July 2010

For anyone who’s interested, the object-oriented philosophy collection Bogost and I are putting together will contain the following contributors:

Ian Bogost
Levi Bryant
Jane Bennett
Graham Harman
Steven Shaviro
Katherine Hayles
Timothy Morton
Melanie Doherty
Joseph Hughes
Karen Barad
Katherine Behar
Adrian Ivakhiv

I think that covers all the contributors. Ian, I’m sure, will remind me if I’ve forgotten anyone.


For those who are interested, here’s the table of contents for The Democracy of Objects:


Introduction: Towards a Finally Subjectless Object

1. Grounds for a Realist Ontology

1.1. The Death of Ontology and the Rise of Correlationism

1.2. Breaking the Correlationist Circle

1.3. The Onto-Transcendental Grounds of Experimental Activity

1.4. Objections and Replies

1.5. Origins of Correlationism: Actualism and the Epistemic Fallacy

1.6. On the Alleged Primacy of Perception

2. The Paradox of Substance

2.1. Introduction

2.2. Aristotle, Substance, and Qualities

2.3. The Paradox of Substance

3. Virtual Proper Being

3.1. The Mug Blues

3.2. Deleuze’s Schizophrenia: Between Monism and Pluralism

3.3. Virtual Proper Being

3.4. The Problem With Rabbits and Hats

3.5. Žižek’s Objecting Objects

4. The Interior of Objects

4.1. The Closure of Objects

4.2. Interactions Between Objects

4.3. Autopoietic and Allopoietic Objects

4.4. Translation

4.5. Autopoietic Asphyxiation: The Case of the Lacanian Clinic

5. Regimes of Attraction, Parts, and Structure

5.1. Constraints

5.2. Parts and Wholes: The Strange Mereology of Object-Oriented Ontology

5.3. Temporalized Structure and Entropy

6. Flat Ontology

6.1. Two Ontological Discourses: Lacan’s Graphs of Sexuation and Two Ways of
Thinking Being

6.2. The World Does Not Exist

6.3. Being is Flat

Conclusion: A Democracy of Object

The Democracy of Objects is nearly complete now. I’m working on chapter 6 at the moment, and then just have the conclusion and intro to write. Word has it that I should be receiving the proofs for The Speculative Turn in a week or so, so that shouldn’t be too long before reaching print as well.

The Democracy of Objects is coming along at a nice clip and I should have the initial draft completed in the next couple of weeks. Right now I’m working on chapter 5, and am right around 73k words. Depending on whether or not I decide to write a chapter on space and time, the book will be six or seven chapters, coming in, I believe, around 100k words. The chapter breakdown is as follows:

Introduction– Towards a Finally Subjectless Object

1. Grounds for a Realist Ontology– Here I draw heavily on Roy Bhaskar’s arguments for transcendental realism and develop the basic framework for the structure of objects.

2. The Paradox of Substance– Drawing on Burke’s critique of substance in The Grammar of Motives I argue that the structure of substance is such that it simultaneously withdraws and self-others itself in qualities. There’s a lot here on Aristotle, Locke, and Kant as well.

3. Split Objects– This chapter develops the relationship between virtual proper being and local manifestation and draws heavily on Deleuze’s account of actualization while revising his concept of the virtual in such a way as to treat individuals as more basic than the virtual and arguing against the thesis that the virtual is a whole or one-All that is then split up into discrete objects.

4. The Interior of Objects– Drawing heavily on Luhmann’s autopoietic theory, I here develop an account of how objects are operationally closed and how they relate to one another through selectively open relations to their environment. There’s also a nice section on the Lacanian clinic in this chapter, showing how it can be understood in terms of object-oriented ontology.

5. Regimes of Attraction and Parts– This chapter tackles the question of constraint or how objects can be constrained by other objects when they are operationally closed and also fleshes out issues of object-oriented mereology. Additionally there’s a nice section in here on temporalized structure that shows how the autopoietic conception of structure allows us to move beyond structuralist and post-structuralist conceptions of structure while maintaining their best features. There are lengthy discussions of developmental systems theory, Luhmann, and Badiou in these sections.

6. Flat Ontology– Here I outline what is entailed by the concept of flat ontology, drawing out my mereological points and working heavily with Lacan’s graphs of sexuation to make the case that objects are essentially “feminine”.


