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 An object is profoundly “withdrawn”--we can never see the whole of it, and nothing else can either....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.
You might also consider our IPS thread on Wilber's response to CR here. I can see you embrace some of Wilber's metaphysical premises which are on display in his response, and criticized in the thread. I realize you participated in that thread but my sense is that you perhaps didn't read the whole thing?
While I'd agree both view accept givens, the transcendent sees them as timeless and changeless whereas the transcendental sees them as contingent and changeable. And this makes a HUGE practical difference in politics, economics and religion. Bryant is at his best when he lays out the political implications of transcendent principles used as an excuse for hegemony, privilege and abuse. We even see it as a most practical matter in the likes of I-I's organizational structure, and the type of economics they promote (conscious capitalism). See for example the new thread on Cohen waking up to the former, and the integral capitalism thread for how kennlingus perpetuates the inequities of capitalism, conscious or otherwise.
And the entire raison d'etre for this forum is to explore integral postmetaphysical spirituality, which includes Wilber's invaluable insights but also criticizes where he fails to live up to that goal. Accepting Wilber's remnant metaphysics hinders that goal and is again of HUGE philosophical import if we want to attain that goal. And no, I'm not saying we all have to have the same monolithic view, for part of postmetaphysics is that there are plural avenues. But all of them, like all of SR and OOO, have certain transcendental ontological principles that are postmetaphysical and valid critique to kennilingus. Hence our inclusion of them in our quest.
From "Convergent dialogues" by Yvonne Lynton Reid at the CG Jung Page. Note that image schema are elaborated into archetypal images by "actual affective experience."
"Jungian analyst Jean Knox suggests that recent work on the human genome, which puts the number of individual genes at closer to thirty thousand rather than the hundred thousand or more expected, makes the inheritance of images and ideas impossible. (Knox, 2003). Her synthesis of current positions of neuroscience, cognitive science and the developments in attachment theory makes a convincing case for the archetype as emergent, based on the presence of genetically catalysed image schemas which are elaborated into images of archetypal complexity by actual affective experience. An example which she cites is the presence of a schematic preparedness for 'containment' which the neonate organism seeks. This image schema would be elaborated into the archetypal representation of the mother. Another such schema is preparedness to register the configurations of a face. In this view, the archetypal aspects of experience, though in no way less influentially powerful, will be subject to cultural determination over a biological substrate, thus socially constructed rather than inherited. The imagery arising from these experiences is not innate, nor is it restricted to responses to physiological events such as hunger giving rise to an image of a ravening object inside the body. To my mind such theoretical revision in no way diminishes the power and ubiquity of the imagery basic to our humanness, imagery which has long been understood by Jungians as collective in its affective elements, thus archetypal."
The more I think about it, the more I am given to say "envolutionary" more and more, e.g. neither simply "before" (involution) nor simply "after" (evolution) the Big Bang. I've added the thread here.
Particularly from a physicist lens, it makes no sense to speak of the Big Bang in this way of before/after, as if it were a moment in time like any other. I'm not sure if I'm missing something and you all are on another wavelength than I am, or if I am just pointing out the obvious. Though it seems to move in between what Joe is saying about "before", and theurj is saying about "after". Both may be, from a certain third perspective, not quite accurate.
Wilber, for instance, specifically intends his account of Agape/Eros as a "myth", and I wonder if that is being lost here in the midst. If we wish to bracket "immanence" and look solely at "evolutionary givens", that would be a worthy project in its own right. But I don't believe in the final analysis that it tells the complete story.
Joseph Camosy said:
There is also the possibility that what you're calling involutionary givens and what I think of as involutionary givens are not the same thing.
Every theory or model has it's set of "givens." Whether these givens came into being before the Big Bang or a nano-second after the Big Bang may not matter.
