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.

 

Excerpts:

 

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 An object is profoundly “withdrawn”--we can never see the whole of it, and nothing else can either....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

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Yes, and it seems this notion of infinite regress must be spherical, as that regress must be in every possible direction. Which is to say, a proliferation of spheres, aka foam. I'm not sure 'foam' captures the immanent multi-directionality I have in mind but it's a start so long as we recognize that every part of that 'foam', itself, contains, and is contained within its own further infinite regress and 'egress', too. Making the term 'egress' stand for that proliferation of larger containers pertaining to the unique self. In any case, Sloterdijk's 'sticky subjectivity' is apt for the intimacy of all under this model.

On another note, I was quite haunted by the significance of particularity until something I read in Jane Bennet (again!) aligned specificity with aesthetics and ethics via the ability to discern. I can't recall exactly the train of the argument and will go have another look.

In terms of the significance of the 'unique self' this argument here on teleology from Levi Bryant also comes to mind. It becomes fairly contentious in the comments. I haven't resolved the question of teleology in my mind; another way of saying I don't quite get the arguments for and against it. It seems reasonable to me that broadly speaking teleology exists on a loose structural level. The particular expressions of that teleology, however, are open to an infinite array of possibilities. Which is, of course, quite the opposite of saying anything goes. Just how different are we, and just how important is that difference? Bennet has an answer via Schiller; what do you think Balder? 


Balder said:

Note:  I have done a more thorough re-working of the above, developing the argument a bit more, getting rid of the footnote and working Harman's material into the main text.

Dial:  Yes, and it seems this notion of infinite regress must be spherical, as that regress must be in every possible direction. Which is to say, a proliferation of spheres, aka foam. I'm not sure 'foam' captures the immanent multi-directionality I have in mind but it's a start so long as we recognize that every part of that 'foam', itself, contains, and is contained within its own further infinite regress and 'egress', too. Making the term 'egress' stand for that proliferation of larger containers pertaining to the unique self. In any case, Sloterdijk's 'sticky subjectivity' is apt for the intimacy of all under this model.


I appreciate your introduction of Sloterdijk's ideas here, and like your notion of infinite (spherical) egress to accompany infinite regress.  I started reading Bubbles precisely because I felt there was a likely resonance between his spherological model and some of the ideas I developed in my paper (and I am finding there is, at least in some respects).  Concerning the immanent, multi-directional hyper-foaminess you describe so well above, I find this picture reminiscent of Hua Yen imagery (Tower of Vairocana, Indra's Net) -- with a few twists (such as resistance, perhaps, to the positing of a final or single ultimate mono-sphere).


Dial:  On another note, I was quite haunted by the significance of particularity until something I read in Jane Bennet (again!) aligned specificity with aesthetics and ethics via the ability to discern. I can't recall exactly the train of the argument and will go have another look.


I'd like to hear more about that, if you can recall later.


Dial:  In terms of the significance of the 'unique self' this argument here on teleology from Levi Bryant also comes to mind. It becomes fairly contentious in the comments. I haven't resolved the question of teleology in my mind; another way of saying I don't quite get the arguments for and against it. It seems reasonable to me that broadly speaking teleology exists on a loose structural level. The particular expressions of that teleology, however, are open to an infinite array of possibilities. Which is, of course, quite the opposite of saying anything goes. Just how different are we, and just how important is that difference? Bennet has an answer via Schiller; what do you think Balder?


I will have to wait till I get home to read the discussion on Bryant's blog (I can't access it where I'm at).  Regarding the extent and the importance of human differences (or other forms of difference), I'd like to hear what Bennet says.  I'll have to seek out some of her books.  For my part, I do believe the recognition of, and emphasis on, difference is important in some domains, such as the interfaith field (where I think various forms of inclusivism, for instance, have perpetuated colonizing mentalities -- a legitimate postmodern concern, imo).  On the other hand, I think it's clear that, while there are "real differences" that are important to acknowledge, people are nevertheless able to communicate and deeply share and support one another, in various ways, across religious, cultural, linguistic, and other boundaries, and this recognition of sameness or kinship in and through difference is equally vital and generative.  I see the recognition of both as important to encourage, develop, and sustain -- finding most inter-cultural or inter-spheric problems seem to arise from an excessive privileging of one over the other.

