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I have been glad to see that both Levi and Bogost have replied to my post about Object-Oriented Empiricism. Both Levi and Bogost have correctly raised some concerns about using the word empiricism. I admit that I share some of their concerns and there are certain problems about using the label empiricism. Maybe it would have been better to classify Object-Oriented Empiricism as Object-Oriented Philosophy in Action, which would represent the praxis dimension of Object-Oriented Philosophy. However, there is something that I find invaluable about empiricism, which I will attempt to express in this post.

The caricature of the empiricist is the researcher that goes out to observe facts from the external world, and uses their senses within experience to observe the world. The empiricist is then a dry observer, passively gazing upon the world. Another problem of the empiricist is they tend to focus on the human-world gap, making (traditional) empiricism a form of correlationism. The result is that the empiricist concentrates on how ideas come from our impressions of the world, which are derived from our human experiences. For example, I have an idea of a cake because I previously smelt, tasted, touched, and seen the cake. Therefore, for the empiricist, we never experience the world directly.

However, there is something invaluable about empiricism that I would claim is connected to Object-Oriented Philosophy. A lot of Object-Oriented Philosophy is indebted to correlationist philosophy, which puts the correlate of human and world at the centre of their concerns. For example, Shaviro’s Whiteheadian/Deleuzian realism is indebted to Kant, and Harman’s  OOP is indebted to Heidegger, and it seems unproblematic to claim that both Kant and Heidegger are correlationists. The interesting move that both Shaviro and Harman make is that they radicalize Kant and Heidegger, suggesting what they claim about the human-world correlate is also relevant for the relations between objects. I would also like to propose that it is possible to radicalize empiricism, and suggest what (traditional) empiricism says about the human-world correlate is also relevant for conceptualising object-object relations.

At one level, empiricism is critical of representational realism, suggesting that we experience secondary qualities (i.e. sound, taste, smell…) and not the actual object. In addition, the secondary qualities experienced do not resemble the object. For example, the sweetness of a cake is a secondary quality that I would experience through my senses, and not a quality of the cake in-itself. However, empiricism makes a key proposition here that is relevant for object-oriented philosophy. Empiricism suggests that objects have the capacity to affect humans, even if the objects remain a mystery. In other words, the encounter with objects is a productive encounter with difference that produces the subject. The result is that the ‘outside’ world has objects that have the capacity to affect humans, even if humans do not represent those experiences.

Yet, at this level empiricism remains ‘human, all too human’ and needs to be radicalized in order for empiricism to be relevant for OOP. What if we suggest that what empiricism claims about the human-world gap is also ‘true’ about other relations, which do not need to include the human-world relation. If empiricism claims that we need to account for how a human is formed from experience, then OOP needs to account how objects are formed from experience. Therefore, we cannot think of experience as experience of some subject and need to consider the inhuman, impersonal, or anonymous plane of experience. In addition, empiricism can inform us that encounters of experience are productive and non-representational. For example, the sunlight that encounters the plant has the capacity to affect the plant, but it would seem strange to suggest the plant is representing the sunlight. Instead, it would be more accurate to claim that different objects have the capacity to affect other objects, and the multiple relations between objects are productive, which have the capacity to produce emergent properties.

Hopefully, OOP has some potential to be empiricist, and can illustrate how experience is not an exclusive plane reducible to human experience, which can help to produce a non-anthropocentric empiricism. Therefore, there is a rich field of experience, where objects act upon other objects, and humans are only one node within this plane.

As I have noted, my recent attention has been concerned with the relevance of Object-Oriented Philosophy (herein after OOP) for political analysis (here). It recently struck me that OOP needs to put forward a program of what I will term Object-Oriented Empiricism (herein after OOE), which is  the actual practice of Object-Oriented Studies in action.

At one level I want to differentiate between the theory (or philosophy) of OOP and the praxis of OOP, which will be designated as OOE. The former (OOP) will primarily be engaged in the philosophical discussion and theoretical debates of an object-orient approach, and the main role of OOP will be to produce Object-Oriented Ontologies. The latter (OOE) will primarily be concerned with illustrating the benefits (and limitations) of Object-Oriented Ontologies for the analysis of the experiences of the ‘real’ world, aiming to research particular objects(or events) and how these objects act and relate to other objects. In other words, the Object-Oriented Empiricist will use (or steal) the ontologies produced in OOP and design  their research projects in accordance with what object-oriented ontology they adopt.

