It’s not uncommon to hear someone propose the ethical injunction to “treat people like individuals.” It’s mostly used in reference to the complicated ethico-political problem of negotiating intersecting group dynamics: ages, genders, sexes, races, classes, ethnicities, religions, abilities, capabilities. What does it actually mean? Continue reading
Tag Archives: object-oriented ontology
Coexistentialism: Unbearable Intimacy, Ecological Emergency. The manuscript is finished and off to the publisher. It’s around 110,000 words. The best thing about coexistentialism is the “co-,” indicating an ecological redistribution of Heidegger’s Mitsein (being-with) to include all beings, human, nonhuman, and otherwise. The worst thing is the “ism,” which is no doubt risky; it can degenerate into a lazy substitute for thinking along with other “isms,” but it could (I hope) facilitate solidarity, shared struggle, shared suffering, and shared feasting. Existence is not the best or the worst, neither optimus nor pessimus. It just is: existence. Continue reading
In his Corpus (Fordham, 2008), Jean-Luc Nancy develops something like an object-oriented ontology. Instead of an object or actor as the primary focus of his orientation, it is a body, a corpus, and instead of Latour litanies, he develops a catalogue.
Hoc est enim: this world-here, stretched out here, with its chlorophyll, its solar galaxy, its metamorphic rocks, its protons, its deoxyribonucleic double helix, its Avogadro number, it’s continental drift, its dinosaurs, its ozone layer, the stripes of its zebra, its human beast, Cleopatra’s nose, the number of petals on a daisy, the ghost of a rainbow, the style of Rubens, a python’s skin, André’s face in this photo taken on January 16, this blade of grass and the cow that grazes on it, the nuance of an iris in the eye of the one reading this very word, here and now? (p. 33).
…we’d need a corpus: a catalogue instead of a logos, the enumeration of an empirical logos, without transcendental reason, a list of gleanings, in random order and completeness, an ongoing stammer of bits and pieces, partes extra partes, a juxtaposition without articulation, a variety, a mix that won’t explode or implode, vague in its ordering, always extendable… (p. 53)
A corpus of tact: skimming, grazing, squeezing, thrusting, pressing, smoothing, scraping, rubbing, caressing, palpating, fingering, kneading, massaging, entwining, hugging, striking, pinching, biting, sucking, moistening, taking, releasing, licking, jerking off, looking, listening, smelling, tasting, ducking, fucking, rocking, balancing, carrying, weighing … (p. 93)
A corpus of the weighings of a material, of its mass, its pulp, its grain, its gulf, its mole, its molecule, its turf, its trouble, its turgidity, its fiber, its juice, its invagination, its volume, its peak, its fall, its meat, its coagulation, its paste, its crystallinity, its tightness, its spasm, its steam, its knot, its unknotting, its tissue, its home, its disorder, its wound, its pain, its promiscuity, its odor, its pleasure, its taste, its timbre, its resolution, its high and low, right and left, its acidity, its windedness, its balancing, its dissociation, its resolution, its reason … (p. 99)
A world where the body is squeezed, febrile, fibrillated, engorged, engorging on its own proximity, all bodies in a promiscuity thick with microbes, pollutions, defective serums, excessive fat, and grinding nerves, obese, emaciated, ballooning, vermin-mined, cream-smeared, burning, gleaming, toxin-stuffed, losing their materials, their waters, turning to gas in the vomit of war or famine, nuclear infection or viral irradiation. (p. 103)
…places are just so many spasms, rubbings, viral and bacterial swirls, gasolating bodies, immunitary bodies, immuno-depressors, in an indefinite reticulation of sequence-bodies, message-bodies, dissolving, coagulating, contaminating, replicating, cloning, breaking, streaking, biting, the whole chemical, archi-chemical corpus, an overpopulation of acidic, ionized psyches, bristling with the blind signals of a world of bodies in which bodies, identically, decompose the world. (p. 105)
Hoc est enim corpus meum…
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.