4 October 2009

The Reality of Blogging Identities

Filed under: Fiction, Ktismata, Psychology — ktismatics @ 9:06 am

Recently there’s been some discussion, here and elsewhere, about whether fictional characters are real. Here’s a related question: are fictional blogging identities real?

In a heated exchange on another blog, the host “outed” a commenter as “really” being someone else with whom he’s previously engaged in at-times acrimonious discussions. Ah, the heck with it: Levi Bryant on Larval Subjects inferred correctly from his blog’s telemetry data that “A. Tuffini Denouferchie” is actually the same person as “Alexei.” Levi then chastizes Alexei and other commenters for not using their real names on the discussion threads, hiding in bad faith behind pseudonyms in order to write disingenuous and inflammatory comments without their snarky or trollish attitudes redounding negatively to their real reputations.

I acknowledge that I share Levi’s frustration with not knowing who’s on the other end of a blogging exchange. Though formerly I signed my comments as “Ktismatics,” right from the beginning I’ve always identified myself by my real name on this blog. As a consequence I suspect that I’m somewhat more cautious, more civil, in my blogging interactions than if I adopted a fictional blogging identity. In a sense one could say that, by posting as who I “really” am, I’m actually distorting the “real” me.

People choose fictional blogging identities for a variety of reasons. Some do it to hide themselves; others, to reveal themselves. Some probably adopt fictional blogging personae in order to “try on” different identities, voices, and attitudes. I have no problem with any of these reasons. “Tuffini” deploys a writing style and philosophical point of view that’s quite different from “Alexei.” Was Alexei wearing the Tuffini disguise in order to trick Levi, to blindside him, to hide like a coward while taking potshots at Levi? I have no idea, but I wouldn’t assume so. Fellow bloggers are always curious when a distinctive new commenter arrives on the scene. Last week I received an email from someone who tried to guess — incorrectly as it turned out — Tuffini’s “real” identity. The unmasking brings with it a kind of sadness, a loss of the sense of intrigue and possibility, a sense also that the unveiled person has been publicly disgraced.

But even if Tuffini really is Alexei, who is Alexei really? I don’t believe it’s his real name. Maybe the continental philosopher who is Alexei is no more — and no less — “real” than the analytic philosopher who is Tuffini.

I’ve written fiction under my own name, but I know others who write under a pseudonym. Are they cowards, hiding behind a false front so they can write zombie porn without their business colleagues knowing anything about  it? Did Stephen King know all the real reasons he began publishing as Richard Bachman? I didn’t self-consciously present myself as John Doyle on the blogs as some sort of authenticity gambit. I’d never even read more than a handful of blog posts before I started my own blog, so I had no idea that people tended to create semi-fictional identities for themselves. Also, I launched the blog as part of a PR campaign which I hoped would make the ideas I’d recently written in a book more visible, thereby enhancing my chances of scoring a publishing contract (didn’t work btw).

In an object-oriented ontology, any difference makes a difference. A fictional character is different from other fictional characters; real things are written about her on the page; readers think real thoughts about her. Thus the fictional character is arguably “real” even though she isn’t a real person, even though she is in fact an artifact of the author’s, and the readers’, imaginations. In my view, it’s OOO-consistent to regard Tuffini as real separate from his identity as Alexei, just as Alexei is real separate from the name and persona he goes by in his (or her?) off-line “real” life.

Writing under my own name does potentially expose me to real-life consequences I might not otherwise face. Does this give me the moral high ground? I don’t believe so. Again, I became John Doyle on the blog in part as a self-promotional device, so I have to live with the consequences if not all the publicity reflects well on my cleverness or my character. Still, I do share a kind of camaraderie with others who post under their real names. And I always do feel that my exchanges with pseudonymous bloggers are always somewhat more fictional, more artificial, than with those who go by their real names, even if I don’t know these people in any context other than the blogs.

Do I regard it as my ethical obligation to “out” the pseudonymous bloggers? Quite the opposite: I feel that I should respect the other person’s secret identity, regardless of the reason s/he has put on the disguise. What about when the pseudonymous blogger starts taking potshots at me? Certainly it’s a form of retaliation to reveal something about an enemy that the enemy would rather keep secret. But I don’t think one can claim the moral high ground to expose the other person, unless it so happens that the person is performing criminal acts, in which case exposing him/her is a civic duty even if that person is your friend and ally. Obviously we’re not talking about that situation.

Now, how about publishing information in private emails written by pseudonymous bloggers? My first instinct is to say “no harm, no foul” — no adverse consequences can accrue to a person’s real-world life by exposing private correspondences of his/her fictionalized persona. But when it’s the fictionalized persona whom we in the blogging world encounter, then I think that persona deserves to maintain the private/public distinction. The blogosphere is a social reality in its own right, and the characters who populate it merit respect being extended to them within the bounds of that reality. By the same token, I don’t regard pseudonymy as cart-blanche authorization for the semi-fictionalized blogger to dissociate him-/herself from ordinary civility developed within the “real” social world.

Both of these last two points are, I admit, controversial. Maybe I’m just old-fashioned. The blogosphere is a semi-fictional social reality: isn’t it legitimate to experiment with variants on ordinary-world civility in these semi-fictional social exchanges?



  1. Let me be the first to comment then since you know me both as a pseudonymous blogger/all around asshole and as a “real” person – I don’t think there’s anything different in dealing with blogging personae and real people, an illusion of knowing someone because you know their name and met them in person is still just that, illusion. It goes for all sorts of personal knowledge – are you identical with yourself? Your “real” name is just a very convenient point of reference and nothing else. In most cases so called “outings” – and there was recently a big case, have you seen it? on Obsidian Wings – are cases of malicious revenge and are intended to hurt the other party, not to make a conversation more authentic and real. I have made many wonderful connections while blogging under my pseudonym. My very pseudonym is not just a random name I made up, it has a history. And yes it is a character that I have created and it’s liberating and troubling at the same time. Do I, “real person” with a real name, take responsibility for what I write under a pseudonym? Of course I do. I’m just wondering what happened to the long and respected tradition of publishing under pseudonyms and why it is considered such a no-no in the blog world? In most cases, and I hope you can vouch for that, I’m more then willing to reveal my name and meet with people, but if I choose to hide my “real name” while blogging, it’s my choice and I don’t care to give reasons most of the times.


    Comment by Mikhail Emelianov — 4 October 2009 @ 9:48 am

  2. Say, aren’t you the fellow who runs The Cesspit? I’m not sure anyone comported himself very well in the latest brawl. I have to acknowledge my own asshole-ness all too often, which doesn’t really excuse me of course. And yes, I know your secret identity, which you told me of your own free will without any sort of coercion (people, you just wouldn’t BELIEVE who “Mikhail” REALLY is).

    I agree with your point, “Mikhail” — we extend one another the courtesy of interacting with the other person as s/he chooses to present her-/himself. I’m not prepared to say in particular cases whether “outing” is motivated by malice or ethics; often as not the person doing the outing isn’t conscious of all the motivations in play. And I think the internet is a very ambiguous medium, so that it’s hard to know what standards of ethics apply. I’m for honesty in the context of civility, self-questioning when mounting the self-righteous high horse, letting people remain anonymous, respecting the difference between public and private communication, and acknowledging the asshole in each of us.


    Comment by john doyle — 4 October 2009 @ 10:52 am

  3. I see that Levi has just disabled comments at Larval Subjects…


    Comment by john doyle — 4 October 2009 @ 10:59 am

  4. If this makes it clearer, I’m no less of an asshole in “real life” when I meet people I dislike.


    Comment by Mikhail Emelianov — 4 October 2009 @ 11:16 am

  5. Consequences tend to work out the same way in real life too.


    Comment by john doyle — 4 October 2009 @ 11:26 am

  6. […] Visit link: The Reality of Blogging Identities « Ktismatics […]


    Pingback by The Reality of Blogging Identities « Ktismatics : seowizards — 4 October 2009 @ 12:01 pm

  7. ‘The unmasking brings with it a kind of sadness, a loss of the sense of intrigue and possibility, a sense also that the unveiled person has been publicly disgraced.’

    Except in my strange case, which you almost alone have had the brains to read and comprehand some of. The ‘unmsaking’ was never forced to be ‘official’, just a lot of teasing about it, so that there was no shadow of a doubt in my mind even if someone else tried to re-sow those seeds in my mind, there was certainly no disgrace now nor could there be. Am only posting this because the more the unmasking proceeded in this case, with which you are very familiar, there was less and less disgrace, it only enhanced the sense of ‘familiars’ perhaps a bit too shy to proceed in other than this strange obscure way. But even after you know for sure, and you think the ‘unmasked’ is exactly what you wanted, there is then some more tendency to hide, other new ways to hide, because you are somewhat programmed to do it. But, since what I’m talking about is this poetic kind of process, you end up admiring the courage of the one whose instincts were to do it this way with each new detail becoming clearer and more known. Your gratitude knows no bounds despite what seems like sneakiness in the methods, and you’ll do anything to make sure it stays safe, because you waited all your life for a poet-lover like this. You spend half your time thinking you might lose it now that you’re sure you’ve ‘finally got it secured enough’ after all this time. Your own support, John, in this has been so invaluable I wouldn’t know how to start ‘counting the ways’. Including that the vocabulary is so extreme I imagine you find some of it hard to bear.

    But I don’t think this is at all representative of most of the cases you are talking about–and this one re-propagates itself on several other sites other than the primary one. After awhile, you don’t care about the spite of other people who want to make sure you can’t get it to keep functioning. But, as you know, out of this ‘amourour poetic project’, a substantial chunk of new writing that will be published next year came. It’s my hope that the author will place his name to it, because every new detail he tells me only makes it better–he thought it would be the opposite, but it’s not. I think I even understand why it had to happen in this furtive way: I really do tend to be a bit rough, and can see why someone would be wary of taking me on. But I just wanted to say this here, would rather not discuss it too much.


