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 An object is profoundly “withdrawn”--we can never see the whole of it, and nothing else can either....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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No, I haven't read that. Thanks for the link!

Bryant's link to an article on his MOO.

This article on new physics revelations that space-time is not fundamental seems to support a similar OOO tenet.

"Physicists reported this week the discovery of a jewel-like geometric object that dramatically simplifies calculations of particle interactions and challenges the notion that space and time are fundamental components of reality.

"The revelation that particle interactions, the most basic events in nature, may be consequences of geometry significantly advances a decades-long effort to reformulate quantum field theory, the body of laws describing elementary particles and their interactions. Interactions that were previously calculated with mathematical formulas thousands of terms long can now be described by computing the volume of the corresponding jewel-like “amplituhedron,” which yields an equivalent one-term expression."

"The amplituhedron, or a similar geometric object, could help by removing two deeply rooted principles of physics: locality and unitarity."

There are of course correlations with IPS, in that many sources used in the forum for spirituality also recognize the lack of unitarity and a fixed, transcendent space-time matrix.

"In a sense, we would see that change arises from the structure of the object. But it’s not from the object changing. The object is basically timeless.”

Bryant might agree with the first statement but not the second. Every object's structure creates its own space time, so there is no ultimate space-time. They are timeless only in the sense of not being subject to an ultimate space-time, but not timeless per se. See "the time of the object."

Yes, this geometric jewel modeling is interesting in how it simplifies so much.
It is interesting that times and space need not be considered as fundamental givens. And though I don't understand unitarity well, as a mathematical form, it sounds cool to be putting into doubt such a fundamental.

Maybe similar to you, what I find interesting about IPMS as an example of this is how many different ways people slice through the root burl of 'what is' in order to find a model that feels right to them. Apparently an amplituhedron would have room for them all and the inner 'calculation' of that allness could feel spiritually satisfying. And for very typical human scale meaning-making reasons, maybe not so much.



theurj said:

This article on new physics revelations that space-time is not fundamental seems to support a similar OOO tenet.

"Physicists reported this week the discovery of a jewel-like geometric object that dramatically simplifies calculations of particle interactions and challenges the notion that space and time are fundamental components of reality.

"The revelation that particle interactions, the most basic events in nature, may be consequences of geometry significantly advances a decades-long effort to reformulate quantum field theory, the body of laws describing elementary particles and their interactions. Interactions that were previously calculated with mathematical formulas thousands of terms long can now be described by computing the volume of the corresponding jewel-like “amplituhedron,” which yields an equivalent one-term expression."

"The amplituhedron, or a similar geometric object, could help by removing two deeply rooted principles of physics: locality and unitarity."

In re-reading the below from p. 83 of the thread I discovered that the link no longer works, so here is the referenced article.

theurj said:

From Morton's article, "Materialism expanded and remixed":

"What these phenomena [climate, hyperobjects, nonlocality] have in common is interconnectedness. Each phenomenon makes us think deeply about how absolutely everything is absolutely related to absolutely everything else.... What emerges in its place is the outlines of what elsewhere I am calling the mesh:a total interconnectivity" (4).

"Recent results from gravity wave detectors have revealed a suspiciously regular pattern emanating from the cosmic background radiation, as if at some level reality were pixilated—made up of regular little 'dots' of information: exactly the kind of information you'd expect to see if you really were a projection of an actual hologram.... In truth, then, we are 'in' something (if 'in' has any meaning here) that has no center or edge. We are certainly not pieces in a jigsaw puzzle that's larger than all of us put together. This kind of view, known as holism, means that there is a whole greater than the sum of its parts.

"You are not part of a larger whole: you are that whole, directly. This means that there is, again, no background against which our thinking makes sense. This is it, folks. The holographic view, or implicate order, is not a view of oneness or harmony—there's nothing to become one, nothing to harmonize. Since the whole is undivided, there is nothing to compare it with: it is utterly singular, which means that it can never violently express itself as One, as the One (Derrida, Archive Fever). Everything is enfolded in everything, which means that at this level (if 'level' is the right word here),everything is 'flowing movement' as Bohm says" (10-11).


"Deconstruction is not claiming that nothing means anything; deconstruction is claiming that meaning only arises because of a play of difference, not because of some intrinsic meaning. The sub-quantum level that Bohm hypothesizes is very much this play of difference" (13).