I feel there seems a need for OOP to move towards the stage of OOE. The rich work of Byrant, Harman, and Shaviro has reached a stage where there is enough theoretical discussion to move towards the empirical analysis of objects. Of course, OOE will have to be familiar with the different ontologies of OOP, the debates within OOP, and the consequences of adopting one ontology of OOP over another. For example, a debate within OOP is if an Object-Oriented Ontology needs a virtual dimension, or if Object-Oriented Ontology is purely actual. However, it is time for OOP to develop into OOE, which can show the praxis of OOP.

At present, I envision that OOE will adopt two principles from OOP (and speculative realism)

  1. Critical of Correlationism
  2. Against the Hegemonic Fallacy (and here)

In terms of the first principle, OOE will have to illustrate why research methods that concentrate on the correlate (or relation) between the humans and the world is in itself a limitation. The second principle will critique any research that argues that one difference makes all the difference. The result of the second principle is that OOE research will be unable to claim that analysis is reducible to one phenomenon (e.g. language or atoms). Therefore, OOE will argue against all forms of reductionism that are evident in a lot of other paradigmatic approaches. I envision that it is the second principle where OOE will have to empirically challenge a lot of other engrained approaches. The (hopeful) result of OOE will be that the research it produces will demonstrate that the ‘real’ is not reducible to social norms (social constructivism), pursuits of self-interest (political realism), discursive fields (discourse analysis), autonomous individuals (liberal individualism), and so on. The benefit is that OOE will be able to expose the limitations of other approaches from illustrating how they pertain to the hegemonic fallacy and reduce the ‘real’ to one phenomenon.

Dear All,

On behalf of the international editorial team, I would like to introduce the first issue of Global Discourse. This Andrew Linklater Special Issue features a full interview with Linklater as well as a symposium on his ‘Critical Theory and World Politics’, including a substantive reply from the author. Also included are articles on E.H. Carr and Gadamerian analysis of Gulliver’s Travels, published alongside substantive, referees’ reviews, essays on Western conceptualisation of, and engagement with, Sub-Saharan Africa, an audio lecture on the rights of refugees and further book review symposia on ‘Chasing Dragons’ by Kyle Grayson and ‘Difference and Giveness’by Levi R. Bryant, both with substantive replies from the authors. The articles, essays and reviews are available on the Contents page.

Global Discourse is a developmental journal of research in politics and international relations. We aim to provide a forum for the expression and development of distinctive research projects – particularly those which transcend disciplinary boundaries. We accept high quality submissions from any theoretical and methodological perspective and encourage debate between paradigms and schemas.

Free to access, and open to submissions from postgraduates and academics alike, Global Discourse publishes peer-reviewed and non-peer-reviewed material in a variety of forms: full articles accompanied by formal reviews; less formal essays; interviews; book review symposia, and mp3 audio and visual presentations.

Importantly, the journal is designed to act as a springboard for authors, providing a forum for the development of their work. Authors retain copyright and can submit their revised and developed work elsewhere six months after publication in Global Discourse.

Information on submitting work to Global Discourse can be found on the Information for Authors page.

For further information, please refer to the Contacts and Organisation page for details of the relevant regional editorial teams.

*[Update, Levi has written a recent post that is relevant for this post, discussing how objects act and the actual and virtual dimensions of objects, read here]

I have recently been thinking about what political praxis object-oriented philosophy (herein after OOP) can offer political analysis. In conjunction, I have been thinking about the differences between how an object is defined from reading Levi Byrant, Graham Harman, and Steven Shaviro. In the following post I want to focus on Shaviro’s reading of Whitehead’s “eternal objects’ in his book Without Criteria and his post (here). The aim is to defend an OOP that argues objects are both actual and virtual.

One of the main debates within OOP is between actualists (Harman) and virtualists (Byrant & Shaviro). My reading of the debate concerns if an object-oriented ontology requires a virtual dimension. Criticism of OOP arguing for a virtual dimension seems to put forward the argument that virtualists limit an object to what is possible. However, it seems that this confuses the difference between possible and potential. For an object-oriented philosopher of the virtual, the virtual is a crucial (and real) ontological dimension that enables one to contemplate how an object is not reducible or exhausted by its actual existence. In other words, any ontology that includes a virtual dimension attempts to account for potentiality.

