Withdrawn Even From Myself (As An Object)


According to the latest twist of OOO mind-bending doctrine, “objects or substances are withdrawn from themselves – I have no clue what this is supposed to mean, but I will take it on faith that this paradoxical formulation (which is a nicer way of saying “this nonsense”) is true, which means I myself withdrawn from myself (as an object). Right?

In any case, speaking of withdrawing – I know it’s affected and vain to announce things (and, yes, doing it knowingly is even more affected and vain, but nonetheless), but I think I will take a short break from blogging. Fall semester is here, books need to be read, deep thoughts need to be thought and snark needs to be polished. Hopefully, by the time I return OOO will still be producing beautiful nonsense for me to mock. Levi Bryant’s monumental volume will finally see the light of the day and I will stop being irritated by his references to his yet-not-published book as if it has already hit the shelves and everyone’s read it. Graham Harman will probably write 13 more books about everyone and everything (including one on South American butterflies and Amish goat cheese). Tim Morton will produce a dozen or so of YouTube videos in which he will address the non-existent audience and explain some intricate point of his profound thought. Ian Bogost will probably make more snarky remarks about adjuncts or not being a Marxist.

Cheers!

13 thoughts on “Withdrawn Even From Myself (As An Object)

  1. About a hundred years ago Bertie Russell wondered whether he was acquainted with himself, and I think finally decided (in the logical atomism lectures, if memory serves) that he was not in fact so acquainted. Do you think the same basic idea is at stake here (it was kinda dumb then too…)?

    • I have no clue what this is supposed to mean

      Objects have a split subjectivity, whereas their theories are irreducible assemblages which have to convince their authors and induce conversion experiences in other great human objects who become themselves authors of objectological assemblages. Being split objects themselves they never attempt to be coherent and consistent. For that reason objects feel persecuted by the police state and tend to be politically left. What else could be said? Aside from the police they are persecuted by trolls like us as well as greys which suck their energy.

      BTW wouldn’t “Trolls like us” be a great title for a community blog?

    • Yep, there is more Kant in OOO than their spokesman like to admit. Just take this short passage.

      Harman:

      “It’s really quite simple: a horse is the same horse in different contexts, but the horse can still be born, grow, develop, and die, as well as be affected by some (some, not all) of the things that happen around it. The choice is not between an eternal horse-essence and a horse that becomes a new horse every time a hair falls on the floor or every time the horse rotates 10 degrees to the west. But that is the choice that relationism offers us.”

      So the horse Gestalt is neither a platonic idea reified as a body nor is it absent because one has to recur to the level of atomic (de-)composition and state counting. The “speculative realist” answer is that there is in fact a real horse that produces the horse Gestalt but that horse is not an immutable substance with a fixed extension. The Gestalt is an infinite set of images but the horse is not those Gestalt either, it is, in Kantian terms, the condition of the possibility of its Gestalt.

      Of course there isn’t a frog to swallow for a Kantian here and no independent ontological argument is presented. We have merely reproduced Kants thing-per-se i.e. constructed a material cause of the horse Gestalt that is not within the subject. The thing-per-se is withdrawn from its Gestalt and “can’t be touched” and it can also not be consumed by all the relations of others to the horse.

      So far this is all just “correlationist” thinking – or rather not.

      There is a single line of escape of OOO from the Kantian scheme and this one is about Cthulhu. Cthulhu does not cause a Gestalt but madness i.e. a crashed cognitive system. So not only is the material cause is withdrawn from the Gestalt but it doesn’t even produce a Gestalt but “abstract horror” instead. In some sense we are prepared for this kind of thought with modern sciences that announced the “end of all images” long ago. However there was still a close tight to mathematics, modelling and computing, which preserved our cognitive optimism and could be understood as a slight extension of our natural intellectual capabilities and intuitions. At that point “correlationism” was even intensified and the world became an informational interface: we passed queries to nature, got strange answers and built models. So when there is an independent ontological argument that challenges this, I would be curious to know about it. At least it is not presented by OOO afficionados.

