Points and Objects

18Nov09

Levi has an interesting post about quantum mechanics and Speculative Realism. A whole slew of issues arises surrounding epistemological versus ontological realism particularly in regards to the issue of observation and the uncertainty principle. As the Dailykos post he references makes clear, decoherence does not assert that everything depends on observation, but that at some point quantum phenomenon appears as macroscopic reality.  While decoherence does not explain this transition it does not justify, as Gabriel Catren makes clear in his contribution to Collapse V, a mathematized transcendental couplet comprised of observer and experience (or correlationism).

Catren describes physics as a theory of objects made of a formalism (mechanics) and many kinds of objects (such as fields, particles, systems and so forth). The bulk of the essay is dedicated to showing how QM demonstrates objects and qualities as self synthesizing without the need to appeal to a transcendental subject. Objects are then defined as “a set of invariant objective properties that manifests itself through a phenomenological multiplicity of phases.”

But the source of objective or invariant components becomes problematic if objects only ever become other objects ad infinitum. Catren’s response to this is the utilization of universal operators which he likens to Whitehead’s eternal objects also refering to them as universal ideas.  These ideas which make ingressions into nature are discussed in terms of mathematics – any given object is an expression of certain universal measurements or other physical properties.

What I cant grasp is how the universal ideas (if they are to avoid anthrocentrism) can be separated from being a thinkable potentiality such as Deluze’s category of the virtual. Steven Shaviro made this connection some time ago here. It seems that there can be no guarantee as to the contours of conceptualization (via Brassier) or of transformation (against Meillassoux’s logical access to chaos).  This is the crucial importance of identity in the Laruelleian sense. Yet even in Laruelle there is the tension between the object and the point (the object being the zero-point of being).

The issue remains that the object (at least as it is used by Harman and Bryant) is a relocation and shrinkage of being (or ground in the Schellingnian sense) whereas the point (functioning in place of the object) is a formalization of an epistemological limit regarding becoming. For OOO/OOP it seems that being becomes de-humanized (flattened) whereas for tm/neo-vitalism it is the ignorance surrounding the absolute which is flattened or annihilated. The function of thinking in the former remains an enigma.

Also, see Michael’s excellent post here.

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2 Responses to “Points and Objects”

  1. I’m curious about this:

    “For OOO/OOP it seems that being becomes de-humanized (flattened) whereas for tm/neo-vitalism it is the ignorance surrounding the absolute which is flattened or annihilated. The function of thinking in the former remains an enigma.”

    In the case of the point about tm/neo-vitalism, I was wondering if you could clarify what you mean by this or expand on it as I simply don’t understand.

    As for the point about OOP, I think this is one of the things pushing what I wrote about it and I hope to continue to write. I think a lot of the “anthrocentrism” charges are simply the result of Graham’s building the theory phenomenologically. You can think of my recent post as the beginning of an experiment that I have been conducting myself for a while: thinking OOP without phenomenology. I think the theory presents itself in a new light, perhaps a clearer light, when we think of it in terms of Aristotelian (including the Medieval Aristotelian) philosophy. Thinking is not a “problem” for this tradition, it is simply one of the things we do like breathe and reproduce. The problem seems to come when we begin thinking of thinking as a “break” with the rest of reality. This is one of the reasons why I am so attached to Schelling and vitalism; thinking emerges from Nature. It is not a break or rupture. This makes complete sense to an Aristotelian or a Medieval as well, that thinking is natural.

    Thanks for the link, I’m glad you liked the post.

    • 2 Ben Woodard

      I think you answer your own question a bit – I think there is a flattening or deprivileging of thinking in vitalism in that thinking comes from nature but it seems that the location of thinking in ooo/oop is problematic given the democracy of objects. Reid said something similar to this on his blog to Levi. I like vitalism largely for its denial of the pre-thinkability of the Real and I feel like the phenomenological base of ooo/oop ignores this relation through an unacknowledged experiential flatness. I think your project of OOP w/out phenomenology is a very interesting one.


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