Here's an interesting Integral World article applicable in this thread, "The limitations of the evolutionary meaning-making." It deals with how the Real is underdeveloped in kennilingus via the latter's overlooking peak oil. The author is an engineer so he "focus[es] typically on the physical and material world. [...] In integral contexts there is a larger emphasis on meta-theory and perspectives rather than descriptions on reality itself." The former perspective "focus[es] on the environment and its resources as main drivers of human development, and human activities as a consequence of this. In Diamonds book Guns, germs and steel, he argues for the availability of natural resources, crops and animal to domesticate and climate zones as advantages in favor of the Eurasian continent as main reasons to why Europeans colonized the rest of the world instead of the opposite." The latter "emphasizes human development as something that is inherently driven by humanity itself, the tetra-evolution of psychological, cultural, behavioral/physiological and structural. The integral view of humanity is a story of progress and of transformation from rudimentary to complex forms of thinking and being, therefore sometimes called the evolutionary meaning-making."
In terms of Bryant's BCT, each emphasize a different 'ring' and can recontextualize and balance the other. But particularly how many paradigms are deficient in the Real. Which is also one message in this article. Another is, as I've made here about OOO, that some realistic paradigms lack the insights of developmental psychology.
This post reminded me of something I've been working on using Bergson via Bryant. It's not completely thought through yet, with gaps still, but I thought I'd get it down here and then work on it further.
Now where Bryant might be akin to something like the MHC is in his endo-relational organizational structure. Recall in TDOO his distinction between exo- and endo-relations, and its correlation with intensional and extensional relations in a set (212). Endo-relations reside in the structural organization of its elements, the elements themselves not being autonomous entities. Hence the elements of this set cannot be otherwise; they must be in a relatively fixed pattern to maintain an entity's autonomy (214).
Bryant uses Bergon's diagram on memory to show how endo-relations are maintained (232).
It is similar to hierarchical nests but not quite. ABCD shows the unfoldment of an entity over time. A'B'C'D' show the memory of the entity, which feeds back into its unfoldment and also allows for future anticipation. But what is unfolded and remembered-anticipated is how an entity selectively organizes its structural elements in relation to its environment. This can and does change in response to these relations, but even when it changes it maintains a relatively stable endo-relational structure to maintain autonomy.
Where Bryant didn't go with this, and I do, is in relating this to the Wilber-Combs lattice. As I've laid out in different posts and threads, we might loosely correlate A'B'C'D' with our early development using MHC's stages with Gebser's, from pre-operational/archaic (D') to primary/magic (C') to concrete/mythic (B') to abstract-rational (A'). Formal rationality begins at A, which can be then trained to retrieve through focus and memory to integrate the previous levels throuch meditative or contemplative methods.
But here is where it diverges with the MHC and uses a twist or fold in the W-C lattice. I've claimed that the MHC continues to get more complicated with it's postformal stages, not fully remembering and then integrating the previous stages by not taking into account how the meditative process works. When integrated via meditation there is a fold or twist in both the W-C lattice and in Bergon's diagram above. Hence we get something more akin to Levin's bodies as the integrative process unfolds in reverse order, the prior magic and mythic becoming the transpersonal and the prior archaic becoming the ontological.
This relates to the W-C lattice in that the higher stages are the meditative integration of earlier state-stages in reverse order: gross-abstract, subtle-magic/mythic, causal-archaic. These are the third tier in the lattice. But whereas the lattice continues to differentiate states from stages in postformal levels a la the MHC, the states and stages undergo a transformation in the fulcrum of formal operations with meditation. i.e., they are heretofore more fully integrated and that differentiation is now replaced a la Gebserian IA awaring and the prior analysis-synthesis (de-re) above.
Relating this back to Bryant's endo-relational structure, the endo-relational elements are structurally organized in a specific and nested way akin to transcend and include. Wilber senses that there is a difference between enduring and transitional structures akin to Bryant's endo- and exo-relations. Wilber even uses Luhmann in ways similar to Bryant but not in this way, since Wilber's enduring structures are cogntive like pre-formal to concrete to rational. These would be more akin to Luhmann's independent and autonomous exo-relations.
"These days I’m going through a lot, so I stutter and my thoughts are impressionistic, like a pastiche."