Following Deleuze, Shaviro asserts that we should not differentiate between the virtual and the real, ‘the virtual…is altogether real in its own right…it is just that this reality is not actual. The virtual is like a field of energies that have not yet been expended, or a reservoir of potentialities that have not yet been tapped’ (Without Criteria, p35). As a reservoir of potentials, there are processes of actualisation, when certain potentials of the virtual are actualised. However, actualisations of the virtual do not exhaust the potential of the virtual. Shaviro is aware that Whitehead never uses the word virtual, but does argue that Whitehead’s distinction between the actual and the potential resembles the Deleuzian distinction between the actual and the virtual (Without Criteria, p37). Therefore, for Whitehead the potential is a real (virtual) ontological dimension of the world that needs to be acknowledged. We cannot only focus on actual identities (although actualists will contend this point).

We may then ask what Whitehead claim composes the virtual/potential aspect of his ontology. One answer is that the virtual is a composition of eternal objects. As Shaviro notes, ‘alongside events or actual entities, Whitehead also posits what he calls “eternal objects.” These are “Pure Potentials.” Shaviro defines Whitehead’s eternal objects in the following:

“’any entity whose conceptual recognition does not involve a necessary reference to any definite actual entities of the temporal world is a called an ‘eternal object’ (Whitehead, Process and Reality). This means that eternal objects include sensory qualities, like colors (blueness or greenness) and tactile sensations (softness or roughness), conceptual abstractions like shapes (a helix, or a dodecahedron)…eternal objects are ideal abstractions that nevertheless (in contrast to Platonic forms) can only be encountered within experience, when they are ‘selected’ and ‘felt’ by particular actual occasions” (Without Criteria, p39)

At least two things are noteworthy about eternal objects. First eternal objects are virtual, but nevertheless real. Second, eternal objects are actualised in particular occasions, but are not reducible to these particular local actualisations. To understand why eternal objects are virtual and not reducible to their local manifestations in particular point in time, it is necessary to regard eternal objects as neutral and indifferent:

“’Eternal objects ‘involve in their own natures indecision’ and ‘indetermination’ (Whitehead, Process and Reality); they always imply alternatives, contingencies, situations that could have been otherwise. This patch of wall is yellow, but it might have been blue. This means that their role is essentially passive…You might say that yellowness  ‘in itself’, understood as a pure potentiality, is utterly indifferent to the actual yellow color on this particular patch of wall…Eternal objects, like Deleuze’s quasi-causes, are neutral, sterile, and inefficacious, as powerless as they are indifferent” (Without Criteria, p41)

There seems an important argument that eternal objects need to be thought of as neutral. At one level, the neutrality ought to mean that the virtuality of eternal objects is not reduced to local or particular manifestations. In other words, we need to be careful about equating the virtual with the actual. In terms of thinking ‘yellowness’ as both an eternal object with particular manifestations it seems unproblematic. Therefore, the book that sits in front of me with a yellow cover does not exhaust the potentiality of ‘yellowness’ as an eternal object. However, it is perhaps worth considering if the neutrality of eternal objects has any significance for an OOP political analysis. We can maybe draw the political significance of eternal objects from a (re)reading of Foucault’s analysis of the Panopticon in Discipline and Punish. [I have also selected this example to provocatively suggest Foucault has the potential to be read as a type of object-oriented philosopher].

It might seem odd to (re)read Foucault’s analysis of the Panopticon as an example of discussing an ‘eternal object.’ At one level, Foucault is examining the physical attributes and design of a particular building. Foucault’s fascination with Bentham’s Panopticon is that the design of the building allows an observer a fixed central position that makes it possible to gaze upon those people confined within the Panopticon. The result is that Foucault is able to consider how the Panopticon functions as a form of disciplinary power that produces the subjectivity of those confined. One of Foucault’s main findings is that as a form of imprisonment, the Panopticon differs from a dungeon as ‘full lighting and the eye of a supervisor capture better than darkness, which ultimately protected. Visibility is the trap’ (Foucault, Discipline and Punish, p200). However, Foucault is aware that merely focusing on the Panopticon as a means of imprisoning delinquents is in itself a limitation. We could suggest that this type of analysis of analysis is too empirical and remains at the level of actual objects. In other words, it fails to conceive of the Panopticon as a (Deleuzian) virtual idea or (Whiteheadian) eternal object. Indeed, Foucault is aware that the potentiality of the Panopticon is more than particular local manifestations of a Panopticon. Foucault writes that the Panopticon ‘is polyvalent in its applications; it serves to reform prisoners, but also to treat patients, to instruct schoolchildren, to confine the insane, to supervise workers, to put beggars into to work (Discipline and Punish, p205). In other words, the Panopticon as an eternal object is not reducible to those experiences that actualise a manifestation of panopticism, and Foucault warns that the Panopticon ‘is in fact a figure of political technology that may and must be detached from any specific use’ (Discipline and Punish, p205). In order to detach the Panopticon from any specific manifestation there requires the need to conceptualise as an ‘eternal object’ or what Deleuze and Guattari would refer to as an abstract machine. The effect is that a Panopticon is both virtual and actual.

