Tag Archives: object oriented ontology

Robert Anton Wilson, Finitude, and Realism

The late Robert Anton Wilson has been a person of interest to me for a while now, and although his thoughts are very sporadic and aphoristic (being spread amongst his numerous novels and speeches), his contributions to Discordian thought have been vital. More specifically, however, a quotation by him in The Historical Illuminatus Chronicles has held my attention for a long time. In Nature’s Godwriting as Sigismundo Celine, Wilson says the following:

“Is,” “is.” “is” — the idiocy of the word haunts me. If it were abolished, human thought might begin to make sense. I don’t know what anything “is”; I only know how it seems to me at this moment.1)Robert Anton Wilson, Nature’s God: The History of the Early Illuminati (The Historical Illuminatus Chronicles Vol. 3), (Las Vegas: New Falcon, 2007).

Clearly channeling the general semantic theory of Alfred Korzybski and its later incarnations as E-Prime (topics that will no doubt be written about in the future),2)Indeed, in later posts on general semantics and E-Prime, which ‘is’ we’re talking about must be sorted out as the ‘is of identity’ — for example, “Max is a dog” — is, arguably, ontologically different than the ‘is of predication’ — for example, “Max is diabetic.” the quotation has a certain ring of idealism to it. Indeed, while I think Wilson’s comment is insightful, I’ve been hesitant to fully accept his disdain for the word ‘is’ insofar as such an acceptance seems, at first glance, to relegate one to a strictly phenomenal (and arguably, consequently idealist) understanding of the world. While I’m unsure whether or not I’m willing to jump aboard the ‘anti-is’ train, I do think there is a way to reconcile Wilson’s view with ontological realism by utilizing both a brief discussion of what Quentin Meillassoux calls “finitude” and Graham Harman’s ontology of objects.

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References   [ + ]

1. Robert Anton Wilson, Nature’s God: The History of the Early Illuminati (The Historical Illuminatus Chronicles Vol. 3), (Las Vegas: New Falcon, 2007).
2. Indeed, in later posts on general semantics and E-Prime, which ‘is’ we’re talking about must be sorted out as the ‘is of identity’ — for example, “Max is a dog” — is, arguably, ontologically different than the ‘is of predication’ — for example, “Max is diabetic.”

The Philosopher’s New Clothes: An Introductory Survey into Object-Oriented Ontology

I haven’t written much this summer because, as you know if you follow me on Twitter, I have been involved in a summer-long research project. As I mentioned at the start of my last post, Latour and the “Arche-Fossil,” “[o]ver the past many weeks I’ve been doing research into Speculative Realism and Object-Oriented Ontology (SR/OOO) by reading the works of Quentin Meillassoux, Graham Harman, Ian Bogost, Bruno Latour, and Levi Bryant.” This project has culminated in 6 chapter paper entitled The Philosopher’s New Clothes: An Introductory Survey into Object-Oriented Ontology that will be bound and published at my local university and will, of course, be available for you all to read here.

The abstract, for those interested, is:

My project for the past 10 weeks has been the study of the philosophical movements of Speculative Realism and Object-Oriented Ontology as developed by a few prominent philosophers: Graham Harman, Bruno Latour, Levi Bryant, Ian Bogost, and Quentin Meillassoux. My paper starts by analyzing the critical stance post-Kantian philosophy takes and its view (dubbed “correlationism” by Meillassoux) where subjectivity reigns supreme and knowledge of any real world external to the mind is impossible. I then examine Harman, Bryant, Bogost, and Latour’s philosophies and explicate their views as well as compare and contrast them to each other. The project concludes with a chapter where I reflect upon these individuals’ ontologies and offer my own ontology of objects. My hope is that this project will serve as the first building block in a larger project aimed to aggregate the wide ranging and disparate views of Speculative Realists and Object-Oriented Ontologists. In the end, this longer term project is intended to serve as a primer, if you will, for those interested in Speculative Realism and Object-Oriented Ontology.

http://www.petersaysstuff.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/The-Philosophers-New-Clothes-An-Introductory-Survey-into-Object-Oriented-Ontology.pdf

