OOO and the transcendental field of stupid indifferent objects

The beautiful soul (instantiated recently by Peter Gratton, but there have been other avatars before him) asks: Why spend so much time critiquing something you hate? Surely there are more positive things to do with your energy?

In my last post (WE ARE ALL HARMANIANS) I began to reply at a more conceptual level than the question itself requires. Corry Shores very lucidly summarised the dilemma and showed the problematic nature of any one-sided response. In a brilliant and deeply felt poem Clifford Duffy gave maximum intensity to the stakes of “d ncing n ked on the high hills of happiness” versus wanting “to throw myself off a bridge”, when confronted with such nihilism. Adrian Martin made the connection with the new philosophers, and reminds us that a subect group affirms its inner plurality and its mortality, whereas a school such as OOO is a subjugated group, in frantic denial of both. Naxos concisely defines the issue as OOO’s “ontologisation of stupidity”.

Yet I think the clue to escaping this dilemma is given by the fragment from WHAT IS PHILOSOPHY? quoted by Anthony:

Thinking provokes general indifference. It is a dangerous exercise nevertheless. Indeed, it is only when the dangers become obvious that indifference ceases, but they often remain hidden and barely perceptible inherent in the enterprise. Precisely because the plane of immanence is prephilosophical and does not immediately take effect with concepts, it implies a sort of groping experimentation and its layout resorts to measures that are not very respectable, rational, or reasonable. These measures belong to the order of dreams, of pathological processes, esoteric experiences, drunkenness, and excess. We head for the horizon, on the plane of immanence, and we return with bloodshot eyes, yet they are the eyes of the mind. Even Descartes had his dream. To think is always to follow the witch’s flight.

The key to understanding OOO’s master stroke is in the first sentence: “Thinking provokes general indifference”. The OOO episteme integrates this “indifference” into thinking itself, as one of its transcendental conditions (methodological moment) and to ontologise it as the very nature of the real (ontological moment). This is the origin of what Graham Harman calls “naiveté” at the beginning of THE QUADRUPLE OBJECT, a naiveté that just happens to agree with Harman (as against Wittgenstein or Whitehead or Latour) on the rather technical question of the composition of the world: the world divides into objects – and not into facts (Wittgenstein) or events (Whitehead) or into actors (Latour). Such naiveté is in fact a highly constructed conceptual persona, rather than a return to a pre-theoretical conclusion from goggling and gawking at the world.

This indifference to thought is interior to thought itself, as the impervious wall of stupid indifferent objects that blocks our path to the horizon. Deleuze and Guattari tell us repeatedly that we cannot trace a plane of immanence without at the same time recreating a plane of transcendence and illusion. This is the danger inherent to his own thought of the indifferent multiple that led Badiou to edify his doctrine of the event. Harman himself does not waver, does not try to palliate his ontology, but openly declares its nihilistic condition: time is unreal.

Deleuze and Guattari emphasise that “Transcendence enters as soon as movement of the infinite is stopped” (WIP?, 47). This is the key point where Harman and a disciple such as Bryant part company. To establish the transcendental field as transcendent abstraction one must affirm complete (or “strong”) withdrawal, in reciprocal correlation with the absence of temporal relations: “all that is necessary is for movement to be stopped” (47).

The corollary is present in the fragment cited – to get rid of transcendence, as far as possible, all that is necessary is to enter into the real movements that continue to exist, despite the blockade of indifference.

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