    Comment by afrohun — 4 October 2009 @ 2:49 pm

  8. Yes, afrohun, you’ve taken both the blurring and multiplication of identities to extreme lengths in pursuit of your particular pleasures. The perpetuation of always-unveiling is nearly as important as its resolution — a sort of strip-tease of identities. Knowing all along who’s behind the veil can intensify the pleasure, the bereft ones being revealed in all their plenitude.


    Comment by john doyle — 4 October 2009 @ 3:04 pm

    • the bereft ones being revealed in all their plenitude.

      HO HO HO! Now THAT is the Secret of Life, because plenitude has definitely been the outcome! But, in my rare attempt to stay on-topic, I was just saying that those hiding may not always reveal such plenitude upon Discovery. I imagine in all cases, even this one, they may think that that may not be what the revealing will bring, but I’m content to thank my lucky stars, if you must know. PLUS–I believe in undergoing my current Race Change, I will be giving up all of my racial bigotry automatically, even if I’ve decided to be a Buck instead of a Lesb’an. I think Zizek was just jealous, you know, about the mosquito-swatting.


      Comment by afrohun — 4 October 2009 @ 5:27 pm

  9. I blog under a pseudonym only because I don’t want anyone from work to do an internet search and see that I’ve posted comments on blogs during work hours — which is really kind of immoral, since I shouldn’t be doing it. I make myself feel better by working more than the required 40 hours a week.

    The effect I experience from using a fake name is different from the one you mentioned. I find myself being extra careful not to take advantage of the fact that I’m hiding behind a pseudonym. And if I end up communicating with anyone via e-mail, I identify myself right up front. I am a guilt-driven person, though, so maybe that’s where that comes from.

    Alexei’s “experiment” sort of surprised me (although I did enjoy “Tuffini’s” comments). Among the various interlocutors in the blog neighborhood, Alexei was always one of the most polite and reasonable. Beyond that, even his criticisms were usually good-natured, seeming to come from a position of basic support. I can understand why he’d *want* to conduct the experiment — I just don’t understand why he’d think it was actually worth it to do so. Maybe Levi just got under his skin. He seems to have that effect on quite a few people.


    Comment by Asher Kay — 4 October 2009 @ 5:05 pm

  10. Reminds me of Kierkegaard’s pseudonyms to me…!


    Comment by Henry — 4 October 2009 @ 6:46 pm

  11. Yes, Asher, I can see that motivation as well. I suspect your blogwerks are far more valuable to humankind than whatever it is they’re paying you to do. I believe I had only one brief exchange with Alexei, which was courteous and a bit self-revelatory on his part. Inasmuch as he dismantled his blog, maybe he was thinking of resurfacing with a new blog under the Tuffini identity. You’re right, Henry: it’s a Kierkegaardian strategem to try out different philosophical personae.


    Comment by john doyle — 4 October 2009 @ 7:05 pm

  12. I never really interacted much with Levi on Larval Subjects. His posts have certainly stimulated me to think about things I almost surely wouldn’t have otherwise, and recently he put up links and extended riffs on a couple of my posts. A long time ago he would drop an occasional comment here at Ktismatics, usually offering further knowledge on some topic about which I’d posted but didn’t really know much about. I never got into any arguments with him, though once I did step away from one that seemed imminent (about psychological empiricism). More often than not my comments at LS went unremarked, which tended to reinforce my sense that I’d either gone off-topic without realizing it or was speaking at too basic a level to be engaged productively by the host or the other commenters, most of whom are more well-informed on philosophical and Lacanian matters than I. I’ve learned a lot from Larval Subjects, and I expect I’ll continue to do so in its post-comments phase. Frankly, if I felt like an opportunity to get a book or two published was opening up, I’d go for it too. Maybe he can open up comments for only himself, so that if his own ideas prompted further thought he could add them to the post.


    Comment by john doyle — 4 October 2009 @ 7:40 pm

  13. Comments are back on at Larval Subjects, except for certain someones who are blacklisted. I presume I’m under an umbrella of suspicion due to some of my associates, but I’m probably not banned. I have no plans to stop engaging in discussions either with Levi or with the blacklisted crowd; they can decide whether they want to return the favor. As I said in my last comment here, direct interactions at LS haven’t been all that frequent or satisfying for me in the past, so we’ll see.

    For my part, I’ve given some consideration to deleting Larval Subjects from my blogroll because of his publishing information from private correspondence. However, as I discussed in this posts, there are certain ambiguities in dealing with people operating under pseudonyms, so I’ve decided to exercise generosity and not impose this particular sanction, which I have previously exercised precisely twice. The last time I checked Ktismatics is not on the LS blogroll, but then I don’t believe it ever was.


    Comment by john doyle — 5 October 2009 @ 10:05 am

  14. Levi establishes his normative policy regarding comments:

    “I will delete any posts containing sarcasm, insults, point scoring for the sake of point scoring, or that are just generally trollish or gray vampirish because my blood pressure simply does not need it and I don’t think such rhetoric contributes to discussion.”

    I agree about the insults, even if they’re directed at people I don’t like. There are circumstances — as in this post — in which the insult is the subject under discussion, so I suspend the interdiction. Sarcasm? It pisses me off sometimes, but it’s part of everyday conversation. Point scoring? Meh. Trollish/vampirish? On this subject I’ve put up my share of posts, in which I present evidence from two prominent anti-troll/vampire spokesmen that this sort of dehumanizing and demonizing isn’t just personally demeaning but explicitly part of a systematic effort to demonize outside critique as a way of thinking and conversing.


    Comment by john doyle — 5 October 2009 @ 10:53 am

  15. “More often than not my comments at LS went unremarked, which tended to reinforce my sense that I’d either gone off-topic without realizing it or was speaking at too basic a level to be engaged productively by the host or the other commenters”

    There are another couple of possibilities, which I’ve thought about because most of my comments there went unremarked as well.

    One possibility is that your comments hit on something fundamental that would be difficult to respond to. The discussions at LS tend to veer into peripheral matters, like whether Foucault was an idealist, or what Latour really meant by such-and-such a thing, etc. In a way, those things are easier to discuss than what’s at the heart of the claims being made.

    I’d like to believe that this is the case for some of my comments, but my wife’s theory is probably more realistic – I’m just not confrontational enough. I bring up issues and suggest lines of inquiry, but I don’t just come out and say, “I totally think you’re wrong”.

    I still like the first idea better.


    Comment by Asher Kay — 5 October 2009 @ 11:56 am

  16. I have a lot of experience interpreting the silence of the Void, Asher. I too like your first idea. Presumably Levi doesn’t want to argue with critics, but he does seem spontaneously to rise to that sort of confrontation. I’ve tried to play by the rules of the new game, elaborating on the OOO paradigm from the inside rather than critiquing it from the outside. In doing so one finds that the devil is in the details, which might be Levi’s experience as well. Fighting the outsiders can be distracting in both bad and good ways.


    Comment by john doyle — 5 October 2009 @ 1:15 pm

  17. If I were you, fellows, I would be careful now in your words – not only because you’ve probably been blacklisted from LS (or will be treated with suspicion forever), but because you are clearly wrong about everything you are saying now and will say in the future – how is that not clear to you? If you weren’t wrong (and ultimately hopeless as well vis-a-vis conversion), you will see the truth and would embrace its messenger. It must be very tiring being so wrong all the time?

    P.S. Sorry I possibly got you all banned.


    Comment by Mikhail Emelianov — 5 October 2009 @ 2:07 pm

  18. Well everybody was banned as of yesterday, so I’d already pretty much gotten used to the new era of a read-only LS. Usually when I’ve contributed something to the LS discussion, it’s because I thought I had something constructive to add to the mix. I suppose I’ll continue with the same approach in the future. Truth be told, though, I’m wondering whether OOO isn’t approaching its popularity zenith. Now might be the time to start looking for the next hot thing…

    Anyhow, Mikhail, the morning panels on this Saturday’s History and Philosophy of Science conference look possibly interesting. We could attend one or both, then adjourn for lunch and a beer, discuss the big ideas, then get down to some serious blogging gossip. [Note to surveillance personnel: of course M isn’t really my friend. He and I live near one another; we’re just a couple of insular objects who happen to interact once in awhile is all. We don’t even exchange notes or plasm or anything.]


    Comment by john doyle — 5 October 2009 @ 3:49 pm

    • “Now might be the time to start looking for the next hot thing…”

      May I suggest emergentist physicalism and embodied/extended cognition? ;)


      Comment by Asher Kay — 5 October 2009 @ 5:22 pm

    • Sign me up! What the heck is it? Can you give me some buzz terms to spice up my conversation?


      Comment by john doyle — 5 October 2009 @ 6:11 pm

      • Emergentist physicalism is basically the idea that everything is physical, and that different types of properties emerge at different levels of description. The most controversial emergent property of this sort is the mind. Lots of analytic philosophers argue against emergentism by posing the argument in terms of the mind causing things in the body and vice versa, which they usually conclude is logically impossible in some way. A lot of arguments against it also have to do with whether emergent properties are reducible at different levels.

        Embodied cognition is very much compatible with physicalism. It says, roughly, that the brain is embedded in the body and the world in an inextricable way, and that our concepts and ways of thinking emerge from the structure of the body.

        It’s really a lot more interesting than I make it sound. It’s also, I think, compatible with the Object-Oriented thing in the sense that conceptual entities, being physical, have the same ontological status as everything else. I don’t believe that anyone else agrees with me on this, though.


