COMPARING DIFFERENT OOO ONTOLOGIES

UPDATE: I have copied all my comments here, but the discussion is very interesting in its totality.

Very interesting post by Jon Cogburn on new publications in the domains of Speculative Realism and its annexes. Unfortunately he includes a sweeping condemnation of Nathan Browns article criticising OOO, which is regrettable as the dialogue should be able to include polemic on fundamental matters. I publish my comments here, but I recommend reading the original post and following the discussion.

Comment 1: Hello Jon, it looks like an exciting year and it is good to see you so enthusiastic. I think we can add Peter Gratton’s “Speculative Realism: Problems and Prospects” to the mix (http://www.amazon.com/Speculative-Realism-Prospects-Peter-Gratton/dp/1441174753/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1388920165&sr=1-1&keywords=peter+gratton).Also Katerina Kolozova’s “Cut of the Real: Subjectivity in Poststructuralist Philosophy” (http://www.amazon.com/Cut-Real-Subjectivity-Poststructuralist-Insurrections-ebook/dp/B00H12FLS6/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1388922315&sr=1-1&keywords=kolozova) looks very interesting.
I am glad you are talking about Continental Philosophy in general, and not limiting it to one particular movement. I think Alexander Galloway has announced a book on Laruelle, and that further translations of and commentaries on Laruelle are in the making. Bernard Stiegler is certainly one to watch, as his online class and seminar is devoted to exploring the origins of ontology (http://pharmakon.fr/wordpress/category/cours/) and its pertinence for the digital revolution.
I see you are very proud of your coinage “the sneer from nowhere”, but as you like paradoxes I am sure you will be amused at the simple remark that the word sneer is itself a sneer-word and participates in what it purports to condemn. It’s as if I were to condemn condescendingly the opposite attitude of “my smug is legion”.

Comment 2: Hello Jon. I have now read your article presented as part 3 of your reply to Nathan Brown’s “execrable” article. Brown’s article asserts the conceptual incoherence of OOO, and concludes as an after-thought that it is only a passing fad. You are right to assert that this is not very charitable, and in fact outside Brown’s competence, as it is a sociological claim about the life-expectancy of a philosophical movement. Be that as it may, nothing you have said in the above blog post (which I find very inspiring, as I said in my first comment, which has unfortunately disappeared) contradicts his appraisal, which concerns the fate of OOO. Your post concerns a lot of interesting publications in SR and related domains, so only time will tell. On Brown’s second point (conceptual incoherence of OOO) you seem to imply that your article with Ohm, ACTUAL QUALITIES OF IMAGINATIVE THINGS, replies.It is a very interesting article putting emphasis on the historical problem context and on the progression of arguments, this context and argument based approach is very commendable. But as to the ontology of OOO, your text remains on what I would call the meta-meta-level. You compare and contrast 3 sorts of OOO: withdrawal ontology (Harman), capacity metaphysics (Bryant, Cogburn, and Silcox), differential ontology (Garcia). Yet you do not say much about the actual ontologies, especially Harman’s (remember Brown’s main point was the conceptual incoherence of Harman’s OOO). You then go on to say that these 3 positions are “pure” ontologies giving rise to a multitude of “regional” ontologies. I am glad you say so, as it has been my analysis from the very beginning that Harman’s OOO is not so much an ontology as a meta-ontology. So I am glad to receive indirect confirmation from you on this point. A second thesis that I argue for is that the by now classic “withdrawal” ontology is in its very nature incompatible with regional ontologies, unless they are asserted as belonging to the realm of illusion, of “phantoms and simulacra” as Harman calls it in BELLS AND WHISTLES. This is also what Brown’s discussion adumbrates. You give indirect credence to this in your discussion of Harman’s possible critique of capacity metaphysics as reductionist. I think this confirms as well a third thesis of mine, that capacity metaphysics is not in fact a “pure” ontology in Harman’s terms, but is already only one possible instantiation of Harman’s meta-ontology (I have constantly made this claim in comparing Bryant’s and harman’s ontologes). That is to say that capacity metaphysics is an instantiation of pure OOO, and so necessarily in conflict with it, and necessarily criticised as being reductionist, despite its being at a higher level of generality than the various regional ontologies. Your exposition of these three ontologies, despite remaining fairly allusive, does not dispel the claim of conceptual incoherence, but rather confirms it.I can see no way out of this problem as long as one retains Harman’s notion of absolute withdrawal. I think you did a great job of explaining withdrawal in terms of a primacy of normative modal properties and relations. But absolute withdrawal doubles up not just objects (into real and sensual) but also properties and relations. This produces too much clutter, and the real objects, properties, and relations tend to de-temporalise the world, whereas your alethic and deontic possibilities and permissibilities comport a temporal aspect. This seems to be behind your unwillingness, as you indicate, to take on Harman’s full-blown fourfold ontology.

Comment 3: Are people talking past each other? I think not. I thank you for confirming my tentative suggestion that the way out would have to be dropping the notion of absolute withdrawal. However, you seem to neglect the price that must be paid for that. The price is the recognition that Harman is talking past himself i.e. that Harman as meta-metaphysician (ontology of withdrawal) is talking past himself as metaphysician (ontology of autonomous objects) and vice versa. A higher price is paid in what you euphemistically call “externalizing”, and that is, in Harman’s case, the generalization of the bifurcation of nature into every single interaction. I look forward to your introduction to Garcia, I read his book in French and, while I found it impressive, I did not find that it went anywhere. If as you call it “the advent of Garcia” helps you in your struggle to redefine OOO as an autonomy ontology rather than a withdrawal meta-ontology, I can see the advantage in strengthening that movement. Finally, I wonder at how your valorization of “sympathetic humanists” at the end squares with your externalization-thesis and your inversion of Maimonides.

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