Some more comments from the FB thread to contextualize the above:

Also, I'm wondering if it is just this one gem-like geometric object at the heart of things, the amplituhedron, has these properties. I'm wondering if ALL objects have amplituhedron properties. The article notes that the old quantum way had hard-wired assumptions like unitarity and locality. So perhaps this notion of this special 'one' object is also a holdover from that old way of thinking? And all objects are like this?

This paragraph seems to indicate so, as it is akin to the universe as hyperobject I discussed in the Ning forum in this post, its gravity influencing all lesser objects.

"They have also found a 'master amplituhedron' with an infinite number of facets, analogous to a circle in 2-D, which has an infinite number of sides. Its volume represents, in theory, the total amplitude of all physical processes. Lower-dimensional amplituhedra, which correspond to interactions between finite numbers of particles, live on the faces of this master structure."

And a few posts down from the last link says this, quoting Morton:

"Deconstruction is not claiming that nothing means anything; deconstruction is claiming that meaning only arises because of a play of difference, not because of some intrinsic meaning. The sub-quantum level that Bohm hypothesizes is very much this play of difference" (13).

From the article linked above: "The usual picture of space and time, and particles moving around in them, is a construct."

From my reading earlier today:

"The theory which I am urging admits a greater ultimate mystery and a deeper ignorance. The past and the future meet and mingle in the ill-defined present. The passage of nature which is only another name for the creative force of existence has no narrow ledge of definite instantaneous present within which to operate. Its operative presence which is now urging nature forward must be sought for throughout the whole, in the remotest past as well as in the narrowest breadth of any present duration. Perhaps also in the unrealised future. Perhaps also in the future which might be as well as the actual future which will be. It is impossible to meditate on time and the mystery of the creative passage of nature without an overwhelming emotion at the limitations of human intelligence."

- A.N. Whitehead, The Concept of Nature (1920, p. 73)

"This scientifically constructed world in which we live, scientifically controlled, defined and predictable, carved out of the chaos and massiveness of experience and made to stand forth like a hard little jewel from the mists and shadows and streaming mysteries of immediate experience, is not an unreal world. If we say it is constructed, if we call it artificial, we do not mean to imply that it is fictitious in the ordinary sense of fiction as being a construction of fancy. This hard and definite little world of science and common sense is just as much fact, as far as it goes, as the total fact from which it is distinguished by means of concepts specially constructed for this purpose. This world of practice and theory stands in the midst of total fact somewhat as a cubic foot of air stands in the midst of an open space of streaming winds and mists. ...My attitude and concepts may imply that these cubic feet are the sole and total fact; but of course they are not. Furthermore we cannot say that nature has set apart these cubic feet as of peculiar significance; she has not enclosed with natural partitions nor in any wise given them prominence. It is scientific method that gives them unique significance and makes them shine forth with unnatural light. Only in this sense is the world that concerns science artificial...

...it is but a part, and a very small part at that, of the total fact of experience...We must see that over and above these conceptually defined molecules and atoms and vibrations, and round them and through them, there flows that total event of nature which enters awareness in the form of the concrete fullness of experience. We must see that this streaming flood of fact is not of necessity any less significant or worthy than those features selected for scientific treatment.

But the worst evil arises when we separate these two parts of total fact...It is this opposition between values and the realm of facts that we wish to designate by the two metaphysical demands. Our conviction is that there are no two such realms or worlds outside our own fancies. the two are one. If the humpty dumpty of total fact were indeed broken in two we could never get him together again. But the great fall and break has never occurred except in the form of a nightmare which we have dreamed, and are now unable to put out of our minds."

- Henry Nelson Wieman, Religious Experience and Scientific Method (1926, p. 146-148)

"The discerning or discrimination of nature is a peculiar awareness of special factors in nature in respect to their peculiar characters. But the factors in nature of which we have this peculiar sense-awareness are known as not comprising all the factors which together form the whole complex of related entities within the general fact there for discernment. This particularity of knowledge is what I call its unexhaustive character. This character may be metaphorically described by the statement that nature as perceived always has a ragged edge."
- A.N. Whitehead, The Concept of Nature (1920, p. 50)

theurj said:

.... In truth, then, we are 'in' something (if 'in' has any meaning here) that has no center or edge. We are certainly not pieces in a jigsaw puzzle that's larger than all of us put together. This kind of view, known as holism, means that there is a whole greater than the sum of its parts.