        Comment by Asher Kay — 5 October 2009 @ 8:47 pm

  19. Certainly, might be a possibility. I have some deadlines I need to meet, so I’ll need to see where I am, otherwise I will most definitely attend with lunch+beer options, I’ll let you know via our secret smoke signal channel, per usual..


    Comment by Mikhail Emelianov — 5 October 2009 @ 3:59 pm

  20. M.E.: “If I were you, fellows, I would be careful now in your words – not only because you’ve probably been blacklisted from LS (or will be treated with suspicion forever), but because you are clearly wrong about everything you are saying now and will say in the future – how is that not clear to you? If you weren’t wrong (and ultimately hopeless as well vis-a-vis conversion), you will see the truth and would embrace its messenger. It must be very tiring being so wrong all the time?”

    Kvond: Wow, it is almost as if you are calling Levi a “Nazi!”. (Though my comment is humorous, its meaning is serious.)


    Comment by kvond — 5 October 2009 @ 4:09 pm

  21. “its meaning is serious,” you say. You don’t really regard Levi as Naziesque, do you kvond? Nor I presume does Mikhail think that Levi will regard everything that Asher and I ever say as wrong. Clearly we’re dealing in sarcastic hyperbole, no? Of course it’s sharpened with genuine dislike for the man on you guys’ part, as well as objections to his style and policies. But “Nazi”?


    Comment by john doyle — 5 October 2009 @ 4:20 pm

    • John: ““its meaning is serious,” you say. You don’t really regard Levi as Naziesque, do you kvond?”

      Kvond: Well, there is a reference there. Levi claimed that he was “provoked” into his rude dismissal of Reid Kane because the political criticism Reid offered his ontology was like being “called a Nazi”. Levi’s obcessive over-commitment to social justice (he is rhetorically way over the top on this), often seems to lead him into behavior very similiar to those that he claims to opppose. In the extreme sense, the man who goes on and on about his liberal qualities exhibits some rather Fascistic tendences as he seeks to regulate the discourse of others. I say Fascistic in both a polemic sense, but also in the sense that there are some very real comparisons to be made.

      I argued the logic of this point in my past post on Levi’s Hatreds, how Levi loves to hate those who are hateable:

      Levi is distinctly unaware of his own fascistic tendencies, not recognizing the nature of some of his acts, or as in the case of his last apology, making every excuse for himself, painting himself as the victim. In the end he simply rationalizes that though he may be acting out of turn, these are all justified by either the ugly character of his enemies, or his own vulnerability. His recent blacklist of folks, and his inability to keep the comments section closed, are perfect examples of it. It is not enough that a dictator rule a country with totalitarian power, but it is also necesary that the “public” vote for him, as Hussein regularly won his elections by a very high margin. Levi, in something of a totalitarian mind-set, cannot exist without the carefully filtered reflective admiration of his audience. He needs his comments section to be a place of *freely* expressed affirmation. This mindset, along with the strong need to vilify his perceived enemies, comes right out of the totalitarian handbook. And like any good “leader” he is mystified that all those that he is so beneficient to, actually don’t appreciate his generous character. Anyone who would respond as some do, MUST be bad folk. He sees himself “betrayed” at every turn.

      Now, does this make Levi Bryant a Nazi? I think calling someone a Nazi, or Naziesque is a pretty meaningless term. But I do think that Levi’s sensitivity to Nazi the concept hides some rather extreme denial of a totalitarianish mindset. Does this make him a bad person, I don’t think so. But when it comes questions of politics and ethics, I don’t feel that calling people “bad” is a very helpful thing to do.

      Sometimes too one can measure someone by the enemies they choose. And I have to say that Carl Dyke, supposedly one of the offending, blacklisted kinds, is least, I say the LEAST, Naziesque persons I have encountered on the Net.


      Comment by kvond — 5 October 2009 @ 4:55 pm

    • A few responses. I agree that Carl has no totalitarian style at all that I’ve seen. Calling someone a Nazi would be grounds for deletion on this blog, though I’d probably just clean up the offensive insult parts and let the rest of the comment stand. I know that you don’t like any sort of censorship on blog posts, but it’s something I do, in part to avoid the kind of bad feeling that led to the bans at LS. So I impose at least some totalitarianism on my blog. Carl does not, which is how Levi decided that Carl is a fellow traveler with those who are more directly vicious in their attacks on him. I think that’s a clear misreading: Carl maintains a strict no-censorship policy, letting the spirit move so to speak. I don’t think less of him for it. I don’t know if he thinks less of me for excising personal attacks from posts and comments.

      As for my view on LS’s editorial policies: it’s just a blog, and it’s his blog, so he can do what pleases him. Regarding his blog fights, I think he does bring hostility out in people through a what I’d regard as a fairly belligerent style. E.g., in his first comments-open post he seems bent on provoking Traxus into a fight: you seem like a nice fellow, but most normative people are Naziesque, etc. To wit:

      “Whenever I hear talk of norms I just can’t help but hear the rumblings of some dark and sadistic desire behind the public space of moral motives. Nine times out of ten a focus on normativity seems to be an alibi for people behaving badly towards others.”

      There seemed no need for this tone. Why not explore implications of Latour in a more open fashion? Clearly Deontologistics and Traxus aren’t the only ones who see in Latour a might-makes-right ethos. Graham recently acknowledged that, contra Latour, the scientific theory that garners the most allies isn’t necessarily the best theory. Why dig in so hard? Let it breathe.


      Comment by john doyle — 5 October 2009 @ 6:09 pm

    • Still reading through and digesting this fascinating thread, but in passing I wanted to thank you for your kind words, Kvond. And no, John, I don’t think less of you for cleaning up your commenters’ nastier spills. You achieve an admirable community here in your own way and it’s always a pleasure to visit. Cheers!


      Comment by Carl — 7 October 2009 @ 2:28 pm

    • I’d like to design an icon marking those posts where the “no personal attacks” rule is enforced. Maybe a vampire in a circle with a line through it?


      Comment by john doyle — 7 October 2009 @ 5:41 pm

      • Perhaps a small photo of a mirror with your image in it…


        Comment by kvond — 7 October 2009 @ 5:44 pm

      • With the line through it or not? Anyhow, since my self-styled “civility norm” applies to most of my posts, I probably ought to reserve the icon to exceptions like this one.


        Comment by john doyle — 7 October 2009 @ 5:55 pm

  22. John,

    There is one aspect of using a faux name that came to me as I thought about this general issue. Actually, there are two.

    First, in my posts “I” am really not the point. If my observations happen to be brilliant (and I do mean “happen”), it really has nothing to do with me. I do not want credit for them, I am interested in them as for what they are, happenings. If they are lame or unimportant, just the same. A screen name seems to bring this out, the material stands in relief. While someone like Levi may indeed have some points on the ethical effect of using a “real” name, I think one can say as well that as “Larval Subjects” came out of his cocoon to become e-“Levi Bryant”, the subject of the blog has gradually moved from the posts themselves, to Levi himself. The blog has become an expression of HIM, and frankly, it is much less interesting for it.

    The second point that I thought of is that if indeed I was posting under my full name, I don’t think that I would interact at all with a great deal of the people I interact with. When I go to a blog and look at their posts, most of these people are not people that would be interesting to me in my meat life. Most philosophical types are just plain bores and think far to much of their knowledge/practices. Having a screen name allows me a certain freedom that I give to myself to step superficially, at the level of idea alone, into the world of another. When I shake hands with someone it is a very different thing, something not so lightly taken.

    This is of course my view, and I do not think myself a better person for it. Everyone has their thresholds and modes of interaction.


    Comment by kvond — 5 October 2009 @ 4:21 pm

    • “in my posts “I” am really not the point. If my observations happen to be brilliant (and I do mean “happen”), it really has nothing to do with me. I do not want credit for them, I am interested in them as for what they are, happenings. If they are lame or unimportant, just the same. A screen name seems to bring this out, the material stands in relief.”

      This nailed something for me. I’ve remarked elsewhere on my impatience with conversations that are about something other than what they’re about, which I think is sort of the same idea. I do use my real name, who I am is available for anyone to know and may be to some point, but it’s usually not. I know what I know, if you know what I mean. I find most people’s attempts to use personal knowledge to frame their interactions stereotyped and unilluminating. LS with his incessant cubbyholing, ‘a gramscian associate professor from Temple’ kind of stuff, for example. As if it isn’t hard enough to think outside the box without constantly trying to jam stuff back in.


      Comment by Carl — 7 October 2009 @ 3:37 pm

  23. Yes, I can see that point of view on the screen name. Your “happenings” approach to brilliance and lameness seems particularly consistent with your Spinozism.


    Comment by john doyle — 5 October 2009 @ 4:24 pm

    • Sometimes my values and perspective corresponds with Spinozism, sometimes it doesn’t. This time it seems like it does.


      Comment by kvond — 5 October 2009 @ 4:55 pm

  24. A few words, if I may (John please feel free to edit — including this paranthetical — as you feel fit). First, it’s good to see some serious reflection coming out of the incident. Something good may come of it after all.

    Second, I’m sorry if anyone is banned because of my actions. That would be unfair, and undeserved. I doubt it would happen, but, nonetheless, it would be a sad day when association is enough to have one blacklisted.