"Why the perpetual forgetting of matter? Is there perhaps a material unconscious of the world of academic theory that isn’t the unconscious of the signifier? An unconscious composed of something so close that it is perpetually and necessarily forgotten? [...] This would be an unconscious that is a priori forgotten because, while serving as a necessary condition of all thought, it is independent of and anterior to any correlation. It can disrupt correlation and drive– yes, drive –towards conceptual and signifying creation, but it would be that that must be necessarily forgotten and repressed within every framework of thought."
The a priori forgotten, I like that. It's a given but we don't remember it. The specter on the hill. The unmarked space. The withdrawn. My girl Khora.
I'm reminded of Habermas' lifeworld background.* But grounded in L&J's embodied cognitive unconscious.** Per Rorher (and Levin and Wilber***) there are different kinds of bodies. Even though Habermas didn't overtly discuss the human physical body his lifeworld background is indeed the cultural (and material) body. Recall that for Mead our mind is embodied both within our physical structure and without our social matrix, the latter being included in the more general environment. All of which are the a priori forgotten, or rather, the a priori we never knew in the first place.
*From this post, Morris on Habermas:
"The lifeworld reveals only a portion of itself in any dialogue because it exists as a phenomenological ‘background’ of pre-theoretical, pre-interpreted contexts of meaning and relevance….the vast proportion of lifeworld convictions always remain in the background during any discussion…. The lifeworld itself cannot be the proper them of communicative utterances, for as a totality it provides the space in or ground upon which such utterances occur, even those that name it explicitly….it remains indeterminate” (235-6).
** "There is much to be said for traditional philosophical reflection and phenomenological analysis. They can makes us aware of many aspects of consciousness and, to a limited extent, can enlarge our capacities for conscious awareness. Phenomenological reflection even allows us to examine many of the background prereflective structures that lie beneath our conscious experience. But neither method can adequately explore the cognitive unconscious—the realm of thought that is completely and irrevocably inaccessible to direct conscious introspection” (12).
*** "Every mind has a body, or every state of consciousness has a corresponding signature state of matter-energy, or every interior prehension has an exterior form" (12).
Posted a comment to Bryant's blog post: "Does Matter Matter?"
Don't know yet if he's going to approve it, but I wrote:
Your comment is awaiting moderation.
July 23, 2013 at 3:34 am
Whether you say everything is matter, or everything is Spirit, or everything is energy doesn’t matter. What matters is that avoid creating two separate things opposed to each other such as matter vs. non-matter, or matter vs. spirit, or matter vs. energy.
Instead I see it as more helpful to posit one substance which can show up in different ways. So if someone wishes to see this one substance as matter, that’s perfectly fine. For either way, we’re all interested in the “First Matter,” or primary substance and how it shows up.
The primary task is to discover the “first matter.”
Bryant responded, but I don't think he understands, or I was not clear.
At its root, we really don't know what "matter" is, or what "electricity" is, or what "Spirit" is (the thing in itself), but we do have evidence of phenomena within different domains or quadrants and we have different paradigms to explain it.
Whatever IT is ... when it shows up in the UL quadrant, we call it one thing, and when it shows up in the UR quadrant, we call it something else, like it is some totally different thing.
He definitely wants to keep the dualism.
I don't see Bryant as a dualist at all. If you see it I'd say look to your own perspective and how it's projecting that.
For example, see this blog post on matter:
"I think there’s plenty of room for an irreductive materialism (through theories of emergence). Harman argues that there are immaterial objects and therefore believes, for example, that reincarnation is possible because soul can be separated from body (a consequence that would follow from his defense of substantial forms via Suárez), whereas I reject the notion that there are any immaterial entities. In my view, there are only physical beings.
"In his post Wherewithal seems to contrast matter and energy. However, in my view, the two terms are synonyms. All that is required for a position to count as a materialism, in my view, is a commitment to the physical as exhaustive of all being, whatever the physical might turn out to be. However, while I find much of value in Lucretius’s atomism, I do not advocate his conception of matter as being composed of ultimate, impenetrable and indivisible particles. Rather, I think of matter as energy."
Also see this post and following in another thread, how Bryant here also addresses content and context. Bryant even criticizes Luhmann for focusing on content to the exclusion of a material context.