where living systems are nonsummative wholes.  If an object or substance is emergent (the flipside of withdrawn?), it eludes its constituent parts or sub-holons (not being reducible to them) as much as it eludes any totalizing apprehension by other, environing or surrounding objects.

But Harman's view may be more radical than a living systems view, it seems, because he rejects Leibniz's distinction between monads and aggregates (and likely the Integral distinction between holons and artifacts).  He wants to say that two diamonds glued together are also 'objects' or 'substances,' as is a group of men holding hands, a cavalry regiment, or the Black Forest as a whole.  Bryant takes a similar view, accepting a baseball team or the United States as substances.  Most of these 'objects' could still be viewed in systems terms, so it's not clear how far from a living systems view he wants to venture.  Are two diamonds glued together a system?  Perhaps an artifactual system but not a living system.  I wonder whether he would also accept contiguously situated or interacting objects as a substance -- diamonds in a bag, an ant exploring a toaster, a Republican in golf pants holding a martini, a man on a toilet?  What does it take to be an 'object'? 

Here's a definition he offers (which, again, appears roughly consonant with holonic theory):  "Objects need not be natural, simple, or indestructible.  Instead, objects will be defined only by their autonomous reality.  They must be autonomous in two separate directions:  emerging as something over and above their pieces, while also partly withholding themselves from relations with other entities."  And elsewhere he says, "And given that an object must inherently be a unity, its multitude of qualities can only arise from the plurality of its pieces.  Thus there is no object without pieces..."  (The qualification of the necessary unity of objects suggesting, again, parallels with holonic theory).




Regarding Bryant's claim that an object can be severed from its relationships to other objects, what do you make of this?  Does he mean all objects, or just some?  Does this include constituent objects?  Can a hammer be severed from its relationship to atoms, or to iron, or to wood?  Or is he only talking about its relationships to surrounding objects, like the hammer's owner, or a tool box, or a set of tools, or the planet earth?

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What paths lie ahead for religion and spirituality in the 21st Century? How might the insights of modernity and post-modernity impact and inform humanity's ancient wisdom traditions? How are we to enact, together, new spiritual visions – independently, or within our respective traditions – that can respond adequately to the challenges of our times?

This group is for anyone interested in exploring these questions and tracing out the horizons of an integral post-metaphysical spirituality.

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