In my last post I introduced the Ontic Principle as the ground upon which any object-oriented philosophy must be based. On the one hand, the Ontic Principle states that “there is no difference that does not make a difference.” On the other hand, in Latour’s formulation, it states “there is no transportation without translation.” The ontic, of course, is the domain of entities or beings, as opposed to the ontological which deals with being qua being or what can be said of being independent of any reference to specific objects (here I strongly suspect that ontology has very little of interest to say, but more on that later). Consequently, if the Ontic Principle states that there is no difference that does not make a difference, then this entails that being a being or entity consists in producing a difference.

Entity is power and act: The power to produce difference and activity, the actuality, of making difference. I suspect that there are two further principles lurking behind this first formulation: The Principle of Reality and the Principle of Actuality. The Principle of Reality would state something along the following lines:

The degree of power or reality embodied in a being are a ratio of the extensiveness of the differences the entity produces.

In other words, the more real an entity is the more difference that entity produces. Clearly this principle is indebted to Latour’s understanding of the reality of an entity in terms of the extensiveness of its relations, Badiou’s most recent work on worlds, entities, and intensities with respect to appearing, and Deleuze-Spinoza’s understanding of entity as power. Reality and power would thus be co-extensive and defined in terms of act, as I gropingly tried to outline in a previous post.

The Principle of Actuality, by contrast, would be formulated roughly as follows:

Entities only are insofar as they are act-ual

ba1fa211-d1e8-d704-796509f20de29fae_1In other words, there is no entity where there is no act-uality. Here the hyphen must be observed to underline the essence of entity as act. To be act-ual is not to be still and complete, but rather to be in act. If it is true that there is no difference that does not make a difference and that entity is difference, then it follows as a consequence that there can be no being that is not act-ual. Consequently, I banish any entity that does not act or produce a difference. A purely possible or potential entity is, under this model, no entity at all. I also set aside the vexed question of the Deleuzian virtual. As I understand it, the Deleuzian virtual refers not to some mysterious extra-actual form of being but rather refers to relations among actualities. The virtual is not something other than the actual, but refers to relations of acting between actualities. In this respect, the Deleuzian virtual would be a variation of Whitehead’s Ontological Principle which states that the reason for any entity is to be found in another actual entity or in that entity itself. For example, genes are purely virtual in relation to my body but are entirely actual at any point in time for themselves. Nonetheless, this raises a number of questions about causality and potency that I am not yet prepared to tackle.

london-after-people-jj-001It is of crucial importance to note one point. Clearly the Ontic Principle is a variation of Bateson’s famous definition of information:

Information is that difference that makes a difference.

This connection might give the impression that the Ontic Principle is epistemological, pertaining to autopoiesis, systems theory, or some similar theory of operational closure where systems constitute their own elements. Certainly I have written often about autopoiesis and systems theory on this blog. However, it is important to note that the Ontic Principle is strictly ontological in nature. To properly envision the scope of the Ontic Principle we must imagine, after the fashion of Roy Bhaskar (without necessarily sharing his ontology) a world without humans, or, after the fashion of Quentin Meillassoux, a world without thought. This is not because entities independent of the human are the real differences that make a difference– certainly humans fulfill the Ontic Principle and the Principle of Act-uality –but rather because this thought experiment allows us to think ontologically and in terms of beings entirely independent, where the question is not one of whether or not we register a difference but whether a differences is produced in and among entities regardless of whether humans are there to register them. Such is the ruin of Parmenides and his equation of being and thought.

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