OOQ – Object-Oriented-Questions

I can’t claim that I know too much about object oriented philosophy. It’s often more about my friends or colleagues talking about it, enthusiastically for or against. Indeed, I have been one of those who has at best followed some of the arguments but not really dipped too deeply into the debates – which from early on, formed around specific persons, specific arguments, and a specific way of interacting.

Hence, let me just be naïve for a second, and think aloud a couple of questions:

-       I wonder if there is a problem with the notion of object in the sense that it still implies paradoxically quite a correlationist, or lets say, human-centred view to the world; is not the talk of “object” something that summons an image of perceptible, clearly lined, even stable entity – something that to human eyes could be thought of as the normal mode of perception. We see objects in the world. Humans, benches, buses, cats, trashcans, gloves, computers, images, and so forth. But what would a cat, bench, bus, trashcan, or a computer “see”, or sense?

-       Related to this, what if the world is not an object? What if the non-humans it wants to rescue are not (always) something we could with good conscience call objects? I guess OOP wants to treat everything as an object – across scales, genres and epistemological prejudices – and hence bring a certain flatness to the world – to treat humans and non-humans on equal footing, a project which I am in complete agreement with – but does this not risk paradoxically stripping entities, the world of specificity? For instance, in mediatic contexts, what if we need to account for the non-object based realities of such media technological realities as electromagnetism – that hardly could intuitively be called an object. Would treating such entities as objects be actually just confusing, and lead to imagined concretenesses? This question is motivated by some recent arguments in media theory, insisting that we need more careful vocabularies of the non-object nature of media; for instance Wolfgang Ernst and his discourse concerning time-criticality; Mark B.N. Hansen and his recent ideas stemming from the direction of Whitehead, in connection to ubiquitous media.

-       Some people are enthusiastic because object oriented philosophy seems at last to offer a philosophical way of treating the non-human (animals, technology, etc.) on an equal footing to the human. Agencies are extended to a whole lot of entities. But such claims, whether intentionally or not, forget that there is a whole long history of such thought; the most often forgotten is the radical feminist materialism of figures such as Rosi Braidotti and Elizabeth Grosz; this goes nowadays often by the name of new materialism.

-       Just a thought: The real is not the same thing as matter. Matter is not always about objects.  In an interview, Grosz has briefly hinted that she is not that interested in the concept/category of the real, because that still concerns more closely epistemology. Instead, what concerns her is matter.

-       Is object oriented philosophy more akin to epistemology, an operationalization of the world into modular units through which we can question human superiority– instead of it being an ontology? If we want to pay more philosophical respect to the world of non-humans – chemicals, soil, minerals, atmospheric currents and such – should we not read more of scientific research that constantly is the one who talks of such worlds, and actually offers insights into different worlds of durations and stabilities from that of the human? Don’t get me wrong – I might be a naïve observer but not that naïve: of course I know that a lot of sciences are not able to be that self-reflexive, and constantly smuggle in a huge amount of conceptual and other material that makes their epistemology infected with the human/the social, and that science is not a neutral cold gaze that just registers the world. I guess I am just interested in the world – an empiricism, transcendental, radical.

These thoughts are indeed just self-reflections of an amateur while reading object-oriented philosophy, or listening people talk about it – I think I am just trying to figure out why people are so enthusiastic about it.

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  1. December 21, 2011 at 10:52 pm

    Just in case the Pingback (protocol) doesn’t work, my thoughts… http://theinternationale.com/blog/2011/12/not-answers-but-a-response-to-jussis-ooq/

  2. December 22, 2011 at 1:33 am

    Hello Jussi ;-)

    A good friend just recently asked me what I think of OOP, though, this is an old issue for me. My main critic is that OOP has erected itself as the result of exercising a set of scholastic vices where the ‘philosopher’ invents, contemplates and draws conclusions of the ‘object’, but from the overflying commodity of the laboratory: conclusions charged with all kind of inadvertent subjections that are taken for granted by them: conclusions which verification is self-validating for the OOPer, specially if checked by other OOP colleagues that unsurprisingly have the same scholastic views and therefore, the same ‘skills’ to reproduce the same addictive procedures, as long as they share the same ‘ways to do’ philosophy, ie, the same scholastic vision, the same academic habitus. It happens that this philosophical orientation towards objects is a kind of mirage that fulfills the dream of all philosophical nerds: the dream of having control over a philosophical object from which he could say whatever he pleases, including any neurotized fairy, or any paranoic rush. The OOP tendency would be nothing without Heidegger and without Latour: from the former it takes existence as a conditional limit that would ‘institutionalize’ any validation, giving it its ‘being’ and making it an artifact of school; from the latter it takes an imposture against the sociological determinations that are ascribed in the field of philosophical production, an imposture that discredits any radical exercise of objectification within the philosophical practice.

