The central error to be avoided is that of treating unity and identity as determinations that precede objects. 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 The object-oriented philosopher, in a desperate gambit to preserve identity, declares that identity and unity are withdrawn. This strategem arises from an act of recognition and a moment of disavowel. It is recognized that the unity and identify of an object is nowhere to be found in what is given. This recognition is greeted with horror and immediately leads to the operation of negation Freud referred to as disavowel. Like the logic of screen memories where the subject both recognizes that it is not there and then immediately disavows this recognition with an association to the last thing that was seen there (shoes, underwear, a dress, a flower, etc)., the object-oriented philosopher sees that unity and identity are not there and immediately covers over this absence with the thesis that, in fact, it really is there but only as withdrawn or absent. Like Little Hans who is convinced that his mother “has one” but he just can’t see it or that his sister will grow one given time, the object-oriented philosopher refuses to avow that objects have no identity or unity. Such is the phallic logic that haunts object-oriented philosophy. The phallic determinations of identity and unity must be preserved at all cost, even if under the bar of castration and presence through absence.
The onticologist, by contrast, declares that objects have no unity or identity. Rather, for the onticologist, objects are pure multiplicities. They are multiplicities without any higher order unity or identity and with no need of supplementary dimension to exist as multiplicities. If Husserl is unable to find the unity and identity of the objects of his intuition in intentionality then this is not because these determinations are withdrawn, but simply because they don’t exist. There are only pure manifolds. Leibniz says it best in the Monadology:
And the author of nature has been able to employ this divine and infinitely marvellous artifice, because each portion of matter is not only divisible ad infinitum, as the ancients recognized, but also each part is actually and endlessly subdivided into parts, of which each has some motion of its own: otherwise it would be impossible for each portion of matter to express the whole universe.
Whence we see that there is a world of creatures, of living beings, of animals, of entelechies, of souls, in the smallest particle of matter.
Each portion of matter may be conceived of as a garden full of plants, and as a pond full of fishes. But each branch of the plant, each member of the animal, each drop of its humors is also such a garden or such a pond.
And although the earth and air which lies between the plants of the garden, or the water between the fish of the pond, is neither plant nor fish, they yet contain more of them, but for the most part so tiny as to be imperceptible to us.
Therefore there is nothing fallow, nothing sterile, nothing dead in the universe, no chaos, no confusion except in appearance; somewhat as a pond would appear from a distance, in which we might see the confused movement and swarming, so to speak, of the fishes in the pond, without discerning the fish themselves. (65 – 69)
Such is the strange mereology of onticology: Every substance is a multiplicity. Or rather, every substance is such a pond composed of other ponds or substances. As such, substances are both assemblages of relations among substances and an organization distinct from those substances out of which they are assembled. If there is anything withdrawn here then it is not unity and identity– for a multiplicity or an assemblage just is, no matter how mishappen and poorly formed it be, this multiplicity or organization –but rather it is the other substances of which the substance is composed that are withdrawn. And if these other substances are withdrawn, then it is for the same reason that we do not discern all the plankton in the ocean when we look at it from a distance.
To be sure, objects are wholes, but these wholes are parts alongside the other parts. As Deleuze and Guattari put it,
…if we discover such a totality alongside various separate parts, it is a whole of these particular parts but does not totalize them; it is a unity of all these particular parts but does not unify them; rather, it is added [my italics] to them as a new part fabricated separately. (AO, 42)
Every object is a part added to the other parts from which it arises or from which it is assembled that never successfully manages to totalize or unify these parts. The parts out of which a substance arise remain as before and can indeed contest this new part. However, this does not entail that the whole that emerges out of the parts is a mere mist, surface-effect, or excrescence. The emergence of wholes as parts alongside other parts does, in fact, add something new that wasn’t there before. It adds paths of transit, communication, and constraint to the parts that were there before. If, for example, my college is a whole that is a part that arises alongside the other parts that were there before– students, faculty, administrators, employees, computers, paper, books, etc. –as a whole that is something that is other than these parts, then this is because my college as a multiplicity is now an actor in its own right that is capable of doing things none of these sub-multiples could do (it can levee taxes and grant degrees for example), but also because as a part alongside the other parts it can rebound on these other parts opening paths of communication or relation that weren’t there before: I am brought into contact with other substances such as faculty, students, books, etc., that I would not have been brought into contact with had this additional part not existed. There is thus a tension between the substances that belong to a substance and this substance.