Over at the outstanding blog Dark Chemistry there’s an INTERESTING POST up comparing my onticology with Graham’s object-oriented philosophy. If you haven’t been reading his blog, you should start. He’s doing some of the best theory blogging around. Reflecting on my earlier post on Molnar and powers, the Craig writes:
To be “unmanifested” does not imply appearance (invisibility/visibility) at all. As Harman stated in his essay above the important thing to distinguish is not that an object is either invisible or visible, but “of the transformation of a thing’s reality.” In this statement Levi seems to confuse the issue of the real and intentional object by implying that if an object is dormant it would appear as if it didn’t exist precisely because it doesn’t appear at all, yet would still be “real and existent”. But again what does appearance have to do with it? Since a real object never appears to us or another object directly, but only indirectly through its intentional or sensuous appendages, properties, or qualities then why does appearance become a problem? An object does not need to appear to us or another object to relate, think of all those little microbes and bacteria that daily infest our lives and travel in the midst of that transparent region of our terrestrial globe we call the atmosphere, that negotiate there way burrowing through our porous flesh and into our subdermal systems and into our bloodstreams infesting us with all those terror born diseases we term epidemics.
Craig presents this as a criticism of my position, but I think rather that he underlines exactly the point that I’m trying to make. The point is that the appearance or manifestation of the object has nothing to do with the existence of the object. The object’s manifestation is secondary to its substantiality as an object. It is for this reason that objects cannot be reduced to their properties or qualities as someone like Hume would like to do. Qualities are like a rind that are but expressions of an object’s substantiality.
However, if I’m particularly fascinated with local manifestations and the conditions under which they take place, then this is because I am interested in questions of the conditions under which change takes place. The irreducibility of objects to their local manifestations also entails that objects contain within them a reserve or excess capable of breaking with the regimes of attraction within which they’re locked. Under different conditions they are, in a word, capable of other local manifestations. Here then we can raise the question of how these other local manifestations might be produced or activated and begin to develop a praxis with these aims in mind.
The point, then, would be that objects can never be reduced to effects of the regime of attraction within which they are embedded. Perhaps this point can be made more clearly with respect to the “docile bodies” section of Foucault’s Discipline and Punish. In the world of political theory all sorts of questions emerged as a result of Foucault’s theory of subjectivization in terms of power. Foucault seemed to suggest that the subject is a mere effect or expression of the power relations within which it is produced. If this is the case, the worry went, then no political engagement would be possible as the political agent would merely be an effect of relations of micro-power and would therefore merely reproduce these relations of power. This problem became even more acute with the first volume of The History of Sexuality, despite the fact that he there introduced the notion of counter-power emerging in response to power. The problem was that he grave us no real account of how this counter-power might emerge.
Now in my view, Foucault has given us something of incalculable value with his analyses of power, yet nonetheless the ontological framework within these analyses are developed suffers from actualism (the reduction of entities to their actualized properties). It is this actualism that gets Foucault in a position where entities become reduced to expressions of power or their actuality within a regime of attraction. It is my hope that distinctions such as that between virtual proper being and local manifestation can navigate a way through these sorts of dilemmas by marking a place of the excess of objects over their local manifestations.