Concerning the immanent, multi-directional hyper-foaminess you describe so well above, I find this picture reminiscent of Hua Yen imagery (Tower of Vairocana, Indra's Net) -- with a few twists (such as resistance, perhaps, to the positing of a final or single ultimate mono-sphere).


I wonder if the answer doesn't lie in some form of the one and the many. Not necessarily, Nancy's 'Singular, Plural' but in the same vein. The Sloterdijkian model of multi-directional foam logically suggests a sphere to my mind. A spherical model, however, that is both in constant difference to itself, and (accordingly) in constant expansion. And not only in constant expansion, but contraction, too, perhaps? Following his teacher, Sasaki Roshi,  Shinzen Young suggests the fundamental movement of the universe is contraction and expansion. If so, we might find the fundamental movement of this spherology echoed in the expansion and contraction of our own breathing. The foamy universe, itself, then, is breathing, in and out, in and out. This is just musing - some knowledge of the physics of foam might help. Foam certainly doesn't form itself as a nice tidy sphere in outline.

I appreciated Bryant's following description from the above referenced blog post:

"...generally execrable evolutionary psychologists and sociologists...."

Yes, I like the idea of conceiving of spherological formation via expansion and contraction -- which is reminiscent, to me, not only of Zen teachings, but also of the Time-Space-Knowledge teachings of Tarthang Tulku.  Which is perhaps appropriate, as Sloterdijk's work is essentially a meditation on "space" intended to complement and extend Heidegger's meditations on "time."

 

The idea that I had been playing with in my paper (that inspired me to begin investigating Sloterdijk's work) was the polar notion of enclosure/disenclosure, the former related to the formation and embodiment of autopoietic systems or holons (individual and social, following the work of Varela, Gendlin, and others), the latter related to kenosis, the self-emptying or auto-deconstruction of holons (here, taking a cue from Nancy's work).  Sloterdijk's "bubble" metaphor is apt, since we all expect bubbles eventually to pop.


Concerning the irregular "foam" metaphor, one thing I think of is Harman's suggestion that, while objects might be bottomless, they are not necessarily contained in an infinite array of larger objects - that there may be an upper "limit" at any given time, such that we can image a kind of a bottomless sea of objects with an irregular upper-level surface.  I'm not sure I buy this, but I think it's worth exploring.  I'm also thinking of Harman's and Bryant's suggestion that any relation between objects can also be considered an object.  I'm wondering if Sloterdijk's spheres or bubbles might be a useful way of visualizing and/or languaging this.



Dial said:

Concerning the immanent, multi-directional hyper-foaminess you describe so well above, I find this picture reminiscent of Hua Yen imagery (Tower of Vairocana, Indra's Net) -- with a few twists (such as resistance, perhaps, to the positing of a final or single ultimate mono-sphere).


I wonder if the answer doesn't lie in some form of the one and the many. Not necessarily, Nancy's 'Singular, Plural' but in the same vein. The Sloterdijkian model of multi-directional foam logically suggests a sphere to my mind. A spherical model, however, that is both in constant difference to itself, and (accordingly) in constant expansion. And not only in constant expansion, but contraction, too, perhaps? Following his teacher, Sasaki Roshi,  Shinzen Young suggests the fundamental movement of the universe is contraction and expansion. If so, we might find the fundamental movement of this spherology echoed in the expansion and contraction of our own breathing. The foamy universe, itself, then, is breathing, in and out, in and out. This is just musing - some knowledge of the physics of foam might help. Foam certainly doesn't form itself as a nice tidy sphere in outline.