    There’s an implicit trap the OOPs: though one does not take too long to see what all its matter is about, it does take a quite long time to believe that so much textualization contains so little at the end of the day: one simply takes a good while to realize how possible it is to make of our cynical office a grandiloquent ‘ontological’ craft: one temporarily enters in a kind of denial to save the own pride, and to not understand as feasible, the fact that this ‘philosophical’ approach is genuinely prejudgemental, discriminative, gotten out of any real political and social context: this selfish textualization is what brings all kind of questions as a consequence of the imposition it carries: OOP tendency ensnares the innocent and victimizes him with false objectual enchantments making him unknowingly part of a neoliberal fascist tendency, a rare kind of philosophical ‘group’ nerdification.

    • December 23, 2011 at 12:22 am

      Just a quick note on neoliberalism: In my version of OOO, capitalism is a fictive hyperobject that appropriates the agency of other fictional objects (imagined needs and desires) to make them seem infinite, thus creating a ‘transfinite’ object – an object trapped, at least at the manifestal level, in a state of indeterminacy between finite and infinite. In this case, a ‘commodity’ is the transfinite version of an imagined need or desire. Thus, a commodity and the agential entity to which it corresponds are severable, with commodification involving the arrest and disruption of agency.

  3. December 22, 2011 at 2:20 am

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    Hmm, comment box layout on iPad is problematic. Now I can see what I am typing.

    Yeah, the first point is never properly addressed, except with emphatic agreements that all these hints are, in fact, objects, which leaves deleuzians scratching the multiplicity of their heads wondering what then is the utility of OOP.

    I think OOP can be productively classified as Neo-Deleuzian. In that they follow Deleuze of The Logic of Sense, but only engage with the world in single way counter-effectuating everything in terms of the event of the ‘object’. By reducing everything to a single ‘sense’ and correlative distribution of causality through bodies and the passions of bodies, etc there is no need to do any heavy philosophical lifting when it comes to analyzing occasions in the whiteheadian (or massumi Neo-whiteheadian) frame. Of course, for most post-strucuturalists/processualists/occasionalists/continentalists/whatever, ‘objects’ are not the only occasion, hence utter confusion about what can come out of this besides a fashionable intellectual movement.

    What of occasions that are not objects, but events proper? Sigh…

    • December 22, 2011 at 9:11 pm

      Glen,

      This is a very perplexing remark:

      By reducing everything to a single ‘sense’ and correlative distribution of causality through bodies and the passions of bodies, etc there is no need to do any heavy philosophical lifting when it comes to analyzing occasions in the whiteheadian (or massumi Neo-whiteheadian) frame. Of course, for most post-strucuturalists/processualists/occasionalists/continentalists/whatever, ‘objects’ are not the only occasion, hence utter confusion about what can come out of this besides a fashionable intellectual movement.

      What of occasions that are not objects, but events proper? Sigh…

      My substances are autopoietic and allopoietic dynamic systems. The elements of these systems are events that disappear as soon as they are produced and that therefore must be reproduced from moment to moment if the entity is to endure in time. Not only is this very close to Whitehead’s own account of societies, but it also entails that the analysis of any object entails the analysis of how it produces itself to endure over time (ie., heavy lifting). This all pertains to the internal constitution of objects. Additionally I argue that the qualities of objects are themselves events that occur under specific conditions. For example, the weight of my body is not a quality that my body has, but is an event that happens to my body in relation to the gravitational force of the planet earth. On Mars my weight would be different. In either event, my objects are processes. Are you actually familiar with what you’re criticizing or are you getting hung up on language?

  4. December 22, 2011 at 3:02 pm

    I’ll write a proper response on my blog after Xmas, or maybe before who knows, but man the comments on this post amount to “I don’t like it.” I don’t mind anybody disliking any philosophical approach, but inventing material objections instead of admitting a difference in taste isn’t very productive. A dream of control? Neodeleuzianism? Not so much.

    • December 22, 2011 at 3:38 pm

      Ian, I’ve tried to give a different sort of reply below. And while my reply suggests a “fundamental challenge” to OOO, I mean it quite seriously that this remains an open question to me. I say this here because your own notion of an “alien phenomenology” played a central role in formulating the arguments that I summarize below (and that I originally put forward in my dissertation, where I was not concerned to challenge OOO but instead looked to OOO and the idea of an alien phenomenology for a methodological sort of criterion in trying to avoid anthropocentrism). I find your own work in this direction very productive for thinking a non-correlational media theory, and I very much look forward to your further thoughts.

  5. December 22, 2011 at 3:29 pm

    Thanks, Jussi, for this post, which I think expresses some of my own open questions, doubts, and puzzlements with object-oriented ontology. I too have mostly watched from the sidelines, so I won’t try to answer anything definitively here. Instead, just a few observations:

    I think your description of why people get enthusiastic about OOO/OOP is very much in line with my own initial interest: it promises a systematic, philosophical way out of anthropocentric binds–an entry point that would explain why posthumanism, for example, doesn’t just come _after_ humanism, but that would illuminate nonhuman agencies of all sorts (animal, technical, vegetable, mineral) as they have informed and set the parameters for human agency from the start. That goal–which is basically what is meant by a critique of correlationism, as I understand it–is admirable and worthwhile, in my opinion. So the question is whether OOO/OOP can actually serve these purposes, or whether it’s not in the end too programmatic to account for the variety and multiplicity of agencies that populate the world. (This, for the moment, remains an open question for me, but I share Glen’s misgivings about the prospect, as noted in his comment above: especially the notion that not all occasions/events are objects, but that OOP allows an ontological space only for the latter.)

