Monday, January 16, 2012

Step back and repulse monkey

An excerpt of our ongoing OOO discussion. Balder referenced Joel's principle of absolute reversal, where one end of a pole becomes its opposite when it reaches the extreme. I replied:

This reminds me of my old t'ai chi training. Yin and yang must be clearly differentiated and balanced in mind, body and deed. Theoretically when yin for example is 100% and yang 0% then yin transforms into yang.* And yet practically in the body and between bodies this never happens, as they must always be clearly differentiated to maintain balance.

If I were to put 100% of my weight forward with no countervailing backward counterweight then I would lose balance and fall on my face. Even in yielding to an attack one must adhere to their opponent with at least 4 ounces of pressure** to be able to read his force, trajectory, etc. Complete yielding results in losing touch with the opponent and in being pushed over. Hence something just doesn't seem right to me with these theoretical notions that one becomes the other at the extreme poles. And why I tend to prefer the always already in relation between opposing forces which are never completely the same, completely different, and never completely transform or reduce into the other. We also see this at play with Harman above in his fourfold of 2 polarities, with ever-shifting dynamic balance being the integrating factor.

* We might say this only happens on extreme ends of an abstract hierarchy which posits such absolutes. Whereas for L&J hierarchies start in the middle with the concrete basic categories closest to lived experience and work their way out to the edges, hence providing concrete balance to otherwise metaphysical premises.

** Hence the yin/yang diagram always contains a small seed of opposition in the predominating black area and vice versa. This small seed indicates there is never 100% of one or the other lest they lose connection and fly off into metaphysical heights and depths, primordial substance or being.

In a similar yet different context see Michael's Archive Fire blog post on ontological intimacy, wherein he says, quoting Adam:

"“I would like to suggest that we can frame this discussion within two conceptions of withdrawal: absolute and contingent (the first associated with the work of Tim Morton and Graham Harman, the second with Michael and Levi Bryant).”

Don't forget part 1 of the above, where Bryant "skillfully differentiate[s] his own understanding of withdrawal from Graham Harman’s by further articulating philosophical commitments consistent with a move towards integrating process-relational thinking with object-orientated investigations."


  1. The premise of the principle of absolute reversal (PAR) assumes as "given the identity of opposites" (Spinbitz 118). Aka a metaphysics of identity and presence.

    A concrete example from tai chi within an individual body performing the exercise is that any body part, say the leg, can be (either mostly or partly but not completely) substantial while the other is insubstantial. When one shifts the weight the formerly substantial leg now become insubstantial and vice versa. But substantiality did not change into its opposite, the leg did. That is, the principle of substantiality does not change into its opposite but it remains as it is in relation to insubstantiality, not entirely identical to it but not entirely different from it due to its ongoing and inescapable, dynamic relation.

    Another example would be Bryant's object, which is in relational exchange with its environment but it does not become its environment (or another object) at any extreme pole of objectness, or vice versa. Per the first example, we might say that the substance of substantiality (and insubstantiality) remains inviolate as autonomous principle but its actualization via exo-relations in a pair of legs manifests as relational exchange.

    That doesn't seem quite right, just thinking out loud. More contemplation of the Infinite One is required...

    1. Balder: When you say, not entirely identical, what do you mean? Part of it is identical?

      Me: Good question, as it depends on what I mean by identical in my context, which is different that what I perceive it means in the context of a metaphysics of identity. In the context of differance it means that one pole is like its opposite in that it is in an inseparable relation, identified within the same relation. And yet it is also irreducible in its difference, not identical is the sense of being entirely the same, for then there is no difference.

      As to my last post, another thought is that the differentiating of sub- an insubstantial in my example might make those more like sensual qualities in Harman's terms. The real objects might be the legs, in that the left leg remains a left leg in itself, and whether it becomes sub- or insubstantial depends on its contextual relation, in this case the shifting of weight. Not sure though if that exo-relation is as sensuous object or quality in Harman's terms. Still not clear, just more murky mud welling up from the dark recesses, which can happen when one opens.

      Balder: Do you think objects are, in principle, ever finally reducible to something or other (beyond which no further reduction is possible)?

      Me: Don't know. If they remain in a sense open, an unbounded wholeness as it were united and split by differance, can we ever arrive at a final resting place?

      "The sun is the same in a relative way but you're older,
      Shorter of breath and one day closer to death." Time, Pink Floyd


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