In chapter 3 of The Democracy of Objects I argue that objects are split between their virtual proper being and their local manifestations. The virtual proper being of an object is the object’s powers or capacities. The local manifestations of an object are its actualized qualities or properties, that which become present in the object. I call these manifestations “manifestations” because they are the becoming-actual of a property. I call them “local” because the properties that an object comes to actualize are the result of local circumstances in time and space. In other circumstances other manifestations would take place. For this reason 1) the qualities of an object are acts on the part of an object, not something an object simply has (they are events), and 2) an object cannot be identified with its properties or qualities because properties or qualities are variable events that arise from local circumstances. I refer to these local circumstances as “regimes of attraction”. Regimes of attraction are the external relationships an object shares to other objects in the world that play a role in the local manifestation of properties. Local manifestation can occur in one of two ways. They can result either from internal dynamics of the object or body such as the thumping sound my body makes from the beating of my heart, or from relations that an object shares to other objects in a regime of attraction leading to the actualization of a property as in the case of the production of rust in metals due to oxidation. My thesis is that objects are individuated not by their local manifestations but by their virtual proper being or powers.
The four pictures of flowers in this post are beautiful examples of local manifestation. In fact, these are only two flowers even though the one flower in the picture in the first paragraph appears quite different in its left and right depiction, just as the flower to the left appears quite different in its left and right depiction. Nonetheless, one and the same flower is depicted in the picture in the first paragraph and one and the same picture is depicted in the picture to the left.
So what is going on here? How can these flowers appear so markedly different from themselves (and they are the same individual)? These pictures depict flowers seen in the spectrum of light that humans are able to see (the lefthand frame in each picture) and the flower seen in the spectrum of ultraviolet light (the righthand frames). Within the spectrum of light visible to the human eye the two flowers appear as being a vibrant yellow. Here the regime of attraction presiding over this local manifestation consists of wavelengths of light within a particular portion of the spectrum of electro-magnetic waves, human eyes, and human brains. When, by contrast, the flower is viewed in the electro-magnetic spectrum of ultraviolet light, new structures appear in the flower that are invisible within our spectrum of light. We now see new colors, new patterns that we scarcely new were there. The regime of attraction here would be wavelengths of ultraviolet light, the technology used to take the picture, or the structure of certain insect eyes and brains allowing them to discern these patterns.
However, there’s a twist here. We might think that were we to merely add up the various local manifestations of an object we would finally get a complete inventory of the real being of the flower, but that’s not the case. All of the local manifestations of the flower are translations of that real being, such that the real being of the flower is necessarily withdrawn. As Graham writes in a post from last year,
People need to remember that, at least in my own version of OOO, there are two kinds of objects. The real objects are the ones we can never adequately describe, because they withdraw from all access and are known only in translated form. The sensual objects, which exist in my position because I am convinced that Husserl is totally right in viewing perceptual objects as more than bundles of qualities, are always accessible, with the rather different problem that we confuse them with their inessential incarnations.
What we’re encountering in the two pictures in this post are not the real flowers– those are necessarily withdrawn –but rather sensual flowers. Sensual objects are objects immanent to experience, while real objects are withdrawn from that experience. When, in the lefthand frames, we discover a hitherto unexpected structure of flowers we are not seeing these flowers as bees see them, but rather have translated– within the framework of my ontology (Graham diverges from me on the issue of virtual proper being, though my virtual proper being seems close to his real qualities) –a virtual structure of these flowers capable of manifesting itself in ultraviolet light into a human color spectrum. In other words, the pictures on the right are a metaphor that alludes to these powers populating the virtual proper being, not the powers themselves. Likewise, the flowers on the right of each picture are a metaphor that alludes to what bees are seeing. The real object and its powers remains withdrawn in all circumstances.