Tag Archive: object-oriented philosophy


Progress (toward Ω?)

(This is a slightly revised version of the piece I posted a few hours ago…)

I haven’t posted about the debate between object-oriented and process-relational ontologies for a while here, in part because I said I’d had enough of that debate.

But the more I read of Levi Bryant’s work — both in Democracy of Objects (which he’s kindly sent me a pre-publication version of) and on his blog — the more convinced I am that there isn’t much of a debate, at least not over fundamental and incommensurable differences, between his version of OOO and my understanding of PR ontology.

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End of an ear…

I’ve added a menu of links to some of the key posts on this blog in process-relational theory: see “P-R Theory 101″ in the right-hand column (scroll down). This is a somewhat random sample, and readers with the patience for it can find much more by following other links and tags on this blog. A more systematic and refined exposition will come in time.

As a final comment on OOO (because I too am tired of that discussion), I’ll just say that readers interested in the objects-processes/relations debate can revisit my review of Harman’s Prince of Networks, which launched (as far as I can tell) a long series of back-and-forth exchanges on that topic more than 16 months ago, to see to what extent the questions posed there have been answered. That review begins here and ends here; my questions/objections come mostly in the latter segment. With that I’m signing off from that particular debate on this blog.

By the way, the title of this post isn’t a misspelling; it’s the name of Robert Wyatt’s first solo album after he left The Soft Machine. It’s a good one (as are the Softs‘ first four, up until Wyatt left).

Levi Bryant responds to my last post (and by extension to Chris Vitale’s) here. I agree with him that he and Graham Harman have made worthy efforts at addressing concerns that are central to process-relational philosophical communities (e.g., in Bryant’s Difference and Givenness and in the books of Harman’s that I’ve lauded on this blog); nowhere did I claim they have “made no arguments.” My point in the comparison was not to “appeal to authority,” as Levi claims. It was simply to point out the fact that one could fill a modestly sized room with the books that have been published by Deleuzians, Whiteheadians, Peircians, Bergsonians, Jamesians, neo-Spinozans, Hartshornians, Batesonians, panpsychists, biosemioticists, affective materialists, etc. etc. (not to mention Buddhist nondualists and other non-Western-based philosophers, at which point we would need a modestly sized building, not just a room). One could not fill a small shelf yet with OOO books.

This says nothing about the quality of any of these books. But it does say that the former (process-relational) traditions have been productive research programs (in philosopher of science Imre Lakatos’s terms), which is almost as good as one could hope for in a field as paradigmatically pluralistic and divided as philosophy. The difference between a productive and a moribund research program is not always easy to tell except in retrospect, but the level of continuing idea-generation and publishing, including efforts that traverse between and across the various sub-traditions I’ve just mentioned, is relatively healthy. Given that state of the field, Kuhnian paradigm shifts are probably not on the philosophical horizon anytime soon. But I admire OOO-ists’ efforts (and enthusiasm) to cut a wide swath through current philosophical discourse, and I actually cheer them on in doing this (since I share at least some of their interests). But let’s keep things in perspective.

On an unrelated note: my blogging will likely be minimal over the coming weeks. I may polish off a few half- or mostly-written posts from my drafts folder, and I will continue to update my Shadow Blog (since that takes no time at all). You may see a few guest bloggers here as well. But otherwise, don’t expect too much activity here, especially on this objects-processes debate.

Vitale throws down the gauntlet…

Chris Vitale has “thrown down the gauntlet,” as he puts it, to the object-oriented ontologists to finally respond in a satisfactory way to process-relational critiques. (I admire his Sicilian bravado!)

Chris is obviously writing in a somewhat feverish mode, blogging at the speed of thought rather than in the tempered and cautious tone written philosophy has traditionally favored, and this no doubt accounts for a certain repetitiveness in what he’s laid out — which is itself a characteristic of the philosophical blogosphere (and therefore relevant to what I’m about to say). But he makes some very important points, which I would reiterate as follows: View full article »

Tim Morton has recently been suggesting that just as humans anthropomorph (that’s a verb), so pencils pencilmorph. I love this idea, though I’m not sure about its implications, which I want to think through here.

