14 June 2010

OOO and Correlationism

Filed under: Ktismata, Psychology — ktismatics @ 2:04 pm

It may be that the most of the first wave of object-oriented philosophy bloggists have moved on to other concerns, but since most of them are neither posting nor commenting it’s hard to know. I suspect they’re working on books and chapters and journal articles — activities that generate greater academic exchange value than blogging, which now seems dedicated mostly to announcements of new journal issues, conferences, etc. And then there’s me, still publicly trying to come to grips with OOO on my own terms, entirely divorced from academic philosophy. But I think I’ve gotten it figured out now, so after this post I can leave it alone until some new major development arises. In this post I’m clarifying, summarizing, and elaborating on what I wrote in my last post and comments thereto.

I begin with a brief imaginary conversation about what Levi Bryant identifies as OOO’s first Core Claim:

OOO: “Objects are radically withdrawn from all interaction with other objects.”
Me: “How do you know?”
OOO: “Ah, but now you’ve moved from ontology to epistemology, from what things are to how you know about them. Stick with ontology please.”

This conversation can go no farther:

(1) Objects withdraw from all interaction, and
(2) knowing-about-something is a form of interaction between knower and thing; therefore,
(3) objects withdraw from being known; therefore,
(4) one cannot know that objects withdraw, because knowing is itself a form of interaction from which objects withdraw.

It seems that OOO wants to offer a description of objects without explaining how it came into awareness of this description. Is it sheer speculation? transcendence? revelation? Science isn’t boxed in like this. Scientists can tell you what they’ve discovered about objects AND how they discovered it. Of course it’s possible to critique science’s knowledge claims and methodologies, but at least science specifies its truth claims and makes them directly accessible to critique.

OOO purports to escape what Meillassoux termed correlationism, or “the thesis of the essential inseparability of the act of thinking from its content” (After Finitude, p. 36). How is this escape perpetrated? On the one hand there’s the assertion of the radical withdrawnness of objects from all interactions, which we just talked about. This idea of withdrawnness can be thought, just as the idea of objects being matter participating in pure and eternal form can be thought, or the objects’ withdrawn essences all living secretly together on Pluto can be thought. Anything can be thought; the question is whether the content of these thoughts can be validated outside of thought. By what means can anyone be assured that the content of what they’re thinking about is real? Here it seems to me that OOO’s assertion is only a negative, apophatic one: the essence of the real is that it cannot be known. Consider these two assertions: “We cannot know what objects are really like” and “The essence of real objects is that they cannot be known.” Is there any meaningful distinction between those two assertions? I don’t believe there is: with respect to the relationship between minds and the objects of thought, OOO’s radically apophatic ontology seems interchangeable with a radically agnostic epistemology.

According to OOO, objects encounter one another only indirectly and relationally. The qualities or properties of an object which another object encounters — its mass, chemical make-up, color, beauty, etc. — occur only as part of the inter-object relationship. These relational properties are not essential to the real object which, per Core Claim One, is radically withdrawn from all interactions with other objects. What Meillassoux calls the Correlation refers to one particular kind of object-object interaction, namely the interaction between a conscious mind and some other object which that mind is trying to understand. OOO thus reaffirms the Correlation — what the mind discovers about objects cannot be separated from the mind doing the discovering. Not only that, but OOO extends the Correlation to all object-object interactions: water’s encounter with the salt it dissolves cannot be separated from the water doing the dissolving, etc. This is what I would regard as strong Correlationism.

So where does that leave us? According to OOO, the Correlation is inescapable with respect to any and all properties that any object might manifest in its encounters with any other object. However, the Correlation is purportedly escaped by each and every object’s real essence, which never manifests itself inside correlational encounters with other objects. But how can I know that this withdrawn essence exists outside of the Correlation? To pose this question is, it is argued, to remain bound by the terms of the Correlation, by the relationship between real objects and my thinking about them. The real withdrawn essence is, regardless of how I think or know about it. And I’m sorry, but this just sounds too much like a statement of faith to me, some tenet I might have memorized from the Baltimore Catechism when I was a lad in Sunday school.

OOO is an evolving and complex set of ideas that goes far beyond the issues addressed in this post. I tentatively conclude, though, that the OOOlogists should consider withdrawing radical withdrawnness as its first Core Claim. Then they can either look for some other way out of the Correlation, or go ahead and build out the radically strong Correlationism that’s implicit in their inter-object relational ontology.

I’ll entertain questions or disputes or discussions, and I’m eminently willing to be schooled further on the failings of my conclusions. After that, though, I hope to exit the correlation between my mind and OOO for the foreseeable future as I pursue other concerns. Thank you, and good afternoon.



  1. This is excellent, John – one main issue though, I think you misrepresent the initial encounter with any OOOlogist, I think it looks more like this:

    OOO: “Objects are radically withdrawn from all interaction with other objects.”
    Me: “How do you know?”
    OOO: “Why do you hate me so much? Is it because my original way of conceiving philosophy threatens your cushy status quo of SPEP and APA hegemony?”
    Me: “No, really, I was just asking a question”
    OOO: “But you are a correlationist, aren’t you? I can see it by the way you dress. No correlationist will ever even get the issues we are getting at. You are forever blind to our insights. You must first see the light of OOO, feel its powerful presence and convert.”
    Me: “I just remembered I have to be somewhere – goodbye”
    [pre-Harman reaction] OOO: “No, wait, please, I was joking, ha ha, everyone laugh at the funny joke, please stay, I am so lonely”
    [post-Harman reaction] OOO: “Oh yeah? Well, fuck you then!”


    Comment by Mikhail Emelianov — 14 June 2010 @ 5:50 pm

    • t seems that OOO wants to offer a description of objects without explaining how it came into awareness of this description. Is it sheer speculation? transcendence? revelation? Science isn’t boxed in like this. Scientists can tell you what they’ve discovered about objects AND how they discovered it. Of course it’s possible to critique science’s knowledge claims and methodologies, but at least science specifies its truth claims and makes them directly accessible to critique.

      I think it’s even worse than what you describe. The whole OO movement has the same arcane attraction that Tarot cards have, being invested as it is with a kind of a pseudi-animistic thinking affording objects strange inscrutable powers. Its success is probably much more due to this kind of allure, than anything scientific let alone objective.


      Comment by Post-Continental Satyrist — 15 June 2010 @ 2:12 am

      • Animism is an allure shared by many of the continental philosophers, all of whom want to keep hope alive for an unpredictable vital force to offset or even to overcome the ruthless cause-effect mechanisms that eventually wind the universe down into a cold dead husk. We can all recognize this allure in ourselves: I was a born-again even as I was training as an empiricist; I like thinking about portals and alternate realities even though I’m materialistic. Levi grants more credit to science than most, whereas Grant consistently pits his ideas against the “scientistic” bullies who want to destroy all the objects. Many others regard anybody with scientific or quantitative inclinations as either mental dullards or capitalist running dogs.

        I would like to thank you, Post-C, for actually talking about the psychology of the movement rather than the psychology of the leaders. Here I wrote what I regard as my final exam paper, but do my intellectual analyses get any attention? “This is excellent John”: that’s it from the only fully-licensed philosopher on the thread; no elaborations, critiques, alternative views, or other substantive commentary. “This is excellent, John”, and then it’s on to personalities and why engaging in the actual ideas is a waste of effort. But at least Mikhail showed up. Whatever happened to all the other bloggers who find these ideas so compelling? Maybe they don’t really. Or they’ve decided my ideas on the subject aren’t worth paying attention to. Or they’re so captivated by the personal snark that the substantive ideas put forward by the blogwriter fade into the cold distance. There is email if you don’t like the public tone of this thread: I can be reached at portalic@gmail.com.

        Well fuck them all, Post-C. I’m done with this sorry charade they call philosophical blogging. The portal to alternate realities beckons, even if those realities are occupied by no one other than myself. I have another post or two I’d like to write in my recent series about education, which also get scant participation from all those teachers and students who get so worked up about Middlesex.


        Comment by ktismatics — 15 June 2010 @ 8:07 am

  2. The “excellent John” part I like — I presume then that you agree with the gist of my analysis, Mikhail. The alternate dialogue? Yes, well, this possible aspect of object-object interaction goes beyond (or beneath) the scope of my present project.


    Comment by ktismatics — 14 June 2010 @ 6:05 pm

  3. To be serious though, I am pretty sure that the fluidity of the blogosphere allows OOOlogists to create all sorts of new nonsense every other week. The post you link to has almost none of the old OOO Levi was writing about 3-4 months ago when I still had the patience to read his blog. I say we wait until the monumental Oligarchy of Objects comes out and then we can at least be sure that these “doctrines” are set in stone. Otherwise you’ll always get the “I’m running out of the door, so this is very rough” 20 page posts and “I’m still working these issues out so bear with me” and, more popular lately, “I’ve been blogging about this for years, please look at all the posts I posted, read them carefully and then come back to me with your stupid questions” – life’s too short, you know?


    Comment by Mikhail Emelianov — 14 June 2010 @ 6:06 pm

  4. You posted your comment as I was writing my second one – my attitude is the following: I feel that I have put enough time and energy into trying to understand OOO and, early on, trying to argue why it is nonsensical, and I have concluded that it is not worth my time as an honest intellectual enterprise, so now I’m just occasionally clicking on links fellow correlationists email me (usually under the appropriate subject line such as “Idiocy News”) and mock them. This way I am able to sufficiently sublimate my “mainstream hegemonic rage” directed at their amazing international success and so on. Like I said above, I’m going to wait for the book/movie version.


    Comment by Mikhail Emelianov — 14 June 2010 @ 6:10 pm

  5. Right. As I believe I wrote two days ago, I thought that Levi and Graham differed regarding the terms of radical withdrawnness, with Levi’s being premised on an object’s unmanifested potentials in any given material instantiation (that sounded so cool). But now it’s looking more Levi is converging again on Graham’s interactional/essential division. I agree that the OOO is morphing as we watch, even though the ideas are typically presented so unequivocally that it’s hard to distinguish the tentative from the definitive. So I think I’ll take your advice and withhold further evaluation until the book comes out.


    Comment by ktismatics — 14 June 2010 @ 6:17 pm

  6. I also think our desire to pin down and hold onto some more or less permanent doctrines of OOO is indicative of our “old school” pre-internet mentality of traditionalists – OOO is a new internet-based movement, it’s flexible and shiny, putting it into a book form will forever ruin the interactive and ever-changing aspect. Judging my LS’s style though, I think the book will be at least 500 pages long and written in horribly boring technical prose. But I predict it will have a fiery introduction!


    Comment by Mikhail Emelianov — 14 June 2010 @ 6:23 pm

  7. I have to admit that I do envy the OOOlogists. Here I sit, old and embittered, with 3 — no, make it 4 — unpublished books sitting on my computer and more on the way, while these guys are being asked by publishers to write books. Even the young student bloggers are getting in on the action, so they don’t have to be bothered with blogging any more either. Graham talks about how much faster he’s gotten at writing books, but for me it’s gotten slower. What he acknowledges as one factor in his acceleration is what I regard as the crucial factor, namely an external call for reading/publishing that resonates with the author’s passion for writing.