    The second observation I wanted to make is this: I think you’re absolutely right to bring up media as a central and decisive case in the evaluation of OOO/OOP. This is something I’ve explored in my dissertation, which I sent you recently (if you’re interested, the relevant bit is in Part Two, esp. Chp. 6). Basically, for me, it comes down to this: What would it mean to think media non-correlationally? My own engagement with this question, which centered around cinema, was framed by the alternatives of a Merleau-Pontian phenomenology of film (as put forward by Vivian Sobchack) and a Bergsonian view (in Deleuze), but also drew upon Mark Hansen’s view of “media as environment for life.” In the end, I expanded this to “media as environment for agency”–with a view towards including technical and non-living agencies–but however you turn the question, the idea of non-correlational media seems to relativize the scope of OOO/OOP in decisive ways. This is because media, following Hansen, are always _both_ concrete, apparatic entities (or “objects”) _and_ something more: the quasi-transcendental, infra-empirical set of parameters for the emergence of phenomenality and agency itself, that is, the environment for agency (and for “objecthood” as well, it would seem). If this is true, then a non-correlational view of media will not be one that decisively separates media from their correlations with situated agencies (such as human subjectivity) and thus treats them as “objects” in the sense of OOO/OOP, but that instead sees media as the “originary correlators” themselves (as I’ve put it in the diss): i.e. as the doubly articulated quasi-objects that leverage the deeply historical transitions and interactions between correlated phenomenality and non-correlated flux, or between the empirical and the noumenal. Like Latour’s “mediators,” but accorded a quasi-cosmic role in the constitution and reconfiguration of “subjecthood” and “objecthood,” media–and this accords quite well, I think, with what you say here about electromagnetism–cannot be reduced to the status of “objects,” and they therefore articulate a fundamental challenge to OOO/OOP. (At least, that’s what I’m inclined to think…)

    Anyway, again, thanks for the thought-provoking post

    • December 22, 2011 at 4:21 pm

      OOO does not separate media from their correlations. OOO does two things: (1) it rejects the principle that only one correlation exists (human-world) and (2) it holds that objects at all scales (things, stuff, I call them ‘units’ ) are the fundamental stuff of the world. OOO thinkers have different positions on the implications of those points. For me, I’m very indiscriminate and treat everything as an object or unit. Electromagnetism, sure.

      As for how media can be thought counter-correlationarily, this is largely what my forthcoming book Alien Phenomenology is about. But not just media, anything really.

      I’m not very interested in talking about what might or might not be a “fundamental challenge” to philosophies of any kind. I’m more interested in asking what we can do with different theories.

      • December 22, 2011 at 4:44 pm

        Thanks for responding, Ian. Sorry if my comment came across the wrong way: I’m also not interested in “fundamental challenges” per se, but I think we do have to question the foundations of a given theory, which is what I was pointing to here — not implying that I’ve demolished OOO or anything like that, only that I’m asking questions of a very basic nature.

        More importantly, though, I share your pragmatic orientation (what can we do with theories?), and this is where I’ve benefited most from your work. In any case, I am interested in continuing dialogue, not in staking out a position and defending it to the death. My feeling, in any case, is that there are a lot of very like-minded people trying to do very similar (or in any case apposite) things with very different vocabularies right now (I’m thinking of the various resistances to anthropocentrism or correlationism), and that it’s important to try and talk about semantic/conceptual differences with an eye to mutual understanding (and not with the purpose of formulating “fundamental challenges” to a certain way of speaking).

        In any case, I very much look forward to your _Alien Phenomenology_, as I do think that media are in a sense very special objects, and I don’t think that the particularities of media have been given enough consideration in SR so far (but if you know otherwise, please point me in the right direction). Thanks again for taking the time to respond!

    • December 22, 2011 at 9:19 pm

      Shane,

      Why do you see this as a problem for OOO:

      it promises a systematic, philosophical way out of anthropocentric binds–an entry point that would explain why posthumanism, for example, doesn’t just come _after_ humanism, but that would illuminate nonhuman agencies of all sorts (animal, technical, vegetable, mineral) as they have informed and set the parameters for human agency from the start. That goal–which is basically what is meant by a critique of correlationism, as I understand it–is admirable and worthwhile, in my opinion. So the question is whether OOO/OOP can actually serve these purposes, or whether it’s not in the end too programmatic to account for the variety and multiplicity of agencies that populate the world.

      Ian’s Alien Phenomenology seeks to investigate the manner in which nonhuman agencies experience or encounter the world. My own use of autopoietic systems theory coupled with the work of Jakob von Uexkull in animal ethology is designed to do something similar. One of the central aims of OOO is to expand the correlation so that we’re no longer simply investigating what other things are for humans, but so we’re investigating how nonhuman things encounter the world. Perhaps it’s the word “object” that gets in the way. People tend to think of objects as passive entities that just sit there until acted upon. But OOO conceives objects as agencies that encounter the world in their own unique way.

