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 An object is profoundly “withdrawn”--we can never see the whole of it, and nothing else can either....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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There isn't a 1-to-1 with aggregates. In Buddhism generally there is no substance if by that we mean primordial or universal essence, i.e., lack of inherent self existence. And yet the notion that all things are causally produced and interrelated is akin to Bryan't substance, as it too does not have a universal existence but rather a unique, temporal, materially produced individual existence. One difference with Buddhism is that there is nonetheless something in an object's substance that is non-relational, at least exo-relational. However the endo-relations are indeed still relational and a suobject is still coordinating other substantive subject-parts within it, but it is in the organizational structure wherein lies its ephemeral, transient elements

From an overview of aggregates they are indeed temporary and fleeting, but they would seem to preclude, or at least don’t differentiate, the kind of substance Bryant describes using Luhmann and Varela. In fact, the Buddhist definition of aggregate pertains not only to mind-thoughts but the physical world as well. Granted physical forms indeed come and go, but while they are manifest they don’t seem to have the kind of autonomous substance above. So I’m wondering how we might find a homeomorphic equivalence with aggregates pertaining to structural endo-relations, and that something that remains in excess of them what Bryant calls substance. Could we perhaps find something like this in Tibetan rigpa or tathagata? It seems we’d need to revamp them somewhat but not sure how to do this yet. Any Buddhists out there want to take a stab?

Continuing from the linked article, in Abhidhamma Form “arises from experientially irreducible physical/physiological phenomena.” It seems at least here we have an autonomous suobject (substance)? And when a human contacts a suobject (form) then there is the process of the human perceiving, feeling and forming its own information about that independent suobject, i.e., for Bryant translating it. Like Bryant this translation isn’t a direct correspondence with the suobject, since it must translate via the process of the aggregates or endo-relations. And in this sense the endo-relations like aggregates are indeed ephemeral, the stuff from which the organizational structure builds and maintains.

Still not there, just thinking out loud.

I found this gem today from earlier in the thread, how differance is more virtual proper being than a local manifestation. I’m also reminded of Dharmakirti’s “pure particular,” also referenced earlier in the thread.

From this view*, of course, states of consciousness would be endo-relations of objects (sentient beings) -- meaning, states of consciousness would be regarded as having ontological weight (being real) but would not be substances or "objects" in themselves.  This differs (also of course) from mystical views, many of which tend to regard at least some states as ontological substrata (hyper-objects?)...



* With "this view," I was referencing a bit earlier in the discussion, not your more recent post.

Consciousness is one of the aggregates. Still not clear on making connections between the aggregates and endo-relational structure. The aggs seem more like the usual developmental ladder: body-perception-emotion-mind-consciousness. They are 'real' in a sense, the Buddhist 'problem' being getting attached to or identifying with them, not in their conditional and impermanent reality per se. All of the aggs can be recontextualized as nested 'levels' to the actual, smaller and substantial part-suobjects in a larger suobject. But not their structural relations per se, which do not enter into local manifestation as body, emotion or thought. Very sticky wicket.

See part 2 of Michael's post and the commentary.

And I still question that thoughts or ideas are not substantial suobjects. We grant substantiality to our bodies, and our thoughts per L&J are embodied extensions of basic categories that are akin to Bryant's translation process. Yes thoughts are more impermanent than a body, but recall time is irrelevant for substances, whether an instant or a millennium. I agree with Michael that a thought or idea cannot exist on its own without a 'body' of some type, like a word or page or whatever. But that's only saying that any suobject has both an inside and outside in kennilingus. Which boundary is, as we've explored ad nauseum, both open and closed.

So I'm thinking the thought or idea, per aggregates, are indeed nested suobjects with form, perception, emotion etc. The organizational structure endures but can and does change over time via the much more ephemeral endo-relations between the substantial parts, which are not elements. The elements are the endo-relations themselves? As I recall, Byrant does say the endo-relations are structured in a particular way, which is what makes a suobject unique. However those relations can and do change as a suobject grows and develops within an overall structure that still remains unique, even through those changes.