    And Levi’s blog? Before the current OOO surge it was popular, but now it’s like it gets 10,000 hits a day. I think the fluidity of the ideas lends itself to blogging, and though he argues his points forcefully I suspect he takes well-reasoned alternative views into consideration in subsequent revisions. Finalizing a text for publication inevitably reifies the fluidity, as if the author will be held accountable for this precise version of the theory for 200 years. I can feel the prosodic rigidity setting in just thinking about it. At least scientists are always able to end their articles with “more research needs to be done.” Novelists too can clutch up under the pressure of eternal judgment of an imagined elite readership tailing off into the distant future. If you assume that no one is ever going to read what you write, then you have more freedom but less motivation.


    Comment by ktismatics — 14 June 2010 @ 6:33 pm

  8. “OOO: “Objects are radically withdrawn from all interaction with other objects.”
    Me: “How do you know?”
    OOO: “Ah, but now you’ve moved from ontology to epistemology, from what things are to how you know about them. Stick with ontology please.””

    Thank god for your yeomanry! And Mikhail for not travelling to commit epistemological homicides (or methodolical, or ontological, or just, like, you know, in general doing some illegal Da-Sein…

    And you wanna be envious of their prolific book publishing? Don’t you realize they’ve both had to turn into the very objects they both virtually love (and no more, since they ‘couldn’t’) in order to speed up the bragging about how fast their dull books are ready. And this is a couple of objects that are NOT POPULAR in certain circles!

    My point is that they are truly sincere and serious: They really have become consciously withdrawn objects and they sit there wondering about why they can’t communicate properly with the other famous withdrawn object. Life is difficult when you sacrifice it to you art!!! And this is what Levi and Graham both are–TODAY’s ARTISTS. oh my god, they are so fucking magnificent, they are almost as satisfying as cyber-fucking is compared to real sex…er, um, I mean cyber-fucking is just sew greyt, just soooo chic with totally withdrawn sensations…

    Love Mikhail’s noting the changes that have occurred after 3-4 months, as they throw chutzpahs the world around–and still, someone as dull as Catherine Zeta-Jones gets the NYTimes headlines today, and just for singing ‘Send in the Clowns’ badly…

    And also Mikhail’s saying it’s primarily an internet phenomenon. But unlike Urbanatomy’s Organ Workout that I so benefitted from despite the beastly malice, which I only stopped by shoving everything up Martin of Shanghai’s corporate bleug (she didn’t like that too much lost her cool when I signed in as ‘Arpege’ 4 times, actually maybe 5, one time I did ‘Arpege Greenblatt’ to really make him squirm), I’m not sure there is anything you can take to ‘enhance your offline experience’ from something that is already even in theory devoted to the propagation of sexual withdrawnness and loss of even rudimentary masturbatory skills due to chains and ropes and planes. Oh my god, John, this is the best post I’ve ever read about the goddam OOO, and I do think I must be ‘God’s gift’, since I escaped from the most heated periods of it, by working on non-withdrawn objects.


    Comment by Quantity of Butchness — 14 June 2010 @ 6:57 pm

  9. Yes I believe I’m going out on a chariot of fire with the glory laurel perched proudly on my balding brow. Having been both an empiricist and a mystic simultaneously, I recognize the seriousness of the OOO endeavor, the importance and the difficulty of building an airtight system. Surely it’s a good thing that Artaud never got too systematic in drawing up the plans for his theatre of cruelty, although clearly he suffered not for his art but for his madness.


    Comment by ktismatics — 14 June 2010 @ 7:56 pm

  10. http://doctorzamalek2.wordpress.com/2010/06/14/levis-daughter-and-ooo/

    Oh. My. God. Should we call them The Panderettes? Levi’s daughter has taught him about ‘abyssal black boxes’.

    I find this to be of a different order than the Kenzie Art Series.

    What comes across most strongly is Harman’s deep love and caring (despite not having even a virtual relation to her object) for Levi’s daughter. This wouldn’t seem to be proven by the punchline “Take that, relationists!” but that, of course, is only because you do not understand the rudiments and cores of OOO, and not only that, it is not comprehensible even to the experts.

    But they’re not telling about how they don’t understand the incomprehensible either.

    And that is not something to wait for.

    [disallowed material deleted — Ed.]

    So is the moral of this story that for Levi, his daughter-as-object and abyssal-black-hole is the message?

    That should explain the 10,000 hits per day, and why I’ve clicked the bleug on perhaps 10 times in 4 years.


    Comment by Quantity of Butchness — 14 June 2010 @ 9:34 pm

  11. “Take that, relationists!”? Does Graham believe that relationists, whoever they are, find themselves disappointed when they realize that their influence over their kids doesn’t really go very deep, and that they don’t necessarily know what’s going on inside their kids’ heads? Weird. It’s as Graham has appropriated Levi’s daughter as a weapon in his theoretical wars.

    Graham could just as easily be celebrating Levi’s confirmation of empirical psychology, which consistently shows that growing up with a particular set of parents accounts for something like 5% of kids’ long-term tendencies. The genetic influence of parents on kids is much stronger, however, typically accounting for around 50% of individual differences in variables as diverse as height, intelligence, and political beliefs. I’d say that genetics is a form of parental tampering with the withdrawn object, even if the parent isn’t consciously exercising any sort of manipulation of the abyssal black box. Of course these empirical averages don’t include all the idiosyncratic experiences each of us has over the course of a lifetime and that we incorporate into our individual distinctivenesses, and blah blah blah.


    Comment by ktismatics — 14 June 2010 @ 10:54 pm

    • Tres typique. My example was astute, and only makes you the more suspect, which I was in process of overlooking. Nothing to discuss. Maybe you ought to delete a whole post if it has something you don’t like in it (out of mere preference, since nobody was injured in what you deleted, and one was even given charmed appreciation), instead of making it look like I wrote that post as it was. As such, I have no intention of responding to your post to my chopped-up post. Mikhail didn’t write enough, the biggies didn’t run over, and you don’t publish as much as Harman. Okay, to be fair, either delete the whole post that has something that you just don’t like (as opposed to pure malice about bloggers, in this case no real names were used that hadn’t already been allowed) or put in a parenthetical and say ‘disallowed material deleted’. Either that, or don’t answer it. I have nothing further if you don’t get an honest policy, and deleting without noting it, and only when you ‘don’t like something’ is not a fair policy, just because you happen to feel in a state of underappreciation in a day when, in fact, real appreciation was shown you by both Mikhail and myself.


      Comment by Quantity of Butchness — 15 June 2010 @ 4:00 pm

      • I inserted the deletion phrase per your request, Quantity. Frankly, I couldn’t tell if the offending material was meant critically or complimentarily to the addressed party, so I deleted it on the grounds of confusing obscenity. I did save it, however, for my own personal amusement. Thank you for your support. And a big thank you for telling Dominic that his post is the second-best OOO post ever, next to mine. I don’t even care if you didn’t read his post in order to make a proper comparison: it’s the thought that counts.


        Comment by ktismatics — 15 June 2010 @ 4:46 pm

      • You know though, if one’s essence withdraws from all interactions, then one should be “really” invulnerable to interpersonal insults, with the resulting psychological pain counting only as features of the interaction without affecting the self’s vacuum-packed core.


        Comment by ktismatics — 15 June 2010 @ 5:52 pm

    • I’m dropping in on this thread quite late, and with only a tangential comment- but I think you’ll appreciate this.

      Have you heard it’s been recently discovered that most of the height variation in humans is due to single nucleotide polymorphisms. !?! Not genes, not crossover between chromosomes, not base pairs, but single base differences among individuals are now known to be responsible for a very large percentage of height variation in our species.

      When I hear things like that I have a harder and harder time taking any kind of metaphysics seriously. As enjoyable and intellectually stimulating as much of it is to ponder.


      Comment by anodyne lite — 21 June 2010 @ 4:51 pm

      • That is interesting. It looks like the researchers went for the aggregate statistical approach: rather than picking off these SNPs one at a time, they dumped them together into a predictive model. This sort of aggregated effect of bits of DNA argues for assemblages rather than discrete elements, which would set off cheers among one set of metaphysicians and boos among others. But that’s what’s good about doing science: if the first assumptions don’t yield results, try something else — let reality speak, rather than forcing it to fit into preassigned containers. Plus the solution for this problem doesn’t mean it will work for the next problem — one size and shape of object doesn’t fit all.

        On a related note… In another post I wrote about how genetic predisposition for IQ test competence is suppressed by poverty. Height works the same way: inhabitants of the Korean peninsula mostly come from the same gene pool, but South Koreans are on average 6″ taller than North Koreans. I see also that taller people are considerably less likely to develop heart disease than short people. Maybe it works like this: short people need fewer calories to survive, so they’re better suited to a low-calorie environment. High-calorie diets tend to be higher in fat, so to thrive in such a dietary environment you need bigger blood vessels that don’t clog up as quickly with plaque — hence tall people are better adapted to high-fat dietary environments.

        It seems to me that genetic-environment studies show that the inner cores of biological objects (1) don’t withdraw from contact with scientific probes and (2) do interact with other objects in the environment. But to trot out evidence like this and say aha! to the OOO guys once again strikes me as inappropriately using science to demonstrate metaphysics rather than to understand reality.


        Comment by ktismatics — 21 June 2010 @ 9:38 pm

  12. Dominic has put up an astute post called “The Harman Manoeuvre,” link here.

    “The Harman Manoeuvre, then, is the move whereby an aspect of the human-world relationship is attributed to relationships between objects in general, such that the ability of humans to sustain such relationships with bits of the world is reframed as only a local instance of a general rule.

    I agree. In my post I contend that the presumably inescapable relationship between a thinking mind and the object of its thought — what Meillassoux terms “the Correlation” — is transformed by the Harman Maneuver into a local instance of the general Correlation between any object encountering any other object.


    Comment by ktismatics — 15 June 2010 @ 2:54 pm

  13. Eloise you’re a grown-up woman and I am really not going to hand a handkerchief to your masochistic weeping about the successes of the OO bitches. However be reminded that in many ways, you’re a better writer than the Narcissistic cat, whose posts I read by skimming to the juicy parts (usually if they refer to psychoanalysis). The cat is a good professor, he likes to explain things. But his dryness will never allow for a bestseller, and he will most likely remain in the shadow of the Temptress, to whom the cat foolishly sold her nine lives.


    Comment by post-post continental satyr — 15 June 2010 @ 4:25 pm

  14. I get to bitch once in awhile — it gives me at least the appearance of being a human object.


    Comment by ktismatics — 15 June 2010 @ 4:47 pm

  15. Well this post did get a lot of hits, and some entertaining commentary besides. I just gotta quit taking this shit too serious, since it’s clear hardly anyone else does. Moving on to other topics tomorrow.