      I’m also perplexed by your remark about media. Not only have I constantly celebrated media theory in the form of McLuhan, Kittler, Ong, etc., as one of the important forerunners of OOO, but Bogost and I are currently in the process of writing an OOO oriented media theory. Far from ignoring media theory, it is at the heart of my thinking, Ian’s thought, and Graham’s thought (who’s also written widely on McLuhan).

      • December 23, 2011 at 8:52 am

        Levi, the part you quote wasn’t supposed to present a “problem” for OOO; instead, it described the promise of it and posed a question (which remains open for me). What you say about Ian’s and your own work, namely about expanding the correlation beyond human-world correlations is pretty much what I was getting at in outlining the promise of OOO, and I’d definitely like to see this work–but like I said I have this open question about processes and objects, and I’m just not sure yet that it always makes sense to say that all processes are objects (or vice versa, for that matter!). Finally, my remark about media wasn’t meant as an accusation. So I look forward to your joint project with Bogost–sounds exciting.

  6. David
    December 22, 2011 at 4:26 pm

    Thanks for this post, and many of the comments are helpful as well. As another amateur with this stuff, I think it is interesting—in the context of an approach that is deeply implicated in theories of media—that the mode of OOP’s proliferation so often goes unremarked. Without diminishing in any way the contributions that these thinkers are making (which, again, I’m not really in a position to comment on either way), it’s at least possible that a significant part of the momentum that is attached to this movement has as much to do with the mastery its proponents have of the forces (in addition to reason) that morph, coalesce, and accelerate a discourse. How would OOP be different (and differently perceived) if it had come to be in a conventional scholarly timeline? Can we even separate OOP from the way it has proliferated? Should we?

    • December 22, 2011 at 5:16 pm

      It’s a good question. I think we can separate them from the perspective of metaphysics, but it’s also productive to think about them together. Indeed, that’s one of the gripes some critics have about OOO, namely that it’s *too* bound up with contemporary technocapitalism.

    • December 22, 2011 at 9:20 pm

      David,

      I do think that OOO has been the first theoretical trend to make significant use of the internet; however, it’s also worth asking whether it would have been able to proliferate well in this medium were it not saying something of significance that resonated with the intuitions of others.

      • David
        December 23, 2011 at 5:44 am

        Oh sure, I don’t doubt there is lots to it…I’m genuinely excited by what I’ve waded into the last few months, in so far as I understand it. I suppose I’m just genuinely curious about the role that this particular contingency plays, as well as how it might be accounted for.

  7. December 22, 2011 at 8:03 pm

    I’ll pen a reply to this in terms of my own specific views on OOO and why I continue to remain very sympathetic to it.

    As a quick rejoinder to Jussi’s post, I’ll say this; the key emphasis here, the challenge as it were, is on the ability to think of ontology as discrete and necessary: not at some golden base totality or within human knowledge, but at all levels.

    Discrete – that is to say entities or units that are completely separate and unconnected from their contextual environment.

    Necessary – that discrete entities are the centre of ontology, and all relations are produced asymmetrically from these entities, they orient to them. There is no exterior environment, because the environment is made of discrete entities.

  8. December 22, 2011 at 11:07 pm

    Ok Ian and Levi, here is a challenge: use OOP and explain the boiling point of water. I have used the boiling point of water to explain the concept of the virtual to students. I want to see if what you can come up with is more useful than other philosophical approaches.

    Ian, spot on. My comment was crafted to generate a response. Neodeleuzian, rofl.

    Levi, if it is ‘very similar’ why then would I bother with OOP? Why not stick with Whitehead? Is it the whole ‘God’ thing you don’t like? I read eternal objects the same way as Shaviro, Massumi, etc as virtual singularities that can be repeated in different ways under different conditions, like the boiling point of water.

  9. December 22, 2011 at 11:12 pm

    Also, Levi, all objects are processes, great, total agreement. Not all processes are objects however, and it is entirely counter-productive to play language games so as to imagine them as such.

    • December 23, 2011 at 12:10 am

      First of all, you’re being very arrogant and condescending in your engagement with others on this blog, and that’s counterproductive to any sort of coherent intellectual exchange. I’d encourage you to reconsider your tone, particularly if you’re an instructor.

      I think you’re confusing how people typically define processes with how an OOO’er operationalizes ‘relations’. Objects can completely withdraw from relations, or agential acts between entities. Relations, on the other hand, cannot be extricated from the objects to which they pertain. Hence, my term ‘hyperrelationism’ to connote the (processual) idea that the being of all objects is utterly interrelated, such that no object can extricate itself from this web of relations or, for that matter, the objects caught in the web. Hyperrelationism implies the lack of objectal independence. No object-oriented ontologist reduces objects to the relations with which they’re involved at any given point in space and time. Some of us, however, posit that objects are in states of becoming, such that their being is never static. What Levi is describing is the idea that all objects – and objectal assemblages – employ entropic regulation. In other words, they’re always under ‘threat’ of destruction and, therefore, must do something to prevent this, thereby maintaining some level of spatiotemporal consistency.