One other issue needs addressed. Whitehead and Shaviro both understand eternal objects as ‘neutral’ and ‘indifferent’ to their manifestations in particular occasions, and it seems strange to claim that Panopticon – as an eternal object – is ‘neutral’ and ‘indifferent’. Indeed the Panopticon seems overtly political and not neutral. Yet such a criticism I would suggest would be too concerned with the particular and actual uses of panopticism in our actual experience. As an eternal object the Panopticon is indeed ‘neutral’ and ‘indifferent’, we need only think that particular manifestations of the Panopticon could be used from different and antagonistic political ideologies (Fascism, Liberalism, Socialism). Therefore, as an eternal object, panopticism is indifferent to particular manifestations and is not exhausted from these previous manifestations.

Arguable,  constructivism or construction is a loaded term in academia. Whenever one uses constructivism or construction it usually means they are social constructivists. However, like Deleuze and Latour I find value in using the term and would like to see it detached from social constructivism. Maybe we could propose there are social constructivists (e.g. Berger & Luckmann) and (radical) constructivists (e.g. DeLanda, Latour, Deleuze). I would claim the difference between the two are the following:

Social Constructivism  is concerned with the social construction of reality

(Radical) Constructivism is concerned with the construction of reality

The two ‘schools of thought’ appear similar, but their differences are significant and leads to two different positions. Social constructivists argue that reality is always social mediated and mind-dependent and Radical contructivists argue that mind-independent entities exist and they are knowable.  It is along these dividing lines that the battle of constructivists are drawn. The former is anti-realist and the later is realist.

Following the previous post that introduced a hybrid model of analysis I would now like to consider why this type of analysis is required. Larval has alrealy outline his reasons for object oriented philosophy (read here)

In ‘We have Never be Modern’ Latour discusses the problem for the social scientists that attempt to explain the world in terms of either subject/society or object/nature. His generally thesis seems to be that modernity has created a constitution that separates, and purifies, Society from Nature and Nature from Society. If Latour is correct then we are required to reject this purification and distinction of Society and Nature and come to realise modernity is not real. The implications of ‘We Have Never Been Modern’ runs counter to a lot of common knowledge; think about university departments and the segmentation of knowledge production. A common distinction that plays out the Society and Nature distinction is separating Social Sciences (politics, sociology, cultural studies) from Natural Sciences (biology, chemistry, physics). Interestingly, one of the subjects that really questions the division of Natural Science and Social Science is Geography, a subject that I was lucky enough to study at undergraduate level.

How then does the nature and society distinction play out in explanations of the world? Consider the question, ‘what creates human’s needs and interests?’ An ‘ordinary person’ might argue that it is the object that determine the needs and interests of the subject,  referring to the object, for example, as either God or the economy. In this explanation the “flow of determination” goes from the object to the subject. However, the social scientist could argue that the ‘ordinary person’ is misguided and the “flow of determination” goes from the subject to the object, where ‘Gods. money, fashion and art only offer a surface for the projection of our needs and interests’ (Latour, 1994;p52). Accordingly, the social scientist claims that ‘the inner properties of objects do not count, that they are mere receptacles for human categories’ (Latour, 1994; p52). We may classify this argument, where the subject determines the object, as social constructivism, which holds the position that it is the meanings, categories, and classifications that are important to explain the world.

In contrast, the ‘ordinary person’ could argue that it is society that determines the object, claiming that they have ‘free will’ and are a ‘rational actor.’  For example, the ‘ordinary person’ could claim that it was their  own ‘free choice’ and not economic needs that made them purchase a commodity. Critiquing this view of the ordinary person, the social scientist will claim that ‘free will’ and ‘rational choice’ are myths that conceal the real turth of how the object determines the subject. We only need to imagine a Marxist social scientist arguing that the subject is experiencing is nothing other than false consciousness where the material/economic base determines the superstructure (beliefs, views, culture…).

