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 An object is profoundly “withdrawn”--we can never see the whole of it, and nothing else can either....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.
Recall this post from the TOE v. TOA thread. A few excerpts:
"In the [preceding] figure I draw two holons encountering each other in a moment of relationship. The space between is filled with the interobjective artifacts of that encounter – words, gestures, signs, touch, meanings, displays, roles, communications. Using the developmental ideas of Vygotsky the space between is filled with the mediating processes and artifacts that flow between the two holons. We can draw an holonic boundary around some logical grouping of these artefacts to identify the 'mediating holon.'”
Granted he then discusses the word as the mediating holon par excellence. But per above this space between can be other types of comminication like gestures and touch. And as I suggest we can go all the way down to any form of object-object or -environment communication for this relational, mediational communication. Also consider that the word word has itself taken on new meanings, like these from the urban dictionary. I noted in the post above that I would henceforth use word as conotating the mediating holon more generally. Hence now my expansion with mhetaoric.
The section I'm reading in Bubbles right now is quite relevant to this, so I will try to type up a little selection from it later today. (Slot is a media theorist, so he's talking a lot about mediation).
I appreciate this expanded use of language/communication -- which is consonant with Integral's (and my own) pan-semiotic leanings. But I think this expanded definition is pushing up against broader terms we often use, such as 'experience' -- which, in this (necessarily) broadened form, reinforces the point I was making: rhetoric itself, as a mode of verbal discourse, is not capable of enacting all forms of human knowledge and cannot stand in for other means of enaction. Only when we push the envelope way out, beyond rhetoric to something like 'experience' (-as-'embodied communicative engagement' or medial play) -- which will include all sorts of activities and modes of interaction and enaction -- do we get a term that is broad or general enough to do the job*. Here, rhetoric is just one embodied communicative/inter-resonant/trans(en)active activity among many.
*Though even then, I would not want to say it is exhaustive.
My most recent readings in Sloterdijk, which are again resonant with our discussion here:
"Black Circle offers a realistic snapshot of fetal reality. Whatever truth there might be in the equation of the womb and Nirvana, one certainly cannot claim that the incipient individual experiences a state of complete emptiness at any point. The fetus with which the mother is pregnant is itself pregnant with its own tendency to fill out its space and affirm itself within it. The child's movements, with their cheerfully enigmatic "cat in the bag" impressions, testify to this intra-uterine expansionism. And recent findings in the field of psychoacoustic fetal research dismiss any such illusions about an initial emptiness of experience once and for all: the floating being in the amniotic waters inhabits an acoustic event space in which its sense of hearing is subjected to constant stimulation.
No author of the twentieth century has found such evocative formulations for the tendentious nature of fetal swelling as the expressionist Schellingian Marxist Ernst Block. In the generative center of his reflection we find a changing figure of pregnancy-mimetic character. Block sees tensions of the tendency arising from the darkness of the lived moment in every conscious life, and these move towards clearing, world formation, and liberation by turning to the concrete. His famous initiatory formulas are like mottos of a fetality that has been made to speak:....
[Snip](Bloch's descriptions of fetal experiences and stage transitions)[/Snip]
If one reads these darkness-to-light formulas as peri-natal figures of the urge to be born, there is an error of number: from a psychological perspective, coming-into-the-world precisely does not mean the movement from the I to the We, but rather the splitting of the archaic biune We into the ego and its second element, simultaneously crystallizing out the third. This splitting is possible because the medially conditioned nature of the biunity means that it always has three parts; in undistorted development, the dyadic triad is always simply reshuffled, concretized, expanded and modernized:
1 fetus --- 2 (placental blood/mother's blood) --- 3 mother;
1 newborn --- 2 (own voice/mother's voice/mother's milk) --- 3 mother;
1 child --- 2 (language/father/mother's partner) --- 3 mother.
Because the middle element gains complexity, the child gradually develops into a competent exponent of its cultural system. The trinitary structure of the primary dyad is given from the start, however. What we call "mother and child" in the abbreviated terms of subject-object language are, in their mode of being, only ever poles of a dynamic in-between.