      Even if you grant Wallach’s view that Whitehead doesn’t reduce reality to a static monism, he nonetheless posits God as a singular, undergirding phenomenological entity, subsumptive of all existentiall possibility. Accordingly, object-oriented ontologists would argue that Whitehead undermines objects by recuperating their independent agency and experience within a single processual becoming.

      That’s not a language game; it’s a stark contrast between object-oriented ontology and process philosophy (that said, my version of OOO posits that signifiers exist independent of that which they signify, in a radical move away from language games that, nonetheless, attempts to preserve much of the progress made by discursive deconstructionists). As for the boiling point of water, there’s nothing tricky about this for OOO: It’s a manifestation of a given ‘power’ (the capacity to boil) of a substance (water) within a given set of relations that includes water, heat energy, environmental factors, etc. Within what we might call a Clausius-Clapeyron assemblage, if we’re being cute, a substance will manifest the power of “boiling.” It’s ironic that you mention the boiling point as an example of virtuality, since the withdrawn being of an object, including its powers and internal relational structure, is deemed ‘virtual proper being’ by Levi.

    • December 23, 2011 at 1:09 am

      All processes are objects.

    • December 23, 2011 at 10:36 am

      Anything that isn’t an object is a procedure.

      We’re tired of your ‘Processes’: the theological import of contingency. When you can’t explain how things actually relate, rely on an unexplainable disorderly import to mop up the work of objects.

  10. December 23, 2011 at 2:05 am

    Glenn,

    If you actually bothered to read what I’ve written you would know that all my objects are defined by a virtual dimension defined by attractors that preside over local manifestations. This is developed in chapter 3 of The Democracy of Objects. This Explicitly integrates what you’re referring to with boiling water and is one of the reasons that I describe qualities as local manifestations. So this begs the question, do you actually know what you’re talking about or are you just basing your claims on hearsay? You seem to have very little familiarity with what you’re criticizing. As for why I just don’t go with Whitehead, I’m happy to think of him as an ally on many issues; indeed, I’m currently writing an article on him for The New Whitehead edited collection coming out with U of Minn. I read Whitehead and Deleuze in the same way Whitehead reads Plato: I draw inspiration from him on various points while also doing my own work. I see this as a win-win. If it turns out I’ve said nothing different than what Whitehead and Deleuze have said, then Whitehead and Deleuze win by having someone that has fruitfully expanded and repeated their thought. If I say something new then a new contribution has been made that builds on that. Your remarks here, however, seem highly ironic for a “Whiteheadian”. Certainly you’re aware that Whitehead claims that creativity and novelty are fundamental, yet oddly you seem deeply opposed to creativity and novelty! How curious! At any rate, I’ve never claimed to be doing something absolutely new and novel that doesn’t build on previous thinkers. I reference them everywhere and draw on them perpetually. All I’ve claimed to do is intervene in certain hegemonic tendencies defining the dominant epistemes in the humanities. Perhaps you should take the time to actually read thing before denouncing them (your point about boiling water being a prime exampe of an embarrassing ignorance on your part).

    • December 23, 2011 at 2:35 am

      Levi, OOO is bigger than your work. No? Jussi’s student replied in such a way that made it clear that whatever allies you have created in your work, they were not his allies. That is why I do not understand the purpose of your intellectual alignment to OOP. Is it as Naxos above diagnosed, and you seem to agree with above (re alleged hegemonies etc), it is a kind of academic power game?

      I haven’t read your book. I havent had time. I don’t want to read it for the purposes of critique, but to see if there is something useful.

  11. December 23, 2011 at 10:50 am

    I sometimes wish we could collect all the discussions from Larval Subjects, Immanence, Harman’s blog and Ecology Without Nature into a compendium, especially the processes vs. objects threads. It’s starting to get messy and I think some of the abovementioned objections to OOP has been dealt with already.

  12. December 23, 2011 at 3:43 pm

    Dear Jussi Parikka, I was inspired by your remarks to do a series of posts reformulating your points in my own words and incorporating Naxos’s convergent diagnoses (beginning here:http://terenceblake.wordpress.com/2011/12/23/terminology-obfuscates-incommensurability/). I was particularly struck by your call for more attention to concrete research as against exploring the internal ramifications of a set of universal terms – which is more akin to magical thinking than to scientific examination of the world. I call this counter-argument “Parikka’s parry”.
    I think object oriented members are very powerful in responding to critiques that almost nobody makes, and so they tend to reduce a post like yours containing unfamiliar (to them) ideas to the execrable stereotypes that they are comfortable with. Anything you may say is treated contemptuously as something “that has already been dealt with elsewhere” and discussion of fundamentals is neatly (and condescendingly) side-stepped. I can only encourage you to continue, without ceding to the intimidating lobbying of a small but vocal pressure-group.