Bryant has an informative blog post dated 4/22/12 on “relation, language and logic.” Therein he describes what I'd call a better version of vision-logic but of a very different kind that kennilingus. His distinctions allow a greater depth of analysis that expose the power dynamics in keeping certain worldviews hegemonic while marginalizing and manipulating the powerless. Such distinctions include how voices are related and not related, that such (non)relations are forged and not given, and how they are forged and maintained. A certain truth-propositional logic assumes that relations are pre-given and thus takes for granted as axiomatic the concomitant assumptions of the current power structure and thus perpetuates it. We see this for example in the likes of kennlingus conscious capitalism, which unconsciously assumes a propositional formal logic under the guise of vision-logic and thereby ignores the marginalized and perpetuates the power regime. Select excerpts of Bryant's more integral (ouch!) version follows:

“Politically, many of our problems revolve around non-relation or the fact that no relations are present between two or more regimes. In my own thought I distinguish between dark, dim, bright, and rogue objects.... A dim object is an object that minimally manifests itself in a situation but only very dimly and in a marginally related way. Immigrants, the homeless, leftists (in the States), women at academic philosophy conferences, etc., are all examples of dim objects.... Their voices go unheard with respect to majoritarian organization and policy. Bright objects would be those entities that strongly manifest themselves in a situation, exercising a strong gravitational pull on other entities. For example, white males and the 1% in the United States are bright objects. Rogue objects, finally, are objects that erupt within situations from without...[like] OWS.

“The point is that politics is not so much about relation but non-relation.... It is above all relations or what happens when things that relate that interest me; not individual entities in isolation. I just always make the caveat that things don’t come already related; they must be engineered, built, constructed. In this regard, leftist politics is always an engineering of relations through rogue objects for dim objects. It strives to more thoroughly relate the unrelated, the dim. By contrast, rightwing politics is a practice that strives to engineer relations that make bright objects brighter and to ensure that dim objects remain dim or minimally manifest.

“We need a logic of events capable of capturing– what I would call, in my language or terminology –the situatedness of propositions in regimes of attraction. In other words, propositions resonate in very different ways depending on differences in the regime of attraction in which they occur.... My aim here is not to reject the formalisms of logic. Rather, the point is to indicate that formalism is not enough to account for the richness of worlds or logoi. The danger that resides in approaching situations purely in terms of truth-functional logic and structures of entailment is that it risks keeping dim objects dim and bright objects bright by failing to attend to the networks of relation and non-relation that organize the logoi of these situations.”

(I also made this a blog post at IPE.)

On a related note, I've often referenced Mark Edwards on power relations from a more AQAL perspective. I do so again below, from part 5 of an ILR interview:

"For me, a true recognition of the role of difference in integral theory means that we need to introduce a few more lenses into the integral toolkit. In recognizing the transformative value of the space between, we also need a lens that is sensitive to this mediating space. The lens of social mediation is, for me, just as crucial in developing an integral approach as the developmental holarchy of levels or the interior-exterior lens. To give but one example, in seeing that transformation is socially mediated we become much more sensitive to the issue of power and to the influence of social power on human development.... Recognising the space between leads me immediately to issues of social power and to the question of how power enables or disables transformation. I see the almost complete lack of discussion around social power in integral theory to be a reflection of its neglect of the space between, social relationships, and the capacity to analyse human development in terms of social mediation. In other words, integral theory lacks a mediation lens. People get stuck in one structure of identity, not only because their interior developmental potentials are psychologically arrested, but also because the social environment in which they live actively stops that developmental potential from flourishing. There is nothing more threatening to the position of those in social power than transformation. Power is inherently conservative because change means the possibility of losing their privilege, their status, their ideological dominance."

A few excerpts from Morton's recent blog posts. From "perspectivalism is the metaphysics of presence":

"A perspectival determination, as far as I can tell, is another kind of foundationalism. It's saying that perspective is more real than what is perceived or perspectivized or whatever.

