I should probably resist from critiquing blog posts, since these rarely capture one’s considered thoughts the way print articles and books do. So rather than replying in detail to Graham’s rejoinder to my previous post, I’ll agree to the cease-fire he proposes (though I hope we weren’t really sniping at each other!). At least after making one last point, which I’ll do by creatively misquoting his penultimate paragraph, specifically by inverting the object-relation duality:
“Stated differently, I’m not sure why a [relational] ontology is interpreted to mean that [objects] don’t matter. Of course they matter. Hiroshima comes into relation with an atomic bomb, and much is changed thereby. The problem with [object-oriented] ontologies is that Hiroshima ends up just as affected by butterflies and grains of dust as by the atomic bomb.”
The first three sentences make perfect sense in both Graham’s (original) and my (revised) renditions. The problem with the fourth, in both versions, is the word “just.” I’m also not sure why a relational ontology is interpreted to mean that all relations, no matter how large or small, distant or proximal, stable or fluctuating, are equal.
Cease-fire (or symmetrical peace) notwithstanding, Chris Vitale’s comment on our exchange at the wonderful blog Networkologies opens the discussion up to a wider set of issues, and in the process explicates the kind of Whiteheadian-Deleuzian-Uexkullian “speculative realist relationalism” that I’ve been working my way toward as well. Chris also addresses the Meillassouxian critique better than I could. Meillassoux, in short, argues that “absolutizing the correlation,” or arguing that all objects are subjects — which is what Whitehead does, for instance — is idealist. As Chris points out, the Spinozan-Deleuzian tradition makes pretty evident that there’s no inherent reason why subjectivity and matter can’t get along. He writes:
“Mind is simply part of what matter does, and the more complex the aggregate of matter, the more complex the aggregate of mind, for these are, to quote Spinoza, simply two different aspects of the same. And to continue the Spinozism for a moment, the more complex the society of the matter, and the more distributed its architecture (the more ‘democratic’ our objects, so to speak!), the more freedom there is.”
His argument is worth reading in whole, and I’m looking forward to his book, Networkologies: A Manifesto, which Chris informs us is close to completion. He also reminds us that these exchanges should be taken in a “spirit of good fun and debate,” and I apologize for occasionally forgetting that.