Latour and the “Arche-Fossil”

Over the past many weeks I’ve been doing research into Speculative Realism and Object-Oriented Ontology (SR/OOO) by reading the works of Quentin Meillassoux, Graham Harman, Ian Bogost, Bruno Latour, and Levi Bryant. As I’m finishing up my research and writing my paper summarizing SR/OOO which will serve as a compendium of sorts, I’ve had various new ideas cross my mind (many of which I will write about here) but there is one that I thought of very recently and want to try to solve now. The issue I’m currently thinking about is the relationship between Meillassoux’s claim about “arche-fossils” and Latour’s fabrication of fact.

Before diving into an analysis that I hope will spark some conversation (as I am not entirely sure of my answer), a brief bit of context is required. In answering the problem of correlationism — that is “the idea [that] we only ever have access to the correlation between thinking and being, and never to either term considered apart from the other” and thus renders impossible any attempts to view “subjectivity and objectivity independently of one another”1)Quentin Meillassoux, After Finitude: An Essay on the Necessity of Contingency (London: Bloomsbury Books, 2008), 5. — Meillassoux, in After Finitude, invokes the concept of the “arche-fossil” which is an object that indicates “the existence of an ancestral reality or event; one that is anterior to terrestrial life.”2)Meillassoux, After Finitude: An Essay on the Necessity of Contingency10 In other words, the arche-fossil is, as I say in my paper, “evidence that exists independently of humans.”

Latour, in We Have Never Been Modernargues that scientific facts are fabricated in the laboratory and, from my understanding (please correct me if I’m wrong), cannot be independent of humans. His argument for this resides in section 2.2 wherein he argues that the uncovering of scientific truths that are supposedly independent of humans and culture actually require humans and culture to produce. Laboratory equipment must be socially constructed, the norms of science must be universalized, a testing method — that is to say, the scientific method — must be utilized, and the truth of the findings must be shared inter-subjectively. All these features of the laboratory space lead Latour to agree with Gaston Bachelard’s claim that “facts are fabricated.”3)Bruno Latour, We Have Never Been Modern (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1993), 18.

The worry that is currently on my mind is how to reconcile the claims by these two anti-correlationists. Specifically, I want to reconcile Meillassoux’s claim that evidence (in this case it’s scientific phenomena) can exist independently of humans with Latour’s claim that scientific facts are fabricated.

Before continuing, I must take an aside (lest I get slapped in case Graham Harman is reading this) to quote Harman in an attempt to clear up any potential misunderstanding about Latour. Harman warns us, in an essay in Towards Speculative Realism, to “never believe anyone who tells you that Latour holds that ‘all reality is socially constructed’.”4)Graham Harman, “Bruno Latour, King of Networks,” in Towards Speculative Realism (Washington: Zero Books, 2010), 71. Latour recognizes the objective nature of objects, he just thinks that you can’t separate nature and culture and that explanations of one are necessarily bound together with explanations of the other; his ‘hybridization.’

It seems to me that the way to synthesize the views of Latour and Meillassoux would be to embrace potentiality. More specifically, Latour and Meillassoux are both realists insofar as they both seem to accept the existence of objects independent of, and unaffected by, the human mind. This means that both recognize the objective existence of, say, a certain amount of radioactive decay from a Uranium-238 atom over 5 billion years. Meillassoux claims this as a fact, but I believe he is incorrect in doing so. X amount of Uranium-238 that decayed over 5 billion years, under a Latourian view, is not in-and-of-itself a fact but has the potential to be one. Once in the laboratory where scientists measure the amount of decay of the atom, the objective amount becomes a fact based solely on the the scientists’ construction of it as such. The amount decay still existed anterior to givenness, but the knowledge of that decay — and subsequently the scientific fact that X amount of Uranium-238 decayed over a given time period (and thus a given amount exists still) — is a product of fabrication within the laboratory space.

In other words, it seems like factuality is necessarily correlated with thought — as facts are products of thought and experimentation — while potential factuality is independent.