    As for the rest of your post John, let me say that I don’t feel particularly disgraced for having been outed. I did it to myself actually. Originally, I had started to post under the pseudonym simply to test the waters. the “Alexei” handle had become too embedded within a series of associations that had very little to do with anything Alexei actually said or did. Tuffini was created to see if any kind of disagreement could be aired without it becoming personal. Turns out that everything is personal, so I had actually decided to let everyone be until the whole debacle with Reid. Having been in Reid’s place, I couldn’t let the matter drop so easily. What I would like to point out, however, is that Tuffini never really said anything mean spirited or derogatory. He was curt, nitpicky, and tactless. But he never allowed anything personal into the conversation, and was never explicitly rude or condescending. All Levi had to do was not respond — or even not post Tuffini’s comments. All Tuffini asked was whether certain ideas being expressed made sense or could be justified. Instead of responding, Levi tried to bluff, intimidate, mock, and undermine Tuffini in public (save for that one brief instant when Levi thought he might be talking to a true peer, at which point he became quite agreeable — until Tuffini made factual claims that couldn’t be bluffed or refuted… This is what I thought needed to be shown.

    Now About Alexei. I think it’s important to be clear about the fact that, so far as I recall, there was only one particularly unpleasant incident between Alexei and Levi in which Alexei fought back at the personal level. There were other encounters in which Levi was simply a total ass (the least of which included giving page references in support of an argument that turned out to have nothing to do with the claimbeing made) to Alexei, but Alexei was pretty good at keeping his cool. That’s from my perspective, of course, and should be taken with a grain of salt, but I honestly don’t think any of the comments I have ever left under any handle have been offensive or mean spirited.

    Ultimately, the treatment of Reid set me on edge, and pushed Tuffini to expose bad behaviour, since I couldn’t abide any more of the bullying. Whether I’ve encouraged good or bad is something that time will tell, and I really do hope that Levi does reflect on the matter. As things stand though, he really does seem to need to have someone to ‘be against’ and to vent at and belittle. Alexei played that role for Levi for some time, until I had had enough of it, as did Mikhail. And it seemed that Reid was about to become the new focal point for nastiness. Now Perhaps Traxxus, or Deontologistics. I truly hope not, but there you go.

    Once again, I hope no ill comes to anyone who wasn’t directly involved. And despite being a bit of a bastard myself, I hope my reasons for it are clear.


    Comment by Alexei — 5 October 2009 @ 7:15 pm

    • Hey, Alexei! This is like the new blog hang-out. I am hoping that our host continues to amuse us all with his thoughtful and provocative blog posts, as we sit in his living room smoking cigars and drinking all of his sherry.


      Comment by Asher Kay — 5 October 2009 @ 8:58 pm

      • You all are bastards! So associated with The Cesspit is no longer fun for you? I knew you were all going to abandon me at the time of trouble – I guess I will have to invent a new pseudonym, get me one of those easily available proxy bypasses (did I mention how easy it is to get one?) and pretend I’m a “student from Australia”… Oh the unbearable loneliness of being an asshole all by yourself!


        Comment by Mikhail Emelianov — 5 October 2009 @ 10:07 pm

      • No offense, Mikhail. John just has a much cushier sofa than you have over at the cesspit. I know you agree, because otherwise you wouldn’t be over here commenting.

        Maybe you’d better just turn off the comments over at PE. Save you some embarrassment.


        Comment by Asher Kay — 5 October 2009 @ 10:17 pm

      • True. I might as well just erase the whole blog and start all over again a couple of days later – “PE2: now with a better sofa and beer!”


        Comment by Mikhail Emelianov — 5 October 2009 @ 10:36 pm

    • As kvond would say, hmmmm.


      Comment by john doyle — 5 October 2009 @ 9:38 pm

    • The couch is comfier here! And the Sherry isn’t bad either. John, how long are we allowed to stay befor you start charging us rent?


      Comment by Alexei — 6 October 2009 @ 10:15 am

      • I think we should head over to Asher’s place. We can sip our aperitifs while coming up with the table of contents for The Speculative Turn Volume 2.


        Comment by john doyle — 6 October 2009 @ 10:29 am

      • You could do that, but it’s all poetry and ephemera over there these days. So I hope you like gritty espresso, ratty vinyl bar stools and guys with clove cigarettes who snap their fingers in the air every time you say something clever.


        Comment by Asher Kay — 6 October 2009 @ 11:30 am

  25. John: “As for my view on LS’s editorial policies: it’s just a blog, and it’s his blog, so he can do what pleases him.”

    Kvond: Who is saying that Levi shouldn’t blog as he pleases. Let him spout and delete as he wishes. What I object to is when someone PORTRAYS themself as being “x” but then acts regularly as “-x”, and when this portrayal as an effect on my social world in a meaningful way. Some people are hypocrites and it matters not a wit. When Levi is a hypocrite in the small world of 15 or so blogs that discuss philosophy and social ethics, it makes a difference, at least to me.

    John: “but most normative people are Naziesque, etc. :

    Kvond: I totally disagree. Carl Dyke is quite normative and displays nothing of the Naziesque at all.

    Alexei, your approach to the issue was unique and brilliantly precise. Of course you know that Levi would up the person pretty fast because you have seen him slide in that direction a million times. He gets very nervous when he cannot dispatch a questioner, who is not heaping praise on him, in a few by-passes (I can just imagine how he handles the questions of his students, probably how most profs do.) And I completely agree. I told Levi many times: “Just don’t respond to questions that iritate you”. But the guy has to pretend to be an expert on everything. Not a peep from the public goes uncorrected. All free subjects which bow.


    Comment by kvond — 5 October 2009 @ 8:24 pm

  26. REPLY Funtion limited, it seems, so I put it here.

    ‘Emergentist physicalism is basically the idea that everything is physical, and that different types of properties emerge at different levels of description.’

    ‘It’s really a lot more interesting than I make it sound. It’s also, I think, compatible with the Object-Oriented thing in the sense that conceptual entities, being physical, have the same ontological status as everything else. I don’t believe that anyone else agrees with me on this, though.’

    It sounds interesting already, just not quite enough to know whether anything said about it is all a lot of misconstruing. It definitely sounds a lot like how life really is lived, instead of how it ought to be. That’s all I like about it thus far. What I don’t like about it is that’s never enough, even if it’s all there is. Conceptual entities being physical is extremely attractive, because it throws out stupid ideas like ‘beauty is not carnal’. Well, ahybody with any brains knows it is. I remember Mortimer Adler going on about this, saying a ‘woman’s face’ could be beautiful, but not one’s ‘carnal desire for her’. What a crock of shit. If everything is seen as physical, idiot-level hierarchies of what is high beauty and low beauty would certainly have to jump through some new hoops, would’t they?

    Still, I don’t like the idea of everything being physical, because the death business is still a bummer even though it has always been pretty fashionable.


    Comment by afrohun — 5 October 2009 @ 9:02 pm

    • “If everything is seen as physical, idiot-level hierarchies of what is high beauty and low beauty would certainly have to jump through some new hoops, would’t they?”

      They would. Part of the beauty of emergentism is that it acknowledges a sort of scientific way of looking at things while not killing the poetry in them. You can “explain” reflectiveness by describing a particular molecular structure, but you can’t say that you’ve said everything that needs to be said. You can’t see yourself when you’re looking at molecules, and you haven’t talked about reflectiveness as “that which makes birds slam themselves suicidally into my bay window”.

      “Still, I don’t like the idea of everything being physical, because the death business is still a bummer even though it has always been pretty fashionable.”

      Well, who said you have to be monogamous with your ontology? Just insert a little “that we can know about” between “everything” and “is physical” and you can live forever on the side. Although that would probably take up a lot of sherry and cigars. And of course nit-picky philosophers will accuse you of conflating ontology with epistemology. But you can just say, “Hey – have fun at your funeral, sucker”.


      Comment by Asher Kay — 5 October 2009 @ 9:32 pm

      • oh my god is that cool…never heard anything I liked better. Problem is I’ve already committed infidelity of the common kind tonight, and it looks like you’re going to make yet another inroad on my virtue, viz., my monogamy doesn’t tend to last more than a day or two and you are NOT helping!

        How about 11 a.m. Eastern time tomorrow?


        Comment by afrohun — 5 October 2009 @ 10:55 pm

      • That’s it. I’m staying.

        John, are you going to finish this Kung Pao in the fridge?


        Comment by Asher Kay — 6 October 2009 @ 6:10 am

      • Fine, but FOR ONCE could you take out the trash?


        Comment by john doyle — 6 October 2009 @ 6:43 am

      • Sorry — I have a, um, thing at 11.


        Comment by Asher Kay — 6 October 2009 @ 6:51 am

  27. Alexei, I read your explanation of Tuffini over at The Cesspit, and now here as well. I’m happy that you were able to do this thing, both for Reid and for yourself. Tuffini was an intriguing character, just as you’ve described him. I thought it was a good show in its own right: he had a distinct voice, very self-confident, I thought probably English, maybe a philosophy Ph.D. from ten years ago or so. Tuffini did carry himself in a way where conflict was inevitable, but it did get personal. The one that particularly grabbed me was some business about how, if you thought so-and-so was the first who said such-and-such in the history of thought, then clearly you didn’t have adequate background to be worth talking to. And I agree that, while the outing may have been intended either to humiliate or to restore clarity — maybe some of both — I found it a surprising end to a remarkable performance. It would have been fun to watch Tuffini develop his ideas over time. Maybe he still will.


    Comment by john doyle — 5 October 2009 @ 9:14 pm

    • I’m happy to hear that Tuffini wasn’t totally misunderstood — or, more precisely, I hadn’t fooled myself into believing he was better than he was. The hardest thing, Wittgenstein once wrote, is not fooling yourself. I think that’s right. In any event, though, I don’t think he’ll be making any reappearances. Tuffini was a purpose specific voice. And once you remove the analytic biases, some of the self-assuredness, and use grammatical contractions, Tuffini becomes pretty uninteresting; he reminds me too much of a humourless prof I had… At any rate, he wouldn’t say much different from Alexei (although Alexei would usually avoid the unnecessary technical jargon — who cares about n-ary relations?! — and wasn’t into nitpicking) So I don’t see much value trying to make him respectable. To be honest, I didn’t like him much. He did the job.