I'm thinking in terms of the meme, from the wiki:

"A meme is 'an idea, behavior or style that spreads from person to person within a culture.' A meme acts as a unit for carrying cultural ideas, symbols or practices, which can be transmitted from one mind to another through writing, speech, gestures, rituals or other imitable phenomena. Supporters of the concept regard memes as cultural analogues to genes in that they self-replicate, mutate and respond to selective pressures."

Also see this section that describes memes as discrete units.

And here are Adam Robbert's posts on the matter as part of his dialog with Michael and others: part 1, part 2. He is of the mind that ideas are suobjects. And this recent post by Reid, mentioned by Robbert, where he says discussing Harman:

"Thoughts cannot be interior to the thinking object."

Also recall this post from another thread  There I struggled to connect a relation between Harman’s real and sensuous suobjects and qualities with the quadrants. Would he say thoughts are sensuous suobjects or qualities? It seems both of these are what Bryant might call the inside of a suobject’s boundary? With the substantive parts comprising said suobject being the sensuous suobjects, and the sensuous qualities perhaps the endo-relations? If so, qualities are not substantial suojects? And thoughts are qualities?

For example, in OOO's wiki entry, the section on Harman's metaphysics, it notes the pair real object/sensuous qualities as follows:

"A withdrawn object is translated into sensual apprehension via a 'surface' accessed by thought and/or action."

This is consistent with Bryant's notion that a suobject translates another through its own endo-structural organization. So are thoughts then the elements of endo-relations or the organizational endo-relations themselves?

Here's an excerpt from a blog entry (which I think has been referenced earlier in this thread) which features a discussion between Harman and one of his readers.  It contains a number of pointers relevant to this inquiry.  In the following, Harman quotes the reader's questions and then provides an answer.




You write: “You accept the ontological univocity of all entities/objects: chairs, dreams, parties… and so on, and so on (to use Zizek’s catchy abbreviation). Furthermore, you accept their non-relational subsistence and qualitative determination (not just sensual).”

This is a common misunderstanding of my position, and I’ve had trouble changing it. It is not true that I support the ontological univocity of all objects. In fact, I am a very frank dualist when it comes to objects. There are real objects and sensual objects, and they are very different from one another. Real objects exist apart from all relation. They hide from us and from all other objects, because they are untranslatable into any model.

Sensual objects, by contrast, exist only for another object, and vanish as soon as that entity stops paying attention, sleeps, or dies. Nor do they hide. They are always there in front of us, but are simply encrusted with too many superfluous qualities to be recognized. This is why Husserl thinks we need the eidetic reduction, to rotate objects at different angles to try to separate the essential qualities from the inessential ones.
If you keep this distinction in mind, then most of your worries about virulence disappear.

For example, you write: “You grant ‘reality’ to Pinocchio and ideal situations, just as with physical bodies and intraworldly occurrences. Does this mean that every possible thought of a fictional entity has reality?”

Only in the sensual sense. Everything I dream up obviously has at least a dreamlike reality. But does it have autonomy from my thought of it? No. There’s no reality in that sense.

You write further: “If I imagine a stickman figure without further connection to anything else, does this entail its reality? Of course you might say it has some form of reality, albeit a weak and evanescent one. But it’s not clear to me the precise ontological status of this hypothetical entity: it’s not strictly sensual, but it’s obviously intentional insofar as it possesses eidetic unity…”

Actually, I think the stickman figure is purely sensual.
You write: “it’s not clear to me, like Husserl, that we can speak of partial adumbrations in these cases, or whether we have to accept ‘fulfilled’ intentional acts for them; i.e. there are no 'hidden angles' in my imagining).”

Here I would only disagree that adumbrations have anything to do with hiddeness. I don’t think a mailbox is “hidden” behind its adumbrations at all. I think the intention of a mailbox is automatically “fulfilled” as soon as I have it. The problem is that a lot of extraneous extra qualities of the mailbox are also there, mixed up with the eidos of the mailbox itself. For me, the eidetic reduction is not about achieving a hidden fulfillment, but about clearing away the cobwebs from a fulfillment that has always already occurred. I realize that this is not the orthodox way of reading Husserl, but the usual attempts to see “hiddenness” at work in both Husserl and Heidegger seemed like such a bizarre mix of apples and oranges that I was finally led to see the difference.

