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via The Inhumanities:

We are pleased to announce the next event for The Inhumanities, which will be a cross-blog event with the fine folks of Speculative Heresy.

We plan on hosting a discussion centered around the following question:

While speculative realism has critiqued anthropocentrism in ontology, and critical animal studies has critiqued anthropocentrism in ethics, there has yet to be many productive connections made between the two. With each offering the other important insights, the question to be asked is, what is the relation between ethics and ontology? Does a realist ontology require the suspension of any ethical imperatives? Can ethics and norms be grounded in something real? Are nonhuman actors capable of ethical relations?

Besides the participants of the two blogs and anyone we are able to recruit to respond, we are also opening up the field for answers to anyone. All answers must be 1500-2000 words, and submissions for answers must be recieved by Friday, November 13th. Inquiries can be sent to Inhumanitiesblog@gmail.com or speculativeheresy[at]gmail.com, or to the email addresses of Scu, Greg, Craig, Ben, and Nick. I hope you are all looking forward to this event as much as we are!

I’m very much looking forward to this event. I will, however, say that earlier this year those of the various SR orientations had a debate as to whether trees are real. The eliminative materialist-Brassier side of this debate contended that it amounts to “folk ontology” to claim that trees are real. The OOO folk contended that reductivism fails to recognize that objects exist at multiple levels of scale and are irreducible to one another. This was treated as “folk ontology” because it was claimed that we were individuating objects by virtue of how we perceive objects. Long story short, I cannot say that I see much of use for ecology or critical animal studies coming out of the scientistic/reductive materialist side of this discussion. If we can’t even hold that trees are real objects, then I am unsure of what possible use SR can possibly be for the ecologist or the critical animal theorist. Fortunately SR isn’t exhausted by scientism and there are those that are not allowing their ideologies and emotions to get in the way of posing the question of what the being of beings might be. I sincerely hope the discussion has progressed since this last debate, however given that this variant of SR finds the existence of even trees suspect (maybe it endorses eukaryotes), I’m not sure what it might have to offer here. Progress certainly did not appear to be the case in many of the Paul Ennis interviews (which is no fault of Paul’s who’s done nothing but great work). Given the fact that there was an almost complete absence of mention of OOO and serious OOO theorists as one of the central trends or trajectories by a number of others claiming to work in SR, you can count me as skeptical about whether or not the discussion has progressed. I mean, Negarastani was claimed to be one of the three foundational works of SR, but Harman’s work wasn’t mentioned at all. I can get by the fact that I wasn’t mentioned much given that I haven’t yet published much on my ontology, but Harman? Bogost? Latour? Stengers? Whitehead? I admire Negarestani’s work as much as anyone and am not disputing the importance of his work, but I’m unclear as to how SR has anything to offer to media studies, critical animal studies, feminist thought, technology studies, or a whole slew of other things in the absence of a robust object ontology. I attribute this profound deficiency to an ontological approach too deeply wedded to reductive and scientistic materialism and Laruelle. I pretty much think Speculative Heresy is the last venue suitable to host such a discussion given their ontological orientations, but that’s just me.

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Over at I Cite Jodi Dean has written a gorgeous mournful post, nicely articulating many of my own recent feelings. In many respects, frustrated by the political situation we find ourselves in, I’ve found myself in a “tend your garden” mode, preferring to think of anything so long as it isn’t politics. Things are just too depressing at the moment, and I confess I feel deeply powerless, as if I’m a serf or a peasant tied to the land that has no power over my circumstances. As I watch the shenanigans of Congress and the administration, I can’t but come to the conclusion that government is simply an arm of the wealthy. I suppose I always knew this, but it’s really hit home for me recently. Moreover, as I observe the behavior of many of my fellow citizens, I can’t help but feel deep disgust at the hatred and resentment that seems to fill them, the superstitious irrationality, and feel deeply sad at the manner in which this pathos compels them to side with the real source of the problem. I thus end up tending my garden.

At any rate, in the comment section Aidan makes an extremely interesting observation related to the blogosophere and speculative realism. Aidan writes,

It’s a very strange and disquieting time in the blogosphere. The speculative realists have made Badiou and Zizek look a little like they belong to another era. Perhaps the most disquieting was how quickly that happened. Almost within the space of a few months. To me it was really momentous, and made me realise how contingent our attachments are. I don’t believe SZ and AB no longer have relevance, but I don’t think it is possible to approach anything now as if SR hadn’t happened. I just wonder about the politics that will arise from it. Perhaps that will be its biggest test.

While I’m far from believing that Badiou and Zizek belong to another era or have grown stale, I do think Aidan is right in observing that the dominant themes in the theory blogosphere shifted almost over night. It was as if a bifurcation point had been reached and a new form of organization arose or came into being. For me the question is why and how these sorts of shifts take place so suddenly. Another way of posing this question would be to ask what was brewing prior to this shift that rendered speculative realism an attractive “solution” or response to these sets of concerns and problems.

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In his response to Adrian Ivakhiv’s terrific review of Prince of Networks, Graham Harman writes,

Generally speaking, I find that there are equivocations in all the relationist arguments I see. One of them is the claim that, if I say that objects withdraw behind all of their relations, then this somehow amounts to a denial of process and history. How? I am fully committed to historical objects that emerge over time. But they are only objects because they are irreducible upward to their current interactions with other things, and irreducible downward to the sum total of processes that gave rise to them.