      Comment by Alexei — 6 October 2009 @ 10:30 am

    • Somehow Tuffini seems so much greater now that he’s dead.


      Comment by john doyle — 6 October 2009 @ 11:03 am

      • I’m only still using this moniker for purposes of this discussion, it’s dead by now.

        What you say about Tuffini being greater now he’s dead has not occurred in my strange case fo the ‘fuck-love lyrics’. But they’ve subsided, because what I said just two nights ago about ‘the details being made official made it only better’ is, I think, not shared by the other party (and it’s obviously only one–I really don’t care how dull it seems to be able to tolerate individuals who don’t do masquerade balls endlessly, although there are some nice sleights-of-hand that can take place–to wit, the contribution of ‘de-monogaminization’ by Kay Asher, however ephimeral, it was like ‘taking a stitch out’, I guess). If you’ve followed since about Thursday of last week, you’ll see that the other party has radically withdrawn, because he finds it boring or impractical to be the old-fashioned ‘known ego’, or however the fuck twisted way he wants to construe it. He has to see it this way or it would have fallen off before, or not mattered now. On the other hand, I was even more delighted that there was no more ‘real ruse strewing’, and weird as I am, I never minded any development until it was to continue the sensation of rapine-manipulation, or whatever you’d call it when the other party has more party–but in any auto-rustication of ’emergent physicalism’, he had not earned that structure as a possibiity, so the ‘old guard’, as represented by a certain amount of traditional establishment-identified persona, prevailed, because I couldn’t do it the other way. Like you, I’ve got a macho hangup, tee hee. Strange that being a pervert (you aren’t, I am) doesn’t make that go away, only hardens it off sometimes, as in this process, it became the whole goal for me if there could be no official ‘relationship’, whether of the sentimental variety or as a working partnering. Neither is capable of happening, because of the the delight of talking behind masks; and this is indeed delightful, but then THAT is the part that begins to bore me, it’s just as repetitious as everything else. Furthermore, there are other intrusive and obnoxiouc elements which even you have not cleared up for me and nobody perhspa will, but it doesn’t even matter–I really just don’t want to work with somenoe who refers to my writing as ‘loathsome memoirs’. So a lot of Dejan’s ‘top’ and ‘bottom’ was more than I had thought. I coudn’t be a physical ‘bottom’ even virtually, exeept once I tried to, and it ruined everything. This weekend, there was another attempt to make me jump at this again, but this time I refused it, having learned the pitfalls of it, for one thing, but also not even having any reason to believe the party on his ‘vital statistics’. He’s way beyond me toward a ‘body without organs’, even if he still uses the one that has them, whereas all it did was make me have less of an organless body: This therefore amuses all of the sophists, iincluding you, surely, and I don’t mind being called trash. Who else has done what I’ve pulled off, no matter what the cost to one’s so-called blog reputation?

        Sorry for rambling, but it is interesting the deeper one goes into the ‘blogging identity realities’, the more one realy does surge toward the inhuman, does really ‘defy reality’. You can’t stand it anymore. Fictions lived are forms of drugs, I do a form of this too, or I wouldn’t have been able to work with someone who was doing a related type of ‘pleasure addiction’, although not, presumably, the same one. Another important component was that, even when I agree to ‘sell out’ to the ‘reality of the virtual’, I’m already too grounded physically for that to even take place; and so the other party does not make sure to secure that. Weird to me that, when I do not fight the ‘virtual reality’, it dissipates, falls off due to its own relative weakness (I’d thought it was much stronger.) To actual propagate it so that it seems to have ‘a life of its own’ you do have to withhold most details of offline life, and make up fictions and lies all the time. This is for if you like it. I never cared for that, and only recently withheld what had been called my ‘reality TV’, then I put it back in, because this would proliferate either. So in either case, offline futures desired, or online writing machines limited to that, the impotence comes in when the libido that won’t stop finds other ports in a storm. Trash, sure, but there are worse things.

        By the way, I thanked the magician by email last night for fixing ‘it’, and I said ‘both of them’, you know. Dejan’s blog was literally eating up all the memory on my computer, and this was finally halted the other day when Dejan adjusted this. i have NO idea still how a single blog could have caused my entire system to begin to slow down almost to the point of being ready for the dust-bin, but it did. Then it was fixed, and all of my internet connection is like new. As for the other ‘best object of the year’, I definitely win it because of the exoticism of such a thing happening in my age group. Actually, I think things are satisfactory for all concerned. it’s not my responsibioity to constantly break someone else’s ‘boredom quotient’, and it’s not someone else’s responsibility to get sentimental about things, just because there was minor interest in that. the emergent physcalism was sufficient, so that I could continue throughout eternity in my serial monogamies that change objects every day or two.


        Comment by afrohun — 6 October 2009 @ 11:51 am

  28. Kvond, certainly I didn’t agree with Levi’s caricature of those who uphold normative ethics or political viewpoints. It seemed entirely beside the point, intended mostly to provoke. Traxus has been around and is a cool customer, so I wasn’t surprised that he didn’t rise to the bait. Pete at Deontologistics also seems pretty self-possessed. It was odd put perhaps not out of character that Levi wanted him to change his post because it misrepresented OOO, as if Pete were perpetrating some sort of patent infringement. Reid already had a strong presence on his blog; this episode will likely strengthen it.

    We all heard the story about how OOO is a place to ask new questions rather than to debate old ones. I think that Levi really does prefer the argumentative style, despite his claims to the contrary. And he can fight mean, as you guys have witnessed. You guys can fight mean too, so after awhile it just starts looking like a whole crowd of people being nasty to each other. Someone, I don’t recall who, observed at Mikhail’s place that Levi’s behavior speaks for itself, that it doesn’t need so much finger-pointing and retaliatory nastiness to make the point. After awhile the defense of Reid against his being bullied began seeming more like a pretext for venting abuse. I think we all get it: you don’t like Levi’s style, he’s a bully, he’s a hypocrite. Some will agree, others won’t. Everybody is an asshole; we don’t need it pointed out constantly. As you say to Levi: just ignore the comments that bother you. We can do the same with respect to Levi’s comments that bother us.


    Comment by john doyle — 5 October 2009 @ 9:36 pm

  29. The upshot for me is that I won’t comment on LS, at least for awhile. I continue to find the object-oriented stuff stimulating, so I’ll continue reading LS and other blogs on the subject. And I’ll probably continue posting on related matters myself. But I rarely if ever engaged in a mutually productive exchange when I’ve commented there in the past, so there’s not much to be lost for either Levi or me by my staying away. My offering an outlet for anti-Levi sentiment and my association with the enemy surely enclouds me in ambivalence if not worse. So I think I’ll lay low. Though I don’t expect him to take me up on the offer, Levi is always welcome to comment here.

    I think Levi made a good move in banning certain people from his blog, no doubt including Mikhail and kvond, and possibly me and others as well. I’d surely feel both hurt and angry if I thought others harbored as much malice toward me as some do toward Levi. Eventually I’d probably have to shut off the conversation, being able to subject myself to only so much self-critique under duress, as well as being able to restrain my own anger for only so long. I too would rather associate with people who like and respect me than with those who don’t. Surely Levi is exposed to enough disagreement with his position elsewhere, so it’s not like he’s insulating himself inside the OOO bubble. He’s got a Project, and ultimately he’s best positioned to decide how best to let that Project thrive. I say go fer it dude. Hopefully he’ll extend the same courtesy to Planomenology and Deontologistics and others. What from one’s own pov looks like trollerie and vampirisme might well be an alternative Project taking shape.


    Comment by john doyle — 6 October 2009 @ 4:50 am

  30. You know, another thing before moving on, regarding the debate about normative standards versus Latourian trials of strength… Let’s say that something becomes more real to the extent that it makes more differences happen in the world. The same is true of ideas: the more trials of strength it wins, the more allies who support it, the more real an idea becomes. One sort of strength trial might be premised on truth-value, another on the influence of the idea’s promulgators, another on PR dissemination, and so on. It’s the combination of all these diverse kinds of trials that shapes difference-making in the aggregate, which corresponds to how “real” the idea is. I think the normative question to the object oriented people is this: is maximizing the reality of an object, including a philosophical thought-object, the highest value to which it can aspire? If so, then one need not obsess overmuch on establishing the truth of an idea since, in the battle for Most Real, truth gets mashed up together with rhetoric, Nielsen ratings, alliances, status hierarchies, embargoes, and publishing deals.


    Comment by john doyle — 6 October 2009 @ 7:37 am

    • And indifference (no pun intended). Latour speaks almost directly about this:

      No matter what a paper did to the former literature, if no one else does anything with it, then it is as if it never existed at all. you may have written a paper that settles a fierce controversy once and for all, but if readers ignore it, it cannot be turned into a fact; it simply cannot. you may protest against the injustice; you may treasure the certitude of being right in your inner heart, but it will never go further than your inner heart; you will never go further in certitude without the help of others.

      There were a lot of arguments about normativity over at LS, mostly concerning whether normativity was in some way prior to ontology. The current set of posts (the discussions with Deontologistics), I think, point up what makes Levy leery — the idea of transcendent, eternal norms.

      It seems to me that the trials of strength and the alliances in Latour point to a way in which normativity can be seen as an ontological thing that arises necessarily from existence (I mean normativity in the broad sense of things being better or worse). I’m not sure if Levi would see it that way.


