[-empyre-] Meillassoux / Harman
empyre at menticulture.com
Fri Jun 15 11:02:34 EST 2012
Forgive me I'm a first time poster with a long history of lurking here
and a some-time fascination with SR/OOO, and thankyou to everyone here
for an exciting discussion. I wanted to write something both as a way
of thinking it through and asking the contributors about the possibility
of separating the political from the ontological.
Tim Morton recently in one of his podcast classes on OOO summarised the
development of SR/OOO as a response to correlationism, noting that where
the Meillassoux strand of SR admires the correlationist approach and
attempts to ground or legitimise the correlate, OOO instead accepts the
correlationist limit but extends it to all relations, human and
non-human. Perhaps I could borrow from the Heidegger legacy that comes
through Harman to this analysis and say that OOO acknowledges the
'as-structure' that characterises being, and radicalises it to be a
feature of all relations, rather than just human Dasein. I encounter you
*as* something, as you encounter me; the cotton encounters fire *as*
something, just as fire encounters cotton.
I therefore understand OOO not as a way to provide an ontology that is
independent of epistemology, but as a transformation of the question of
"how we know what is in the world" from being 'merely' a methodological
problem, to a fundamental feature of being both an "individual" or
"object" (such as a human, a toaster, or a quasar) as well as a
component in an assemblage or world. Everything is interconnected,
albeit while negotiating a fundamental inner rift in which we also
encounter ourselves *as* something. Again following Harman and Morton's
reading of y Gasset, relations are tropes rather than literal.
In this sense the as-structure that runs through OOO thus seems to me to
be very consonant with queer theories. No object is able to engage with
other objects except through its own functional colouring, its own
perceptual morphology, its own heritage and identity, whatever material
or discursive agencies have been made to bear on that history. I
understand Morton's take on the uncanny ecology in OOO to mean all
objects confront each other suddenly as strangers, that we have no
'natural' categories to rely on, and no normative criteria to which we
can appeal - we can't even be certain of the extent to which we are
either concrete individuals in our own right or fleeting instances
playing the role of components within some larger being - perhaps we are
both - both representatives of a form or type, but also withdrawn and
thus always capable of being something else, someway else. In this
respect it very much means that markers of the normal are awash and
abandoned. Perhaps some of the tropes that have characterised the
development of SR - horror, the weird, anxiety - resonate with the
experiences of abjection that make queer such a powerful resource.
I think it is because this resonance seems so fruitful to me that I am
perplexed by some of the claims by proponents of OOO that the political
can be separated from claims about the ontological - if we are
constrained in our own ways by our as-structures, then right from the
outset we encounter the world of human and non-human objects as
profoundly political, raising uncanny questions of co-existence whether
we are human subjects or neutrinos or cypress-flames. So OOO, far from
allowing us to discuss "what exists" in politically neutral spaces,
rather radicalises the political questions of ecology and "being-with"
into the realm of the non-human, so that all objects are trying to 'work
out' how to exist with each other - whether to congregate or flee,
embrace or destroy, swap DNA and code sequences, or annex and withdraw.
This doesn't prescribe a particular flavour of politics, but it does
seem to make the political at least "equiprimordial" with the
ontological. I'd love to hear people's responses to these thoughts if
you have anything to share.
On 14/06/2012 23:35, Robert Jackson wrote:
> Hey All, - I've been subscribing to this mailing list for a while now,
> so I'm glad this debate is getting aired - I just hope it doesn't
> inherit the unfortunate slippage of tone that the blogosphere features
> typically in these types of discussions.
> So, I really don't understand this criticism of OOO, which tars the
> ontological 'equivalence' brush with capitalism or neo-liberalism.
> This is straightforward reductionism in my eyes. There are plenty of
> political questions which need asking. But asking the question 'what
> is' need not be a politically contentious one. This is what SR is
> precisely getting away from, no matter what anti-correlationist
> critique one advocates.
> The key issue here is sovereignty. If a current position can
> articulate contingent surprise within an ontology that's a start (even
> the early zizek took the correlated 'Real' has a sovereign theoretical
> given, to which ideology conceals or masks). For my money OOO (which
> Levi Bryant has argued), has an interesting proposition in that one
> could potentially argue that all real objects have an ambigious
> sovereign inner core of surprise which can never be fully articulated,
> by anything: whether benvolent dust mite or proprietary software. This
> might be a starting point for discussion.
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