Friday, March 2, 2012

Object/process clarifications

Following are some recent posts in the IPS OOO thread from pp. 51-2:

Bryant explores several of the problems encountered with his idea of substance in this post. A few relevant tidbits:

"From the foregoing we can see why the concepts of multiplicity and difference arise.... The concept of difference arises out of issues of just how to account for the individuality of substance.... Multiplicity invites us to think the identity of substance not as an unchanging substrate but rather as an activity on the part of substance over the course of its ongoing life.

"When we investigate the nature of mind we do not seem to find anything like enduring persons, but rather instead encounter only distributed networks where unity and identity only exist as enacted rather than as a substrate supporting accidental changes. In other words, it increasingly looks like self and personhood are processes and activities, like they are multiplicities, rather than substrates lying beneath change and activity.


As to the withdrawn nature of any particular object/system, to say it has the same core or essence regardless seems antithetical to what Bryant, Derrida, Cilliars or Varela might say. Bryant might say it would then be the same mushy essence for every object. In terms of a linguistic sign, for example, any particular one does not have an infinite number of meanings, though there is quite a bit of excess meaning reserved in any particular usuage. And this excess also leaves open possible future meanings of any particular sign. However a particular sign is not open to mean anything, since it must still retain its autonomous identity, and difference, from other signs through its relational associations. That is one of Cilliars points using Derrida.

Another of Bryant's blog posts adds further distinction:

"Contrasting my position with Harman’s might be helpful here. For Harman objects have a withdrawn essence that is self-identical and enduring beyond any action on the part of the object.... For me, by contrast...the [object] is not an abiding identity that stands behind the deed. The object is nothing more than its acts but is its acts and sustains itself only in its activities.

"With that said, it doesn’t follow from this that the agency of an object is purely an exo-quality or a result of interactions with other objects. There are endo-processes and exo-processes. Endo-processes consist of activities taking place within an object that are completely unrelated to anything else in the world. while exo-processes are processes that unfold in collaborations with other objects. Here my position can be distinguished from Latour’s."


Thanks -- this is helpful.  I personally think he would do well to align more with Latour, who speaks in terms of subsistence, and various modes of subsistence, rather than "substance."  This would be more in keeping with Bryant's "process" conception of so-called substance.  Also, his idea that the processes that take place within an object are "completely unrelated to anything else in the world" looks, to me, like pure fantasy.

On an OOO-related note, I was playing today with the notion of a BOO: a Body-Oriented Ontology.  Seeing objects as "bodies" -- a term which carries different (more living) connotations than object.  Also, "body" seems to carry more ontological weight than object, which is actually an epistemological term.


I too struggle with statements like that about endo-relations. As my preference is embodied, enactive realism I'm with you on BOO. (Don't get scared folks!) The term body doesn't have to refer to a living body though, as it could be structure of any kind, including inorganic. Since I'm also into linguistics I'm fond of the sign, both as body (signifier) and as metaphor (signified, which is also embodied). I like Bryant on these other types of objects. As you were noting in another thread on enclosures this could also include other types of bodies like buildings, and here Bryant distinguishes between autopoetic and allopoetic objects.

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