Therefore, as follows from these reflections, there can be nothing in the earliest life of the psyche that one could rightly describe as "primary narcissism." Rather, there is a relationship of strict mutual exclusivity between the primary and the narcissistic. The confused narcissism concepts of psychoanalysis are above all an expression of its fundamentally skewed conceptual disposition, and of the way it was misled by the object and imago concepts. The true issues of the primary fetal and peri-natal world -- blood, amniotic fluid, voice, sonic bubble and breath -- are media of a pre-visual universe in which mirror concepts and their libidinous connotations are entirely out of place. The child's earliest "auto"eroticisms are eo ipso based on games of resonance, not mirrorings of the self. Hence the mature subject status lies not in the supposed turn towards the object, but rather in the ability to master inner and outer acts at higher medial levels; for the adult subject, that includes libidinous genital resonance with sexual partners -- which presupposes a well-tempered departure from the oldest media and their sublation in the later ones. This is what a media-theoretically reformulated theory of sexuality would have to show..." (Sloterdijk, Bubbles, pp. 318-320).
I found Bryant's recent blog post interesting on many levels. One is how SR/OOO is proliferating at such a rapid pace due to social media like blogs, discussions and open access publishing. It bypasses the traditional publishing route which maintains author as master narrator, as well as privileged access to information through generally inaccessible academic or professional journals for only those who can afford it. That is, it challenges many of the hierarchical privileges that grow knowledge in more staid environments that exclude the margins, as well as grow it much more slowly. Granted he also discusses the disadvantages of social media, and there are many.
But forums such as this bypass a lot (but not all) of those disadvantages and provide a lot of cutting edge ideas that have heretofore not entered into kennilingus-integral debate due its own insularity. I must also give kudos an credit to Balder for bridging that gap with a foot in both worlds, bringing at least some of these ideas to his JITP contributions, since otherwise I doubt it would happen. Well, there is also Integral Review, but even they tend toward only academic contributions and forego the give and take of online discussion. They flirted with it for a short time but gave up due to the admitted disadvantages. And largely, imo, because they couldn't contain it to 'academic' standards, which misses the rich contributions from not so doing.
I also appreciated Bryant's point about social communication having to do not strictly with Habermasian consensus but also with dispute and disagreement. This reminds me of Edwards' comments on how social and 2nd-person interaction also involve this, and how kennilingus misses this boat due to its limited (to nonexistent) view on these topics, as well as its refusal to accept criticism unless its within its limited hermeneutic consensus (or cult, depending on one's level of reaction to this).
Sounds like a very interesting entry (which I'll read later from home). I respect and appreciate how Bryant, Morton, Michael, and others have been willing to step (and write, debate, converse) outside of academic milieus -- without losing academic status, and arguably also enriching the discourse (as you've suggested above).
For some reason, I'm reminded of David Abram's work, which seems obliquely but nevertheless clearly related to the spirit of SR/OOO. I say, "for some reason," because he's not quite talking about the same thing as Bryant is in the blog entry you referenced, but he nevertheless is calling for folks to reanimate public, oral discourse -- not to step away from writing books and academic works, but to re-enliven a rich oral culture that is local and rooted (though arguably not also without global reach or relevance). I see Bryant's and Morton's engagement in the blogosphere as a midpoint between academic writing and Abram's dynamic oral culture (where he stresses the importance of receiving these communications in an embodied way, from an embodied, gesticulating communicator).
Concerning bringing some of these ideas into the Integral world, I'm beginning to think now about my next project (a paper for the next Integral Theory conference). Some of Slot's work -- especially, for instance, his writings on the egg motif (the to-be-broken enclosure) -- is resonant with ideas in my last paper as well as with OOO/SR/Bhaskar, so I am thinking of taking a further step in this exploration. We'll see.
Speaking of the proliferation of SR/OOO, this looks interesting.
Balder I’d like to take you back a few posts and comment in response to this:
rhetoric itself, as a mode of verbal discourse, is not capable of enacting all forms of human knowledge and cannot stand in for other means of enaction.
