8872426.CleopatrasNeedleIn a lovely passage from Without Criteria, Shaviro writes,

Even a seemingly solid and permanent object is an event; or, better, a multiplicity and a series of events. In his early metaphysical book The Concept of Nature (1920/2004), Whitehead gives the example of Cleopatra's Needle on the Victoria Embankment in London (165ff.). Now, we know, of course, that this monument is not just "there." It has a history. Its granate was sculpted by human hands, sometime around 1450 BCE. It was moved from Heliopolis to Alexandria in 12 BCE, and again from Alexandria to London in 1877-1878 CE. And some day, no doubt, it will be destroyed, or otherwise cease to exist. But for Whitehead, there is much more to it than that. Cleopatra's Needle isn't just a solid, impassive object upon which certain grand historical events– being sculpted, being moved –have occasionally supervened. Rather, it is eventful at every moment. From second to second, even as it stands seemingly motionless, Cleopatra's Needle is actively happening. It never remains the same. “A physicist who looks on the part of the life of nature as a dance of electrons, will tell you that daily it has lost some molecules and gained others, and even the plain man can see that it gets dirtier and is occasionally washed” (ibid., 167). At every instant, the mere standing-in-place of Cleopatra’s Needle is an event: a renewal, a novelty, a fresh creation. (17-18)

It seems to me that Shaviro here draws a distinction between events that befall an object (its movements from place to place) and the event that an object is. We can even go one step further than Whitehead, pointing out that it is not simply that Cleopatra’s Needle gains and loses electrons, but these electrons are themselves in a constant state of motion, jumping from higher to lower and lower to higher states of energy.

This concept of objects as events is the most difficult thing of all to think. Our tendency is to think objects as substances in which predicates inhere. Take, for example, Aristotle’s categories. All of these categories are predicates that can be attributed to a substance. As I have argued elsewhere, in my article “The Ontic Principle” forthcoming in The Speculative Turn, the concept of substance responds to a real philosophical problem. This problem is the endurance of entities through or across time as this object. I denote this substantiality of the object with the expression “the adventure of the object” to capture the sense in which objects are ongoing happenings or events. In other words, events are not something that simply happen to an object as in the case of someone being granted a degree while nonetheless remaining substan-tially the same. Rather, objects are events or ongoing processes.

read on!

As I argued a while back, objects should be thought as actions, acts, or events. There, drawing a term that makes a brief appearance in Deleuze’s Fold, I proposed the term “objectile” to capture the sense in which objects are akin to “projectiles” in that in their ongoing eventful happening they trace an adventure through time and space. This also gives a sense of how the ontic principle is to be thought. When we hear the expression “there is no difference that does not make a difference” or that “any difference that makes a difference is“, our first tendency is to fall back into substance-predicate logic. Here difference is thought as “difference from” or as a comparative term. However, this is to confuse a derivative form of difference with ontological difference.

Put otherwise, this is to confuse distinction with difference. If I say “the leave turned green”, I am not making a claim of reflection comparing two states of an entity with one another. No, I am referring to something in the object that would be of the object regardless of whether or not the object is distinguished from anything else by a positing or regarding consciousness, and regardless of whether or not any other entity in the universe exists. The greening of the leave is a pure event, a positivity, containing no negativity or distinction between a One and an Other. In this regard, Hegel has things backwards in his analysis of dasein and quality in the first part of the Science of Logic when he argues that the being of the object is the totality of what it is not. A universe that consisted only of the color red without any other colors or qualities or objects would still be a difference despite the fact that there is nothing to distinguish it.

Here, then, in thinking the difference referred to by the ontic principle it is better to think difference not in the sense of “to differ”, which immediately draws to mind negativity, distinction, and a derivative form of difference. Rather than thinking difference as differing or in the sense of “to differ”, difference ought to instead be thought as “differencing”. The neologism “differencing” has the advantage of capturing the sense in which ontological difference is a verb, a doing, an activity, a happening, or, as Shaviro-Whitehead has it, an event.

EMM_Nude-Descending-Yet to think the object in this sense, it becomes necessary to think in four (and perhaps more) dimensions, rather than three dimensions. Our cognitive tendency, I think, tends to think the objectness of objects in three dimensions or spatially. At the heart of the metaphysics of presence or subject-predicate logic is the idea of the object as fixed in space, such that predicates inhere in a substance. The being of objects, however, is not the “photographic” object, the object fixed in the time of a frozen or paralyzed image. Rather, the being of objects is four-dimension, tracing an adventure across space and time, but where time is not conceived as a container, but as something that is itself produced or generated by objects. Temporal-izing. The closest visual analog I can think to this conception of the object is Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase, where the object is not any one of the points in this vector, but rather where the object is this vector.

How, then, to conceive the identity of the object? Objectiles are “differencings”, vectors, shots across time. Yet nonetheless they possess a unity and an identity as this vector or differencing. Clearly we can no longer appear to em-placement in space at a particular point (note again the spatialization of temporal-ization) in time. Rather, the identity of the object can no longer be a ground or foundation of the object that precedes the objectile’s adventures. Instead, as differencing, the identity must be an ongoing result or effect of the object in its adventure as a vector through time space. Yet what is the precise nature of this process?