Levi Bryant has a wonderful post up in response to my announcement of Stengers’s book. If mine was “less appealing” to him, as he puts it, this may not be a bad thing, as it seems to have elicited a shimmering cascade of resonating strings in his thinking. (Perhaps appeal has a devilishly indirect manner of working…)
Many quotable bits here:
In my view, the real opposition is not between substance and process, nor between substance and relation, but between anthropocentrism and immanence.
[. . .]
I am not a sovereign standing over and above the things in the world, projecting my intentions, moods, and affects upon them; but neither am I a mere passive stuff in the world lorded over by active entities such as nice robust reds or pinot grigios. Rather, I am among things on a plane of immanence populated by a variety of actors or agencies.
[. . .]
The two intertwined lovers explore a cartography of oscillating agency-matter, seeking out both those glimmers of agency, of subjectivity that escape material passivity in the other and surrendering ourselves to the other as passive materiality. If so many of us sometimes cry while making love then this is because we encounter this strange, fraught, paradoxical couplet at the heart of our being of transcendence-materiality where we encounter the mystery of our embodiment that is both a thing of this world and a subject that transcends things in the world. In transcending things of the world we seem to miss and lose them. In being reduced to materiality we seem to disappear and cease. The sweet frustration of the intertwined bodies of lovers is the necessity of these overlapping impossibilities, of appearing in transcendence only for the other disappear and of disappearing in materiality only to have the other appear.
[. . .]
The anthropocentric index of contemporary thought has had the tendency of blinding us to ecology by locating all agency in human minds that project meanings, uses, and intentions on to objects. To investigate the world here amounts to investigating our externalized selves. As a result, we do not ask what things themselves do. Yet if it is true that being is characterized by immanence, this will not do. We need conceptual resources that will also draw our attention to what computers do to us, and not just how we use computers. We need conceptual resources that lead us to ask what chemical processes are taking place in landfills, and not just how landfills are effects of our consumption and the compulsion that arises under capital to perpetually consume new and different things. We need conceptual resources that expose thought to the differences that things themselves contribute. Thing thinking draws our attention to these strange strangers in our midst and helps us to avoid the habit of seeing them merely as vehicles of our intentions or societies intentions.
The last sentence is exactly what I would say about process thinking. For reasons I’ve detailed here many times, the two are part and parcel of the same philosophical move. (My counterposing objects and processes was, of course, intended with a nod — toward Harman’s “beatnik brotherhood” — and a very large wink ).
When Bryant sings of immanence and ecology and process (and objects) and does so as evocatively as this, I can think of no better blogging philosopher than he.