      Comment by Asher Kay — 6 October 2009 @ 8:25 am

    • The (naive) way I’ve been handling this in my section of the freshman seminar is to talk about ‘ethics’ (the topic of our textbook) or normativity as an attempt to transform local practices into universals, more specifically to mediate between short term and long term rationality. So e.g. in the short term in group situations it’s rational to play limpy and let someone else do the work, but in the long term if everyone did that no work would get done, epic fail. Enter the ‘work ethic’ as a device to mediate between the short and long term.

      Of course, because it remains more short-term rational to let other people do the work, the distribution of the work ethic is likely to be far from smooth and highly subject to power effects. But to dismiss normativity as inherently about those dynamics skips a step.

      When people like Levi object to the idea of transcendent, universal norms they seem mostly to have in mind the dogmatic, top-down inculcation of rules familiar from Sunday schools and bad philosophy seminars. Normativity as a practical response to a real problem, e.g. the mediation of short and long-term rationality, arising bottom-up as you say Asher from existence, is a very different problematic. Of course norms understood in this way will reach for universality and institutionalization too, because they work better like that.


      Comment by Carl — 7 October 2009 @ 3:07 pm

      • They’ll reach for universality, but the part I like is that they’ll work with ethical judgements and decisions as they actually occur in people’s heads (an “emergent” ethics, to use what is apparently now my favorite word) rather than trying to create a formal structure on top of what is observed. It’s sort of like the difference between Chomsky’s approach to linguistics (formalization) versus the cognitive linguists’ approach.

        I read a book recently (The Empathy Gap, by Trout), which has its flaws, but took the very cool approach of suggesting that we design policies that work *with* our mental biases rather than dictating that we exercise self-control over them. This is a first step toward a bottom-up sort of approach.

        I would also like to express my surprise and dismay that you are allowed to teach a course on ethics. I would have expected someone to at least ask you whether you were evil or not before signing you up for such a thing.


        Comment by Asher Kay — 7 October 2009 @ 3:39 pm

      • Quality control here is very lax, or perhaps I am but a front for a more comprehensive evil.

        You won’t find me complaining about emergence, bring it on. And I really like that idea of working with biases rather than trying to confront and control them. There’s something of the aikido in that.


        Comment by Carl — 7 October 2009 @ 4:14 pm

      • Yes, tisk, tisk. A Phillies fan teaching ethics. I knew Obama was going to drive this country into the ground. Consumate evil, Carl…or should I say Keyser.


        Comment by kvond — 7 October 2009 @ 4:17 pm

      • Report from LS: Levi illustrates the trials-of-strength idea with an anecdote from his childhood. The story begins:

        “Now one way of engineering a bridge, especially for a twelve year old child that knows little about principles of engineering…”

        Levi then talks about a bridge that failed, followed by a reconstructed bridge that succeeds. It seems that the young Levi learned from his failure and applied that learning not by remodeling the existing bridge but by designing and building a better one, “better” being defined as one that better resists the trials of strength imposed upon it by gravity. I’d say that this experiential learning resulted in something like an emergent norm of engineering, a norm that applied not just in retrospect to the first bridge’s failure but prospectively to designing and building the successful bridge. Compiled and refined, these emergent norms eventually get published in a book of normative theory and praxis called “Principles of Engineering.” These aren’t eternal norms for building the Heavenly Jerusalem; they’re practical norms. No?

        And why wouldn’t an OOO/ANT ontology accept this sort of normativity? If you want to build wooden bridges that resist trials of gravitational strength, try this set of norms. If you want to write a best-selling novel, try this set of norms. If you want to understand the physics of black holes, try this set of norms. They’re extrapolations from empirical experience, abstracted and applied prospectively and prescriptively to other possible experiences.


        Comment by john doyle — 7 October 2009 @ 5:04 pm

      • I guess these aren’t really normative in the sense of prescribing right practice regardless of outcome. They’re heuristic devices or algorithms for increasing the likelihood of achieving particular outcomes, which can, I suppose, always be framed in terms of winning trials of strength of various sorts. A pure norm — or maybe it’s a deontological norm — would propose right practice in math, ethics, writing, etc. regardless of of outcome. But I think these sorts of norms can also be framed in a sort of pragmatic way. Here’s the best way to meditate, to resist sinful temptation, to listen attentively while your professor drones on…


        Comment by john doyle — 7 October 2009 @ 5:11 pm

      • I guess humor isn’t funny if you have to explain it. Vampires are notorious for failing to appear in mirrors.


        Comment by kvond — 7 October 2009 @ 5:58 pm

      • Oh… oh yeah… hahaha. The problem with the “Reply” option is that, when misapplied as in this case, the reader encounters nonsequiturs in the conversation. This Reply and the one preceding it should be attached to comment number 21.


        Comment by john doyle — 7 October 2009 @ 6:05 pm

      • Re Report from LS: It almost seemed like he was responding to your comment #36 on this thread with the bit about the most popular book being the best book.


        Comment by Asher Kay — 7 October 2009 @ 6:33 pm

      • Also, I’m not sure what he’s saying about endo- vs. exo- consistency. Sure, the strength of a thing can be a result of how it holds together (like a bridge), but it’s also through the garnering of allies that it persists. And those allies are people, and the way they are garnered is through their attitudes toward the work.


        Comment by Asher Kay — 7 October 2009 @ 6:45 pm

      • I understand the idea of evaluating the greatness of a book based on whether it passes the test of time, and to regard this as a sort of contest of strength against cultural ADD. This criterion of greatness is a relational one — do others continue to read it? — rather than something intrinsic to the book itself. Even intrinsic merit is gauged relative to a normative standard, isn’t it? But that still doesn’t require an eternal transcendent notion of Beauty and Truth. Isn’t an emergent normative standard of literary greatness something like the abstracted judgment criteria imposed by a particular kind of reader, achieved through compiled experience of many readers’ encounters with many books?


        Comment by john doyle — 7 October 2009 @ 6:52 pm

      • I think so. And also through the sorts of stuff our brains are going to be biased toward based on how we’re put together, and through the sorts of culture we tend to generate because of the way we’re hooked up to our environments.

        To me, the network metaphor really works here. Finnegan’s Wake ends up being a great example, because you have connections like the etymology of the “quark”, which networks Joyce’s book to particle physics. Finnegan’s Wake ends up getting mentioned (and connected) every time someone asks why the hell Gell-Mann called his particle a quark. Or whenever someone asks why the 3QD blog has the name it has. It creates connections in the minds of writers who make references to it in their own work, and in the minds of professors who put it on college reading lists. Without those connections, it ceases to be real. The internal strength of it helps to forge the connections, but it’s nothing without them. Its internal strength would easily have been laid waste by a fireplace in which Joyce might conceivably have tossed it rather than having it published.


        Comment by Asher Kay — 7 October 2009 @ 8:31 pm

  31. John: “After awhile the defense of Reid against his being bullied began seeming more like a pretext for venting abuse. I think we all get it: you don’t like Levi’s style, he’s a bully, he’s a hypocrite. Some will agree, others won’t. Everybody is an asshole; we don’t need it pointed out constantly. As you say to Levi: just ignore the comments that bother you. We can do the same with respect to Levi’s comments that bother us.”

    Kvond: I can’t speak for others, but I do know that you and I differ on the importances of IDEAS. This is to say, you seem to treat them as something like a new set of clothes you can try on and see how they feel, a kind of “how do you think this looks?” (And this is not a crticism of you, but only a difference between us.) I rather feel that ideas matter, and the place of ideas matters. So yes, Levi is a jerk, and on top of that a jerk who doesn’t know that he is a jerk. What’s the big deal. Well, he is a jerk who expresses ideas, and because I believe ideas are important, he is more than a guy who kicks his dog. So, on a certain level, something else is at stake.

    As for leaving him alone, as I’ve said many times, I first “banned” myself from his blog when I realized that unless one paid compliments on and on, and refused to ask follow up questions that guy was going to go personal on you. Then I took him off my blog roll. And then, after the Vampire Killer episode, I urged others to do the same. But there are occasions that arise, in particular in light of the commercial inroads that some from SR are attempting to make in the world of on-line philosophy, and the way that he is attempting to position himself as a model of that kind of possibility, that the behaviors of the guy just need to be checked and criticized. What can I say. I you don’t find my criticisms valuable, what the hell, ignore them.


    Comment by kvond — 6 October 2009 @ 8:00 am

  32. Asher, it seems that the idea of a non-transcendent normativity arising from mere existence is something that the OO viewpoint shares with any number of other immanence-based and materialistic worldviews. My sense is that neither Deontologistics nor Traxus was advocating a transcendent normativity. Traxus has written often about the futility of utopian thinking for Marxism. My sense from what little I know about antiphilosophy is that it should be possible to explore the causes and functions of things like ethics and politics and metaphysics from within a materialistic, even scientific framework. This move doesn’t say that all ethics and so on are reduced to genetics and mechanics, nor is it a transcendent position for evaluating all ethical systems. It’s more the idea that sure, the human species seems to find value in ethics and norms and so on. Norms are neither transcendent nor genetically programmed but are artifacts, in a sense less real ontologically than natural things. But they have real importance within the artificial world of human interactions, and so they are important.

    Anyhow, Levi was arguing against a straw man, I believe, in asserting that Deont and Traxus were pushing transcendental norms. The issue is, I think, this: what artificial normative position, if any, arises from your ontology? Trials of strength seems to suggest power as Latour’s normative standard, at least in the social sciences. Does power translate into an ontological norm as well? — is the question that people seem to be posing.