Appendix: Principles of Onticology– The appendix will include my article for The Speculative Turn with a brief discussion of how my ontology has evolved since I formulated the ontic principle (which I’ve now abandoned as a foundational starting point).

If anyone is interested, I could really use some help with the thankless task of putting together the bibliography and/or the index. The latter project won’t come until I have the offprints for the book, but it should be possible to write up a bibliography once the initial draft is completed.

Graham has a great interview up over at Figure-Ground Communications. Particularly interesting are Harman’s remarks about McLuhan. Hopefully I won’t be upsetting Bogost here, but after Alien Phenomenology and The Democracy of Objects we’ve been kicking around the idea of co-authoring a book on McLuhan so any remarks about the connection between OOO and McLuhan are particularly interesting for me.

Wolfendale has posted his second discussion of onticology here. Just a few brief points:

1. Translation. Pete writes:

He thinks that my claim is something like: we must in each particular case be able know what is being translated in order for the notion of translation to make sense. He then claims that this argument illegitimately places epistemological criteria on a metaphysical point, and that the whole point of translation is that we can’t know what something is like prior to translation.

I think Pete here mischaracterizes my point here. My point wasn’t about understanding translation or whether or not we can know something prior to translation. My point was that insofar as translation is a metaphysical process, the issue of whether anyone knows or understands translation is irrelevant to whether translation is taking place. This should have been clear from my example of how a plant translates sunlight transforming it into chlorophyll. A translation takes place here, but I suspect that the plant has no “understanding” or “knowledge” of sunlight.

Pete goes on to remark that,

This is not the claim I made though. My claim was that we must have a general understanding of what is being translated in order for the notion of translation to make sense. We must be able to make sense of the very idea of direct contact between entities in order to make sense of the very idea that they can only encounter one another indirectly. I take the last post to have shown why the ‘translation’ of perturbations into information, and of information into system states, doesn’t provide us with the resources to think such directness in general, and thus why all talk of indirect access is at best metaphorical. This has nothing to do with knowledge, and everything to do with the coherence of metaphysical concepts.

I don’t think I’m in disagreement here, but I also think this is a rather trivial point. I’m not sure how closely Pete has been following my posts, but he might recall that I have been making a lot of the distinction between first-order and second-order observation. It will be remembered that within the framework I’m drawing on, no indications are possible without there first being a distinction. Once a distinction is drawn, it now becomes possible to observe or indicate something within the marked space of that distinction. Among the interesting features of first-order observation is that the distinction that allows the indication or observation to take place becomes invisible while it is being used.

read on!

Robert Jackson has a nice post riffing on my recent discussion of Bogost. As Jackson writes:

He argues that cultural commentators tend to decode images, games, texts from the result of immanent distinctions. Cultural philosophers; those concerned with ‘what something ultimately means in cultural value’ are basically invested in keeping the subjective ontology going, and distracting themselves with the ‘real ideological issue’. Consider Grand theft Auto for example (as a nod to Bogost);

“When we analyze that video game, […], we are to analyze the stories and signs that appear on the screen. Likewise with nearly all cultural theory. Analysis consists in approaching the world as a text to be decoded. The problem with this mode of analysis is that everything in the unmarked space of the distinction becomes invisible. Returning to the example of Grand Theft Auto, the way the game is programmed, how it is put together, the hardware that runs the game, the production teams that produce it, and many other things completely fall off the map.”

Its interesting Levi chooses Grand Theft Auto over any other contemporary example. I don’t want to presume the reasons as to why, other than its an obviously well known game. But Grand Theft Auto (or any other Sandbox genre) has always interested me for the missions it cannot do, ontologically speaking.

Levi’s point here is that when analysts decode “whats really happening”, or in Zizek’s case, the ultimate “lesson” of a cultural aftfact, their analysis holds for what is present to them in the game. This ringfencing, or capturing, comes from the result of a ontological distinction prior to the value. i.e, why we should be concentrating on this bit, rather than that bit. By focusing solely on the elements which are important for humans, Levi’s point is that we run of risk of alienating relations with other equally participating elements; ethernet wiring, the limiting choices of developers, the heavy use of clipping used to render screen graphics (which is interesting in itself).

Jackson really gets to the core of what I’m trying to argue and develop. Read the rest here.

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