(2) A Plea For More Careful Vocabularies: Against Ontological Grandiloquence

In a first post on the issues raised by Parikka concerning the pretentions of object-oriented ontology I expounded his worries concerning its false unification behind shared transcendent terminologies. Naxos, coming from a totlly different direction, was seen to advance the same objection.

Parikka then proceeds to take this semantic façade on its own terms and explore its internal contradictions and stress-points.

2) Paradoxical entities: He first points up the Badiousian problem of the Whole. If everything in the world is an object he asks is the world itself an object? He then makes an epistemological point: instead of decreeing apriori (see my last post on semantic stipulation) that everything is an object (in whatever sense you can be finally pinned down to), shouldn’t one approach this as an empirical question? Such a far-reaching claim should be given enough content to be susceptible of scientific investigation. Can one have the flatness of immanence by other means than transcendental fiat (semantic stipulation) so as to respect the empirical specificities of the world?  We need says Parikka both more empirical research and « more careful vocabularies ».

Similar to his badouian deployment of the object/world dilemma, Parikka’s next probe invokes the difference between electromagnetism and particular electromagnetic fields. Are electromagnetic fields objects? After all, they are not very « thingy ». This is easily resolved by semantic stipulation. But the other, more difficult, question remains: is electromagnetism itself an object? Ian Bogost, not sensing the nuance, replies: » For me, I’m very indiscriminate and treat everything as an object or unit. Electromagnetism, sure. » He then considers the problematic (in his eyes) status of the media and cites criteria like « time-criticality » and « ubiquity » that cast doubt on the objectality of media in any robust sense of object. The response is once again semantic stipulation, no painstaking examination of diverse cases in the light of real criteria is needed. This is in accord with Naxos’s diagnostic of cynicism mixed with grandiloquence: »one simply takes a good while to realize how possible it is to make of our cynical office a grandiloquent ‘ontological’ craft ».

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Un commentaire pour (2) A Plea For More Careful Vocabularies: Against Ontological Grandiloquence

  1. I actually treat exactly this issue in the final chapter of The Democracy of Objects and in a variety of other posts and articles. My position first is that a world is nothing other than a collection of objects (ie., the world is not a container but relations between objects) and that there is no one world or whole that can be formed out of all objects, but rather many objects. I know you’ve criticized me for referring to work I’ve done elsewhere, but all I’m doing is stating my position and observing that I’ve addressed these things directly and explicitly… In the case of this position, drawing heavily on Badiou.


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