Tuesday, December 6, 2011

OOO, Buddhism & penis size

Our IPS discussion has returned to the relation of OOO and Buddhism. Here are a few snippets of that discussion:


What is the status of the self in OOO?  Does it lead back to conceptions of an independent, isolated nuclear self?


I don't think so. My sense is that an object's autonomy is not devoid of its (inter)dependent origination. And that its withdrawn nature is akin to the emptiness of the self (or any object). Bryant might be more aligned with this interpretation, being Buddhist.


Did you mean that Morton might be more aligned with that view?  I think that's likely, but I am asking this because it seems the OOO positing of an essential, autonomous, withdrawn, non-related whatness at the core of each thing or being is closer to a modified "Atman" view (or apophatic Christian view of the true soul 'hidden in God') than an emptiness/interdependence view.  Perhaps it has rough (and strange) affinity with both views?  (Hmm, I guess I suggested as much when I compared OOO's move towards a post-constructivist substance with Wilber's/Da's reassertion of a post-Nagarjunan self).


I don't know about Harman, but what I've read of Bryant and Morton there is no 'essence' in an object. It's autonomy, at least for Bryant, is due to its auto/allopeitic structure only. And he admits it is always related except for the possibility of dark objects, so I bracket that out. And his descriptions of the withdrawn are consonant with structure, again not with something apriori or transcendent. As with our human selves, we are unique genetically and in other ways, are autonomous beings, but we are also enmeshed in dependent origination and our self is empty of being solely autonomous. I see this in Bryant and Morton's objects.


Yes, I remember saying (many pages ago) that if, by 'substance,' Bryant only meant autopoieitic structure (or closure), then I would have no objections to it at all.  But I also said I did not understand why Bryant and Harman have both nevertheless seemed to criticize 'relational' views and insist that substance is non-relational.  I mentioned above that I thought this so-called non-relational aspect could be correlated with emergence -- particularly, with the living systems principle that systems are non-summative wholes (meaning, there is an emergent aspect of any system that cannot be reduced to the sum of its parts).  But in such a view, it wouldn't make sense (to me) for there to be this apparent ideological divide between OOO's substance view and the so-called relational view (since such a 'unit,' while not over-determined or -influenced by its surround, nevertheless is a relational emergent). 

Beyond a Buddhist deconstructive analysis, which first dismantles naive belief in a self, a return to "self" language is possible and even important (this time informed by the salient insights achieved through such deconstruction).  I was saying that I notice a similar move in OOO:  pushing past the necessary and important critiques of objective and ontological metaphysics, it is possible to emerge on the far side of such a general movement (the various anti-realisms, correlationisms, intersubjective anti-ontological philosophies) and reassert 'object' and 'ontology' again, this time informed by the insights of the previous important (but, it turns out, arguably partial) critiques.


An excerpt of Bryant's 9/30/10 blog post called "conditioned genesis":

"Now Morton has been writing a great deal lately about overlap between OOO and Buddhist thought. It is here that we get at the issue of squaring the circle. My question to Morton– and I do not pose it in an antagonistic spirit, by any means –is how it is possible to square the circle of endorsing the autonomy or independence of substances as OOO does, with the thesis of conditioned genesis? How is it possible to think these two things together. One of the aims of the eightfold way, I take it, is to abolish both the conception of self and things, so as to encounter reality as an anonymous fabric or web of interactive relationships. Yet this is precisely what OOO cannot do, for OOO insists on the irreducibility of substances in the sense described in my prior post today. Consequently, if we’re to go the Buddhist route Timothy is proposing, we require some substantial metaphysical revisions that both  do justice to relation and substance. I am eager to hear how Morton squares this circle and am deeply sympathetic to the project."

This post by Morton begins to answer Bryant's post above:

"Levi raises the crucial question. How the heck do I even begin to think that something as seemingly relationist and process oriented as Buddhism could be amenable to OOO?....it's true that the Theravadins developed a theory of interdependence.... Then the Mahayana crew showed up with their teachings on emptiness. They have some interesting arguments about this precise area. One of them is known as the 'tiny vajra' because it's so cute and small and devastating. One aspect of the tiny vajra's fourfold (!) argument is that if things are indeed reducible to other things, nothing would exist.... I translate 'empty' as 'withdrawn.'"

And Morton's post on Harman, Heidegger's fourfold and the relation to Buddhism.

"The 'higher' Buddhism goes* (sorry I'm biased), the more like OOO it seems. There is a rather rough and ready fit between Pratyekabuddhayana interdependence and tool-being. There is a much better fit between Mahayana emptiness and withdrawal vs. as-structure. And there is an almost perfect fit between Vajrayana emptiness–luminosity and the fourfold object."

* He's a shentong dong.

In the comment to Morton's post on the fourfold, wherein Morton posits a fifth ("the way all of these go together"), the commenter notes the cross in the diagram as the fifth, that which relates them. And this is equivalent to Heidegger's crossed-out Being. Which is of course how I see differance. Bryant has his OOO version of this in "The time of the object" above, with my comments steering it in a more rangtong way.*

*But that is of course my bias as a rangtong dong. And we have the higher (bigger) dongs.


  1. Morton's blog on the rang/shentong dong contest.


  2. A more expanded version of the last reference is here,* lower down in the comments.


  3. And of course recall Thakchoe's book The Two Truths Debate.* His paper presages the book on the topic.**

    * http://books.google.com/books?id=iBjuSQ7FfqkC&printsec=frontcover&dq=the+two+truths+debate&hl=en&ei=GiXeTpvIEs-k2gXm2JGDBQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CDMQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q&f=false
    ** http://www.utas.edu.au/philosophy/staff_research/thakchoe/How_many_truths.pdf

  4. And my previous discussions of this debate, most recently here:


  5. Now I do like Morton's point about the vajra as an object with a substance. This for example from the wikipedia article on vajrayana:*

    "The Sanskrit term 'vajra' denoted the thunderbolt, a legendary weapon and divine attribute that was made from an adamantine, or indestructible, substance and which could therefore pierce and penetrate any obstacle or obfuscation.... As a secondary meaning, 'vajra' refers to this indestructible substance, and so is sometimes translated as 'adamantine' or diamond.'"

    If Morton can put this in OOO terms so that the withdrawn substance or vajra is not of the type of essence criticized by the rangtongs, then I just might get along with this dzogchen luminosity, finally. Though the terms the wiki uses, like indestructible, is not like Bryant's objects. To be determined.

    * http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vajrayana

  6. Balder:

    One thing these quotes make clear is that Bryant recognizes that Buddhist dependent origination / emptiness views are not an easy or obvious fit with OOO, which is my sense as well. I can tentatively go along with Morton's emptiness-inflected interpretation of withdrawal, but this appears to be rather different from how Harman (and perhaps Bryant also) are using the term. One note about Bryant's discussion of conditioned genesis: as I understand it, the fourfold vajra analysis Morton mentions (the Vajra Slivers) actually denies four theses: self-genesis, other-genesis, self-and-other-genesis, and acausal or spontaneous genesis.


    Yes, Morton in this post* notes that what Bryant calls conditioned genesis is a Theravadin (lowest level) concept and is itself a form of correlationism. He sees this as a type of the present-at-hand (Harman), which sounds a lot like Bryant's local manifestations. And both depict what is present, the actual. At the Dzogchen level (highest) there is no causation whatsoever, as there is "nothing behind the object." They are withdrawn/empty, Bryant's virtual substance.

    * http://ecologywithoutnature.blogspot.com/2010/10/object-oriented-buddhism-11.html


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