Differences are starting to emerge in our group reading of Integral Ecology, with Tim Morton taking a grumpy stance from the back of the car while others are measured but generally more positive in their assessments. Tim’s main criticism seems to be the Object-Oriented Ontological one that E/Z’s categories “map perfectly onto normal everyday human prejudices,” and specifically prejudices against non-sentient beings. Tim writes:

I must protest as an object-oriented ontologist. Nothing about what a sponge or even a pencil does differs very much, at an ontological level, from what a human does when she cognizes.

And further:

the difference between my use of interobjectivity and E/Z’s use of the term is that for them, “object” just means “something that isn’t social, human, sentient or noetic” or something like that. Whereas for me, “object” can mean the Pope, wallabies, the Oort Cloud and flapjacks.

This difference is worth expanding on. Integral Theorists are quite insistent on the point that all entities — all holons, in their terms — include some kind of interiority (which ranges from simple prehension and irritability to consciousness and beyond) and are characterized by some kind of sociality. Their use of the term “interobjectivity” refers to the relations between things in their objective, that is externally observable, dimension. So this doesn’t refer to objects per se, but to a particular perspective on things.

IT here is consistent with a Whiteheadian usage, where objectivity is something that arises relationally (co-arising alongside subjectivity); it is not something that is simply given. This makes both of these perspectives different from that of OOO, which uses the term “object” to refer to all real and perceived entities.

But back to Tim’s flapjacks. Since I’m not sure if he means a British flapjack (a syrupy granola-ish oat bar) or an American one (a pancake), I’ll substitute it with the better known American example of a Hostess Twinkie. Is a Twinkie really ontologically no different, or little different, from Tim Morton?

If your ontology says “yes, they are no (or little) different,” then this may just make you an Object-Oriented Ontologist. (There’s something to be said about minimalism, philosophical or otherwise.) If, on the other hand, you have some way of accounting for significant differences between Tim and the Twinkie — Integral Theory’s is to speak of level/depth of interiority (among other things), but one could also speak of internal and/or relational complexity, capacity, virtuality, structure, and so on — then you probably aren’t.

But then maybe I’m just all wrong about OOO yet again ;-)




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