Anthropomorphism #1 (traditional, & its extensions)

The traditional definition of anthropomorphism is something like “the attribution of human characteristics to nonhuman things.” It’s treating, or perceiving, a nonhuman thing as if it were a human. And it’s a good thing, if you’re Walt Disney; or a bad thing, if you’re doing science and your peer reviewers don’t want to acknowledge that the animals you’re studying also think, communicate linguistically, pass things on culturally, and so on.

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Being knowing, knowing being

The debate between relational and objectological variants of speculative realism (for lack of a better characterization) has taken another of its more frenetic turns, which is both frustrating and promising — frustrating because it tends to descend into personally directed pejoratives when it does that, and because, as Steve Shaviro suggests, it seems to go around in circles, but promising because there are glimmers of helpful insight that arise in the process. At the risk of getting drawn in further, I will try to clarify one of those glimmers here.

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repetition with (slight) difference

Just a few quick responses to Levi Bryant. Levi writes:

1) entities are nonetheless patterned or structured despite their becoming, 2) they are unities, and 3) they cannot be submerged in or exhausted by their relations. Relations can always be detached. Objects can always enter into new relations. [. . .] if you hold that entities are constituted by their relations then you lose that excess by which it is possible to account for how anything new can enter the world.

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the mouse

Okay, I’ll post this here as well. (Why confuse people?)

I feel like I’ve stepped into a hornet’s nest. My last post had three goals, and three main points:

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With Whiteheadian process philosophers and object-oriented ontologists meeting minds in Claremont, Chris Vitale softening up to OOO, Levi Bryant declaring himself a process philosopher — more precisely, that he’s “always been, [is], and will always be a process philosopher” — and Ian Bogost sharing a very sympathetic attempt to develop commonalities between the two schools of thought, one could be forgiven for thinking we might be on the verge of a big philosophical group hug. That said, there remains much to chew on in these developments, and I think (and hope) that many of those involved will be doing that for some time to come. Several of the Claremont talks are now available online in one form or another: Ian Bogost’s paper is here, Steven Shaviro’s can be found here, Isabelle Stengers’ talk and Donna Haraway’s response have been shared here (on a wonderful new blog that not only shares many common interests with this blog, but uses the same WordPress theme, sans my background image), and Graham Harman live-blogged it all here.

Having now caught up with at least some of these, I want to throw out a few quick thoughts of my own on what makes a process-relational philosophical perspective not superior, but just very attractive, to me and I believe to others. It’s one of the pieces of process philosophy that I think is worth remembering in all these debates, and a reason why I believe that Whitehead’s re-entry into philosophical discourse (outside of the milieu of hardcore Whiteheadians) marks a significant shift in philosophy today.

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conversions & convertibles

(I try not to edit things once they’re published, but I couldn’t resist adding a Chevy Impala to this blog.)

It may not quite be Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus, as Graham Harman’s blog post title suggests, but Chris Vitale has clearly had a change of heart, a dropping of resistance that’s resulted in a much warmer embrace of object-oriented ontology. The latter has now become, for Chris, a “fellow-traveller,” a compatible and friendly sparring partner at the very least, and certainly no longer an opponent. The difference between OOO and the process-relational views Chris, Steve Shaviro, I, and others have espoused is not one of radical incommensurability but one of emphasis, language, and not much more (as I’ve said myself, for instance here.)

In a series of two posts, Chris announces that change of heart — in terms that remind me a little of Tim Morton’s actual conversion on the road to Damascus — and then fleshes out the main differences and how they are collapsing. What follow are my initial thoughts on Chris’s posts. I’ll be out of commission for the rest of the day and most of tomorrow, and these thoughts are written quickly and imperfectly.

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