The more I’ve thought about it, the more I’ve been surprised to discover that there’s a profound overlap between OOO and the ethical thought of Levinas. At its core, OOO is, I believe, an ontology of radical alterity. Every object is an absolute alterity with respect to every other object. This, I believe, is the key meaning of Harman’s concept of withdrawal and vicarious causation. It is also the meaning of Morton’s concept of objects as strange strangers. The difference here would be that where Levinas’ thought indexes the withdrawal of the Other to other humans and the divine, OOO indexes this infinite excess to all objects. When I get back to Texas it looks like I’ll have to go back to Levinas and determine how well this thesis works (I suspect this will also involve a foray into Lingis as well). Graham already does a lot of this work in Guerrilla Metaphysics, however there his focus is primarily on the elemental.
When situated in terms of Levinas, I think we get a better sense of what OOO targets in both correlationism and perspectivism (perspectivism being a form of correlationism). Recalling the famous scene from Being John Malkovich, I have coined the term “Malkovichism” in The Democracy of Objects.
Malkovichism consists in the erasure of alterity, such the being of other objects is reduced to being a mere vehicle for perspective, meanings, human intentions, etc. The being of objects is reduced to what it is for-us. As I argued in my post last night, this move tends to be premised on a faux belief that somehow recognizing this perspectivism will lead us to be more tolerant of otherness. As Graham observes in his fine response to Vitale today:
The main problem the object-oriented approach faces is, I believe, a cultural one. People are so used to thinking of autonomous reality as being a tool of bad essentialism, oppressive patriarchy, bland traditional school philosophy, and boring rich heterosexual white people, and so used to thinking instead of process and relation as being the flower of liberation, creativity, experiment and diversity, that they instinctively react against any theory involving anything that has reality in its own right. But you have to fight those prejudices.
The paradox is that perspectivism, far from increasing diversity, creativity, and experimentation seems to produce precisely the reverse. Why? Because with the perspectivist ideology one has the answer to everything– “well that’s just a perspective!” –and therefore renders itself immune to any encounter with alterity. It is only where the alterior is treated as the alterior, where it is treated as having autonomous existence of its own, that the object can be seen as the ruin of all categorizations, identifications, significations, meanings, intentions, perspectives, etc., insofar as it exceeds any of these translations. It is with this recognition of the object as the alien, the strange stranger, the Other that respect for objects can begin, i.e., that we begin to get real diversity rather than a Malkovichism that reduces all otherness to what it is for a perspective. Moreover, creativity can only begin to occur where one opens himself to the otherness of the other, passing through alien mediums that force us to become other than what we are and that allow for aleatory adventures of signification, craft, and meaning where all relations between pre-established models and subordinated matters are called into question.