In fact, I believe that this is precisely how rhetoric can act. And it does this by dint of its status as body in the world. On this view rhetoric/style is the medium of the message. Which is to say the true body of the message in that rhetoric enacts the meaning to be conveyed. As Morton and Harman both agree, rhetoric is therefore not background but in truth foreground. I’m sure that Sloterdijk and McLuhan would broadly agree, also.
I say rhetoric does this by dint of its status as ‘body in the world’. What I have in mind here is a notion of mimetic resonance. I believe that OOO teaches us that the world is made of objects all the way up and all the way down - and in all directions, of course, in accordance with Sloterdijk’s spheres and bubbles. And that each of those objects shares certain common dynamics. It is thus possible for one body/object to resonate mimetically the body/object of any other. The body that is rhetoric can express other bodies. Or, indeed that cluster of dynamic paradoxes that is being.
To do this another aspect of rhetoric needs to be made clear. - Rhetoric is art and it is via artistry that being is enacted. Here I’m thinking of both something like Czech formalism as well as Schelling’s view of the art object. Neither of these see art as about harmony - the neat matching of form and content to create a resonant wave form to trill the senses into transcendence; or, maybe something beautiful to lift one’s spririt to elevated planes. Instead both these approaches see art - and being - as something dynamic, intederminate, mysterious, fresh and raw.
For CF literature and art work by shifting our calcified categories to allow the world to be seen afresh as the troubling and wondrous thing it is. For Schelling the work of art is evident proof in the manifest realm of the existence of the absolute. Art works cannot be defined by their physical measurement or use value alone; and the meanings they provide, while they may be strong and clear, are not fixed. Rather the art work is endlessly productive of meaning. On this account art embodies the very nature of being itself: endlessly productive of both clarity and mystery.
Good rhetoric is thus the mimetic bodying of the play of form and mystery that is being itself. I would argue that it is through artful means that rhetoric contacts the ‘strange stranger’. I’m all for lucidity, where it is seamless in dentotative content with rhetorical delivery, however, then we have lost that mimetic enactment of being. Skillful means must be employed to play upon that clarity, and, as those Czech formalists argue, open us up anew to the immediacy and dynamism of being. If we are not willing to do so, then, no matter how sophisticated, we are indeed looking for knowledge in all the wrong places.
And, to add, for Schelling it was the great work of art that accomplished this expression of being. The world has moved, however, as has art, and I’d argue for any acts that impact the world to shift and play [with] its categories is art.
I’d also like to add that I appreciate the discussion taking place here a great deal.
Rhetoric can be seen as representational, evocative, and enactive. And artful rhetoric has the capacity to in- or e-voke a great many things; it has the capacity to challenge us, to instruct us, to invoke wonder, awe, or horripilation. But as a mode of enaction, I still question whether rhetoric can 'take the place of' all other modes of enaction, or do their work entirely sufficiently (such that these other means of enaction become completely redundant: no need to conduct experiments, to use the body to physically encounter other bodies, or employ techniques to train the senses or the attention in any particular way, or engage in various embodied/energetic/sensuous exchanges with the world, because rhetoric enacts and gives everything these other activities enact). If this were the case, we could lock ourselves motionless in a sealed chamber and read books or have a great rhetorician speak to us over loudspeakers for the remainder of our lives, and not miss a thing about the world: the read or spoken word would enact for us everything humanly possible to know or experience, such that all other means of enaction (other than reading a good book or listening to a good rhetorician) become entirely superfluous.
I like your point about language being a 'body in the world.' But I think OOO folks also suggest that no body has privileged access to all other bodies equally. A particular sphere of being calls forth certain spheric resonances, but not others. Language, as object or perhaps autopoietic enclosure, is enactive, yes. But the structural coupling of rhetoric and other objects is sufficiently different from that of the tongue and other objects, such that rhetoric alone will never give you the taste, say, of an orange. From an enactive understanding, this can be understood as an expression of very different histories of structural coupling.
