Forget OOO 2: The Nadir of OOO

Review of OOO as a movement by Nathan Brown, from Tool-Being to Realist Magic:

In order to stake its claim to originality and supremacy, “OOO” has to fulminate against what it sees as a threatening field materialists, purveyors of “scientism,” process philosophers, Deleuzians, and systems theorists.
Yet many readers, perhaps trying to find an initial foothold in philosophy and theory, will find themselves in a position from which this might not be apparent. And the problem with obscurantism is that its strategy is to reinforce incomprehension, rather than alleviating it. To the extent that this strategy can itself be clarified, its effect—the cultivation of ignorance and error—is mitigated.

See some of my previous critical comments about OOO.

Back online

I have resurrected my blog. It had been infected with spam and an injection style attack. To fix it I logged into my hosting service’s control panel and reinstalled/updated WordPress. It worked and now I am back.

I’m aiming to do a little bit of writing everyday and combined with my daily exercise regime I shall use to maintain a positive state of mind (or ‘mindfulness‘ as the kids say these days).

Ontology of events and politics

After reading this on Levi’s blog and this on Ian Bogost’s blog I left the below comment on Bogost’s blog:

I’m glad the focus has finally shifted more to the ontology of events, rather than objects. I find ‘events’ far more interesting on a number of levels. Ontology of events requires a different metaphysics, what is the event ‘to withdraw’? Reality consists more of what happens than what it is. The individuation of elements (‘objects’) in the shooting event occurs across a complex interplay of events that are all happening at the ‘same’ time.

It is midly amusing that Harman talks about ’emphasis’ in theory building as if it is a logical category. It is not. It is a political category. What events — and therefore which individuations of objects — are emphasised and how are such events put to use?

Poverty is a classic example; different sides of politics emphasise different events (biography of personal responsibility vs collective/structural conditions of possibility), both of which involve ANT concerns with distributions of agency and both are individuations in a singular complex event of ‘this’ poverty.

What is useful in After Finitude?

Levi has a new post up about temporality and objects. He writes this:

However, while I am deeply sympathetic to the processualists and consider myself a process ontologist– which I don’t take as being synonymous with being a Whiteheadian –this argument only follows if substances are three-dimensional as articulated above. If, in addition to spatial parts, objects also have temporal parts it follows that objects are not brute clods that simply sit still, but that in their endurance through time they are activities or processes.

The obvious point to make is that processes produce objects at various singular points of concrescence (eg condensation, etc). The process is not *of* an object, ie the duration is of relations in these processes and not parts of an object. It also follows if substances are not *in* objects, but in events, with objects being local manifestations of events. The only reason we even think in terms of objects at all is because this is the innate correlationism of human perception.

I agree to a certain extent with your reading of Derrida, but Derrida does not restrict deferral to objects and instead is concerned with the event that is forever actualised through differral (eg ‘to come’ etc.). Reading Derrida in terms of objects is a reduction.

From the physical sciences, water boiled in a closed environment, so all H20 molecules of the water turn into steam, is a version of the Ship of Theseus (SoT) argument. Is it the ‘same’ set of H2O molecules before and after boiling? Yes. So what has changed and for whom? There is no in-itself here. Maybe you don’t think water in such an experiment is an object?

The SoT is an event involving the ship, concept of a ship and a proper name ‘Ship of Theseus’. The comparable singular points for the SoT are predominately *social* in character, just as the examples of your own identity and the physiological seven year cycle. Singular points for identity include complex actualisations across socio-physiological assemblages, such as marriage, sex-change, civil rights changes to legislation, and death. Non-human assemblages are produced around the affective affordances that give them consistency as a kind of non-conscious pan-affectivism (as compared to a pan-psychism), such as the affective character of a planet’s geology and events of tectonic movement.

I’d be interested to see how you deal with creation, Levi. Is ‘creation’ possible in OOO? Is ‘creation’ for you a local manifestation of an object that doesn’t exist yet (ie quasi cause, and belonging to a parent event)? Or is it the local manifestation of a series of lower order objects that combine into a new object? If so, what is the temporality of ‘newness’ for this ‘new’ object then? If anything is useful out of After Finitude, which QM frames in terms of the question of temporality of being out of non-being, it is this question.