    Comment by ktismatics — 15 June 2010 @ 8:25 pm

  16. The only one not being complimented in that delicious material was Harman, who was doing a rather paltry imitation (although the parallel was a little hastily sketched). ‘Martin’ was quite impressive at that point, having called me, as a result of my baby picture rejection ‘you really are the fucking evil devil genius of my dreams’, and was still fun back then. Only non-complimentary insofar as what ensued later showed, in which I was just fine with the distinct possibility that my preference of my adult sexuality over some cheap sentimentality over my babyhood was not, after all, immoral. But in that early heat, it was something that obviously pointed to a potential that has now been proven forevermore to be closed. It does sometimes seem strange to me that I didn’t work the corporate bleug angle much earlier on, as such i started with it, I think, in late February, and stopped about 3 weeks ago. I have no idea if anyone was aware of it except one bleuger (you know who that is, of course, so don’t mention it) who I even sent links to sometimes. I was so totally outrageous I couldn’t even believe it myself, but I never fell for any bait: once someone wrote about how they were putting in Shanghai a bull sculpture such as the one at Bowling Green downtown in front of Standard & Poor’s that people always feel up ‘certain male parts’. I wrote that I had indeed felt these here, but that I preferred a more human South American statue at Museum of Nat. History, which had ‘better whoreparts’. I’ve written some of this up at Arpege–he started finally deleting me only when I told him that his guidebook intros could be turned into gorgeous poems–but he thought only of the critical aspect of this, because he knows that I totally refute his dismissal of all traditional forms,and his hypnotic cultivation of aura had taken me a long time to see through. But it’s an interesting aporia there–he really doesn’t see culture as legitimately existing in any of the traditional forms of poetry (if he did, he could be a Baudelaire), music, dance, etc., which is also unlike Dominic, btw, who does write real poetry. I thought martin could write dazzling poetry, but that goes against his OWN philosophy. He’s rather write publicity copy that says absurd things like ‘
    As for the things about Arpege, all those were meant as compliments to her inscrutable wit, which many months of Time Warner and HBO talk were topped with wanting to go to a restaurant across the street from one of these media conglomerates (not that she literally wanted a ‘view of Time Warner’)

    To wit, he writes things like “Staged in the world’s most sublime city, the 2010 World Expo exhausts superlatives.” and “Shanghai, a dynamic metropolis whose most precious heritage is modernity, and whose very nostalgia – dressed in Art Deco dreams – is already futuristic. In returning to tomorrow, Shanghai and the World Expo are jointly rediscovering their roots.”

    Well, I quote these because this kind of talk is what once convinced me that he had a point about ‘new culture in the free market’, etc., when basically Hyperstition is Hyperbole (these were written in the real name of the thirster, so it’s not a problem if he wants to swoop in, denying Martin just like Peter did Jesus or whatever), but traxus agrees with me (and first brought it up perhaps two years ago) that Nick (real name usable here, quite outside any of the silly online follies) is not interested in culture in the ‘European sense’. I hadn’t understood what he meant at the time, but it makes sense to me now: It’s a Rubicon he couldn’t cross while still thinking he was ‘himself’, even though I’d think it was genius poetry. I imagine he could ‘be as good (possibly even better or more to my taste in styles) a poet as Dominic’, but he can’t because he won’t. Therefore, he thinks I should think Guidebook intros which display brilliant writing talents should be praised to the hills, and I’m just not going to praise guidebook writing beyond a certain point–viz., that it shows vast potential.

    MY TELLING you and others (aside from the one who’s been kept apprised) is proof that that whole episode is totally over in my mind, and the one correction I’ve made is to keep private matters (when they’re very precious) totally off the internet, and even in person, I won’t relate certain details to bleugers (one is about to come by in the next few days). It is too treacherous, and you might lose the most important treasures in your life. Fortunately, the Hollywood fellow didn’t fit that qualification, but that was the ‘episode’ that allowed me finally to escape this.

    SO–what I was just doing was comparing Harman to ME, i guess. I found his interest in Levi’s daughter to be outrageously inhuman, and even his description of Levi’s ‘relation’ (I have to use quotes for that, don’t I, since Levi is already so sophisticated he is under no illusions of relating to his daughter; can he even really visually ‘see’ her, or is she by now an imaginary object, left there to prove Graham Harman’s theories via Marshall MacLuhan (I fucking couldn’t BELIEVE the talk about ‘the medium is the message’, once hilariously parodied as ‘the medium is the MASSAGE’…) Brave new world, eh? Whadda these types require, maiming and mayhem before they realize that they do care for ‘other human objects?’ and to ‘fuck OOO’ in favour of halfway decent human relationships, that at very least, do exist?

    “is transformed by the Harman Maneuver into a local instance of the general Correlation between any object encountering any other object.”

    I can’t resist this, so you can disallow it if you need to. Harman would naturally want anything others see, Dominic’s words “such that the ability of humans to sustain such relationships with bits of the world is reframed as only a local instance of a general rule”, that it was only a ‘local matter’, since that would keep it from being a ‘cosmopolitan one’. That he wouldn’t be able to stand, and would need to contrive some new strands of OOO which lauded the Triscuits.

    Oh yes, this will explain the ‘confusing obscenity’. It was subtle and yet not really immoral, because I was comparing my adult body to a baby picture of MYSELF. If it had been of any other child, it would have constituted a kind of criminal fantasy. But it SEEMS almost criminal to many anyway. It’s not. It’s called acceptance of physical adult sexuality when you really can accept the unsentimentality that that entails. In other words, as you get older, sexual functioning with a lover is better the less and less it ever refers to any kind of ideas of morality, and I don’t think it’s that common for this to really become fully liberated. It’s morally neutral. ESPECIALLY when you are functioning with one who as also left violence and game-playing behind. The ‘whoreparts’ are then not ‘separated off’ as….objects….in a deleterious way from the other parts of the body, but instead ARE given focus as the obvious loci of pleasure that the other parts were not specically made for.

    But the sterility of pouncing on every event in daily life as means to propagate OOO is disagreeable in the extreme to me. It even gives license to someone to potentitally not even try to raise his child, or to decide that every little phenomenon he observes is ‘so profound and meaningful’ and ‘even more intelligent than ME’, instead of just going on and fucking living with other people, including your own children. Actually, although Levi bores me as well, at least it’s his child, and he is not the type (I’m fairly sure) who would let this thing go beyond minor OOO ‘trending’. Harman sounded quite excited by the ghoulishness of the whole matter of this ‘living subject’ (sorry, object), and hadn’t the slightest interest in letting her live anybody but HIS life (at least that’s how it read. Rather, this child living her own life, in fact, should NOT really interest him, but it shouldn’t be something so blatantly obvious, in that now that she is a ‘specimen for study’ at OOO Laboratories, she has A New Life and is Extremely Interesting!)


    Comment by Quantity of Butchness — 15 June 2010 @ 8:25 pm

    • That’s what I thought you meant. I like the OOO Laboratories, and think it should apply for many grants immediately.


      Comment by ktismatics — 15 June 2010 @ 10:04 pm

      • “Where I think Dominic is wrong is in saying that my model of sleeping objects only intermittently entering into meaningful relations with other objects replicates the distinction between first-order chaos and second-order meaning. After all, my first-order chaos is in no way a primal flux or unity. It is made up of discrete individuals, they simply aren’t in relation at the moment.”

        I bet you give up OOO and this gorgeous and effulgent discourse about as quickly as when you have a ‘give up bleuging’ attack. i mean, just look at the above. The Master says not only ‘where dominic is wrong’, but also that Shaviro’s favourite part of Dominic’s piece is the ‘weakest’.

        Also Sprach Zarathustra. I also reserved a loess favourable opinion of this one, though, because i read perhaps half of its self-importance, sprinkled with pure shit like ‘serious people like Meillassoux’. Harman is insufferable, and he knows he’s slipping. It may not play in Peoria, but it definitely isn’t playing in Alex.


        Comment by Quantity of Butchness — 15 June 2010 @ 11:17 pm

      • I see Harman in the eponymous role of a new ‘I, Claudius’, which ought to help Mikhail rewrite his opera masterpiece, so he can get the mise-en-scene piss-perfect. I don’t want Levi in the proceedings, though, but rather Tom Cruise…


        Comment by Quantity of Butchness — 15 June 2010 @ 11:26 pm

      • How come I didn’t get a shout-out from either Harman or Shaviro? Even if Shaviro had quoted the worst part of my post I’m sure I’d have been thrilled, although it wasn’t on his real blog now was it? And where is Dominic? Apparently he’s receded back into hermetic withdrawal, not acknowledging any of the attention being bestowed upon him. Maybe he tweets about it.

        These may be terms of art that, but I’m pretty sure that the first-order chaos is made up of the big bang and its immediate aftermath. Apparently each continental philosopher gets to have his or her own first-order chaos, defining the primal conditions from which he or she emerged. Also, I believe I may change the message on my phone’s answering machine: “I’m sorry, but I simply am not in relation at the moment.”


        Comment by ktismatics — 16 June 2010 @ 6:14 am

  17. I too think this is an excellent analysis, for what it’s worth.

    In general, I think, the problem with the use of the term ‘correlationism’ is that it seems not even to consider the philosophical position that most people, I believe, would adopt as a matter of common sense: we only have epistemological access to objects via our relations with objects, but most objects can nonetheless exist independent of those relations (and we can know about that independent existence via the relations). It’s as if the critics of ‘correlationism’ believe that everyone else in the world is a Berkeleyan idealist. It all seems like a bit of a non-problem, to me.

    (And of course the fact that aspects of an object can be unknown doesn’t mean that they’re necessarily unknowable. Or indeed that they’re necessarily knowable. It probably depends on the object, is my feeling (and on us). It might even be worth doing some empirical (rather than speculative) studies of these ‘object’ things.)


    Comment by duncan — 15 June 2010 @ 8:28 pm

  18. I definitely value your opinion, Duncan, especially when it involves praise for me. No, just kidding; I’ve found your ideas very sharp and helpful in prior discussions.

    How could anything ever get out of the Correlation? Everything is in the universe together; there is no place else to go. The alternative, as we discussed on your blog, is to invoke some sort of radical discontinuity like strong emergence of primary Difference or the Badiouan Event without cause or miracles or hermetic essences, all of which in effect slip the object out of the material universe. I suppose transcendent Mind would do the same trick for the thinking subject.

    Empiricism doesn’t claim transcendence of the scientific mind, but rather it devises systematic ways of compensating for the biases and limitations of human perception and cognition. There’s also no way of isolating objects from the environment in order to study them in their withdrawn hermetic isolation; rather, it’s more of a triangulation or parallax from various points of observation and various types of interactions with other objects. This approach doesn’t attempt a direct encounter between the scientist and the thing in itself, because there are all sorts of observational technologies and measurement instruments and mathematical analyses positioned between the scientist and the studied object. We could get into a discussion of whether science progressively discovers knowledge about objects or whether, per Latour, science creates new knowledge, but that’s another topic.