Rhetoric will never give you the taste of an orange? No, and I’m not suggesting it will. That said, the taste of an orange shares a structure, an objecthood, if you like, in common with all other objects. Both in having relations internally and externally, and in that in substance/part it is withdrawn from all contact. That dynamic may never be replicated and neatly disposed of in some handy correspondance theory of truth, it may however be evoked anew as yet another raw, surprising and rich encounter in experience. We cannot reach out and touch that body in all its specificity, we can, however, speak again the very category of specificity/singularity, which is a category that all objects share. What after all is the experience of eating an orange - it can be many many things, according to many many different oranges, and many many different people, and many many different situations. This is the heart of being - the surprising encounter of one thing with another. I hate to get all gnomic on you, but does the taste of an orange ever really give you the taste of an orange?
Also, please note, I’m not trying to do away with clarity or the sort of high intelligibility that Bryant or theurj might aim for - I value intelligibility highly. Its just I hardly think it's adequate to an ontology of being. Their very own thought argues against this. At its most simple, the play between content and style/rhetoric should provide space for mystery and indeterminancy. That is the nature of an object oriented ontology, and a presentation of thought is no less an object than any other. I don’t know if I’ve said this above, it’s certainly passed through my mind several times, but a thought that is seamlessly lucid in content and rhetoric is an embedded or fused thought, not an embodied thought. It has shut down its own becoming dialogue and is merely enacting Neitszche’s pretence to truth at a more sophisticated level in its refusal to submit to being mystified at any point in the road.
edit: a line added on embedded thought..
Yes, I appreciate your point about the limitations of a rhetoric which, through its prizing of precision and all-accounting intelligibility, leaves little space for indeterminacy or mystery.
I'm wondering if we're, all three, talking past each other somewhat. When I said that rhetoric cannot stand in for all means of enaction or give you all forms of human knowledge, I meant something like my orange example above: good rhetoric is indeed powerfully mimetic and evocative, but it cannot 'replace' eating an orange, or learning to ski, or firing electrons at a detector, or 10 years of Zazen, as a means of facilitating certain object-transformations or suobjective events or encounters.
I do appreciate your gnomic question, though, whether the taste of an orange gives you the taste of an orange. That is the point of an enactive orientation - challenging just such a representationalist understanding. As I see it, rhetoric is like other object-transactions in facilitating surprising and singular encounters in/with other objects or beings, but it is not the only 'facilitator' worth taking up, nor can it -- even with its mimetic properties -- do the work of other injunctive/facilitative means to the point of rendering them redundant. I don't think you were making this point, and I don't think Theurj actually was either, but in Theurj's praising of rhetoric as empowering and facilitative and his condemning of meditation as masturbatory, I felt we were on the edge of something like the claim: "good rhetoric can achieve or facilitate any realization or transformation or 'formation' that any other means of injunction can," and wanted therefore to address that.
It has shut down its own becoming dialogue and is merely enacting Neitszche’s pretence to truth at a more sophisticated level in its refusal to submit to being mystified at any point in the road.
Ah, the irony of me talking of the power of style. I'm going to claim this dribbling sentence as my own rhetorical feint against lucidity.
Yes, it occured to me that we were talking past each other to a degree. For my part, I’m not at all dismissive of meditation. Indeed I would claim that meditation and rhetorical skill share the same key attribute of turning back upon previous/current productions so as to mobilize the freedom inherent within them. The alternative to this turning back is to be caught up and carried along in those productions mindlessly - that would be the embedded mode I spoke of above. I view a productive theory as one that is self-aware of, not merely its intended denotative content, but of the very body that content is delivered by.
To return to Integral, that was always what struck me as present in KW’s thought: a huge gap between the world labeled as mysterious and available only through sustained cultivation, and the analytical rhetoric that delivered and expanded upon these labels so confidently. In Ken's own theory they occupied different registers, so how then could one be speaking for the other? It wasn't coherent and the thought lacked body. This didn't seem to stop his constant critique directed towards others of 'performative contradiction'.
To more directly answer your last post, however, I'm not sure that I don't think rhetoric/style can deliver the world. I don't have time right now, but I will return with a couple of examples from Proust and Neitzsche where the claim is made that the form of the rhetoric is aimed at training one's capacity to negotiate the world. That is, the claim is that the form the writing is delivered in provides one with an analogue to direct experience. Reading, too, is the impact/meeting of body with body, just as might be found anywhere else in experience.