In the responses to my last post Michael, from Archive Fever, makes an interesting (as always) remark. Michael writes,

an object/assemblage is not real if it does not make a difference/affect the world. All actually existing entities have force and consequence

For me the case is very different. If I draw a distinction between things and actants, then this is because I hold that things are irreducible to their effects on other objects. On the one hand, things are always in excess of the manner in which they happen to affect other things at any given point in time. No object is every exhausted by the manner in which it affects other objects. Even in that case where, improbably, a thing enters into all possible relations it could enter into with other things, there would still be a residue of excess in the thing that never manifests. This is a central feature of what Harman, I believe, has in mind by “withdrawal” and is part of the reason that Morton refers to things as “strange strangers”. Like Hegel’s famous “bone in the throat” (at least as read by Zizek), there is always something inassimable about all objects. I won’t get into my reasons for this claim (you can read them in the first chapter of The Democracy of Objects), but will only underline that I am committed to this thesis of the excess of objects over their actualizations.

On the other hand, because I hold things cannot be defined by how they affect other things, it follows that it’s possible that there are things that affect no other things at all. I say it’s possible, not that they do exist. How would I know? In order for me to know that they exist they would have to produce some sort of difference with respect to me or the social and natural world with which I dwell. Yet such a thing is precisely a thing that produces no difference beyond the mere difference of existing. It seems appropriate to refer to these types of things as “dark objects”. Dark objects are objects that are so thoroughly withdrawn that they do not affect anything else at all. Again, all I emphasize is that dark objects are a metaphysical possibility, not that they exist. Of course, if dark objects do exist, they would be thoroughly actual or real. They would just have the peculiar property of affecting no other things. And here, as an aside, I confess that I find the strange idea of living in a world with all sorts of dark objects of which I’m scarcely aware to be a thought that both disturbs and incites wonder.

There are, of course, many objects that approach the status of dark objects. Dark matter seems to approach dark objects in and through its elusiveness. Likewise, neutrinos often seem to have many properties of dark objects. In the realm of social and political theory, what Spivak calls the “subaltern” would share much in common with dark objects. Such too would be the case with what Badiou calls the event, and what Ranciere calls the part-of-no-part. In this regard, part of political practice would consist in diminishing the darkness of quasi-dark objects, of devising strategies to “brighten” or intensify their appearance in situations.

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