On being a fugitive from love

Ressentiment is a reassignment of the pain that accompanies a sense of one’s own inferiority/failure onto an external scapegoat. The ego creates the illusion of an enemy, a cause that can be “blamed” for one’s own inferiority/failure. Thus, one was thwarted not by a failure in oneself, but rather by an external “evil.”

There are a few different conceptions of ressentiment and its wikipedia page is pretty good at outlining the different definitions. As the above brief description explains, ressentiment is a projection onto the world of a painful relation of one’s self to one’s self. Most people have focused on the question of identity, of the distribution of ill will and the construction of the ‘external scapegoat’. Deleuze isolates three characteristics of Neitzsche’s ‘ressentiment’:

Deleuze interpreting Nietzsche’s conceptualization of ressentiment discusses three characteristics. First, there is the inability to admire, respect or love. Second, there is passivity. Third, there is the imputation of wrongs, the distribution of responsibilities and perpetual accusation. (Deleuze, 1983).

I have encountered ressentiment in myself a number of times and I have documented it here in different ways. Here are the top posts from my blog. There are many other instances on the topic, but not in such a sustained way. It shows that I have not really changed the way I understand ressentiment.

1. Singular Complementarity, June 17, 2005

In this post I discuss how falling in love is not a relation between two people, but the folding of two already infinitely folded zones of intensity/sensation. In the second half of the post I warn of a danger.

There is a gamble in the meeting-gesture. This, of course, is the danger.

There are folds that are so worn and habitualised they become creases that scar the surface and will never be sufficiently folded in any other way again. They are the dead areas of the surface and within such proximities there is only darkness. Even if such dark areas are already infinitely folded they operate as blunt surfaces or jaggard formations of folds. These surfaces can become weaponised gestures that are weilded when the soft comfort of complementary folding becomes the acrimony of the crease. Each gesture ceases to be a meeting and becomes an attack of weaponised surfaces. The brightness of midday is eclipised by the shadows that form at dusk. In the end, the surfaces can be so dark even the attacks become empty and instead it simply becomes the meeting of shadows. However, here and now nothing is final.

Joy can only be reclaimed by a gesture, a meeting that forms complementary folds at the speed of sensation. If all one ever brings are weaponised surfaces that are blunt and jaggard and which carry the expectation of an anxious folding to be wrought upon and by the Other so as to render a complementarity, then joy is short lived. Eventually all that is left is a blunt and jaggard surface.

Rather than the meeting of supple folds, a love born of ressentiment is born of complementary dead zones of intensity. People turn these hard jaggard surfaces of themselves to the world as a defence. The only antidote is more love and the strength and courage to envelope an other’s folds into the supple folds of your heart.

2. Now, letting go, July 5, 2005

This post was inspired by pretty epic breakup (got dumped in the US) and the song Mr Brightside by The Killers.

Destiny is calling me
Open up my eager eyes
‘Cause I’m Mr Brightside

The Killers track captures in a beautiful lyrical manner the required disposition for engaging with the world again after having one’s heart broken and allowing one’s self to refold the world into one’s self anew. I am currently listening to this track on repeat as a kind of hipster mantra for warding off feelings of ill will. In the post I use the analogy of the Adam and God ‘just touching’ image of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and offer a somewhat heretical reading. What if Adam was ‘letting go’ of God? Anyway. ‘Letting go’ is a process:

Sure, part of you dies, and it is gone forever, only to be resurrected in un/pleasant dreams. But there is a joy in ‘letting go’. There is. The world is refolded into one’s self. Instead of a short circuit of desire between your self and an other, the circuit opens up to the world. Another part of the world is born and that is what needs care. The eager to-come of Destiny that never does, for it is always becoming on the bright side of our souls. […]
The pain of letting go and the necessary disaffection that allows one’s self to let go of one’s past copy. We are always somewhere in between. Between two copies of ourselves. Letting go of you means letting go of my self. […]
To allow ourselves to refold the world into our selves again. This is what I now welcome and care for, like a wandering stranger whom I have chanced upon: the new stranger of my self in the world.

Wow, that last sentence is killer. I am a pretty good writer sometimes!