    And yes I agree that different sorts of objects are knowable in different ways at different levels of detail. Empirical scientists “let the objects speak” then listen, rather than forcing them to recite some sort of canned script written for them by the theorists. “Let the objects speak” should be inscribed on a plaque on the wall of the OOO Laboratories.


    Comment by ktismatics — 15 June 2010 @ 10:47 pm

  19. Thanks ktismatics…

    How could anything ever get out of the Correlation?

    Well I mean if the correlation is human beings thinking about stuff, then I’m pretty sure there’s plenty of stuff we don’t think about. If we’re talking a Harman-style transplanting of phenomenology’s theory of consciousness onto object-object relations, on the other hand, then yes – I guess that where there are objects there’s a correlation. [Though I suppose the question then becomes “what’s an object?” – I haven’t read enough Harman to have a good sense of his answer to that. (Though I gather his definition’s pretty expansive…)]

    This approach doesn’t attempt a direct encounter between the scientist and the thing in itself

    Yes – exactly – and this only looks like a problem from a specific philosophical perspective – a sorta-Kantian perspective in fact – which believes in the credibility of the concept of the ‘in itself’ (even as radically inaccessible, etc.) The way I see things, if I observe an object (Tool-being, say), and make some observations about it (green cover; three chapters), then I’ve learned some stuff about the object itself. It doesn’t to me make much metaphysical sense to draw a boundary between the object’s experientially knowable properties (as phenomenal) and its in-itself essence: if you do that you’ve pretty much committed yourself to a noumenal unknowable core right out of the gates – and you’re stuck with all the problems you discuss in the post. Harman seems to think that this commitment is necessary for thought of objects to be coherent – but I think that’s because he has a sense of the experientially-accessible as consciousness-dependent: i.e. because he’s in fact an idealist of sorts (that is – an idealist w/r/t anything we can actually know about or experience).

    What’s missing from this sort of approach, I think, is a concept of representation or perception as something that actually represents or perceives – i.e. that really does give you knowledge of an object as an independent entity, while itself not being the object (and without some noumenal mystery being required to maintain the object’s object-hood). I dunno why this is so hard for a specific kind of philosopher to think: my best guess is that training in phenomenology convinces people it’s impossible (the phenomenological reduction is seen as a condition of credible philosophical thought), and they never go back and revise this opinion when they abandon phenomenology in other respects. But I’m only on the margins of all this stuff – you know much more about Harman & co’s work than I do.


    Comment by duncan — 16 June 2010 @ 7:29 am

  20. I agree on the Correlation and its variants.

    I’ve written a bit about perception in the past, including the last paragraph of my previous post as well as this one from last week. We can acknowledge that the book cover isn’t really red while still asserting that our perception of its phenomenological redness is caused by the real book cover. When we start thinking about the spectrum of light wavicles bouncing off a reflective surface and onto our retinal cones, it may seem that we’re getting alienated from the real book cover, with microscopes and spectrometers and scientific theories inserting themselves between us and it. This feeling of alienation may be no more than nostalgia for the idealistic days of yore when we believed we could intuit the real. Maybe the real withdraws from intuition but exposes itself to microscopes ;)


    Comment by ktismatics — 16 June 2010 @ 8:18 am

  21. One more thing that doesn’t really have anything to do with OOO as far as I know. Sensation, perception, cognition: these mechanisms aren’t attuned to the Real because of some sort of a priori transcendental correspondence between the subjective and the objective. These functions evolved as mechanisms that enable the organism to detect aspects of the environment that affect the organism’s survival. Creatures that couldn’t distinguish prey from predator, solid surfaces from ledges, walls to hide behind from open space — they didn’t survive to pass along their quirky perceptual systems to their progeny. Distinguishing red from blue isn’t essential to all species — cats and dogs can’t do it — but it does afford certain advantages to our species in apprehending features of the real environment, not least of all for artists.


    Comment by ktismatics — 16 June 2010 @ 9:09 am

  22. Thanks, yes. I suppose my inclination is to say that the book cover is really red – at least: this is a true statement within lots of legitimate language-games – and then to do social-discursive analytic work about the uses and scope of the different language games in question? (For instance, in certain contexts related to scientific pedagogy, it’s equally correct to say that the book cover isn’t really red.) I realise those sorts of meta-discursive manoeuvres can be pretty annoying and facile; but I think they can sometimes prevent reifications of conceptual distinctions that are (like all conceptual distinctions) always only contextual?

    So for instance some philosophers move from the fact that the book isn’t ‘really’ red (i.e. our perception of the book as red is only ever relational – which I agree with completely), to the idea that ‘redness’ must be a purely perceptual thing, and from there we get weird stuff like theories of ‘qualia’ – as if in-itself-objecthood must be recreated, but this time as a wholly subjective object. Then the objectivity of the non-subjective object (the book) perceived in our experience of redness needs to be understood afresh – and the philosophers produce a distinction between perception (of ‘redness’) and the cause of that perception (the book). Which distinction itself has real legitimacy of course (that’s how we can misperceive things). But it’s nonetheless true that the causal chain that produces the perception is part of the perception – so in many contexts the distinction’s going to be a somewhat artificial and probably unhelpful one.

    I’m agreeing, in other words – or at least I think I am; I like the way you put all this. I guess my own view on the question you ask at the end of the post you link to – Can any of these philosophical distinctions be addressed through empirical scientific investigation? Or are they just interesting ideas to speculate about? – is that perceptual mechanisms and properties of objects can (as you say) be investigated scientifically; the conceptual resources and modes of discourse related to different conceptions of objecthood (and their uses) can be investigated sociologically (and I guess psychologically); and beyond that it’s interesting and sometimes sort of freaky to think about, but you’re probably not going to get a metaphysically correct answer. (Although I always like to leave a gap for the possibility of revelation and so on – which I don’t have any faith in myself, but don’t see any legitimate way to discount as a possibility.)


    Comment by duncan — 16 June 2010 @ 9:13 am

  23. Maybe the real withdraws from intuition but exposes itself to microscopes ;)

    Yes that’s great – and that’s sort of the starting point for some of this metaphysics, I think. Like, After Finitude starts with the distinction between primary and secondary qualities – which is really a distinction between different modes of perception, the everyday mode and the mode institutionalised in certain forms of scientific practice. Then the metaphysician sort of reifies one of these modes as if it’s the only legitimate one; as if everyday perception tells you nothing about objects, as if it’s complete illusion. Then the metaphysician uses the same move to posit a reality similarly inaccessible to scientific modes of perception – in fact inaccessible to perception altogether – but somehow accessible to the student of continental philosophy, as long as he thinks hard enough and reads enough Badiou (continental philosophy texts are fortunately exempt from the general veil-of-Maya scepticism about phenomenal existence, as are conferences).


    Comment by duncan — 16 June 2010 @ 9:16 am

  24. These functions evolved as mechanisms that enable the organism to detect aspects of the environment that affect the organism’s survival.

    Yes, exactly, and that’s really troubling to some people, I think, this idea that there’s not a guaranteed fit between perception and reality, that the ‘deep structures’ of reality might at times be out of sync with our perceptual and cognitive apparatus. I put up a quote from Ray Brassier that expresses the unease particularly clearly on my blog a while back.

    certain advantages to our species in apprehending features of the real environment, not least of all for artists

    Yes – and the artistic thing is interesting, I think. People sometimes forget the extent to which evolutionary pressures are socially mediated, and have been for millions of years. Lots of animals have evolved incredibly complex and beautiful and superfluous stuff that really serves no evolutionary function except that other animals of the same species like it a lot: it’s sexy – or (probably sometimes) it’s just cool (social interactions not, after all, being limited just to sexual choice). It’s not as if the superfluous but beautiful (a category that includes artistic production) is foreign to the evolutionary process – is foreign to ‘nature’. (Or, I suppose you could say, the distinction between the ‘superfluous’ and the necessary is pretty dubious in this and many other contexts.)


    Comment by duncan — 16 June 2010 @ 9:34 am

  25. I don’t mean to deny redness per se as an interactive characteristic of visual perception systems, or even as a categorical description of a defined range of light wavelengths, but only redness as an essential quality of objects. In order to investigate color, it’s necessary to begin with the interaction — I see a red book cover — and then pull apart the terms of the interaction — the eye, the book cover — for separate investigation. And I’m enough of an objectologist to think that the eye and the book cover really are two separate things independent of their interaction. In any given perceptual event the thing being perceived precedes my perception of it, and so causality is justified I think. But I also agree with you that my — and my species’ — ability to see red precedes my encounter with the book cover, so there’s causation going the other way too. Still, to invoke the spirit of Meillassoux, there were objects in the universe that reflect red-spectrum light from their surfaces before any beings evolved that could perceive those surfaces and reflections. So in that sense red is real even before we godlike humans saw it, separated it from the other colors, and gave it a name.


    Comment by ktismatics — 16 June 2010 @ 9:34 am

  26. “a distinction between different modes of perception, the everyday mode and the mode institutionalised in certain forms of scientific practice.”

    This way of describing the difference worries me, construing scientific method as a set of institutionalized social practices not different in kind from religion or politics. Surely scientific theories are subject to interpersonal dispute and agreement among the community of recognized experts, just as Kuhn described. But scientists do take the real objects seriously; eventually theories are supplanted not arbitrarily by fashion but by better theories; i.e., ones that better account for the empirical findings. This sort of thing really is part of the OOO conversation, since Latour does regard science as a social practice and scientific knowledge as creation rather than discovery. So per Latour the smallpox virus didn’t exist until it emerged as a new object from the interactions between the disease, the microscopes, and the scientists.

    Like I said, this sort of thing concerns me. But I don’t think that science is a radically different way of going about things from ordinary observation and perception and thinking. It’s more a systematic refinement than a replacement.


    Comment by ktismatics — 16 June 2010 @ 9:49 am

  27. I don’t mean to deny redness per se as an interactive characteristic of visual perception systems…

    Yes sorry I don’t think I disagree at all. I’ve just got a Wittgensteinian inclination to try to preserve the real legitimacy of ordinary language discourse, because I think it serves a useful deflationary function w/r/t some metaphysical moves. So, for instance, I’d say that the idea of an ‘essential property of objects’ only makes sense in relation to a given social-discursive space (and it does make sense; I’m not complaining about its usage). If we’re talking scientific investigation (if the scientific community is the discursive space our discussions of redness are taking their orientation from) then I’m more than happy to talk wavelengths, and say that redness is not an essential property of objects, etc. etc. On the other hand, I don’t think that scientific discourse is a discourse that even in principle could supersede all other discourses (not that you’re saying that) (and not that restricting the legitimate scope of scientific discourse in this way is meant to be anti-science – I think the limits of the claims scientific discourse are the source of much of its authority)… and so while I’m strongly pro-science I’m also reluctant to use scientific results to draw ‘metaphysical’ conclusions – i.e. conclusions that aim to oppose themselves to ordinary-language discursive spaces without the institutional and empirical tethers of the scientific research community.