    Comment by john doyle — 6 October 2009 @ 9:04 am

    • I agree completely. Maybe what’s scary is the idea that if normativity has an ontological status as some form of power, the whole thing is open to a sort of “Social Darwinism” criticism. In my demonstrably true opinion, you can’t shy away from that sort of thing just because the truth of the matter will not be pleasing — there is such a thing as better and worse at a very basic level.

      Yikes, I sound like Brassier.


      Comment by Asher Kay — 6 October 2009 @ 11:41 am

  33. “So yes, Levi is a jerk, and on top of that a jerk who doesn’t know that he is a jerk. What’s the big deal. Well, he is a jerk who expresses ideas”

    I’m saying that you too fit this description when you carry on this way. Levi presumably takes ideas seriously too. You may regard him as a hypocrite, but let’s presume that he really believes the things he says, that he’s not just trying to prove who’s got the bigger dick or trying to kiss-ass his way into a better job or more fame. Not being him, I think there are times he comes off as a jerk. Let’s presume that you too are serious and sincere and not just trying to be an iconoclast or a sadist. Not being you, I think there are times that you come off as a jerk. When both jerks are jerking each other around, it’s pretty difficult to say who’s holding the higher ethical ground.

    “I you don’t find my criticisms valuable, what the hell, ignore them.”

    Of course this is easier said than done. I can choose not to reply, I can even choose to delete, but what you’ve already said still affects me consciously and emotionally. Levi’s automatic delete mechanism keeps him from having to confront unwelcome criticisms without having to invest mental and emotional energy fending them off, second-guessing himself, and so on. He’s already heard your criticisms many times, he’s presumably arrived at some sort of self-reconciliatory equilibrium that suits him if not you, and so he’d just rather not have to deal with it any more. Fair enough, I say.


    Comment by john doyle — 6 October 2009 @ 9:15 am

  34. Since REPLY function limited, there was one mistake in my narcissistic post (all of the posts herein are narcissistic, of course, but mine are always overt, hence the daily attempts at my crucifixion, although I do not much resemble Jesus–admittedly there were the thieves and even Peter got it. We does da best we can.) just this, though ‘has more party’ should be ‘has more power’, because sure he did for a long time and the loss of it caused him to withdraw. He might think of the power-mongering as ‘party’, as a pleasure freak, I think I had ‘the most party’. But I truly adore Asher Kay for his Diversion of Angels performed last night, and allowing me slight access until you grow en colere with me, because I hadn’t realized that I’ll be able to propagate some kind of thing beyond the ‘death business’ that was definitely more satisfying than Heidegger’s tedious ‘ownmost potential’ being death. Sounds quite ‘courageous’, but who the fuck needs it. Now whether we get to think of the afterlife as physical in a ‘thought sense’ is still bothering me, and it does seem to me we don’t get to. Or rather, when I channel the images of those now dead when I am having an important session, I don’t know whether they ‘know it themselves’ or rather, that they would be grateful to me ‘if they were still alive, knowing how admirable their gifts were so as to be remembered in avant-garde ballet would make the happy to know that I’d be doing it when they couldn’t think about it anymore’, i don’t know. Clearly, most artists, whether Beethoven, Goethe, or the others, believed in making something for their afterlifes, but they expected others to benefit from this more than they themselves did. I think we always hope that after we die, we’ll be able to say ‘well, this is so interesting, now I know what death is like’. But if unconsciousness is a part of emergent physicalism, and is itself physical, it still is like being sold a bill of goods.

    But there is a playful yet serious tone that you have allowed in here, John, that is not at all unlike some of the better aspects of the Late Period of Hyperstition, and some of it goes right to the right receiverships (lol)


    Comment by afrohun — 6 October 2009 @ 12:10 pm

  35. It’s a curious juxtaposition of threads on this post, afrohun. Your adventures in identity-twist leave the rest far behind. It’s difficult to follow the ins and outs of the love affair — I often have the sense that conversational fragments are being picked up from elsewhere in time and space, giving the affair a sort of cubistic sheen.

    “Loathesome memoirs” — possibly a great book title. I do recall your saying that my book is the worst writing ever, which I can only attribute to your not having read enough really bad books. I’m currently slogging through Huellebecq’s latest, about the “Elohists,” who interest me for other reasons. It isn’t the worst but it is surprisingly cumbersome. I said previously that Henry Miller didn’t write much porn in Tropic of Cancer, even if it is obscene. Huellebecq rather the same, though one does look forward to the dirty parts as a break from the meandering, which isn’t the case with the always-interesting Miller. My book on the Elohim is better than Huellebecq’s — we were writing at about the same time, curiously enough.

    I love “have more party.” More later hopefully.


    Comment by john doyle — 6 October 2009 @ 1:23 pm

    • I did not say that, Dejan said I said it. And when I did say things like that in the midst of our feverish parodisms that were in the context of all the sex-talk showed the worst of both of us. Sometimes we were just mean in our vanity and mutual narcissism, but of course, the book is good, I’ve told you that before. I mean, it’s good in fragments, which is enough for me. It’s eccentric. I guess what I meant in a recent email is that ‘your extraordinary gift’ seems more apparent in your psychologist’s perception than in your novel writing. You obviously know a lot more about how to write fiction in the usual sense of the word than I do, but I’ve somehow thought your non-fiction writing (as here) is better than Prop O’Gandhi. But Boyfriend and I were often mean just to be mean, so that just, for the record, no, I think a lot of it is good. But ‘worst writing ever’ absolutely was just Dejan being puckish. If I said anything even remotely like that, it was just silliness, because you never write badly, just sometimes more inspiredly than other. AdsWithoutProducts also sometimes writes a throwaway paragraph on his blog that will be really good, way beyond when he’s being self-conscious and talking about his ‘serious, publishable work’. I found myself going back there from time to time, even though I often upset him, and Boyfriend does too.

      But this: “My book on the Elohim is better than Huellebecq’s — we were writing at about the same time, curiously enough.”

      That’s THE best. What I’ve hoped to hear from you for a long time. Much the most important thing anyone should feel about his work==or not do it.

      The love affair is upsetting because we are way too close in some ways and easily hurt each other, he more easily hurt than I am, I’m usually just pissed. I don’t even think he means that about the ‘loathsome memoirs’ anyway, sometimes he likes what I write a lot. I’m glad you mentioned that about off-hand hateful remarks I’ve made that I didn’t even mean, just being bitchy, though. And good to point it out to me, because with all these games going on, the nicest thing you could have said was that you recognize how elaborate it has been, and somehow it always resurrects itself. But it’s so strange, and seemingly dangerous, to do this. But it’s not really fully in one’s control, these anomalies like this. I suppose there’s a weird trust he and I have that is based on being forms of anomie, but I always get back to the real person. That doesn’t seem to be something he can convince me not to do. What I’ve therefore changed, is some of those wild romantic invitations like joining me in L.A., because it’s too risky in such a short time. You might be surprised that the other outrageous seeming invitation I made him–to live with me in New York for a lengthy period of time–I would still do, because that would make it possible to prevent disappointment; there would be a range of ways of interacting, whereas as a hot motel in Hollywood, the pressure is a little great, since he’d have to come far. In any case, he may never have seriously considered it; that’s what I meant about the things I say on the internet. They’re either literal or close to literal always. I’m sure it has to do with age and not getting started early enough to have another attitude about these virtual things (even if I do like Asher’s inclusion of all things, including ‘virtual’ as physicalism. But there’s a more hardcore physicalism, we all know what that is, and that’s where you find bodies and money, etc., although this feeds in and sometimes supports. But this GETTING SERIOUS on the internet is still so strange, because it can only have two outcomes: offline relationship, or just stopping. I was thinking about your posts awhile back on the impossibilitiy of knowing the other. Seems that way, even though here the attraction, whether happy or disappointed, is very mutual. But the details can’t be left out, ultimately, or it’s pure fantasy, and the writing together has already proved it’s way beyond fantasy.


      Comment by afrohun — 6 October 2009 @ 2:25 pm

  36. I’ve not read much of Ads’ fictional output, only one excerpt he put online several months back. It struck me as stylistically forced. I began reading an online novel of Impostume but lost interest. Fictional tastes, for writers and readers alike, are so individualistic it’s no wonder the publishers stick with “commercial” product even in the so-called literary market niche. My mother-in-law once read the first ten pages of my first novel and quit because she didn’t like the main character. Of course that character was a lot like me, so I figured I must have done a pretty accurate character sketch to trigger her loathing so quickly. I’d tell you that you might like the fifth and last Part of O’G the best, but I’d probably be wrong. I agree more than ever that the only real judge of my work is my own tastes.

    By Latour’s standards the best sellers are by definition the best writings, though I’m sure Levi would disagree with such a crass generalization, because in contests of strength related to such matters it’s always going to be sales figures that win. Houellebecq would never have been published in this country. Even though I’m not overly fond of this book at least it’s idiosyncratic. I’ll have to finish by tomorrow if I’m to avoid library fines.

    I’m surprised that you would issue these generous and risky invitations: it testifies to the seriousness of your reality, which the disguises and pseudonyms only intensify. You may be right about the age factor. I wonder if any of these other bloggers are as old as you and I. I’m not sure we stand as paragons of maturity, though I could be underestimating us. Maybe we’re widely esteemed and feared as transference objects.


    Comment by john doyle — 6 October 2009 @ 4:21 pm

    • ‘it testifies to the seriousness of your reality, which the disguises and pseudonyms only intensify. ‘

      I had been thinking, since this is the first time I’ve ever had anything like this, if the surface sensations we have here–which have caused any number of horrible slippages and stupid animosities–do intensify in a way just meeting in the real world would not. But I don’t think so. Because the writing is not unique to writing on computers, no matter what the fuck Baudrillard boringly says about how the machine does if for you (yes, to a degree, but since the current book has all been written out in pencil, I know the difference in the two, and there is some, but it doesn’t mean one is better than the other, but they are somewhat different. The editing is far better to do on a Word document. So our writing excites each other, I mean in this uncanny amorous way. Literally. I’ve just never experienced anything like it.