References   [ + ]

1. Quentin Meillassoux, After Finitude: An Essay on the Necessity of Contingency (London: Bloomsbury Books, 2008), 5.
2. Meillassoux, After Finitude: An Essay on the Necessity of Contingency10
3. Bruno Latour, We Have Never Been Modern (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1993), 18.
4. Graham Harman, “Bruno Latour, King of Networks,” in Towards Speculative Realism (Washington: Zero Books, 2010), 71.

John LOOOcke – An Object-Oriented Ontological Critique of Lockean Property Acquisition

Part 0: Meta

What follows is a retooled version of a paper I wrote a while ago for a political science class. I did some reworking and editing both to make the argument better as well as to make sure the formatting was decent (eg. photos, relevant addons, etc.), but nevertheless, I hope you enjoy it!

 Part 1: Introduction

Although John Locke’s conception of the generation of private property from common property is profound in that it provided a new, pre-materialist[1], model of understanding how private property and value are created, it, like so many other historical models, has its own issues. Specifically, Locke’s view of nature as the common gift given by God to man in order to exploit for his own devices – namely for man to act upon and change to create value and property – is a fundamentally troublesome way of viewing the world because it defines humans as the sole arbiters of valuation and value creation by elevating the ontological status of humans above non-human objects in the world thus privileging an anthropocentric mindset. The creation of, what I call, an arborescent ontology that is inherent in this mode of thinking not only has been the justification for the destruction/objectification[2] of Indigenous Peoples (among other, “lesser” beings) and the expansion into America that Locke mentions, but also is a poor epistemic starting point for understanding policy making and governmentality as it already assumes some inherent “natural order” or teleological end point and is not self-reflective. This paper serves to function as an object-oriented ontological/epistemological critique of Locke’s concept of value creation and the implications thereof – the implications being arborescent ontology – in favor of a less hierarchical[3], more or rhizomatic ontology – flat ontology.

Before continuing, however, I feel as though some key terms and concepts ought to be defined and described in order to avoid confusion later on. Although I am using words like “arborescent” and “rhizomatic” in their Deleuze and Guattarian sense, I do not intend to drag along the baggage that comes with Deleuze and his seeming disdain for non-human object focus. When I say “arborescent ontology” I mean a very hierarchical focus on understanding being in the world such that one’s description of is very rigid and tree-like, that is to say very “unidirectional”.[4] When the rhizome is discussed (in the context of rhizomatic forms of knowledge), I mean less rigid and more free flowing – that is, grass like – forms of knowledge and understanding (at the least, bidirectional and arguably polydirectional).[5] Finally, when object-oriented ontology is discussed, I feel like there is no better definition than the following one given by Ian Bogost: [6]

Ontology is the philosophical study of existence. Object-oriented ontology (“OOO” for short) puts things at the center of this study. Its proponents contend that nothing has special status, but that everything exists equally–plumbers, cotton, bonobos, DVD players, and sandstone, for example. In contemporary thought, things are usually taken either as the aggregation of ever smaller bits (scientific naturalism) or as constructions of human behavior and society (social relativism). OOO steers a path between the two, drawing attention to things at all scales (from atoms to alpacas, bits to blinis), and pondering their nature and relations with one another as much with ourselves.[7]

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Paper(s) in Progress

Hey all, I know I haven’t posted anything long/of major substance lately, but that is due to me working on two major arguments. First, I am (albeit slowly) working on finishing Part 4 of the [IDEOLOGY IN PROGRESS] series which should be rather hefty. But second, and more pressing, I am writing a paper discussing John Locke’s justification for property acquisition from a flat ontological/critical anthropocentric standpoint. As a taste of what is to come, here is the working thesis:

“John Locke’s view of nature as the common gift of God unto which humans act upon and change in order to create value and ‘property’ is fundamentally rooted in an anthropocentric mindset and a mindset that privileges the human subject placing them above the non-human object. This mentality is a poor model of understanding human/non-human relationships for [x, y, z] reasons *these will be the paragraphs, of course*.”

The latter should be done in the next few weeks and the former should, hopefully, be done not too far after.