3. produce openings on the world October 27, 2007

I return to the common theme here of welcoming the world into myself, producing openings on the world. I draw on the famous symptomology of post-war US culture David Riesman of three ‘character’ types: tradition-directed, inner-directed, and other-directed. Riesman’s three character types are interesting because of their processual nature; they are not innate traits, but capacities of subjectivity evident only through interaction. I have large block quotes from the text to describe what these are, but the relevant bit is towards the bottom of the post, where I describe a woman of ressentiment:

Sometimes the clash between characters exists in a single person. How to produce openings on the world that aren’t filtered through the tortured, guilt-ridden ‘gyroscope’ of the ‘inner-directed’ character? It requires so much work and patience. Sometimes too much. Sometimes it is necessary to give up and accept the fact that being ‘inner-directed’ produces a resource of a sort of strength, which is entirely destructive, but which at least allows the person to exist in the world and continue struggling in impossible situations. When all recourse is exhausted then it is terribly sad especially when beautiful and intelligent people lock away the world from themselves and will never know what it means to be part of something much larger. It is terribly sad when someone becomes this character, and cannot face the world.

I do offer a description of a kind of feminist Ãœbermensch (for purely selfish reasons, because they are as sexy as fuck):

There is nothing sexier than a woman who knows her place in the world. This does not mean she subjugates herself to patriarchal norms. Rather she uses that knowledge to orientate herself in creative and life-affirming ways. Normally this requires an infrastructure of education or the grace of intuition.

4. she left the bit with the most toast crumbs, September 5, 2009

In this post I explore the more complex problem of producin new openings on the world so as to enable new foldings of the world to ‘take’ or ‘develop’

Anyway, the counter-intuitive point I have been trying to think through is the way the development of new intimacies can awaken both old and new estrangements. Folding new and exciting elements of the world into the composition of my subjectivity has somehow made me reassess my solitary existence as instead being one of loneliness. When you meet new people or rediscover old friendships you are not simply becoming intimate (at whatever degree from romantic to almost sibling-like and everything in between) you do not simply form a relation with a person as an object, but a person as a fold of the cosmos and folds of folds, whole universes of meaning.
All of this has happened over a matter of weeks and is a bit surreal, so I have come to a number of tentative, but nevertheless sufficient stop-gap conclusions.
1. The miasma of estranged intimacies and intimate estrangements I am currently experiencing is a powerful force. ‘Miasma’ in the sense of the ancient Greek ‘pharmakon’ (from which ‘pharmacy’ is derived), which can be both poison and medicine depending on the measure. Ethically I need to harness this force and use it to soberly affirm something good in the world. In this circumstance, the ‘good’ is mostly personal in character.
2. I need to be brave to affirm this force. I am brave, almost to the point of stupidity sometimes, so that is ok.
3. I need to learn to appreciate new estrangements and new intimacies whatever their composition, both the potential (that is, imagined future states of) disappointment and excitement are part of this. I am trying to do this through measures of active ‘letting go’ and ‘embracing’, rather than a paranoid-reactionary ’slipping by’ or ‘clingingness’.

There is a complexity to this process, one that requires care and, above all, patience, to let the other person or people fold the world in their own time.

5. letting go, embracing, the world

So most recently, how to ward off my own ressentiment:

I am pretty hardcore when it comes to enduring what life throws my way. It is easy when I feel contempt for most of the world and all the stupidities that it contains. I guess it is easier to think about what I won’t do.

I offer a list of axioms for warding off ressentiment, the full descriptions of each of these are in the blog post:

I won’t stop falling in love.
I won’t stop rolling the dice.
I won’t fret about not understanding.
I won’t stop inviting people into my world.
I won’t stop listening to special songs.
I won’t stop writing my poem.

What I have forgotten about ressentiment is the temporal dimension. There is a contradictory movement of dispising the present while being incapable of imagining the future or past, because any kind of temporal relation is derived from a projection of the present, ie ‘This painful present will continue” “This present is a repetition of the past, nothing changes.” This is why it is so hard to imagine a new opening on the world and a different way of relating to the world, because you become literally locked in time.

To break free of ressentiment means to break time itself; to go to war against all possible futures and all possible pasts that suck life out of itself.