Friday, April 27, 2012

Present at hand

Continuing discussion in the OOO thread and Bonnie's blog post on the Magellan course led to the following ruminations:


I've been looking forward to checking out his [Morton's] forthcoming book, Realist Magic.  I was just thinking and writing about perspectivalism last night.   My thought was that saying "all is perspective," as a move to avoid ontology, is problematic because it just smuggles the ontic into the epistemic: there is one real thing, and that is perspective (foundationally).

Regarding relationism being a metaphysics of presence, in your reading of Morton, do you think he's saying the problem with it is that it holds that relations are more real than objects?  Meaning that the move beyond this would either be to assert equal reality for both relations and objects, or to avoid asserting the primacy of either one?  Perspectivism or perspectival enaction might at least avoid the positive, perspective-independent assertion of networks or objects as metaphysically present things or "givens."  An integral approach, I believe, would hold that neither "object" (UR) nor "network/system" (LR) can be given primacy (that would be a form of quadrant absolutism).  But I don't think it could assert that objects or networks aren't real, to the extent that it remains committed to two theses: that perspectives are always embodied, and that such "bodies" are holonic.

Saying relations are more real than objects would also be a form of overmining, in Harman's sense.  But what is left?  OOO sometimes subsumes "relations" into its object category, saying relations are objects, too.  Everything is just objects, objects, objects, jam-packed together.  Foam, anyone?  But if we bring in Sloterdijk, and stretch his meaning a bit, then every bubble (holon, object?) is also a relation.
How about perspectives?  Are perspectives relations?  Are perspectives objects?  Holons?

I'm feeling dizzy.

(Lastly, I'm still not quite sure about what fully is intended with the emphasis on objects as withdrawn.  To what degree is this Kant's unknowable thing-in-itself?)


My take is that the withdrawn is real in an ontological sense but is not the kind of firm foundation we see in a metaphysics of presence, since it is not wholly present or given. Or wholly absent, for that matter, since it is not Whole. In that sense it seems well akin to Kant's unknowable, but is a thing in itself? It seems a thing in itself implies something wholly present as given, whereas Bryant's objects are always constructed and at least partially present, partially withdrawn.

I think this might be why Wilber reserves the causal apart from the manifest, since the latter is always perspectival relations. In a sense it's like Kant's unknowable transcendent categories or Bryant's withdrawn, except that Wilber's causal is capable of being wholly present via direct perception during certain meditations.

Related to [the above] further reading in [Levin's The Listening Self]...says this:

"For this ego, the truth of things, the essence of things, is totally present.... For the echo is radically deconstructive, subversive, even denies the possibility of pure presence.... The echo is a challenge to the closure of metaphysics. Whereas metaphysics reifies and totalizes, making all instances of presencing into objects that are permanently present-at-hand...the echo sets in motion a hermeneutical deconstruction of this ontology. Moreover, the echo deconstructs the metaphysical projection of an 'original ground,' compelling us to recognize this...'constant presence' as the deluded projection of a metaphysical reading of the field of perception" (237-8).

Levin goes on, where the echo sounds (pun intended) like the withdrawn:

“The echo...carries us from the ontic world into the ontological field.... Only the ungraspable, unreachable echo....teaches our hearing the presence of absence and the absence of presence....where the empty sound of metaphysics die out in the self-concealment of goes into hiding....has nothing substantial about it” (238).

One difference it seems is that for Bryant the withdrawn is entirely substantial, i.e., grounded, as it were, in the body (form, structure). Levin might indicate the same and yet, as I've criticized before, his language often seems to coincide with kennilingus (and its Tibetan shentong roots*) in an insubstantial withdrawn(ness) like the causal realm, in itself part of the very metaphysical correspondence theory he is criticizing. I know, he also carefully caveats with the likes of the quotes above, but still... (another intentional pun.)

* This notion of a metaphysical presence in shentong has in fact a long history of (and oft times polemical) debate in the Tibetan tradition (and here in the forum). See Batchelor for example (and Rosch), with other links and references. Not coincidentally, Levin's (and Bonnie's and other forum members) own Buddhist preference comes from the shentong lineage. We also got into Morton's Buddhist leanings in the OOO thread, where he too is a shentong dong and tries to square this circle from his own angle here and following.

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