    • December 23, 2011 at 6:07 pm

      Ah, so says the Terrance Blake that wants to put myth and science on equal footing and who defends fundamentalist creationists here in the states who provide the ideological support the system of global capitalism, seek to take away women’s rights, and criminalize homosexuality. You have the implications of your position pointed out to you and you freak out. No thanks. Perhaps in France these aren’t real issues, but here in the states your kinds of apologetics have had profound consequences for the lives of millions and have had horrific consequences in installing certain leaders in office. You think you’re doing something radical by suggesting that myth and science are on equal footing when really all you’re doing is supporting the projects of some of the most reactonary and destructive forces in our world today. We need the sort of immanece you’re talking about like we need another hole in our heads. As for Jung you might as well start waxing poetic about orgone.

      There’s nothing wrong with expecting others to actually be acquainted with what they’re criticizing. Moreover, coming from a very similar intellectual background to Jussi’s (I am, after all, a Deleuze scholar) I had no difficulty understanding his questions nor did not feel they were out of line or inappropriate.

      • December 23, 2011 at 7:22 pm

        Hello Levi (as you see I have the courtesy to spell your name correctly), how are you? I have “already replied to you elsewhere”: http://wp.me/p12TSZ-9w. Maybe that’s the problem, me replying to you. I am not a university professor like Jussi and I am not a “Deleuze scholar” like you, is that why you show such contempt for me?
        I honestly think that defending myself from ad hominem criticism that travesties my arguments is not “freaking out” but is quite reasonable behaviour. I thought Jussi’s arguments deserved a better hearing than they were getting and I tried to clarify their content and console him for the “weird” comments and the “big emotions” and “the not very welcoming debate” – his words not mine, but I say very much the same thing. Jussi however is a university professor, and a potential useful convert. So you direct your fire at me.
        I must admit that while keeping to the same content I upped the polemical intensity, which seems to have incurred your ire, or should I call it your “dark righteous rage of Magneto” (you see Levi you mythologise all the time, it’s good, keep it up!). I wrote; “I think object oriented members are very powerful in responding to critiques that almost nobody makes, and so they tend to reduce a post like yours containing unfamiliar (to them) ideas to the execrable stereotypes that they are comfortable with.”
        Now for the second time you have criticised me virulently for a position that I have never held, as is open for all to see if they read your comments and compare with my blog. You have replaceded me with an execrable stereotype. You do not see me but your own phantasm.
        Further I was talking here on this blog (Jussi’s blog, not yours), and in the four posts on my blog about something that has nothing to do with the opinions you have concocted in your own mind. Maybe I contain more différance than you can bear?
        It is a great surprise that you, a Deleuze scholar and a continental philosopher, seem to consider my living in France a defect.
        To finish I still love your blog and will continue reading it (and commenting on it if I feel so inspired). I am sad that our exchanges are filled with misunderstanding and bad feeling. Deleuze said that the true encounter is with the concepts, and the people are always a disappointment. But he always did have an élitist strand. You however are for full democracy (I got that right, didn’t I? I hope so, sometimes it’s not so obvious.), so I think I like the person Levi, but that movement thing is a real bummer!

  13. December 24, 2011 at 12:08 am

    Terence,

    I’ll have to go back and reread your posts to see whether or not I’ve given you a fair hearing on the myth issue or have completely misinterpreted you. If I’m mistaken I apologize and will attempt to rectify that (though the tone of your subsequent follow up to my initial post on your blog as well as your comments here do not help in that regard). A couple of points. First, I was not trying to lord my Deleuze scholarship over you, but responding to your remark that I did not understand Jussi’s questions because they’re framed in a background different than my own. In fact, we share a very similar background. Second, I was not suggesting that there is something wrong with you living in France. I was suggesting that the issue of myth might resonate very differently in the United States and France due to the fact that France is far more secular than the U.S.. It might be much easier to take a far more causal attitude towards myth in that context because it doesn’t, perhaps, directly affect life in the same way it does here. Here it has very real world political effects that have contributed to the ravages of neoliberalism, the war on terrorism, as well as the assault on women and GLBT folk. This arises in part from myth-motivated people electing officials that pursue these military and economic policies and in part from people seeking to persecute these groups based on what they believe the Bible tells them. I believe it’s important to take a stand in this context. If I responded strongly to your post it was in light of that context and the very high political stakes I see surrounding these issues. And again, if I’ve misunderstood you, I apologize. Finally third, I am not an advocate of democracy but of something like Marxist anarchism. That aside, whether we are speaking of radical democracy or Marxist anarchism, neither position means that means that we just let a thousand flowers bloom and we all live and let live. There are antagonisms, disagreements, and arguments and these will all play themselves out on a plane of immanence. I recognize myths as real actors in the world, but that doesn’t entail that I think they should just be preserved and left to go their merry way. I see this as predominantly a negative thing and believe that many of these myths should be undermined so they no longer have the efficacy they currently enjoy.

