I just noticed this interesting post over at Michael’s blog Archive Fire. In comments Michael writes:

And i think you correctly identify (again) one of the main issues: vocabulary. Any ontology worth the paper it gets printed on must include a sensitivity to relationality, and have deep appreciation of interconnectedness. As the saying goes, ‘on a large enough time scale everything is a blur’. The flux and flow of the kosmos, although not the whole story, is a major theme.

I like how you put this: “… a spectrum of objects with varying levels of internal interdependence. ” That is exactly how I see it. The universe is a differentially distributed field of relation AND organization – generating a wide spectrum of entities, flows, networks, objects, etc.

Believe it or not, I actually agree with Michael. Any ontology worth the paper it is printed on must include a sensitivity relations and interconnections. I believe, however, that this is exactly what my onticology (and Graham’s carpentry of being) try to do. OOO doesn’t refuse relations, it just refuses to treat entities as identical to their relations. Within the framework of onticology, this leads to an increased sensitivity to relation, not an ignoring of relations.

read on!

This is the work of what my concepts of exo-relations, local manifestation, and regimes of attraction are designed to do. Very briefly, exo-relations are relations with other objects that an object enters into. “Exo” denotes “external”. That externality is designed to mark the fact that these relations can be severed and that an object can enter into other relations. If we said that relations are internal to objects, then we’d have no means of accounting for how objects enter into other relations. “Local manifestation” refers to the effect these exo-relations have on an object. For example, because I worked in the yard all day the other day (system of exo-relations), my skin is now darker than it was before (local manifestation). If I language in my home for a few days (exo-relations), my skin will become lighter. My shifting relations have a profound effect on how my body manifests itself. These concepts encourage us to attend to those shifting manifestations as a function of shifting relations.

Finally, the concept of “regime of attraction” is designed to denote a set of exo-relations that is relatively ongoing and stable, giving the appearance that the local manifestations of objects are permanent. For example, we tend to think of our bones as fairly enduring features of our bodies. However, if we’re fortunate enough to spend a good deal of time in outer space we discover that our bones and muscles undergo significant weakening. This is because our regime of attraction has changed (i.e., the strong gravity of our earth). We discover that the strong gravity of the earth is a necessary condition for our bones and muscles undergoing local manifestations.

If these concepts aren’t relational, processual, and about interdependence, then I don’t know what are. So why don’t I just come out and say that objects are relational, processual, and interdependent? Why, despite my profound sympathy for process and relational ontologies, don’t I say that objects are processes, are relations, are their interdependencies. I won’t say this because while I fully agree that relation plays a tremendous role in the local manifestations of objects, objects nonetheless exceed all relation, all interdependence, all context, all ecology. As I argued in my Ontological Turbulence and Vortex post, objects are those minimally iterable beings that both fall into relations and can depart from any relations in which they happen to exist, landing in new networks, generating new local manifestations and arrangements. In my view, we simply can’t account for change unless we maintain a place for a concept of substance that cannot be reduced to its relations.

Since a number of folks seem bothered by the defense of substance on political grounds, let’s think about this politically a little bit. Presumably if you’re interested in ontology for political reasons, then this is because you wish to give an account of how it is possible to undermine certain forms of domination and oppression. Now what follows, in relation to this noble concern, if you’re an ontological relationist? Well, you certainly can’t theorize any movement beyond oppression or domination. Why? Think it through. Because the object that shifts relations is an entirely different object. Thereby nothing has been liberated. Rather, we’ve simply gotten a new object. This doesn’t seem too reassuring. What is needed is objects that are mobile and nomadic, objects that enter into relations, while always remaining irreducible to their relations. That, I believe, is what OOO articulates.

All this aside, I’m genuinely grateful for Michael’s continued interest in OOO and for him providing an occasion to think and articulate; that is, I’m grateful that he’s provided an exo-relation that has allowed me to undergo a local manifestation that I would have never undergone had I not encountered his post and comments.

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