I found the cutting-edge of the creative advance of Whitehead studies. It’s in the new anthology edited by Jeremy Fackenthal and Roland Faber, Theopoetic Folds: Philosophizing Multifariousness (Fordham, 2013). It takes its cue from Whitehead’s philosophy, particularly on two points.
“Philosophy may not neglect the multifariousness of the world—the fairies dance, and Christ is nailed to the cross” (Whitehead, Process and Reality, 338).
Theology is most effective and interesting when it is theopoetics, not only in the sense that poetic speech about God is more accurate than prosaic or formulaic speech, but also in the sense that God is “the poet of the world” (ibid., 336).
This is a must-read book for anybody dealing with Whitehead studies. Even if you aren’t interested in poetics or radical theology, the book contains a lot of other discussions relevant to metaphysics, cosmology, ecology, and the history of philosophy. My favorite essays in this collection are in the penultimate section, “The Pluriverse,” which focuses on the cosmological/ecological dimension of Whitehead’s theopoetic philosophy, including pieces from Catherine Keller, Luke Higgins, and Roland Faber.
The piece by Faber presents an “eco-theopoetics” that synthesizes Whitehead and Deleuze in a radical affirmation of wild multiplicity after the “ecological death of God.” Moreover, “wild” does not refer to any identity or opposition of nature or culture, but is about the necessity of our constitutive contingency in the chaosmos. Nature and humanity are put back in their place (khora), becoming “eco-nature” and “becoming intermezzo.”
Nietzsche’s practical teaching is that difference is happy; that multiplicity, becoming and chance are adequate objects of joy by themselves and that only joy returns. […] The death of God needs time finally to find its essence and become a joyful event. Time to expel the negative, to exorcise the reactive—the time of a becoming-active. This time is the cycle of the eternal return.
The negative expires at the gates of being. Opposition ceases its labour and difference begins its play.
Gilles Deleuze, Nietzsche and Philosophy (Columbia UP, 2002), p. 190.
Drag queens flaunt their perversions and incite our laughter at them. [….] In the moment of laughter, there is transparency among individuals, as if the outburst of laughter gave rise to a single torrent surging within them.
Thus drag queens are the paragons and forgers of public morality.
Laughter freezes when someone who brings death to our friend or to a whole people gets away with it. Yet Nature does get away with it: the wind sputters through the eyes and jaw of a skeleton. We understand that we can laugh in the face of death. We catch sight of the possibility of seeing our death as a joke. We understand that we can die laughing.
You see our planet set in the orbit of the Sun, which is burning out as fast as it can. You see our Sun swirling in the cosmic maelstrom of the Milky Way galaxy. You see innumerable galaxies exploding toward immensities and distances that telescopes are not yet able to track. New telescopes and spaceship journeys into outer space will extend your vision of the universe ever further beyond the radius of our managed environment. It will direct our minds with material entities—stars, novae, and black holes—more alien and more forceful than any gods that we had imagined.
Alphonso Lingis, Body Transformations: Evolutions and Atavisms in Culture (Routledge, 2005), pp. 98, 123.
Are objects unities? Identities? Or, on the other hand, are they multiplicities? This question is answered in different ways in different kinds of object-oriented ontology. Object-oriented philosophy (represented by Graham Harman) is more focused on unities and identities, whereas onticology (represented by Levi Bryant) prefers multiplicities. Consider Bryant’s remarks in a recent post:
While objects there are, these objects are neither unities nor identities. No, they are multiplicities. The object-oriented philosopher, in a desperate gambit to preserve identity, declares that identity and unity are withdrawn. […] Such is the phallic logic that haunts object-oriented philosophy. [….] The onticologist, by contrast, declares that objects have no unity or identity. Rather, for the onticologist, objects are pure multiplicities.
Bryant brings up Leibniz and Deleuze/Guattari to elaborate on this point. An important aspect of Bryant’s position is that objects are wholes and those wholes are parts amidst other parts. Similarly, when the object-oriented philosopher (Harman, to be specific) affirms the identity of objects, it is not to privilege the whole as opposed to parts. In short, object-oriented philosophy and onticology both avoid simple whole-part oppositions in their respective definitions of objects. However, the question or unity or multiplicity nevertheless divides these two approaches to OOO. Accordingly, Harman (mentioning Deleuze but not Bryant) recently made the following comments about the unity-multiplicity conflict in light of his own call for more attention to Aristotle (in contrast to Žižek’s call for more Hegel).
[A]s long as it remains fashionable to take easy cheap shots at unity and identity with appeals to such concepts as “difference” and “multiplicity,” then you’ll know that we’re still running on the fumes of Generation Deleuze, which was fresh and liberating from around 1995-2007 but now threatens to become last night’s vinegary red wine.
In other words, Harman appreciates Aristotle (as well as Husserl) for positing a unity and identity of objects, and he thinks that the Deleuzian distaste for unity and identity is getting stale. Harman isn’t dismissing everyone working with Deleuze, he’s “just saying that it’s time to stop adopting all of Deleuze’s heroes and spitting on all of his villains.” I assume that Harman wouldn’t consider Bryant’s appeal to “multiplicity” as one of the “easy cheap shots” being taken at unity and identity. It is a shot nonetheless.
I’m not taking sides yet. I’m just paying attention as object-oriented philosophy and onticology continue developing. It is nourishing food for thought. I’ve been deeply influenced by Aristotle and Deleuze, and this question of unity versus multiplicity makes me want to read, re-read, and rethink.