    I think I agree with everything you say, in other words. My remarks are really being driven by a (possibly rococo) meta-theoretical concern to legitimate scientific discourse in a robust way that’s also sociologically and metaphsycially modest, as it were. Those concerns need not be yours :-P


    Comment by duncan — 16 June 2010 @ 9:56 am

  28. Maybe we’re just two agreeable fellows, but I think we’re outlining a shared point of view that contrasts in significant ways with OOO. Not having any philosophical background myself, I find it helpful talking with you about these ideas to reassure me that I’m not missing some glaringly obvious truth. Plus now I can stop whining that nobody serious came to talk with me about the post. Thanks Duncan.


    Comment by ktismatics — 16 June 2010 @ 10:15 am

  29. Sorry, I keep responding to your last-but-one comment…

    So per Latour the smallpox virus didn’t exist until it emerged as a new object from the interactions between the disease, the microscopes, and the scientists.

    Yes, I think Latour goes too far, is too ‘constructivist’. There’s a way you could parse his smallpox claim so that it’s right, I suppose, but I agree that he actually means something much more metaphysically problematic.

    his way of describing the difference worries me, construing scientific method as a set of institutionalized social practices not different in kind from religion or politics. Surely scientific theories are subject to interpersonal dispute and agreement among the community of recognized experts, just as Kuhn described. But scientists do take the real objects seriously; eventually theories are supplanted not arbitrarily by fashion but by better theories; i.e., ones that better account for the empirical findings.

    Yes – scientists take the real objects seriously – their predictions and theories are subject to empirical testing and vulnerable to empirical kickback. But that vulnerability to the empirical facts is itself an institutionalized thing. Scientists let the objects speak, but they have to grant them their own voices in order to do so. The empirical facts speak, in the scientific community, because institutional norms of enquiry channel scientists’ own words in ways that allows institutional self-critique and contestation within a community that nonetheless retains its self-identity through that contestation. It’s a really impressive thing to have gotten institutionalised, all in all.

    One of the reasons I’m critical of the ‘socially constructed’ vs. ’empirically objective’ or ‘pomo’ vs. ‘realist’ oppositions is that they obscure the way in which empirical, scientific realism only functions because of an institutional space and a complex set of contingently-produced normative frameworks. Facts don’t speak for themselves; truth is also a norm. I think there shouldn’t be any inconsistency in theorising these things in a pro-science way; but too often people move from discussions of social and institutional factors to sort of subjectivist claims, as if the two are connected. (People on both ‘sides’, I mean.)


    Comment by duncan — 16 June 2010 @ 10:15 am

  30. Maybe we’re just two agreeable fellows, but I think we’re outlining a shared point of view that contrasts in significant ways with OOO.

    lol – we should start scouting round the publishers. ;-)


    Comment by duncan — 16 June 2010 @ 10:19 am

  31. “I wrote what I regard as my final exam paper, but do my intellectual analyses get any attention? “This is excellent John”: that’s it from the only fully-licensed philosopher on the thread; no elaborations, critiques, alternative views, or other substantive commentary…..Whatever happened to all the other bloggers who find these ideas so compelling?”

    Well, I’ll take you up on it.

    I’ve weighed in on this before, and I’m on more or less the same page as you regarding the “No epistemology, please, we’re ontologists” line. This is a slight simplification, but an admissible one, a caricature that does capture certain traits and exaggerates them, but to a purpose. I say an exaggeration, because I assume that the distinction between ontology and epistemology does have a meaning in that the question “how do you know?” is different from “what is there?” or “how do they act?”; but I say a slight exaggeration because I have read this distinction being underlined many times, as if the one who asks “but no, how do you know?” is just sort of not getting it.

    I am on record as holding that Harman, Bryant, and other SRists (OO or not) are writing deeply interesting philosophy. Do I always agree with them? No. My mind is not made up, in fact, any more than Socrates’ was. But I do think they are engaged in the perennial philosophical task: elaborating a realism that gives relativism its due, but not more than its due.

    I also like the general Wittgenstinian vibe of the exchange between you and Duncan.


    Comment by skholiast — 17 June 2010 @ 11:56 pm

  32. Pardon my delay in replying, skholiast. First your post was held for moderation presumably because it contains 2 links, which I suppose the spamcatcher interprets as signs of a possible marketing scheme. Plus I wanted to familiarize myself with your blog — clearly I don’t get around the neighborhood often enough. I see that we both commented on Dominic’s now-legendary Harman Maneuver post at Poetix.

    I agree that “what is there?” is a different question from “how do you know?”. But what if someone tells us that “what is there” are “objects that radically withdraw from being known”? Now epistemology is built into the ontology: we can’t know the essence of objects because it’s part of their essence not to be known. And maybe that’s part of the point: to subsume epistemology within ontology. On some level I agree with that move: being preceded all knowing; knowing is done by beings. But to claim that beings cannot be known, then to deflect epistemological questions about this claim, seems like a way of dodging a logic fail built into the core of the ontology by artificially withdrawing that core from epistemological interaction.

    In this post I didn’t explore the distinction between the inner and outer relations of objects, but I see it’s something you’ve worked on. There may be a molten core inside an object that’s buffered from external interactions, but that core can be probed. A cell can be invaded by a virus; the bonds holding a molecule together can be broken and reconfigured. Plus the inner core may directly affect the ways in which the object interacts externally: the genotype expresses itself as phenotype; the molecular structure results in interactive features like hardness and solubility. And the external relations can affect the inner core: the fire that burns the cotton changes its molecular structure; the biochemist can tinker with the nuclear DNA strand in the cell nucleus. Plus, as illustrated in my latest post about the ecology of intelligence, the external environmental conditions of poverty can influence and even suppress the inner-core genetic material’s ability to express itself phenotypically, such that the poor person’s interaction with SAT test questions is affected. In other words, inner core, relational properties, and environment are more closely inter-related than OOO seems to acknowledge. But I get the sense that for the OOO guys the inner core isn’t comprised by DNA or atoms or molecular bonds from which the object is assembled. There’s something else that evades even the inner molten core that scientists interact with, some holistic essence that can never be touched by viruses or fires or biochemists. And that essence starts seeming like some non-material thing that’s outside of all interactions with matter.

    And now I’m reminded of a nerd joke my daughter told me yesterday: “My name is Bond — Ionic Bond. Taken, not shared.”

    I too find this stuff interesting, skholiast, which is why despite my swearing off from time to time I have found myself repeatedly drawn back into its gravitational field. At a certain point though I feel like I must resist the pull. Now I’m kind of like the habitual smoker who vows not to buy that next pack of cigarettes, then winds up bumming smokes from strangers on the street.


    Comment by ktismatics — 18 June 2010 @ 11:14 am

    • I doubt I can respond adequately here– probably irresponsible even to try– as i am about to dash off to work. But yr remark about poverty and SAT scores touched something off for me (I work w/ elementary school kids and have strong feelings on standardized tests). I am sure that from an OO perspective, the virus’ invasion of the cell and the hunger or desperation that gnaws at the mind of the inner city parent still leaves something untouched, some essence. I resisted this notion for a while, being strongly attracted to a relationalist stance akin to something out of eco-Buddhism, but there’s something I am attracted to in it as well– a refusal to reduce the parent to poverty, or the cell to its antiviral defense. I don’t say that the OO way is the only way to avoid reductionism, but I’m beginning to think that this is certainly a strong motive. I’m starting to see my way forward and will (I hope) post something, in the fairly near future, about how to do justice to both sides (relational and object). This I doubt will satisfy the hard- (or should I say molten-) core OO camp, but it’s a step towards something I think I can coherently present and defend myself, rather than just a host of questions addressed to some other smart theorists.

      Your point about the epistemology being built into the ontology is well taken. In this regard, it seems like an inversion of strong correlationism.

      I also note that this thread has a certain running daughter-motif. The ionic bond joke reminds me of one I shared with my own kid lately. Two atoms are walking along, and one of them suddenly realizes, “shit, I’ve lost an electron somewhere!” “Are you sure?” the other asks. “Yes,” replies the first; “I’m positive!”


      Comment by skholiast — 18 June 2010 @ 3:37 pm

  33. The molten core and its relation to relations is fully explained here.


    Comment by Carl — 18 June 2010 @ 5:16 pm

    • See, it REALLY IS a porous membrane between outer relations and inner moltenness. How’s Maine, or are you back in NC?


      Comment by ktismatics — 18 June 2010 @ 5:29 pm

    • I’m back in NC. Maine was nice, but I’m glad to be home.


      Comment by Carl — 18 June 2010 @ 6:03 pm

  34. I like the nerdy atom joke; my daughter does too. I bet Levi’s daughter doesn’t even get it — bwahaha! Oh wait, she’s only 3…

    Maybe the relation between epistemology and ontology for OOO is like a Mobius strip.

    You might be right about the strong motive for positing an inner core of objects that isn’t touched by external events, or even internal ones. Regarding reductionism, I’m not persuaded that, just because it might be possible to specify the causes of all emergent effects, that the effects are illusory. A set of genes may express themselves as short stature or flat nose or ability to do math problems or whatever, but these phenotypic manifestations aren’t necessarily less real than their genetic sources. We may be living in a negentropic bubble that’s doomed to extinction in the long run, but while it’s around the bubble is real.


    Comment by ktismatics — 18 June 2010 @ 5:38 pm

    • Hm. I don’t mind motivated investigation, but I draw the line at motivated speculation leading to statements about the nature of things. That we want something to be so for one reason or another is no reason at all to suppose that it is so.


      Comment by Carl — 18 June 2010 @ 6:06 pm

      • I shd clarify: it’s not that I think someone wd pursue OOP out of a will to construe things as non-reducible against some powerful and (to them) persuasive argument. I just think that the intuition of things’ non-reducible nature is very strong in OOP. It really isn’t about how they/(we?) want it to be (I’m not sure if I include myself yet); it’s about how things compellingly seem to be on the evidence and strength of argument.


        Comment by skholiast — 18 June 2010 @ 8:45 pm

  35. There are those who, through speculative force and the building of collective alliances and trials of strength, would create a reality that conforms to their desires. For them, epistemology would follow ontology: instead of discovering reality and conforming their ideas to what they’ve discovered, they create their ideas and conform reality to what they’ve thought. This was the old “hyperstition” project of the CCRU as I understand it, with Nick Land and Mark k-punk and Reza Negarestani and company. Hyperstition isn’t just a socially constructed reality, but a (mad) project for changing the nature of physical reality itself through powerfully imaginative ideas. From this description:

    “It’s not a simple matter of true or false with hyperstitious systems. Belief here doesn’t have a simply passive quality. The situation is closer to the modern phenomenon of hype than to religious belief as we’d ordinarily think about it. Hype actually makes things happen, and uses belief as a positive power. Just because it’s not ‘real’ now, doesn’t mean it won’t be real at some point in the future. And once it’s real, in a sense, it’s always been.”

