Harman has a post up responding to Shaviro’s post from yesterday. I agree with most of what Graham says, though I don’t have as much hostility towards talk of process and becoming as him. I am, however, left scratching my head as to why people think the objects of object-oriented ontology can’t become or have a processual dimension. The premise seems to be that objects are static and therefore need to be replaced by processes or events. I don’t see how this follows at all or how it is even true. We find a similar conclusion in Metzinger’s Being No One. Somehow because the self comes into existence and dissolves this entails that the self is not an object. How does that follow? All that is entailed is that the self comes into being and that it has a punctuated existence. Certainly nothing in Aristotle’s concept of substance entails permanence and even Descartes’ conception of mental substance is embodied, as Marion has compellingly argued, in act. So this strikes me as a very odd conclusion to reach.
Shaviro ends his post remarking that,
In this way, I think, Whitehead avoids the Deleuzian suggestion (which one also finds in Bergson, and — in Bell’s reading — already in Spinoza, and currently in the wonderful neo-Schellingism of Iain Hamilton Grant) that the actual must always (with this “must” being something of an ethical imperative) return to the flux of virtuality whence it came. In this way, Whitehead is in accordance with Graham Harman (who rejects the association of Whitehead with Deleuze and Bergson precisely on these grounds). But, to the extent that Whitehead does nonetheless retain the importance of the virtual, he also stands apart from Harman’s actualism. My biggest objection to Harman has long been that he doesn’t give a sufficiently satisfying account of the genesis and perishing of objects, precisely because he rejects the very notion of the virtual, seeing it as something that “undermines” the existence of objects. Whitehead to my mind splits the difference between Deleuze and Harman, in a way that is preferable to either. (Note: I cannot end this discussion without an apology to Levi Bryant, who offers a version of “object-oriented ontology” that includes the virtual. I think that Whitehead represents a preferable alternative to Bryant’s position as well, in the sense that he obviates the need to see objects as somehow being “withdrawn.” But I do not have the space or the energy to pursue this argument here).
Again, I’m left scratching my head. The thesis that OOO is unable to account for the genesis and perishing of objects has come up a couple of times (notably from Vitale). However, here again I’m left scratching my head. First, I just don’t see what the big mystery is here. Objects are generated out of other objects. When objects enter into certain relations with one another closure, under certain circumstances, is achieved and a new object is born. In other words, objects are emergent entities that emerge out of other entities. It seems to me that object-oriented ontologists talk about such emergence quite often. Likewise, the destruction or perishing of objects takes place when enough of the parts belonging to the endo-structure of an object are destroyed or taken away, undermining the ability of the object to maintain itself across time. Consequently, I just don’t see how OOO theorists are guilty of not having an account of the genesis and perishing of objects. Second, I don’t see how the category of the virtual as theorized by Bell and Shaviro solves this problem either. Indeed, I have yet to see a clear account of the virtual within this framework or what work it is doing.
Graham disagrees with me on this point, but I also think there’s far more withdrawal in Whitehead’s account of being than Shaviro lets on. While Whitehead certainly advocates the thesis that no being is independent of its relations, he does, nonetheless capture another dimension of withdrawal: the manner in which no entity directly grasps or relates to another entity. This comes out in Whitehead’s account of prehension early in Process and Reality. In every prehension, Whitehead observes, there is the subject that does the prehending, the datum prehended, and the subjective form or how of the prehension. Yet to my thinking, subjective form just is a form of withdrawal in that no actual occasion grasps another actual occasion as it itself is, but only under a particular subjective form that structures the datum in a manner unique to the subject or actual occasion doing the prehending. That, in my book, is a form of withdrawal.