David, these two quotes, by Alfred North Whitehead and Henry Nelson Wieman, both articulated in the 1920s, are awesome. They sound so right on, pithy, parsimonious. I will copy and paste them for use at some point. I will likely check in with them in the future to remind myself of such fine ways of explaining our situation in this life.

DavidM58 said:

From the article linked above: "The usual picture of space and time, and particles moving around in them, is a construct."

From my reading earlier today:

"The theory which I am urging admits a greater ultimate mystery and a deeper ignorance. The past and the future meet and mingle in the ill-defined present. The passage of nature which is only another name for the creative force of existence has no narrow ledge of definite instantaneous present within which to operate. Its operative presence which is now urging nature forward must be sought for throughout the whole, in the remotest past as well as in the narrowest breadth of any present duration. Perhaps also in the unrealised future. Perhaps also in the future which might be as well as the actual future which will be. It is impossible to meditate on time and the mystery of the creative passage of nature without an overwhelming emotion at the limitations of human intelligence."

- A.N. Whitehead, The Concept of Nature (1920, p. 73)

"This scientifically constructed world in which we live, scientifically controlled, defined and predictable, carved out of the chaos and massiveness of experience and made to stand forth like a hard little jewel from the mists and shadows and streaming mysteries of immediate experience, is not an unreal world. If we say it is constructed, if we call it artificial, we do not mean to imply that it is fictitious in the ordinary sense of fiction as being a construction of fancy. This hard and definite little world of science and common sense is just as much fact, as far as it goes, as the total fact from which it is distinguished by means of concepts specially constructed for this purpose. This world of practice and theory stands in the midst of total fact somewhat as a cubic foot of air stands in the midst of an open space of streaming winds and mists. ...My attitude and concepts may imply that these cubic feet are the sole and total fact; but of course they are not. Furthermore we cannot say that nature has set apart these cubic feet as of peculiar significance; she has not enclosed with natural partitions nor in any wise given them prominence. It is scientific method that gives them unique significance and makes them shine forth with unnatural light. Only in this sense is the world that concerns science artificial...

...it is but a part, and a very small part at that, of the total fact of experience...We must see that over and above these conceptually defined molecules and atoms and vibrations, and round them and through them, there flows that total event of nature which enters awareness in the form of the concrete fullness of experience. We must see that this streaming flood of fact is not of necessity any less significant or worthy than those features selected for scientific treatment.

But the worst evil arises when we separate these two parts of total fact...It is this opposition between values and the realm of facts that we wish to designate by the two metaphysical demands. Our conviction is that there are no two such realms or worlds outside our own fancies. the two are one. If the humpty dumpty of total fact were indeed broken in two we could never get him together again. But the great fall and break has never occurred except in the form of a nightmare which we have dreamed, and are now unable to put out of our minds."

- Henry Nelson Wieman, Religious Experience and Scientific Method (1926, p. 146-148)

Thanks Ambo.  It's not often that Whitehead's writing is described as pithy and parsimonious.  

Shailer Mathews, a scholar of high repute at the Univ. of Chicago Divinity School once commented about Whitehead, "It is infuriating, and I must say embarrassing as well, to read page after page of relatively familiar words without understanding a single sentence."

I can relate to that!  However, when we keep plowing through, there will occasionally crop up sentences or paragraphs like the above that are indeed pithy and parsimonious! 

In 1927, it was Wieman that they brought to the Univ. of Chicago to have him explain Whitehead to them, and after that the institution became known as a place where Whiteheadian thought predominated. 

In 1930, Wieman reviewed Whitehead's magnum opus, Process and Reality, and included this pithy comment: "Not many people will read Whitehead's recent book in this generation; not many will read it in any generation. But its influence will radiate through concentric circles of popularization until the common man will think and work in the light of it, not knowing whence the light came. After a few decades of discussion and analysis one will be able to understand it more readily than can now be done."

Good info, David.

Um, I remember this quote by Wieman from another thread. Since I understood his reference, it was maybe inpolitic and unnecesary to critique Wieman then on the overly geometrically tidy projection into the future of concentric circles :) Especially amidst so much careful  consideration that we do of the non-linearity, to say the least, of nature's capriciously orderly ways :) Ah, whoops, I've just done it again.

Uhm, I especially was drawn to this sentence by Whitehead, "The passage of nature which is only another name for the creative force of existence has no narrow ledge of definite instantaneous present within which to operate. Its operative presence which is now urging nature forward must be sought for throughout the whole, in the remotest past as well as in the narrowest breadth of any present duration."

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