This insistence that the very things we think of as lifeless objects are actually most alive, vibrant, shimmering, and ungraspable, is what makes OOO’s claims so radical and exciting. And yet it’s also what leads so easily to misunderstandings. It seems to me that the difference between objectological (Bryant, Harman, Bogost) and relational (Vitale, Shaviro, me to the extent that I’ve articulated it, et al) ontologies is not ultimately that great, but the strategy of articulating these ontologies makes them seem more different than they are. Graham, for instance, has often argued that processual and relational languages have had their day, the implication being that they haven’t done as much as an object-oriented approach can do. But I think that processual language (of the kind that Chris is expressing in his post) does a better job of reminding us why things withdraw. Speaking in terms of objects (Paris, umbrellas, train whistles, etc.) makes it too easy to fall back into the common-sense understanding that these things are just are the things that make up the world, and that their relations (and the processes by which these relations unfold) are secondary. Graham and Levi adamantly and articulately argue that this isn’t the case, that relations aren’t secondary. But habits of thought are difficult to change. Just because relational languages have been used by some philosophers to talk about some things (discourse, text, etc) doesn’t mean that they have been exhausted and found wanting when it comes to understanding ontology.
I agree with Adrian’s point about language and how we speak, but I’d prefer to say that it is relational and processual thought that has become a habit that prevents us from thinking, not object-oriented thought. For the last century we’ve repeatedly said “things are related” to such a degree that claims about interdependence, relation, and interconnection have lost a good deal of meaning. As Nietzsche might say, these have become stale metaphors and worn coins. I believe that one of OOO’s challenges is the question of what we might learn if, rather than treating “relation”, “interconnection”, “interdependence” as our “God-terms” or master-signifiers, we treated “object” and “substance” as our master-signifiers. Rather than beginning with relation, context, interdependence, interconnection, etc., what would we learn if we instead thought of autonomous objects perpetually shifting and jumping between relations? My wager is that this would teach us a great deal more in the ecological framework than endless talk of holism and relation. We would begin to ask how substances perturb networks, rather than treating networks as static and fixed systems where all is harmonious and balanced as we tend to do now.