Saturday, 28 February 2009

Elimination Zone.

I think Graham Harman is right on the money with this post sketching possible future outcomes for Speculative Realism, (the latest issue of Collapse colliding with the brain like a series of brutalising punches, in the best possible way). Really it comes down to a simple issue (I think), of whether emergence between scales of structures is an actual ontological property or not, and the relation or articulation between the ontic and the ontological, between beings (of all different kinds, non-human and human) and being itself (and how far we can push such a distinction before it loses intelligibility). To what extent is emergence an epistemological constraint (we see a structure, formed from a subsidiary structure, the micro-level obeying certain laws, the macro certain other laws, and whilst one is certainly the result of the other, it appears to emerge in a dynamic manner, multiplicative rather than merely additive, but this is simply because our grasp of scientific modelisation is theoretically inadequate...)- or is it an actual ontological property (as Levi and Latour hold). Is this the final gasp of correlationist anthropism (freedom in a scientistic guise?) Can we have an ontic principle of irreduction alongside an essentially eliminativist ontological monism?

As regards Graham's response to my comment regarding object-based ontologies as anthropic biases, I probably should have been a little clearer. My comment on Larval subjects ran that:
"...isn’t there the danger of absolutising the object as realist ontological unit? I’m uncertain that, say, Brassier would want to limit himself in such a way for example, especially given recent critiques of metaphysical schema which rely upon objects as their basic structural component (I’m thinking particularly of Ladyman’s “Who’s Afraid of Scientism” in the latest Collapse). Indeed whilst it makes perfect sense to talk on a folk-metaphysical level about giving objects their proper attention (as you and Graham Harman do), to think at least as much about the interactions between inanimate non-human actants as human ones, does this not remain overly wedded to the very level of correlated folk-knowledge any realist must attempt to escape from? If the crucial component of science for realist philosophies lies in its anti-intuitive findings, leading to a continual disenchantment of the manifest image, why ought we to continue to think in terms divorced from these findings (i.e.- to remain at the level of “objects all the way down…”). Ladyman’s “Ontic Structural Realism” for example strikes up a radically eliminativist approach to objects tout court, in contrast OOP seems to remain overly in hoc to the visualisable structure of the objectal."
To clarify, I am not accusing Graham of being a kind of intentionality obsessed phenomenologist! But there is something in Ladyman's critique of analytic object-based metaphysics which struck me as requiring some degree of response, on the specific issue of objects as ontological paradigm, with the suspicion, or perhaps speculative posit, that this could be an example of notions inherited from human sensual biology continuing to surreptitiously infect our conceptual attempts to evade such determinations. Even given the weird (vicarious) nature of causation between Graham's objects, that distinguishes them from the kind of folk metaphysical mechanics ("tiny objects and microbangings") Ladyman is actually attacking, as Dominic Fox has noted there remains a distinct possibility that our notion of "objects" breaks down at a certain point (extreme macro multiverse or extreme micro-physics, potentially). We don't necessarily have to be eliminativist about this, since OOP is endangered once it encounters a non-objectal form (something which perhaps in Graham's terms really is simply pure relationality, or pure quality perhaps). I don't know enough about Ladyman's Ontic Structural Realism to be able to properly comment on how his "structure, all the way down" approach actually works, or how it evades the pretty obvious objections, but will definitely look forward to Graham's ultimate response to the latest Collapse.


Anonymous said...

Can we have an ontic principle of irreduction alongside an essentially eliminativist ontological monism?

Yes yes yes! This is what I've been trying to get at with my anontology (or xenontology). Recently I've only been working on the theory of temporality, but there is also a crucial reconception of reduction that does not rely on a fundamental ontological level of reduction, a primary substance or being, but is rather content to reduce things (to) themselves. Objects are inessential arrangements all the way down, whose components, upon abduction, become amnesiac as regards their former affinities. In other words, they are xenobjects that realize the innecessity of their own origins, or that fall away into their own anonymous (pre)histories...

Sh said...

Ahhh, this reads like my comment I left in response to yours - except yours is much more coherent and I don't have the knowledge of Latour that you seem to!

I think planomenology's quote-pull is very important - and I think that the nature of Laruelle's One is at stake here in being the central point for the tug of war between the irreducible and the elliminatable.

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