You write: “Is the reality of these objects then coincident with their intentional configuration? Or can we nevertheless speak of a relationless reality of the object / what would this be?”

No, there is no relationless reality to sensual objects, because they always exist in relation to us. This is similar to the reason for why I am never impressed by Badiou’s claim to have spoken of objects without subjects. He doesn’t deliver on this claim.

Further, you ask: “To complicate things a bit: what would be the
precise 'point of contact' between this stickman figure and a second imagined object (the stickwoman), i.e. inside which entity would they meet? Is it my intentional-subjective sphere (mind)?”

No, they can’t meet at all, because they are not real objects. They can only exist contiguously in the experience of a real object (namely, me).

More: “If I understand you correctly, real objects neither meet by themselves (without mediation), nor are their pieces conceivably eidetic. What would the reality of the pieces or qualities of these imagined objects be then; beyond their eidetic presentation? So I’m wondering how these imagined objects fit within the triad of objects: real, sensual and intentional.”

Imagined objects are sensual. And there’s no triad of objects, there are just two: real and sensual.

I replaced the term “intentional object” with “sensual object,” and at first my motive was purely one of euphony. (I hate the sterile technical flavor of the phrase “intentional object.”) But recently I’ve come to see a second reason to make the change, which is that people wrongly use “intentional object” to mean an object outside the mind, which is not at all what it means in Brentano and Husserl. For them it means immanent objectivity, but people have hijacked their term.

As for the first part of your question, it is true that real objects for me cannot meet without mediation. I don’t understand “nor are their pieces conceivably eidetic.”

Next: “Finally, I’m wondering whether this ontological univocity and virulent proliferation of entities might not potentially lead on a downward slope to pragmatism.”

Yes, it could. But I do not uphold univocity, nor is my position vulnerable to virulent proliferation, for reasons described above.

Next: “I take it you would endorse the independent reality of the objects underlying scientific discourse, by what seems to be vaguely modelled in a Kripke-esque figure of ostentation. These real objects then would subsist in their reality as objects, as well as with their real qualities.”

I’m not sure what’s so “vague” about it. I agree with Kripke.
Next: “But i'm intrigued to ask what is an example of a real entity, then, if it is not merely correlative to any given descriptive register and yet are thinkable (for these is not the ephermal and ineffable Infinity of theologians)?”

Here you are setting a bit of a trap for me, because you want me to describe a real object that underlies shifting theories, but obviously as soon as I describe it, it will no longer be the same thing as the real object being described.

The reason why objects are not the “ineffable infinity of the theologians” is that they are not infinite, and they are also not entirely ineffable. We can perform certain operations with them that increase our knowledge of the universe, just as imaginary numbers in mathematics can be used in equations. To say that withdrawn objects are useless because we can’t say anything about them is sort of like saying that black holes are useless in physics because we can’t see the inside of them. Direct seeing is not the only kind of knowledge, after all!

Next: “Which is the real object and stock of real qualities underlying the Inti-God of the Incas and the astral phenomenon described by science? Don’t we risk in this manner an all too-violent dispersionism of the Real in which anything we say is ultimately adequate to the Real underlying objects, insofar as discourse never reaches its ‘real’ qualities or primal substance-hood, but merely mediates it / relates to it in some level?”

I would have to be God to know what the real object is that lies beneath Incan religious beliefs. You seem to think that the up-to-date science of the year 2010 should be allowed to serve as the privileged judge of that question. I don’t see why. Our science of today will perhaps look as antiquated in a thousand years as Incan beliefs do today.

Your worry seems to be: if no direct access with objects is possible, then anything goes. I can claim that my worship of fairies is just as good as quantum theory. But why does this follow? Who says that there can’t be standards of better and worse even in a world where direct access to the things is impossible?

Next: “What is the principle of individuation for real entities, apart from acts of reference, without relapsing into some correlationist corner?” Real entities are individualized by their qualities, and qualities for me are not universals. But let’s leave that question for another time.

Next: “This can be also called 'Quinean virulence': if we can say purely imaginary objects have realities, and parts as well; what individuates them as objects? Is it my choice of nomination/term? Is there any sense to say the stickman is really a singular object, and not just a bundle of stick-parts? And why can I say there's one real object underlying the stickman, and not an infinity of stick-part objects?”

