Monday, September 24, 2012

Onticological substances and Buddhist aggregates

Continuing a series of posts (last one here), and the enduring autopoietic substance of the OOO thread (starting here).

This Archive Fire blog post of 9/19/12 touches on our recent theme. An excerpt:

"I’m not at all comfortable with the notion that ideas are objects. Ideas seem to me more like something actors do, as expressions of objects, than things or actors as such.... Therefore ideas are actually private imaginings and recombinations of public (social) referents. Such private imaginings are fleeting and ephemeral products without substantial properties of their own, and only ever arising from and instantiated by specific assemblages of bodies, brains, codes, concepts, memories, habits and communications. Ideas are not objects, anymore than digestion or emotions are."

Balder: This makes sense, and it seems like a reasonable, consistent position (within the OOO model).  But I am wondering -- to connect this with the conversation I was having with Joe Camosy -- about those semi-autonomous thought-forms we call complexes or subpersonalities.  From the perspective which sees thoughts as elements rather than objects -- systemic endo-relations or intrasystemic 'doings' -- these things obviously have no 'substance' of their own, no withdrawn core.  And yet, from the perspective of the ego or self, these thought-forms do have an objective-like status: we don't appear to have direct access, as internal inspectors or "thinkers," to these thought-objects; they do appear to require interpretation, and they maintain a kind of persistent 'identity' which we can investigate, dialogue with, 'translate,' etc, but which exceeds the 'knowing' of the conscious self.  In other words, they exhibit object-like qualities, or can be related to as objects.  Are complexes or subpersonalities quasi-objects, ghost objects?

theurj: One of my (many) sub-personalities objects that he's not real. And he's rather adamant about it. Interesting, the comment about not being conscious of the subs. I often hear their voices and my main personality has to argue, sometimes shout, them down. Often with a tone of voice much like my father when he shouted down my whimpering complaints. We are such complex, sick creatures, humans. Or as the Ferengi would despicably inflect: HU-mahn.

Balder: I'm thinking aloud about this: while thinking may be elemental rather than objectal, there are some thought-systems which appear to exhibit object-like features, at the least.  That's why I suggested the word, "ghost," indicating an in-between sort of status.

theurj:  Being a rabid Derridaean (dada)* you know I like the notion of being haunted by the specter, not quite present and not quite absent. From this Bryant blog post:

"This is one reason I’ve elsewhere proposed that the proper being of objects has the status of a ghost or a poltergeist. The proper being of an object is not its parts (other objects), but is rather a ghostly endo-relational structure that cannot directly be perceived but only inferred.... It is that assemblage of powers, attractors, or singularities (tendencies presiding over the entity as act) that make up its proper being."

Also recall much earlier in this ancient thread Bryant's article "Time of the object," wherein he uses differance to explain withdrawn substance.

Also recall Caputo's response to Hagglund in this thread, an excerpt below:

"The real is always haunted by the specters of the arrivants and the revenants" (50).

Thoughts are fleeting, come and go,* and even leave traces (revenants), but they are but the elements that feed the enduring endo-relational structure. That structural substance endures for a limited time, from an instant to perhaps millions of years, but it is not timeless or eternal.

* I sense a relation to the Buddhist aggregates here. I must research and ponder further on this.

There isn't a 1-to-1 with aggregates. In Buddhism generally there is no substance if by that we mean primordial or universal essence, i.e., lack of inherent self existence. And yet the notion that all things are causally produced and interrelated is akin to Bryan't substance, as it too does not have a universal existence but rather a unique, temporal, materially produced individual existence. One difference with Buddhism is that there is nonetheless something in an object's substance that is non-relational, at least exo-relational. However the endo-relations are indeed still relational and a suobject is still coordinating other substantive subject-parts within it, but it is in the organizational structure wherein lies its ephemeral, transient elements.

From an overview of aggregates they are indeed temporary and fleeting, but they would seem to preclude, or at least don’t differentiate, the kind of substance Bryant describes using Luhmann and Varela. In fact, the Buddhist definition of aggregate pertains not only to mind-thoughts but the physical world as well. Granted physical forms indeed come and go, but while they are manifest they don’t seem to have the kind of autonomous substance above. So I’m wondering how we might find a homeomorphic equivalence with aggregates pertaining to structural endo-relations, and that something that remains in excess of them what Bryant calls substance. Could we perhaps find something like this in Tibetan rigpa or tathagata? It seems we’d need to revamp them somewhat but not sure how to do this yet. Any Buddhists out there want to take a stab?

Continuing from the linked article, in Abhidhamma Form “arises from experientially irreducible physical/physiological phenomena.” It seems at least here we have an autonomous suobject (substance)? And when a human contacts a suobject (form) then there is the process of the human perceiving, feeling and forming its own information about that independent suobject, i.e., for Bryant translating it. Like Bryant this translation isn’t a direct correspondence with the suobject, since it must translate via the process of the aggregates or endo-relations. And in this sense the endo-relations like aggregates are indeed ephemeral, the stuff from which the organizational structure builds and maintains.

Still not there, just thinking out loud.

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