From "relationism, OOO and sorites":

"Relationism...is a metaphysics of presence insofar as it holds that relations are more real than the entities they instantiate....in other words the network is a metaphysically present thing. To assert this is to regress to structuralism. Structuralism is the most elegant relationism ever devised. Derrida was already past that. We must move beyond."

From "temporal parts, OOO and sorites":

"The metaphysics of presence that underlies process philosophy...is a regression from, rather than progress beyond, Derrida."

Also check out "the shape of the I."

Good finds, Edward.  I've been looking forward to checking out his forthcoming book, Realist Magic.  I was just thinking and writing about perspectivalism last night.   My thought was that saying "all is perspective," as a move to avoid ontology, is problematic because it just smuggles the ontic into the epistemic: there is one real thing, and that is perspective (foundationally).   

Regarding relationism being a metaphysics of presence, in your reading of Morton, do you think he's saying the problem with it is that it holds that relations are more real than objects?  Meaning that the move beyond this would either be to assert equal reality for both relations and objects, or to avoid asserting the primacy of either one?  Perspectivism or perspectival enaction might at least avoid the positive, perspective-independent assertion of networks or objects as metaphysically present things or "givens."  An integral approach, I believe, would hold that neither "object" (UR) nor "network/system" (LR) can be given primacy (that would be a form of quadrant absolutism).  But I don't think it could assert that objects or networks aren't real, to the extent that it remains committed to two theses: that perspectives are always embodied, and that such "bodies" are holonic.

Saying relations are more real than objects would also be a form of overmining, in Harman's sense.  But what is left?  OOO sometimes subsumes "relations" into its object category, saying relations are objects, too.  Everything is just objects, objects, objects, jam-packed together.  Foam, anyone?  But if we bring in Sloterdijk, and stretch his meaning a bit, then every bubble (holon, object?) is also a relation.

How about perspectives?  Are perspectives relations?  Are perspectives objects?  Holons? 

I'm feeling dizzy.

(Lastly, I'm still not quite sure about what fully is intended with the emphasis on objects as withdrawn.  To what degree is this Kant's unknowable thing-in-itself?)

My take is that the withdrawn is real in an ontological sense but is not the kind of firm foundation we see in a metaphysics of presence, since it is not wholly present or given. Or wholly absent, for that matter, since it is not Whole. In that sense it seems well akin to Kant's unknowable, but is a thing in itself? It seems a thing in itself implies something wholly present as given, whereas Bryant's objects are always constructed and at least partially present, partially withdrawn.

I think this might be why Wilber reserves the causal apart from the manifest, since the latter is always perspectival relations. In a sense it's like Kant's unknowable transcendent categories or Bryant's withdrawn, except that Wilber's causal is capable of being wholly present via direct perception during certain meditations.

Balder: Bryant's 5/2/12 blog post here might clarify some questions you've had. For example:

"Here, then, there is a marked difference between Harman’s concept of withdrawal and my concept of operational closure. Harman argues that objects are withdrawn such that they have no relations to other entities (a position that I’m unable to make sense of even when the concept of vicarious causation is introduced). By contrast, operational closure doesn’t deny that objects can enter into relations through stimuli flashing between them, but argues that these stimuli are not determinative of what takes place in the receiving entity but only trigger states within the entity. As the autopoietic theorists say, objects are operationally closed (their states are determined by their internal structure and dynamics) and structurally open (they are receptive to stimuli from without)."

He's also come up with a new acronym: MOO. Check it out.

Interesting.  Thank you, Ed.  His discussion sounds much like I was recommending earlier: that autopoietic closure* itself is enough to yield "withdrawal," without having to posit some hidden substance in addition to that.

And his suggestion of a monad oriented ontology sounds compatible with my suggestions earlier of either a body oriented ontology (BOO) or a holon oriented ontology (HOO).  I don't mean to sound like I'm crying here (boo hoo), but I may have at least a tremulous bit of feeling and warmth towards these developments... :-)

* autopoietic systems being operationally closed and structurally open.

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