      But surely you don’t think I’ve issued these invitations just on the blog, do you? Of course not. Despite some of the difficulties in ‘closing the gap’ that he seems to feel about the different modes of communication, you may be sure that those invitations are on record in personal correspondence. I wonder if you had thought I just did it on the blog. Of course, the other is risky too, but then that’s different–he’s worth it to me, although I’m not idiotic enough to just offer it to a pseudonym (steal their Desiree Disgusto stories yes, if he won’t claim them, but not ‘open my home’; he even knows what he’d have to pay. The Hollywood thing also mainly doesn’t need to have any stress, because it’s the only time I can refresh myself, but I’m sure I’d let him come if he really wanted to.). But as for the identities intensifying my reality, as you put it, they may, but at some point they won’t be needed any more, according to what he wants to do or not. It’s been good practice for me to have to be reasonably patient in an adult way (I’m not all that used to it.) But I like that I could offer these invitations, they give it already a sense of seriousness that at least I require, and I can tell they’ve hardly gone unnoticed anyway; and it just doesn’t interest me without the seriousness, which started when I first read his work about 4 1/2 years ago. Hadn’t the slightest idea he had any interest in me, though.

      Yes, Ads has often sounded very forced, and has weird syntactical problems which Boyfriend used to parody mercilessly, but once in a while, when he’s not thinking, he will write some very nice prose. But yes, he’s usually too involved in self-promotion (that’s normal) and self-conscious so that he then contrives some of the style too much. When he’s not a nervous wreck, he’s very nice, though, one of the bloggers I like.

      About being better at some kinds of writing, it doesn’t even matter, you know. Most people thknk I’m a far better pianist than I am writer, but that’s just not what I want to do, and so, in fact, I can’t make myself.


      Comment by afrohun — 6 October 2009 @ 5:59 pm

      • I’m not sure we stand as paragons of maturity, though I could be underestimating us. Maybe we’re widely esteemed and feared as transference objects.

        Who cares about the maturity part, I’m sure I’m not consciously thought to be, but as for transference objects (CPC Stompanato Oscar Nominee), I’m quite sure my sexual preference for legends over lesb’ans must make me a secret one. This automatically generates wide esteem and enhances my standing on AWP if I only make cameos when under enormous pressure.

        Frankly, though, I can see you as a paragon of maturity. Your weirdness used to throw that part off, but somehow you’ve gotten it steadied (except for that venomous cliff-hanger you sent one night and lied about falling asleep, lol) in perfect alignment with my carefully modulated cultivation of depravity.


        Comment by afrohun — 7 October 2009 @ 6:44 pm

      • Oh but I did fall asleep — it seemed a perfect time to do so for maximizing melodramatic effect.

        “carefully modulated cultivation of depravity” — that’s lovely, afrohun.


        Comment by john doyle — 7 October 2009 @ 6:55 pm

  37. There can be no question, however, about Houellebecq’s appeal in certain circles:

    “…what he was trying to do was create a new species, which would have no more moral obligation toward humans than the humans had toward jellyfish or lizards; I realized, above all, that I would have no scruples about belonging to this new species, that my disgust at murder was of a sentimental or emotional, rather than a rational, nature; thinking of Fox, I realized that the murder of a dog would have shocked me as much as that of a man, and probably more so; then, as I had done in all the quite difficult circumstances of my life, I simply stopped thinking.”

    That’s pretty well crafted actually. Not a word artist this one; more a fictional philosopher with a little sex and violence tossed in.


    Comment by john doyle — 6 October 2009 @ 4:48 pm

  38. John: “Let’s presume that you too are serious and sincere and not just trying to be an iconoclast or a sadist. Not being you, I think there are times that you come off as a jerk. When both jerks are jerking each other around, it’s pretty difficult to say who’s holding the higher ethical ground.”

    Kvond: Comeon John, people in glass houses…You are on top of the list of those who like to stir things up (remember those whispers in the little bird’s ear that really started the house of Harman toppling?). The point is I have NO PROBLEM being called a jerk, just like Mikhail. I fight hard in the rhetoric when the rhetoric goes there, and have no problem doing so. I don’t even feel bad about it. Does this make me a “sadist”? Ha. Well, the term does not offend. Does it make me a “mascochist”? Whateve your diagnosis. The point is, none of this bothers me. But it timelessly bothers Levi. The guy is, as one person put it, “ontologically nice”. Jerks like that deserve a punch in the mouth. Not too hard, just enough to wake them up and get them to quite dumping on folks and preening their feathers. I don’t hide behind some justification. I tell you my reasons, and I have no problem acting on what seems ethical. If you think me a jerk, my tears are flowing.

    But yes, I look forward to your visits to Levi’s blog. Maybe you can post on them here so I can keep track of them.


    Comment by kvond — 6 October 2009 @ 8:55 pm

  39. Well maybe your interventions will bear fruit, kvond.


    Comment by john doyle — 6 October 2009 @ 9:18 pm

  40. Oh and also, kvond, I was just looking back at an old post in which you recommended Palm-of-the-Hand Stories by Yasunari Kawabata. I did read the book, many months ago, but failed to let you know that I enjoyed and admired the stories.


    Comment by john doyle — 6 October 2009 @ 10:22 pm

  41. Carl: “LS with his incessant cubbyholing, ‘a gramscian associate professor from Temple’ kind of stuff, for example. As if it isn’t hard enough to think outside the box without constantly trying to jam stuff back in.”

    Kvond: But you see, in ANTOOOLOGY it’s the other way around. You try to put all your thinking into a “Black Box”, and then you spend all your time trying to make your box as black as it can possibly be so that no one can come around and look under the hood, so to speak. This is what “black box” thinking is. Harman writes about it as well in his book on Latour. You want attention for your theory, but you don’t want ATTENTION, if you know what I mean. What is important is the sell-job. And now that Levi has a “laugh track” for a comments section, the sell-job will continue far more smoothly.


    Comment by kvond — 7 October 2009 @ 4:06 pm

    • Well see, under the hood we all have rashes and stretchmarks and smells and whatnot. I can see how one might want those essences sealed and receding.


      Comment by Carl — 7 October 2009 @ 4:18 pm

      • Hmmm. I don’t really feel that way about things we claim to know.


        Comment by kvond — 7 October 2009 @ 4:43 pm

  42. I see that Graham Harman has taken it upon himself to “out” a couple of the anonymous bloggers. He prefaces his first exposé by emphasizing that he’s used only publicly-available sources of information — he has been criticized in the past for using private defamatory information against others in his public blog posts. While Graham concludes by wishing his outed subject well, it reads like a hit against someone whom he introduces as “one of the previously anonymous blog hecklers.” Is this a revenge hit or an act of justice? Since I wrote my post about Alexei, Levi Bryant has reiterated his stance against anonymous bloggers, regarding them as cowards who snipe from the bushes without risk to their reputations and as bad company for those who reveal their true identities. So we presume that Graham deems his outing work as a good civic deed. Presumably other bloggers have searched out the same public information on this anonymous blogger that Graham did, but have not published what they learned. Are they cowards as well, fearing reprisals from the outed party? Or have they been acting respectfully toward the other’s wishes about self-revelation, regardless of personal antagonisms or opportunities to score points?

    One can always interpret every motive psychologically, attributing every idea and action to latent fascism, resentment, cowardice, vengeance, and so on. I personally don’t think there’s any such thing as a pure motive. I’m just not persuaded that publicly pointing fingers in accusation accomplishes anything more than an escalation in hostilities. This might be a desired outcome for some of the combatants. For my part, I say take it outside, get a room — duke it out in private. We’re all dicks, and evidently so in the way we comport ourselves in the public blogs. I don’t think we need the other dicks pointing it out to the audience, regardless of whether they reveal their own dickhood in doing so. Does public justice prevail over revealing oneself as a dick? I guess for some people it does. Do I reveal my own dickness by disagreeing with the public justice rationale for violating bloggers’ privacy? No doubt.


    Comment by john doyle — 18 November 2009 @ 9:06 am

    • The most interesting thing for me was that Graham didn’t specifically state why he was doing it.


      Comment by Asher Kay — 18 November 2009 @ 10:11 am

  43. I liked your “recede from THAT beotch” remark at PE. I wonder how Graham understands “unveiling,” what sort of truth procedure it is for him. I do get a distinctly Foucaultian vibe from it though, a knowledge/power confluence in which removing the veil is an act of violence, a stripping-bare to expose the withdrawn essence of truth. And maybe Graham does regard the exposé as a violent act of of public justice. He was a journalist after all, and journalism can certainly be used as a weapon. Then again, if we draw implications from the orientalizing reading of Harman’s relational discourse about allure and so on, unveiling becomes a sexual act as well as a violent one. Maybe we need to invoke Lacanian desire as the motor driving all the interactions in the universe. Then le petit objet a starts making more sense in an object-oriented reality.


    Comment by john doyle — 18 November 2009 @ 10:29 am

    • I can’t manage to mentally separate the withdrawal thing from the Heideggerian sense. What’s odd about it is that it places the emphasis on what the *object* is doing, rather than the perceiver. It’s almost like a narrative gimmick. *We* are doing the perceiving, but the object is withdrawing. Almost like it’s intentional. We are spurned lovers, or detectives foiled in a foot-chase with a suspect.


      Comment by Asher Kay — 18 November 2009 @ 10:50 am

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