    As for OOO being very powerful, I can see how you might feel that way given the web presence of the OOO theorists, but we really are a minor, marginal position in academia. Harman is out there in Egypt and doesn’t have graduate students. I teach at a community college or two year school (an exceptional one to be sure), where I only have the opportunity to teach introductory courses. We have very little to no representation at the major conferences nor in the major journals. OOO is not a hegemonic or dominant position by any stretch of the imagination. I don’t think I swoop down and argue in a belligerent way generally. I thought my response to Jussi over at Larval Subjects was friendly, merely outlining my own positions, where we converge and pointing him elsehwere where I’ve discussed these things. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to refer to work one’s done elsewhere, nor do I think it’s out of line to not wish to repeat all that you’ve argued for the thousandth time.

    • December 24, 2011 at 10:35 am

      Hello again Levi,
      I am delighted to have entered into an open exchange with you, involving not just concepts and arguments, but affects as well. My attitude is let a thousand intensities bloom, and GOD (the Great Object Debate) will recognize his own. We are all self-correcting multiplicities.
      On my blog I tried to make a distinction between mythology (a dogmatic ideological use of images and concepts in the service of social domination and control) and myth (imaginative thinking, feeling, perceiving and acting). The distinction is clear even if the terminology is pickwickian.
      For many years I was a Feyerabendian, so when I first read Richard Dawkins (10 years ago) I could not bear his smug scientism,his naïve positivistic reductionism. Then I became aware of the creationists’ and intelligent designers’ use of Feyerabendish-looking arguments to justify their ideas and practices. At that I really did “freak out” and suddenly found myself appreciating Dawkins more. Still, anything can be misinterpreted and it would be a shame to let an enemy dictate my epistemology and my ontology and my psychology etc. After all, as you point out this venue is the site for engaging only a minor marginal discussion in the eyes of the world, and so I have chosen to maintain my speculative freedom and my honest speaking. As do you.
      P.S. (I’m sorry I can’t resist!): If I understand you correctly the true title of your book should be “The Something Like Marxist Anarchism Of Objects”?

  14. December 24, 2011 at 2:59 am

    The problem with electromagnetism is that if you see everything as a wave, black body radiation multiplies absurdly when you try to sum the waves. You get the correct answer if you see electromagnetism as an emergent property of quanta–units–objects.

    Likewise, electromagnetism presents a problem because it depended on ether: the Lorentz contraction. It’s solved by positing spacetime as an emergent property of objects (Einstein).

    OOO is congruent with contemporary science.

    • December 24, 2011 at 8:28 am

      thanks Tim! I am trying to figure out the implications of what you wrote there briefly — it’s implications for an understanding of science and tech in media theory and history. I guess for me the question still is, being someone who is customed to think of it (EM) as a field rather than as an object, how one uses such object perspectives to talk of specificities of technical media (and hence the relevance to science but also to engineering). EM was one question; I guess it has to do with how would then an object-perspective read relevant texts which are crucial for the way we have come to use and understand for instance electromagnetism as relevant to certain media; the whole world of waves and frequencies, or the world of time-critical processes in computer based media which some have argued should not be understood only as time-based, but as time-critical. How would we translate the various scientific texts where there is not always talk of objects to object-discourse (and why) – and how to justify that; why to become an archivist (or even a media archaeologist, hehe) who goes to the archive, picks up Maxwell, Hertz, or something and translates what they say into object-oriented discourse. So in addition to electromagnetism, there is a lot of other things that I had in mind, and hence the references to Hansen’s recent arguments, Ernst’s work; an in general, turning for instance worlds of frequencies, vibrations and rhythms — what is the gain of talking about everything as an object (and especially ontologically, not only epistemologically, as with the need to quantify some phenomena in order to “make” them behave in a manner that makes sense!); would it end up in a situation where one would have to do explain more and to a whole lot more people than it would solve? So for me, the bundle of questions is not only ontological, but also epistemological (modes of knowledge as historical and media tech related) and matters of expression: style of writing, concepts used, their status, hierarchy, etc. But again, thanks for chipping in! Fascinating stuff, all this. Still not sure if its useful for me, as I don’t understand why I should be turning to objects to talk of non-humans, but that is more of my problem! :) With kind wishes, J

  15. December 24, 2011 at 8:08 am

    I really want to thank @terence for his very thoughtful posts and for extending Jussi’s points and concerns in relation with my comment: just as him, I read Jussi’s initial post as a very honest and even timid but necessary call for attention to account certain methodological vigilance regards to the terminology of whatever ‘object’ we aim to treat and refer, and from which we also aim to make conclusions. Professor Jussi was just being frank, which is something very valuable: in no way he manifested his concerns as a critique, and he never addressed them to anyone. But this is not what happened for Graham Harman: his reaction and valuation of Jussi’s concerns is pretty dismissive and unfair: as Harman does not know who Jussi is ―and while he has never interacted with him online like many of us have done, for instance―, he just obfuscates himself in a defensive suspicion against him. ‘Being frank is not permitted: that is not how OOP works: you have to cheat to yourself in order to practice it: that is how it works: no objectification of our position as researchers is required, only the ability of self-cheating’.