    Am I saying that Graham Harman is a hyperstitionist, describing a fictional reality with the intent of making it really real? Well if nothing else it’s an interesting premise for a fictional project in its own right.


    Comment by ktismatics — 18 June 2010 @ 10:13 pm

    • Think about this: Latour says that smallpox wasn’t caused by the smallpox virus until after Pasteur discovered it. But scientific discovery for Latour is a kind of creation, a combination of theory and scientists and microscopes and the force of argument coming to dominate the scientific community. So in this Latourian sense the smallpox virus wasn’t real until after it had been created by this combination of actants over an interval of historical time that culminated widespread acceptance in the early 1900s.

      I think that Latour regards historical time too as a creation that continues past the dates in question. So the year 1350 BC recorded the first smallpox epidemic, but at the time it would have been called something else, and its cause may have been attributed to the wrath of the gods. That same year 1350 BC as it exists today projects backward in time our contemporary created understanding of epidemics, their spread, their cause, and so on. So the smallpox virus as a reality is projected back in time, as if it had always existed, whereas per Latour it didn’t really exist until thousands of years later. Pretty hyperstitional, n’est-ce pas?


      Comment by ktismatics — 19 June 2010 @ 7:18 am

    • As I understand him, when Latour says the smallpox virus did not exist yet yadda yadda, he’s not saying that the things we call viruses didn’t exist or that something else caused smallpox before. I take him to simply be saying that the entity discovered and known as ‘the smallpox virus’ through that whole process of assembly did not exist. Prior to humans fiddling with cow pox and so on various entities and processes assembled to produce dead critters, but in doing so they were not ‘the smallpox virus’ as we now know it because we’ve created that assemblage by participating in it as we have. What’s gained by seeing things this way is a rigorous insistence on not reading later assemblages back into earlier ones, and therefore a commitment to seeing the assemblages that actually exist in each moment. So to talk about all this in terms of reality is a little misleading.

      So anyway, how is a withdrawn molten core not simply a platonic form? Which, by the way, is what lots of philosophers mean when they say ‘real’.

      While I’m at it, to someone who says “Objects are radically withdrawn from all interaction with other objects” I’m inclined to say “Then why are you talking to me?” Which is more or less the approach I’ve taken to this stuff.


      Comment by Carl — 20 June 2010 @ 4:56 pm

  36. I don’t understand what’s meant by calling a virus an “assemblage.” What’s it assembled from? A few genes wrapped up together, without even a complete cellular structure of its own, and that’s about it. The scientific work didn’t involve assembling the virus, but isolating it and probing it and pulling it apart. How was the process of contracting and transmitting and dying from smallpox different before people figured out that a particular virus was the culprit? Scientists didn’t create the virus assemblage; evolution did. Seriously, what’s the meaning of “assemblage” that I’m missing here? Is it just social construction with these previously unknown mini-biocritters now involved as part of the construction crew?

    Withdrawn molten core as platonic form? In my new pal Skholiast’s latest post he calls it a soul. The OOO guys don’t regard the withdrawn core as eternal, nor that multiple similar objects share the same molten core, which would be ideal form. I think it’s whatever it is that holds the object together, that keeps it from dissolving into the external molten flux of a purely relational reality. It seems to me that science already works on this issue, without trying to force all different varieties of objects to cohere around the same unapproachable sort of essence. The strong force holds atomic nuclei together, gravity holds the earth together, the membrane holds the cell together, and so on. These cohesive forces don’t withdraw though. Alternatively there’s the more holistic aspect of objects: despite all the interactions the object engages in, it’s still a whole thing. Science acknowledges that too: scientific theory tries to figure out what sort of thing something must be in order that its various distinctive interactions with other things take shape the way they do. Science isn’t just staging and describing the interactions as raw empiricism; it’s explaining and predicting them based on an understanding of what sort of thing is entering into the interactions.

    “Then why are you talking to me?”

    Harman’s new book just came out — it can’t be opened (cue rimshot).


    Comment by ktismatics — 20 June 2010 @ 5:47 pm

  37. Well we know cells are assemblages because among other things the mitochondria got incorporated from ‘outside’ at some point, and viruses are pretty clearly assemblages because they can’t reproduce without hijacking cells; the components of dna aren’t much without assembly; and that’s without getting into molecular biochemistry. But backing out a bit, this is our current understanding. We think the virus is the culprit, but even now we know there are other important actors in the disease nexus, vectors and population densities and diets and immune system permutations and so on. It may well be we end up deciding that viruses are critically catalytic of disease but don’t actually cause it.

    But anyway, this approach to ‘the virus’ as a purified standalone thingie that could be sussed out in its own terms is already too platonic, as I understand Latour. ‘The smallpox virus’ is not just the biological unit but the history of its infection, identification, investigation and management, with all of the entrained legitimation of an engineering approach to medicine and construction of a ‘modern’ scientific ethos that grew out of the virus/human/science assemblage, for example. I’m not being very careful or precise here, but I hope I’m conveying that for Latour, ‘the smallpox virus’ is all of that stuff, not just the half-baked packet of ambitious dna. It only becomes what the virus is by interaction with emerging medical science. Thus there’s no essential enduring entity we can point at and call ‘the smallpox virus’, like anything or anyone else, only momentary assemblages of actors that produce effects consistent with their current configuration.

    This looks a lot like nominalism (it’s not smallpox until we call it that) or social constructionism more generally. But it’s not ‘just’ a social construct because generally that term is understood too narrowly to be just about human constructs. If we understand ourselves to be in society with viruses and climates and cows and so on, then what we’ve got in Latour is social construction writ universal as you suggest. The virus part of the assemblage will have its say; we can’t just deconcoct it away by unilateral fiat. I take it this is what Levi and Graham like about Latour, while (Graham, at least) disliking the also-expanded ‘correlationism’ where he thinks these relational constructs from moment to moment are what exists.

    As for OOO and the Forms, I’m hardly competent but it seems to me that the way the Forms work is by being the withdrawn essence, or reality, of the images that appear to us. Plato thought all similar objects shared a Form, but it’s no great stretch to say that each unique specimen can only be represented in transcendence by a unique Form.


    Comment by Carl — 20 June 2010 @ 8:06 pm

  38. Certainly the virus itself is assembled from parts; certainly the disease is an interaction between virus and vectors and invaded cells and so on — this is the sort of assembly that science tries to piece together. The scientists and their lab test equipment and their journal articles and professional conferences and public health campaigns — well that makes sense as a historical analysis of a change in human interaction with the virus. But of course you know what I’m bound to say: the scientists didn’t make the virus real any more than Galileo stopped the sun from going around the earth or Darwin created evolution.

    Yes I agree, Carl, each unique specimen can have a unique form rather than sharing a common one. Either way, it seems that we’ve moved outside the boundaries of realism as I understand it.

    Graham recently invoked, in a rather offhanded way I thought, the idea of a general object, which he says science uses all the time in the sense of species or chemical composition or whatever. That struck me as a pretty non-persuasive caveat for the OOO central premise of the autonomy of separate objects. What sort of object is this “general object” in the OOO scheme of things? It’s not just the collection of all the individual members of the species, or all material manifestations of the NaCl molecule, or all Honda Civics. It’s something more categorical, not unlike form, that applies to all specimens past and future that share the form or template or informational array. Again though, this shared informational pattern doesn’t withdraw from interaction: it can be identified and specified. So I’m still not sure where the OOO gang are going with the withdrawn essence without slipping into idealism or mysticism.


    Comment by ktismatics — 20 June 2010 @ 10:27 pm

    • I would counter Harman by pointing out that most scientists think the species concept is one of the most useless/pointless distinctions in all of science. It’s certainly one of the most widely contested and frequently revised, even today. In just about every course I’ve ever taken, my professors have had to explain to the class that many of the “phases” science identifies are actually just parts of a continuous process that have been named and broken down for convenience. Otherwise, there would be students walking around, obliviously assuming that (e.g.) Prophase is a discrete biochemical unit of time.

      You have to reintroduce human consciousness into the discussion in order to explain why a continuous process like the evolution of organic life can/should be broken into discrete units like species, clades, etc. I can’t see how this emphasis on names and categories is anything but a form of soft correlationism.

      I’d also suggest that most scientists would say that “general objects” all eventually break down into a primal-like flux of quanta, whose properties are basically “unfathomable”- nobody can intuit and few can even begin to formalize them. (There’s a great quote by some physicist or other, and I can’t remember which: “if you can picture quantum mechanics, you’re wrong”… Something to that effect.)


      Comment by anodyne lite — 21 June 2010 @ 5:08 pm

    • To give Harman credit, he tossed in the species-object in a seemingly off-the-cuff fashion, which surprised me in its own right. I’m not well-educated in philosophy, but it seems to me that figuring out how to account for similar or identical features in different objects would be critical to an object-oriented ontology. The idealists invoked a set of standard forms, to which matter gave imperfect individuated expression. Species seems like a kind of ideal form, with individual members of the species showing variation around the prototype.

      I wasn’t aware that scientists think the species idea is useless, but as you describe it I can see why. Regarding species as a conceptual convenience does bespeak soft correlationism for sure. And the unfathomable quanta sound like the ever-receding essential core, except that the quanta assemble themselves into larger aggregates rather than staying buffered from interaction. Generally, Anodyne, I’m with you that science is a better way of exploring these things than metaphysics. I also think that they use convenient constructs like species and clades not as a way of assembling truth about the things they study, but more as a catalyst to help them move forward. If the mental construct starts getting in the way, discard it and start using something better.


      Comment by ktismatics — 21 June 2010 @ 10:00 pm

  39. Two people are watching a bird fly overhead: one of the two is looking through binoculars. So there’s one person-bird assemblage and one person-binoculars-bird assemblage: two different composite “objects.” This is the shared POV of Latour and Harman regarding sensual objects in interaction. According to this view the bird itself withdraws from interaction: one cannot speak of two separate people looking at the same separate bird in this tableau. Because the two people and the bird are withdrawn from interaction, it’s not possible to say anything about any them in and of themselves. That doesn’t seem like ideal form to me, or even soul. It’s more like an alternative way of talking about things, a different perspective, rather than descriptions of the world. Per OOO the object is split between its sensual interactivity and its withdrawn essence. I’m thinking that both of those people are looking at the same bird, and that bird isn’t split. And there’s no empirical way to demonstrate this alleged split, because empiricism deals only with the sensual interactive aspect of the bird. Even to describe the withdrawn essence is doomed to fail, because any description I can offer entails mental or physical interaction with the bird, which isn’t its withdrawn essence. I’m with you Carl: I think I’ll step away from these person-bird-philosopher assemblages.


