2f4df0324760b79935b80ea340398d82_matrix_code_emulatorThe danger faced by any object-oriented philosophy, especially in its beginnings, is that readers will conclude that the aim is to speak of things as they are in themselves, independent of any humans, thereby denying all that is human. Those prone to dialectical thought will conclude that where the last three hundred years of philosophy have been characterized by philosophies of access or correlationism in one form or another, whether that form be Kant’s transcendental idealism, linguistic idealism, phenomenological givenness, or social constructivism, those advocating an object-oriented ontology are by contrast shifting to the domain of objects and are now eradicating all culture, society, language, and subjectivity. In other words, we are here faced with the old choice between nature and culture.

Here the interminable, inexhaustible, objections will begin. “But it is still you, a subject, a human being, talking about objects! How do you propose to overcome the manner in which your mind gives form and structure to the world?” “Yet you are thrown into a tradition, determined by categories of culture, language, and society! How can you talk of a world independent of humans, tradition, culture, language, and society?” On and on it will go. We are given the alternative of either living inside a submarine known as mind, tradition, language, culture, or society, where we only ever encounter the world through the mediation of our “sonar machines” (i.e., in a way that fails to represent them as they are, or of directly touching objects either themselves. We are given the stark alternative of mind or world, culture or nature, language or object.

atomsYet this stark alternative misconstrues the entire problem. The issue is not one of escaping the human, culture, or language to touch the world as it is in itself. It is not a question of shifting from one form of difference, culture or mind, to another form of difference, the objects themselves. Or, put differently, it is not a question of an alternative between Lucretius or Derrida. What object-oriented philosophy opposes is not culture, society, or mind, but rather those metaphysics– and they are metaphysics –that declare that one difference makes all the difference. Were object oriented philosophy to reject language as in the case of Lacan, for example, and shift entirely to Lucretian atoms, this move would be equally egregious from the standpoint of the Ontic and Ontological Principles. For here we would simply be replacing one difference that makes all the difference (language), with another difference that makes all the difference (atoms). I call this reduction of difference to one difference that makes all the difference or one difference that makes the most important difference, the hegemonic fallacy. The hegemonic fallacy can occur in more or less extensive forms. Thus, in the case of those theologies where everything is dependent on God as in the case of Leibniz or Spinoza, we have a rather extreme form of the hegemonic fallacy. By contrast, the relationship between form and matter as conceived by Aristotle or categories and intuitions as conceived by Kant are both less extensive forms of the hegemonic fallacy insofar as matter and intuition still contribute some difference, but in a less important way with respect to form and the categories.

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timewarpWhat the object-oriented philosopher seeks, at least in my formulation, is not the reduction of the number of differences, but rather the multiplication, pluralization, or proliferation of differences. The aim is not less difference, but more difference… A contagion of differences! Thus, when the Ontic Principle declares that there is no difference that does not make a difference, it affirms not only language, tradition, culture, mind, technology, economic production, etc., but also stars, atoms, pebbles, fossils, street signs, a bolt of lightning causing a wildfire, and all the rest. When the Ontological Principle declares that being is said in a single and same sense of all that is, it is making the injunction to recognize the pebble that killed the emperor causing the empire to collapse. In emphasizing difference, the point is not political (this too would be a form of the Hegemonic Fallacy insofar as everything gets reduced to the political), but rather ontological. Politically difference will not save us. Fascist ideologies will make differences as well as democratic and socialist ideologies. The ontological does not imply a particular politics. The Ontic Principle is, above all, a modest principle. It asserts that to be is to differ and to produce difference. Even the epistemologues being with a difference in developing their epistemology, thereby entitling us to declare that the Ontic Principle is prior to and more fundamental than any epistemic principle.