In the sensual realm it is we ourselves who decide that the stickman is one sensual object. It is simply a matter of descriptive phenomenology to decide whether I’m encountering one stick figure or many isolated parts (I doubt that an “infinity” is possible for perception; that’s an exaggeration).

In the realm of real objects, the stickman is one if the stickman is a unified reality that has properties not found in its pieces taken in isolation. But I don’t believe in real stickmen, of course.

Next: “Clearly if we move onto the physical register we don’t even have ontological unity, and we must say all there really is are subatomic forces or particles.” This is not clear at all. And even if it were, then you’re still speaking of individuals: individual forces, individual subatomic particles. These are objects, and demand an object-oriented analysis.

Next: “But since you have renounced naturalism, then surely you must say that the imagined or conceived stickman is not really physical anymore than it is really eidetic. For to deny its physical reality in order to assert its purely eidetic existence (as imagined stickman) would seem to run with the imposition of a matter independent ideality.”

I’ve only “renounced naturalism” in the sense that I don’t think physical explanations and entities should be privileged over other kinds. You seem to think I am taking a kind of Platonic position and saying that eidos is more real than physical. That’s not true at all.

Next: “But if we cannot eliminate the physical so as to avoid reductionism, then surely we would have to accept the same goes for every reality following from all possible descriptive registers, and we have once again something of a nomological virulence.”

I don’t understand this part.

Next: “On the other hand, if we say that the reality of none of these registers (even the ‘eidetic’) exhausts the ‘real object’ (since the latter is resolutely non-relational) we seem to return to the problem of anonymity, both at the level of substance and of quality. For none of the available descriptive registers seem to exhaust the object of my contemplation, even if many of them appear necessary (I couldn’t imagine anything if I had no body / if I had no thought / no language…).”

Here you seem to be mixing the reality of a thing with its epistemic exhaustability. Why would we even want to exhaust anything with some specific discursive register? Not only is it impossible in my philosophy, it’s undesirable to me as a person.

Next:”How can we therefore isolate real qualities independently of all relations? What would these be?”

This is similar to the trap I described above. You want me to give an example of a real quality outside relation, but obviously as soon as I give an example it will be in relation to me, will merely be a translation into discourse of a hidden real quality, etc. We cannot “isolate real qualities outside of all relations,” because what you’re asking for there is “to have a relation to real qualities outside all relations,” and of course that’s impossible. But this doesn’t mean that it’s useless to know that there are real objects with real qualities. As I said in the case of the black hole, direct observation is not the only kind of knowledge.

And consider metaphor. As Max Black showed so nicely, you can’t rephrase a metaphor in literal terms. This doesn’t mean that a metaphor gives no knowledge. Of course it does. You just have to abandon the narrow sense of knowledge as “correct propositions about the properties of things.”

Next: “If all the lists of irreducible strata of reality, ranging from parties to neutrons, are novel for OOO then this must be in a sense that’s not merely equivalent to, again, Badiou’s pure multiple (which, after all, could without problem produce the same kinds of varied lists only to add in the end – ontologically it is a pure multiplicity, which does not constitute a reduction any more than saying all objects are actors does).”

Badiou’s pure multiple can produce my lists of entities “without problem” only once they are counted and made part of the consistent mutiple. Badiou’s inconsistent multiple does not contain banks, snakes, icebergs, and forests: that’s the whole point of the inconsistency! For me, by contrast, the real world does consist of such things, and they are already in a duel with one another from the start.

There is no such thing as the “pure multiple” for me. There are only many different objects. Badiou is too much like the pre-Socratics with their apeiron for my taste.

Finally: “If everything is ontologically an actor, and real actors and qualities exist, what can we say of them?”

What’s the problem here? My books say all kinds of things about real objects. You can’t set the trap of demanding that withdrawn objects be spoken of in the same way as non-withdrawn sensual objects. The whole point is that they cannot be. But that doesn’t mean that we are left helpless before the ineffable, any more than astrophysicists are left to call the interior of black holes ineffable. You just have to find new, oblique methods of knowledge.

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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?

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