    Comment by ktismatics — 20 June 2010 @ 11:35 pm

  40. There are three birds in your scenario: the two you mention and the composite of those two available the moment the two people talk. But the meat bird is also assembling with the air, etc. It’s assemblages all the way down. This is why there’s no split. These discussions go awry the moment we try to pin down one local assemblage as the identity case. Science at its best is about construing objects that are the richest possible composites of the more local assemblages. As for whether there are withdrawn essences, meh. I literally could not be less interested in this speculative theology. If I want fictional transcendence I’ll dream up my own.

    Right, scientists don’t make the thingies we now call viruses. But they do, in assemblage with those thingies and people with fevers, make ‘the smallpox virus” just like the Colonel + Sun Records + radio + racism + repressed postwar sexuality made Elvis – although that kid who could sing a bit named Elvis obviously pre-existed all that.


    Comment by Carl — 21 June 2010 @ 8:38 am

  41. I’d say there is one bird and two observers of that bird. The two observers’ distinct perceptions are legitimate objects of scrutiny in their own right, and they both implicate the bird as well as their own sensory-perceptual-cognitive systems in an assemblage. However, there is also a real bird that exists independently of the observers and their perceptions. Graham and Levi would agree with this interpretation, which as I understand it is what primarily distinguishes their object-oriented ontology from Latour’s and your process-oriented version. The difficulty the OOO guys face in my view is this radical split they insert between the relational bird-observer assemblages and the bird-object apart from the assemblages. They agree with you and Latour that it’s assemblages all the way down when it comes to inter-object interactions; they agree with me and most scientists that there are also objects in their own right. Where they disagree with all of us is asserting that the object qua object is withdrawn from the universe of interactions, placing the object in some sort of permanently separate reality that seems to place it altogether outside of the space-time material universe in which objects and forces encounter each other.

    And that’s where I think that, while you and I disagree on process versus object, we remain realists in the sense that no essence or event or emergence takes shape outside the material universe. And in that way I’d say that you and I are realists whereas the OOOs are, like their objects, occupying a materialist-idealist split reality.


    Comment by ktismatics — 21 June 2010 @ 10:16 am

    • I think you’ve summed this up beautifully and as to substance it’s the shit. Just because my ocd got pinged however I have to disambiguificationistically insist that ‘realism’ is one of those counter-intuitive philosophical terms in which what cannot be seen and touched is real (Form, noumenon, thing-in-itself) whereas what can is mere appearance (shadow, phenomenon). So in that language game we are the idealists and OOO is bravely rescuing the real from our befuddled fumbling.


      Comment by Carl — 21 June 2010 @ 7:31 pm

    • ” And in that way I’d say that you and I are realists whereas the OOOs are, like their objects, occupying a materialist-idealist split reality.”

      Hola! That finally convinces me of the truth ‘a realism’ as well as of the sublime truth of OOO: They’re both wonderful hobbies, much like bird-watching (no bleug-post incest intended…) In fact, I think the plucky duo indeed inhabit their split-reality abodes with great dexterity, and I find vacationing in those abodes a little like going to some of the Italian villa replica resorts that exist in Las Vegas, as advertised in Los Angeles Magazine.


      Comment by Quantity of Butchness — 21 June 2010 @ 8:59 pm

      • It does have a sort of artificial feel to it all, doesn’t it? Let’s sit around and invent a reality. I suppose if we went Baudrillardian now we’d say that the OOObjects are the New Real, whereas material reality is the simulacrum which we delude ourselves into believing is the really Real. What we need as a Neo who can clear out the interactional Matrix so we can finally be welcomed into the hermetically withdrawn Desert of the Real.


        Comment by ktismatics — 21 June 2010 @ 10:06 pm

  42. Hi John,

    I feel like the guy who turns up to Glastonbury a week after the festival…

    Anyway, very good post this. And the previous one. I also enjoyed everyone’s comments (“enjoyed” sounds a bit of a strange thing to say, but there you go). Carl is right referring to Platonic Forms being like withdrawn objects. The thing about philosophers or theorists, see, is that they’re ALL realists – even and especially the Idealists. So stop looking at those shadows on the wall and come and see how it really is! The “realism” in “speculative realism” or OOO is a political manoeuvre, nothing more. Gives it a bit of urgency and truth halo. Makes it political, yeah? And it’s radical ‘cos it don’t want nothin’ to do with ‘umans, yeah, you facking liberals.

    And as for OOO being anti-correlationist: what else is speculation?

    Is Graham talking about correlation when he mentions Levi’s daughter and says “Take that relationists”? I simply don’t know. I do know that it is very pretty to see academics kids being roped in to prop up their theories. Classy.

    Skholiast is right that the OOO(hhhhhh dear) people are driven by an ethics when they talk withdrawing objects. At least, I think that’s what he meant. It seems pretty clear that Levi wants to map withdrawn objects on to a sort of Lacanian idea of subjectivity through lack or barred via another withdrawn objet. I just happen to think that this idea is philosophically incoherent and ethically the opposite of the intention. It’s a bit like getting excited by the idea of “free time” – er, you’ve just ruined the idea of freedom, subjectivity and time for me. Thanks for that. Hey, I feel a bit like Levi’s daughter…

    I reckon that this subjectivity of the the objects, so to speak, has been constructed to distance OOO from other object-oriented philosophies like Objectivism, and fetishism.

    As for the molten core, it doesn’t have to be eternal if you don’t claim know anything about it. It doesn’t have to be anything at all – and isn’t.

    Even Heidegger has a strong epistemology running through his ontology: the “worlding” of Van Gogh’s shoes for example, how we experience and how we know that experience. (Don’t ask me anything else about Heidegger, it’s been too long)

    Anyway, before I walk away brushing my hands and fall down a critical man hole… SR/OOO claims to want to discard the language/human factor from thought. It considers that factor to be a philosophical and maybe psychological dead end and thus all objects are given the same ontology because everything is an object, right? Like a lip-cup-coffee-burn-ouch object assemblage? This is supposed to be a kind of final Copernican turnabout in philosophy (poor old Copernicus. I had a Copernican pizza the other day, called a calzone), I think. It’s radical and all that. Well, I just don’t see how they have done this; I mean extricate the human to any extent. It’s a flattening of objects in the world to “objects” in language. The thing about objects in OOO, is they can’t even object. Like the stars above me, they just maintain a majestic silence.

    As noted by Duncan, Wittgenstein had a few things to say about this sory of thing:

    “remaining constantly uncertain what the cause of the phenomenon is; as if it made sense to say : strictly speaking no one could ever know the cause with certainty. So that it would correspond most strictly to the truth not to settle the question.” And they say philosophers just sit on their arse all day.

    “As long as there is a verb ‘to be’ which seems to function like ‘to eat’ and ‘to drink’, as long as there are adjectives like ‘identical’, ‘true’, ‘false, ‘possible’, as long as one talks about a flow of time and an expanse of space etc etc, humans will continue bump up against the same mysterious difficulties, and stare at something that no explanation seems able to remove. And this, by the way, satisfies a longing for the supra natural – transcendental – for in believing that they see the ‘limits of human understanding’ of course they believe that they can see beyond it.”

    They may say perhaps that all objects are essentially different, in their assemblages and their withdrawn core. But to call everything an object obliterates difference before you’ve started. Not everything is an object.

    “In other words: if this object is as private as we want it to be we have no reason to call it one object rather than 100 objects, we have no reason to apply the word object at all, and no more has he … For to say that he has a private object means that we shall regard no description which he may give of it as really telling us what it is like.”

    That description means providing an ontology, not just an epistemology. Just talkin’ loud and sayin’ nothin’



    Comment by NB — 22 June 2010 @ 11:34 am

  43. OOO-EEE! Maybe if you set this post to a lyric you could pitch a side tent at the Festival, NB.

    “they’re ALL realists”

    I suppose I should have realized this. No philosopher is going to propound an ontology of the unreal — although that would be more up my personal alley. The trick on divorcing a speculative sort of realism from the dreaded Correlation is to claim that speculation isn’t the product of human thought at all but that it comes from… somewhere else. “In Soviet Russia, speculation thinks you!”

    “Levi wants to map withdrawn objects on to a sort of Lacanian idea of subjectivity through lack or barred via another withdrawn objet.”

    There is almost certainly something to this, which if we’re lucky Levi will elaborate on in his second OOO book. For Lacan the Real exists but is never directly accessible by sentient humans, who have (correct me if I’m wrong) been castrated from the Real by language. The Real doesn’t show up in ordinary discourse, so you only hear it through the cracks — slips of the tongue, dreams, and so on. What Levi’s version of OOO does, then, is to extend this Lacanian Symbolic-Real split to all objects, and to extend the Symbolic from linguistic interaction so as to include all object-to-object interactions. This sort of thing is a lot like the Matrix, where all our everyday interactions with the world are unReal, even if the Real stands behind it giving it shape. So the Matrix is shaped by the Real, but you’d never guess looking at the Matrix that the Real consists of a cadre of really smart AI devices writing computer code.

    “The thing about objects in OOO, is they can’t even object. Like the stars above me, they just maintain a majestic silence.”

    Good stand-up material, this.

    “if this object is as private as we want it to be we have no reason to call it one object rather than 100 objects, we have no reason to apply the word object at all…”

    This is Wittgenstein, right? So, we extend this reasoning beyond solipsistic subjectivity to solipsistic objectivity, and beyond language to all forms of interaction, then we arrive at a world that looks quite a bit like OOO.


    Comment by ktismatics — 22 June 2010 @ 2:55 pm

    • “if this object is as private as we want it to be we have no reason to call it one object rather than 100 objects, we have no reason to apply the word object at all…”

      This is Wittgenstein, right?

      yes, you can read the source here

      So, we extend this reasoning beyond solipsistic subjectivity to solipsistic objectivity, and beyond language to all forms of interaction, then we arrive at a world that looks quite a bit like OOO.

      Of course, one could also pull a Badiou and say, of course it could be 100 or 1,000 or a googolplex; it’s an inconsistent multiple, but we apply the “count-as-one”. In OOO terms, this “count as one” wd be the phenomenal (“sensual”) object itself.


      Comment by skholiast — 23 June 2010 @ 5:01 pm

    • Thanks for the source and link, Skholiast, which I promise to read perhaps as soon as tomorrow. Does Badiou’s count-as-one ploy work for what OOO would regard as an object? I read about the first hundred pages of Being and Event before acknowledging to myself that I wasn’t really following what was happening. I understood the count-as-one as referring to the Void as being some sort of potential multiple that hadn’t differentiated itself into actual multiplicity yet. But each individuated chunk of actualized multiple can also be regarded as a count-as-one multiple in its own right? Don’t feel obliged to instruct me, but I am curious. Maybe these separate count-as-ones emerge from the Event, which strikes me as a sort of fecund mini-void from which all sorts of differences emerge. I have a sense that Levi’s emergence is more like Deleuze’s immanence than Badiou’s transcendence in this regard, but clearly I could be mistaken.