    Harman is also dismissive of those who have commented here, he disparages us as ‘people’: for him we are nobody and what we are able to say and criticize in our own right, not even existent. Harman discriminates us, but most of us have studies and have our own achievements, and mostly, we also have been here interacting since quite a time, have blogged for years (for example, Glenn is really a pioneer among philosophical blogosphere, even more than Levi and myself). So Harman has not big weight to call for anything more productive if he does not participate in a vis a vis interaction in the blogospheric online debates and shares, whether if it would be to defend his position or to extend explanations about it. Harman needs to expose himself if wants to be listened: if OOP is a blogospheric phenomenon with not more than a marginal position in academia, as Levi has said, it would not be a bad idea for Harman to descend from his cloud and participate a bit more: maybe then he would just gain truthfully all folks respect and admiration (just as Jussi and many other phd professors with which we interact online) oh but far from only posing it as if he would already deserve it, as if we should give it to him just because of his name. Here in the blogosphere, Harman is no better than anyone of us, and he can only respect this fact.

    Oh well, however far from all this boring issues, I do want to take the chance to wish Jussi, Glenn, Terence and everyone here, so good and happy holidays ;-)

  16. Chip
    December 24, 2011 at 4:39 pm

    Agreed, Harman’s smug dismissive “read my book” response is lame if he is going to try to criticize people online but not engage them there (and him trashing Brassier was not called for either). Harman is known not only for being a self-marginalized kook but for being a passive-aggressive.

    Fads come and go, boys. Seems like more and more people are seeing through the ooo charade.

    Watch the OOO-ers gang up and try to defend against real and devastating critiques!

  17. Jason Hills
    December 24, 2011 at 5:06 pm

    Thanks for the discussion; it has been enlightening.

  18. May 11, 2012 at 9:02 am

    The other day I stumbled across a YouTube video depicting an algorithmically generated conversation between a computer program and “Eliza” on the topic of OOO. (I posted and discussed it on my blog, here: http://medieninitiative.wordpress.com/2012/05/09/non-correlational-media-theory/ ). Anyway, I was intrigued by one of the questions, “what would it mean to think media non-correlationally?”, which struck me as very familiar. After googling it, I realized it was a question I had posed in the comments here, and I see now that the corpus for the program’s questions is largely if not exclusively this blog post. Many of your own questions (the OOQs of the title) are used, Jussi, to stage this apparent nonhuman encounter. In all, it’s quite a nice little experiment, much in the spirit of the “carpentry” that Ian Bogost recommends in _Alien Phenomenology_. Which raises the question: who’s the carpenter? Anyone know?

    Intrigued,
    Shane

    • May 13, 2012 at 4:18 pm

      Hi Shane! I shall leave the question about carpenters to others, but just thinking aloud (I know I should not) — perhaps the non-correlationist point was in some Kittler’s notes already, for instance in Optische Medien – Optical Media (p.148 of the translation, commenting on Jonathan Crary): “There seem to be entire branches of scholarship today that believe they have not said anyhthing at all if they have not said the word ‘body’ a hundred times. There is not doubt that in the nineteenth century the geometric model of optics, which prevailed from the time of Brunelleschi to Lambert, was replaced with a materialistic one, but that by no way means that the material effects of light always impact on human bodies and eyes. It can just as easily be, as we have seen, Schulze’s photochemical effect on silver salts and, even more conclusively, Herschel and Ritter’s history of infrared and ultraviolet. Crary’s thesis would therefore be more precise if he had not spoken about physiology but rather about material effects in general, which can impact on human bodies as well as on technical storage media.”

      In other words, there is a lot happening outside what happens to human bodies.Also, this relates to some earlier debates, for instance in Kittler’s reception in the US, where he was branded as a pessimistic posthumanist. There is more there, and it’s more about his understanding of the physics and materiality of tech media.

      • May 14, 2012 at 9:54 am

        Thanks, Jussi. I agree with your reading of Kittler, i.e. that he’s making an essentially non-correlationist point there. And of course he’s not the only one (to name just one example, Niklas Luhmann — while less clearly materialist — is definitely not thinking about human subjects when he talks about media…). I think that there’s more to be done, though, in terms of fleshing out a specifically non-correlationist media theory. And I do think that non-correlationism can serve a useful function as a sort of negative criterion, i.e. as a preliminary check to make sure that any theory avoids anthropocentrism, for example. But that’s probably not enough. We can insist (with Kittler here) that media, or anything for that matter, have a range of effects outside of the narrow purview of human thought, subjectivity, and discourse, but these can always be written off as a sort of extra-medial dimension that does not pertain to the medium per se (the medium qua medium, which in many instances at least still does implicate humans in various ways). So I guess I’m especially interested — to the extent that I’m interested in a “non-correlational media theory” — in discovering those dimensions of media that do indeed impinge on the human without being centrally “about” or in any way subject to the control or processing of the human. For me, this means discovering media _as_ the “originary correlators”: not themselves subject to a correlationist view, since they themselves configure the historically variable pathways of subject-environment correlations. (If that makes any sense…)

  1. December 21, 2011 at 10:51 pm
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