Objects, relations and resistance


Just reblogging a part of a post on the Immanence blog that I found particularly striking.

For the OOOist the ‘real’ object withdraws, as Levi describes, while for the PROist what’s real is not the withdrawal but the engagement, the opening outward, the grasping, clasping, affecting and being affected. There’s no withdrawal that isn’t either a movement ‘back’ toward something else, which means also a grasping, or a movement at a different, and less noticeable, speed. There’s rhythm in that movement, a rhythm that contributes to the process that Levi calls his daughter. The difference here seems to be that the OOOist draws a kind of epistemological line at the withdrawn object, while the PROist assumes that the ‘withdrawal’ is a version of the same basic prehensive/concrescent movement that constitutes any actual occasion or moment of becoming.

I have the feeling that Levi would (if he hasn’t already) immediately respond to this by pointing out that the ‘real’ object is not found in the withdrawal or, in Levi’s terms the excess, of a being over its relations. This is because for Levi the object is split between its virtual proper being and its local manifestation in its properties. It is not the real object that withdraws but rather the virtual aspect of any object remains in excess of its manifestation in its properties; the real object is constituted by both of these poles, virtual and actual. I imagine that Adrian (of Immanence) already knows this, knows it far better than I do and that this was posted fairly quickly.

That said, there is also the idea that the OOPist ‘draws an epistemological line’ when it comes to discussing the excessive virtual kernel. As far as I can tell this is something that Levi and Harman, in their different ways, have been rejecting. It is not that these are epistemological considerations, that the thing-in-itself can never be known to us, but that virtuality does not show itself to us except through those actualisations which translate it.

I still have some burgeoning sympathy towards a position such as Adrian’s, not least in the fact that he has devoted time and effort to even developing it, and am beginning to approach my own thinking of mental health and mental health care as necessitating a kind of ecosophy that grapples with things in terms of their relations. After all, my concern in that regard is to safeguard the biopsychosocial approach both from its eliminativist medical and neurological critics and from its own weakness, that feeds into these critics, in being unable to explain exactly how the three (or four if we add the dimension of spirituality) relate to each other in more than figurative or gestural ways. In other words, as I currently understand myself, I am beginning to see a need to think an ontology in which the biological, psychological and social are not distinct from one another, in which a plethora of relations come into play. There is thus a sense in which mental health, illness and care all point towards a relational-process ontology. I find myself, for one reason and another, drawn to both modes. Perhaps objects/processes are ambivalent in this way.

In this way, we might rephrase the above quote to state that it is not simply that objects virtuality remains excessive or withdrawn (or, in Dominic Fox’s recent wonderfully poetic description of Harman’s ontology) dormant or sleeping but fully resistive. In propertising itself in relation to other objects in a specific way an object enacts these elements but withholds other elements. This may be readily admitted by Levi and/or Harman but perhaps the emphasis is too strongly on the process of enactment, for the sake of emphasising an object’s own organisational activity. Withholding, or holding it’s virtuality in excess, is surely not a passive process either. There must be some homeostatic struggle in place to prevent objects from being tumorous becomings. If such would be the case then Adrian’s comments about the withdrawal being a relational process involving its own movement, speed or rhythm would stand. In a sense if objects do not conform to the pictures that naive realism or actualism have of them then there must be not just be some selective engendering of themselves in objects but also a resistance to other ways of being engendered. Objects do not simply interact or hide from each other but they must actively resist each other’s invitations. In Deleuzeospeak, it is not a question of organs being against the body without organs but both against the organism. Might objects conform to a kind of interoperability, when we consider their relation to themselves and other objects, that works by way of the ‘and’, a kind of ‘maybe logic’, the never really finalised recombination of virtual and actual.

The reason I was first drawn to object-oriented philosophy was the claim that in order to have relations we must have things which relate. Adrian’s most important question, and I am unsure if it has been answered satisfactorily as yet, has been that of where these objects emerge from, how they get on the scene to begin with. This is a question of relations. The kind of ambivalence I am talking about here may then be more epistemological than ontological, and might well be worked out by those more capable than myself in the course of the development of these positions.

As ever, I hope that makes sense and hasn’t garbled anything as it goes along. I’m happy to be corrected or pointed in other directions.


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