      Comment by ktismatics — 23 June 2010 @ 7:19 pm

  44. “So, we extend this reasoning beyond solipsistic subjectivity to solipsistic objectivity, and beyond language to all forms of interaction, then we arrive at a world that looks quite a bit like OOO.”

    I don’t think so, because the OOO folks want to say there are objects and further want to say stuff about them, but this is what Wittgenstein says you can’t do if you want to also claim withdrawal. Wittgenstein’s logic can’t be extended here, it’s terminal.


    Comment by Carl — 23 June 2010 @ 12:05 pm

    • I’ll defer to your opinion here, Carl, inasmuch as I know pretty much nothing about Wittgenstein — or most other philosophers for that matter. To be clear, though, I’m saying that OOO is an extension not of W’s philoosophy but of W’s objection to talking about solipsistically withdrawn objects. I’d think W’s objection would be even stronger if the object’s withdrawal receded even further than the inner workings of the lone individual’s subjectivity — if it withdrew from everyone and everything without exception. Nothing to be said about such an object, which might just as well be 100 objects or no object at all.


      Comment by ktismatics — 23 June 2010 @ 1:32 pm

  45. “OOO-EEE! Maybe if you set this post to a lyric you could pitch a side tent at the Festival, NB.”

    Ooo-eee! They do say Glastonbury’s a “million dollar bash” these days. Aha!

    “To be clear, though, I’m saying that OOO is an extension not of W’s philoosophy but of W’s objection to talking about solipsistically withdrawn objects. I’d think W’s objection would be even stronger if the object’s withdrawal receded even further than the inner workings of the lone individual’s subjectivity…”

    That’s right, you got it! It really is a case of whereof we cannot speak, thereof we must be silent.

    Would God count-as-one (as potential multiple), or a new dawn, or a seed, or death, or love, or a glance, or a small child, or an unopened notebook computer count-as-one? What would make them count as one, or anything at all?

    The void is limitless, God is limitless perhaps. But, in the end, they signify a limit point. Infinity is a limit. Sometimes comforting, sometimes terrifying – but, against OOO, always for a use. What can we say about it? It’s at the edge of our vision. Heaven may be in a wildflower and the universe in a grain of sand, infinity in finite – though now we’re saying far too much about an object, according to OOO.

    We have knowledge of death, but only as a limit. Then we imagine. An autopsy won’t tell you about death either, only its cause. The limits of language, and of the world, cannot adequately be described because words and things are both mutable (this is how language really does represent the world, I think). Unlike OOO, I don’t think that this is down to a withdrawn essence, which I find ridiculous and incoherent. It is the sensual world that is mysterious precisely because it is a world of interaction, not because its “true” nature is withdrawn from everything else.

    Making everything an object destroys this interaction and we have a world that resembles a dead moon. Of course, you can project any dream you wish upon the moon, including how it hides its face from us. You can say as much about these objects as you can about death.

    “I wanted to say that it is odd that those who ascribe reality only to things and not to our mental images move so self-confidently in the world of imagination and never long to escape from it.” L.W.


    Comment by NB — 24 June 2010 @ 3:23 pm

    • Mmmm, yes.


      Comment by Carl — 24 June 2010 @ 10:27 pm

      • She’s marvelous in everything i’ve ever heard or seen of her, but somehow this one comes across more as ‘sensuous’ than ‘sensual’. She needs a partner in it, so the talk can be addressed to him. Doesn’t mean i don’t like it, but the ‘interaction’ that NB intended to show is not there while singing sexily alone, she is to some degree ironically a ‘withdrawn object’, albeit one that looks beautiful (after she takes off that head thing, which is a nice release in itself, although the face not quite so beautiful here) and talks about ‘interacting’. I don’t know, maybe she’s interacting with all that non-withdrawn fire and Maxfield Parrish or pre-Raphaelite colour or whatever it is she always does so nicely, but the interacting needs a man, or it seems vaguely sterile in terms of sensuality, although not of sensuosity.


        Comment by Quantity of Butchness — 24 June 2010 @ 10:53 pm

  46. “And it’s radical ‘cos it don’t want nothin’ to do with ‘umans, yeah,”

    Most philosophy has a form of this to perch in, but it only lasts for those who need the hypnosis of the though, otherwise one tends to ‘come down’ from even such manoeuvres as ‘Being of beings’ and think of such things as pharmacies and dimestores or even printable coupons for free gifts (I just got one from CVS and got a free shave cream for it a few minutes ago.) But now that this discussion has gotten on some, I’ve realized that OOO is very useful as a kind of default position for comfortably ensconcing oneself in otherwise seemingly worthless moments (which had been rendered so by the OOO practitioners, since reading anything they write is sheerest hell, but letting them do a trickle-down effect is what they’re fucking HERE FOR! Time for them to goddam PAY UP! Yeah, and they’re doing it. I just push a little button in my head in the street and can see the immediate opposite of withdrawal in even the most seemingly valueless and even repeated-valueless objects. now, whether everything is an object or not I don’t know nor care, as long as there really is the interaction you’ve next put:

    “It is the sensual world that is mysterious precisely because it is a world of interaction, not because its “true” nature is withdrawn from everything else.”

    Quite so, and the $ (when applicable) only adds zest and verve, not degradation–IN MOST CASES!as the fine print on over-the-counter medications often reads. Not that that’s to everyone’s taste, but there are cases of professionalism in these areas in which monies will force focus on the hottest zones (you can’t get a pas-de-deux fuck without some serious funding), and force them to emit even more energy than usual, so you can leave out the kissy-cuddly schmaltz and make your whoreparts do la tendresse THEMSELVES, deliberately forcing all mouth-kissing away as odious…of course, you’re more into corn silks and maybells, I imagine, but if you can MAKE it here, you’ll make it ANY-WHERE…and blah and blah and blah…It is important to perfect fucking before going into too much botany or becoming a gentleman birdwatcher, although grouse-hunting sounds pretty butch.


    Comment by Quantity of Butchness — 24 June 2010 @ 4:25 pm

    • I also like your ‘count-as-one’, because one can, as I once was told one mustn’t, ‘auto-rusticate’ all this OOO, and maybe this can make it usable by ‘umans’, given it seems like one of the Garment District musical runs a bit more than it does ‘My Fair Lady’…i.e., as a kind of ‘counting-house’ of objects, it reminds me of the ‘Workbook’ of the old insane New Age Christian treatise of the late 70s written by the psychotic Helen Shucman of Columbia Presbyterian, who thought Jesus was dictating it to her. The first few exercises (365 of them) were things like ‘Nothing I see is real’. ‘I give everything I see all the meaning it has for me’, and it instructs you to look around at all things in a room are in one’s sight as exactly equal. Never thought it would be reflected in an upscale academic sojourn, but maybe Harman Manoeuvre has a subtext called ‘I Owe I-O-Way’ after all, and we get the Christian fundamentalism in there too. But this is not a useless exercise, because it does give one practice in giving equal credence to telephones, envelopes, the numbers of money owed, the neutrality of the phone bills, etc., and even the computer. I’m so glad I once took this course seriously and then through it out, because it, of course, insisted on ‘the tiniest grain of sand’, which I now more confidently translate as ‘the tiniest grain of shit’, and when it talks about ‘healing in any way’, I am much more confident about ignoring their other injunction about ‘the body, with special emphasis on certain parts’. It’s all so contradictory, and even says ‘you either believe all of the Course or none of it’, so who would pay any attention. After realizing the stupidity of that, you can then indeed give ‘special emphasis to certain parts of the body’, and go ahead and sell them. After all, until you do, you’re told that if you’re raped or sliced, ‘you brought it on with your own guilty’, so much better to just go ahead and say, well yes, this crazy old bag did know how to do her weird over-sophisticated Gnosticism, ending up a closed psychotic for the last 2 years of her life. Her co-author, William Thetford, had been in CIA mind control. It’s very clever, claiming ‘not to be a cult’, and yet spawning them all over the place (the churches are NEVER the luscious Catholic type, of course, and this gets tedious very early on), and also Shucman’s atheism is supposed to ‘prove’ that Christ, not she, wrote the overly religious text, which basically says ‘don’t fuck’. It also says the usual ‘there is no death’ and has this hilarious phrase describing actual physical death, viz., ‘the body does not sicken, nor does it ever even die. It is simply gently laid by once its use has been fulfilled’, or that’s close to the quote. It says ‘the special relationships often sought in physical relationships’, meaning, of course, that you can’t find them there. Well, I tell you something, that book is GREAT for making you pull yourself up by the bootstraps and say ‘Oh well, yes, you find them there. It doesn’t always have to end up as tiresomely as Tristan und Isolde’, so that one can then use OOO as a sort of adjunct to New Age paltriness about inferior objects, collect them quickly and give them their just due (after all, they did enter your life, and that must mean they’re important, doesn’t it, if only to you?) and then you have a lot more free time to focus on the objects that aren’t at all like these monstrous bore-things. Not that I expect anybody to live like me, but I don’t object to it. As one of me best friends often says ‘that feels good’.


      Comment by Quantity of Butchness — 24 June 2010 @ 10:01 pm

      • At second blush, it makes sense if she’s not fantasizing about ‘suits’, which I thought i heard in there (not the word), but rather the return of gigolo fashion, which is in the NYT today. She embodies the rich lady who’d have them, much like the one in Death on the Installment Plan who says to the boy ‘Come, my little love. Suck me in here’. Not emphasizing the face is right, though, and she does sometimes get it on the ‘mmmm…yes’, i agree. god knows, much better than beyonce, and gives the impression of the curves even if they’re not quite as extravagant as B’s. Intelligent broad.


        Comment by Quantity of Butchness — 24 June 2010 @ 11:14 pm

  47. Exceptionally well executed read


    Comment by google plus 1 — 25 September 2011 @ 3:49 pm

  48. This comment seems a bit spammish, but since it extends a compliment I’ll allow it. I have no idea what “Google Plus One” is, even after clicking on the link, but never mind. It’s curious, moreover, that this post has drawn a comment, inasmuch as Bryant’s recent post about the yellow submarine hightlights in my view the problem with OOO’s purported non-correlationism. If the object withdraws, then it has no contact with the world outside of itself. Knowledge of the world is one particular sort of contact with the world. So with respect to correlationism the alternatives are: (1) An object’s knowledge of the world takes place inside a closed system that includes both knower and world — this is correlationism. (2) No knowledge of world is possible outside of the closed system of the knower — this is solipsism. Or so it seems to me.


    Comment by ktismatics — 25 September 2011 @ 3:59 pm

  49. But whatever…


    Comment by ktismatics — 25 September 2011 @ 5:22 pm

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