We seem to be at an impasse. Either the social scientist is left arguing that it is the subject that determines the object or it is the object that determines the subject. This situation is largely sterile as it generates a master/slave dialectic reliant upon the separation of nature and society. In reality the separation of nature and society is a myth and hybrid analysis aims to demystify this embedded myth of modernity.

The example of smoking is a clear phenomenon that transcends, or at least questions, the nature/society divide. As an (quasi) oject smoking is too real to be social and too social to be merely real. In otherwords, smoking is a hybrid that is objective and subjective. It is objective in the sense that smoking has real effects and non-discursive dimensions.  It is subjective as smoking has as categories, classifications, and meanings. The empiricism of hybrid analysis has to account for, at least, the objectivity and subjectivity of smoking, or whatever object it is examining.

In a future post I will propose a model/diagram for hybrid analysis…

 

After reading Larval’s post about the hegemonic fallacy , thinking about object oriented philosophyand Bruno Latour I came up with the thought that the researcher requires a hybrid model for analysis. A model that avoids prescribing a determined mode of analysis and is capable of accounting for all, or at least the majority, of the dimensions of the object.


Overall, the hybrid model of analysis does not outline a metaphysical ontology, but it does hope to achieve pragmatic analysis that can cope with ontology (or at least the ontic entities that compose the world).


 

Here are my first brief thoughts about “Hybrid Model Analysis”


 

The main objective of hybrid model analysis is to construct an object-oriented approach for researchers that avoids what Larval has termed the “Hegemonic Fallacy.” Instead of the researcher relying on one style of analysis, the hybrid model forces the researcher to explain the object of analysis in its diversity. For example, when the researcher is examining the object of cars in the world, the hybrid model would not allow the researcher to select one particular dimension of cars to explain their existence. The problem of selecting one dimension is that it would only reveal and prioritise one aspect of cars and neglect other factors. Imagine if I analysed the discursive construction of cars in various discourses. While the analysis of these discourses would prove invaluable, its language bias would fail to capture the hybrid nature of the object in question. The result of examine the discursive construction would be to remained traped within the hegemonic fallacy. The hybrid model would not neglect the importance of discourses disseminating meaning about cars, but it would claim there are other dimensions (political economy, environmental factors, technological capability, and so on) that construct the object. The challenge for the researcher is to conceptualise how all these dimensions interconnect and influence one another in the object of analysis.



How then is hybrid analysis connected, or related, to an object-oriented approach? In general, I claim that hybrid analysis is object-oriented due to the fact that it forces the researcher to approach (and hopefully explain) the real (and diverse) dimensions of the object of analysis. Hybrid analysis is a form of empiricism that does not assume` pre-given entities (subject, language, mind…) and has to begin anew for every researched object. What the researcher ought to discover is that there is some transference from the object that ‘communicate’ what dimensions compose the object.


 

* For now I want to sidestep the important question of “what is an object?” Presently, I would only infer that an object  is similar to the concept of an assemblage that DeLanda outlines in A New Theory of Society.


(More to follow soon…)

 

Hallward on Haiti

In relation to my PhD I have recently been doing some research about US-Haiti relations in an attempt to examine the simulation of Haitian identities in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. I will post more about the topic in the next coming weeks . However, I can strongly recommend you watch these videos from Peter Hallward. While I do not agree about his assessment of Deleuze, his account of Haiti is convincing. I have yet to read his book, Damming the Flood, but look forward to it.

I have recently had the pleasure of reviewing Levi R. Byrant’s (Larval Subjects) book “Difference and Givenness: Deleuze’s Transcendental Empiricism and the Ontology of Immanence” for Global Discourse.

At present the review is at the copy editor for the journal. However, here is a copy of the review. In the review i attempt to consider how the non-philosopher can approach and use Deleuze’s transcendental empiricism.

The review can be read here… review-of-difference-and-givenness1. (word document)

I apologise for the grammar and spelling.

Books of 2008

Hi there,

firstly, sorry about the lack of activity on the weblog recently, university work and other projects have taken up my time.

It is a little late, but i would like to know people’s three  book’s of 2008. The books are not required to have been published in 2008, but you have had to read them in 2008. Here, in no particular order, are my three ‘top’ books that I read in 2008.

Levi, R. Byrant “Differece and Givenness: Delezue’s Transcendental Empiricism and the Ontology of Immanence

Paul Virilio “Open Sky

Noam Klein “The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism