“What I’m asking, if indirectly, with my Hjelmslevian excursus, is the following: sure there are lots of Parises (my Paris, Graham’s Paris, Henry IV’s Paris, etc.). But is there an ontological Paris, a ‘real’ Paris underneath all these, for OOO? If so, I can’t get on board. Because then I feel that OOO brings a God’s eye view (which is a version of ‘our’ own filters) through the backdoor, in the name of ontology… So my question for Graham – is there A REAL Paris? If so, I just can’t jump on the wagon. But if not, if there’s an infinite number of potentially incompossible graspings layered on the spacetime location of Paris, then sign me up!”
To this Graham responds (with some really interesting, yet allusive, follow-up on what an object-oriented theology would look like) remarking that,
The problem with Chris’s passage here is his claim that believing in Paris entails a “God’s eye view.” But that’s precisely what it does not entail. The object is not a view at all.
This is probably one of the most succinct articulations of one of the key claims of OOO I’ve ever come across. Objects are not a point of view, full stop. They are not one object’s point of view on another object. They are not God’s point of view on them (objects, as Judge Schreber observed, are even withdrawn from God). They are not even points of view on themselves (those objects characterized by reflexivity still do not have unadulterated access to themselves). Objects are just objects. They exist perfectly fine without being seen by another object, God, or themselves. Not only that, it is impossible for any object to be seen by another object or itself precisely because objects withdraw from one another and from themselves.
I realize I drive people up the wall by constantly harping on the difference between epistemology and ontology, but this gets to the heart of the issue. Epistemology revolves around questions of how we know objects or, in Vitale’s language, how “point-of-view” maps on to objects. Ontology revolves around issues of what things are regardless of whether or not objects are graced by our gaze. However, as Harman emphasizes further on in the post, no matter how many points of view on the object you enumerate, even if they go to infinity and eternity, you will never have an unadulterated access to the object precisely because objects are withdrawn.
Do we have points-of-view on Paris and only have points-of-view on Paris as Vitale argues? Absolutely. OOO has argued this all along. The best one object can ever do in relation to another object is translate it and, as Derrida compelling argues, translations always differ from the originals that they translate. Does that warrant the thesis that objects are their translations by other objects? No! This, I think, is where OOO differs most profoundly from Vitale. We can happily endorse nearly all of Vitale’s claims about perspective, yet we all insist nonetheless that an object is never identical to how it’s translated by another object (this is also why I reject the endless referral thesis of Derrida… It conflates the epistemological with the being of objects).
My favorite part in Graham’s post?
So, looks like Chris and I will remain on different sides for at least awhile to come. Table’s always set for you, friend.
Yep, the table’s always set… But not just as an invitation to come on board, but in general discussion regardless of whether we agree or not.