Object-oriented philosophy, in my formulation, vigorously rejects all those ontologies where one difference makes all the difference or where one difference makes the most important difference. Of course, it must also be self-reflexively declared that these ontologies, as well, make differences in the world. It matters little whether that overdetermining difference is God, the signifier, Platonic forms, Aristotlean essences, society, power, minds, subjects, the human, sets, atoms, or whatever other difference we might wish to place in the position of ultimate ground. Likewise, the object-oriented ontologist, as I formulate it, will be more than happy to grant that God makes a difference, signifiers make a difference, Platonic forms make a difference, Aristotlean essences make a difference, society makes a difference, power makes a difference, minds make a difference, subjects make a difference, sets make a difference, and atoms make a difference so long as these things exist and often even when they don’t exist. What will be denounced is the idea that they make the only difference. I will also denounce any difference that is constitutively immune to differences being made on it, such as in the case of Platonic forms or Plotinus’ One. God may exist, but in existing God would both affect other act-ualities and be affected by other act-ualities. This, in part, is what is intended by the Principle of Irreduction.

rhizomeAs such, when an object-oriented philosopher talks about society, for example, he or she will not only refer to people, language, power, and culture, but also roads, hammers, computers, atmospheres, weather, pebbles, oceans, rivers, streams, etc., etc. For all of these things belong to society as well, all of these things contribute differences as well, and these things are not simply cultural or vehicles of signifiers. All act-ualities contribute differences and are not merely vehicles of some difference that makes all the difference. All act-ualities push back, which is the ground of Latour’s Principle or the thesis that there is no transportation that does not involve translation.

mars_panoramaThus, when the object-oriented philosophy adopts the stance of Methodological Anti-Humanism, observing that we must imagine a world without humans, the point is not to claim that humans make no difference (how could this be given that humans are?), or to get at true reality beyond the human, but rather to open a space where it might be possible to make room for all differences in a flat ontology that accords with the requirements of univocity. The human is to be decentered, according to the requirements of a genuine Copernican revolution, where humans are no longer at the center of being or treated as a difference that makes the most important difference. The question then becomes one of thinking alliances or assemblages of objects or act-ualities, how their differences are woven together, how they constantly produce and reproduce certain constellations or forms of organization, while avoiding any position that subordinates, hegemonizes, or hierarchializes all the rest under one difference. Of course, many differences will strive to hegemonize the rest, to totalize the whole, to make all of being “speak their language”, but something will always push back and ruin the totality. Such as the lesson to be drawn from Lacan’s discourse of the master. While it is indeed true, from the standpoint of the Principle of Reality, that the degree of reality or power embodied by a being is a ratio of the extensiveness of the differences that entity produces, this is by no means a reduction of all other entities to that entity. As I learned last night, electricity is a very powerful entity that produces many differences. My entire life, the life of my neighbors, and the life of many gadgets that inhabit the world was suspended in a variety of ways by a power outage that lasted hours. However, the recognition that an entire constellation of processes depends on electricity is very different from the reduction of the entities belonging to this network to electricity. All of these other entities have an autonomy from electricity even while entering into relations with the power line enabling all sorts of activities within these act-ualities.

This is entirely different than a Kantian making all objects, in the form of appearances or phenomena, depend on mind, or Leibniz’s God sustaining all monads. In the first case we have an assemblage where act-ualities equally contribute those differences that are within their power to contribute, while in the latter case we have one entity contributing all the difference (Leibniz’s and Spinoza’s God), or nearly all the difference (Kant’s mind). Indeed, in Kant the in-itself contributes no discernible difference or no difference that could intelligibly be talked about. Yet if any of this is to be thought at all, it is above all necessary to overcome the Epistemic and Ontological Fallacies. The first, as articulated by Bhaskar, consists in “…the view that statements about being can be reduced to or analysed in terms of statements about knowledge; i.e. that ontological questions can always be transposed into epistemological terms” (A Realist Theory of Science, 36). By contrast, the Ontological Fallacy consists in the view that Being and Thinking are identical. It is only when these fallacies are overcome that it becomes possible to consistently think both the Ontic and Ontological Principles.