It is simply not true that all of the past is preserved in the present– a lovely Bergsonian trope that is completely at odds with how things are. Each of us emerges from our parents, but it would be absurd to claim that each and every detail of the life history and courtship of our parents, grandparents, ad infinitum, is somehow inscribed into our current realities. Some of those details certainly affect us, but it is purely arbitrary to say that all of them do… Through speaking with my mother I am aware of some of the pure contingencies in her life from Kindergarten onward that eventually led to my receiving the name “Graham” (a rare name in America in my generation), but it would seem ridiculous to think that the exact color of clothing worn by both of my parents on January 10, 1950, or the exact nature of the breakfast they ate on that day in their early childhood, is somehow inscribed in my reality right now. It might be, if they ate something harmful that led to a genetic mutation that was passed on to me and will eventually give me cancer. But it’s not necessarily true that everything they did was of any importance at all in my future life.

Here I am in complete agreement. The point is not that objects do not have a genesis or a history. Nor is the point that objects do not enter into relations. My entire onticological dialectic, in fact, is a “physics” of objects that enter into relations. Nor is the point even that certain objects aren’t dependent on other objects. I don’t fare so well in my current state without oxygen. Rather, the point is that the proper being of objects is something that exceeds or is in excess to their relations. In short, entity is irreducible to its relations. Within my own ontological framework, it is for this reason that I distinguish between the object as O1 or actualized properties and the split object, Ø, as the excess of an objects endo-consistency over any of the relations it might happen to enter into. If I am led to claim– and Graham isn’t guilty of these claims –that the proper being of objects is incorporeal, immaterial, and a set of attractors presiding over a phase space, then this is because whatever points the object happens to actualize in this phase space by entering into relations with other objects, the objectness of the object still exceeds any of these relations.

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Michael Austin of Complete Lies has cleaned up the Speculative Realism entry, substantially improving it. I’m a bit irritated not to see my name or Ian Bogost’s under the Object-Oriented Ontology entry, but I suppose it would be unreasonable for me to expect inclusion there before The Democracy of Objects is released. Given the important role that blogging has played in the SR movement, however, I do think more needs to be written for that section. Speculative Heresy has been devoted largely to the Speculative Materialist, Neo-Vitalist, and Eliminative Materialist variants of SR. If SR has truly been the first philosophical movement that’s unfolded on the internet, it is important to reflect the vitality and breadth of this net presence and also avoid hierarchializing works published in journals and presses over research and theoretical elaborations that have been written in other mediums. The day is quickly approaching where the book and article are going to be significantly called into question or undergo a profound transformation in how they are produced and circulated. SR has been at the forefront of these shifts. The entry should also include links to these blogs. SR has been, perhaps, the first philosophical movement to take new media seriously, given the claims that certain variants of SR make on behalf of objects, it is important not to treat one set of objects as being more real than others. One of the most attractive features of the SR movement is the manner in which it has been a “grass roots” movement that has circumvented traditional power structures presided over by the academy. That could, of course, mean that it is a movement dominated by a bunch of cranks– certainly few of us are at marquis institutions –but I prefer to think of it more as a contemporary, digital version of the French Salons or the Greek Agora. These reservations aside, great work Austin!

I’ve placed an asterisk next to those blogs in my links that regularly write on issues pertaining to Speculative Realism and Object-Oriented Ontology. Hopefully I got them all. It’s difficult to keep track of things these days with so much going on in the theory blogosphere. If I missed you, let me know. Similarly, if you have a blog that I haven’t linked to let me know as well.

Well voting is now underway for the 3Q Prize. Two posts have been nominated for Larval Subjects. Go here to cast your votes!

Paul Ennis has founded a new blog devoted to Object-Oriented Ontology or (OOO) designed to mirror Speculative Heresy’s blog devoted to Speculative Realism and focusing on the speculative materialist orientations of SR coming out of Nick Srnicek, the brilliant Reid Kotlas, Ben Woodward, Taylor Adkins, Ray Brassier, Meillassoux, and others. Paul has described me as a “notoriously prolific blogger“. This is probably accurate. As Asher Kay has suggested to me in private correspondence, it’s likely that I’m a bit manic depressive in my orientation to the world, oscillating between periods of extreme fecundity and demoralization. When first reading Klossowski’s Nietzsche and the Vicious Circle I thought I was reading a theoretical version of my own autobiography. At any rate, it looks like I need to get a draft of The Democracy of Objects completed soon so I can sit at the “big kid” table with Ian, Graham, Bruno, Isabella, and the now deceased yet still active objects, Alfred, Xaviar, Martin, and Ortega. Hopefully I’ll have a draft of this completed by January.

It is my ardent hope that Paul’s new blog will be what I’ve called a “difference engine” or a machine that produces differences and new orientations of thought rather than a hub of dogma. Certainly there are a number of differences between Graham, Ian, and myself. Graham’s emphasis is on the withdrawal of objects. Ian might be described as a “Badiousian object-oriented ontologist”, focusing on the unit-ization of objects (I haven’t yet read Persuasive Games and am still working through the stellar Unit Operations. My own orientation focuses on flat ontology and the manner in which objects translate one another when they interact with one another, underlining how OOO provides us with a post onto-theological metaphysics, rather than remaining within the rut of representational realism. Bruno Latour and Whitehead are relationists, treating objects as their relations. Whereas, I think, Harman, Bogost, and myself are united in the thesis that objects are independent of their relations. In short, there’s a lot of room for variation here. If there is anything that unites OOO it is a sort of ontological promiscuity desiring to make things more real rather than less real, wishing to proliferate the sorts of objects that exist rather than assert the hegemony of one type of object. Beyond that it’s all fair game.

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