  2. Kay,

    “The Gestalt is an infinite set of images but the horse is not those Gestalt either, it is, in Kantian terms, the condition of the possibility of its Gestalt.”

    Gestalt as the for-itself that links the “images” together, and strikes me as a kind of objet petit a. So in a Lacanian schema (which I don’t subscribe to btw) it would not be the absolute Other – that would be other objects – it is the little other posited beyond reach that ensures unity of the object because of its projected isolation and yet an object of anxiety because of its distance.

    “So not only is the material cause is withdrawn from the Gestalt but it doesn’t even produce a Gestalt but “abstract horror” instead.”

    I see the positing of a Gestalt as the unattainable as the desire that animates the for-itself

    “Cthulhu does not cause a Gestalt but madness i.e. a crashed cognitive system.”

    I haven’t come across Cthulhu before, in your understanding what causes this madness? As it seems to me it is the exposure and contamination to alterity as such.

    Will.

    • When I remember correctly the objet petit a is an object of desire which structures the libidinal actions of the subject, a bit like the surplus value / profit which is the desire that structures the actions of the entrepreneur in a capitalist economy.

      The Gestalt on the other hand is the conceptual unity of different perceptions and not generally a matter of desire. It comes out of an emergent process that happens automatic.

      When the objet petit a goes out of control you might become a neurotic but when the Gestalt building doesn’t work any more your mind is defunct.

      Of course Cthulhu is an element of fantasy literature and I can’t say for sure if all the madmen have really shattered brains – but yes the “contamination with alterity” is a beautiful description what happens to them.

  3. I wasn’t using it in a within a specificity Lacanian framework, but its connotations in that context does in my mind perform in a similar function as Gestalt i.e. objet petit a is the site which encompasses the three orders. But I admit I may have abstracted the concept beyond recognition.

    Although as you pointed out, I liked its connotations with being a reserve of excess, but viewed more through a Bataille lens i.e. “general economy” in which surplus is not necessarily retained but can be squandered without return. Nevertheless I will cease to refer to it to avoid confusion.

    In the Kantian sense Gestalt is the abstracted “I” form in which the active synthesises relates perceptions to an “I” that is in itself. This is transferred in OOP from the in itself of the subject to the in itself of the object.

    Going back to the horse example… you said….

    The “speculative realist” answer is that there is in fact a real horse that produces the horse Gestalt but that horse is not an immutable substance with a fixed extension.

    The ‘real’ horse is the ontological object hidden by being withdrawn, that which cannot be touched and so is preserved and held in reserve (hence the mention of objet petit a).

    Now, I’m not read up on the Harman side of things but I am familiar with OOO. Levi speaks of Withdrawal in 3 senses, withdrawal from self (virtual generative/processional side of things distinct and other to that of a particular manifestation), from other objects (withdrawn object not in extension so can’t relate to other objects), encounters between extended aspects of objects is withdrawn (objects are only internally selective to the degree in openness to encounters with other objects). External relations have to be right in order to activate an internal potential of an object.

    Going back to what you said earlier…

    The Gestalt is an infinite set of images but the horse is not those Gestalt either, it is, in Kantian terms, the condition of the possibility of its Gestalt.”

    Gestalt is a operation that implies a Levinas/Heideggerian “primordial temporality” that necessity implies the trace of the other that undermines the “for-itself”. Even Levi (OOO) said he hasn’t got temporality nailed down yet, and for essential reasons no doubt.

    Will.

  4. I do think the major point of disagreement with OOO is its transcription of an epistemological problem into an ontological one. Withdrawnness isn’t something absolute but it happens relative to other objects and their material plasticity. I’m not able to become an incestuous and surreal fusion with my surrounding but I perceive it instead. This doesn’t mean material fusions or continuous transformations don’t happen permanently, not only assemblages.

    After all Gestalt is an abstraction happening in a complex synthesis. It can integrate various features of an object into a whole including some time variation. It works so well and it is so expressive that one can take it for real or turn the real thing into a mere shadow of this complex machinery which makes up our minds. I do think it’s an intuition which has been mostly faded or found its niche in fundamental physics where ideation of a basic mathematical structure into an elementary particle realm is not too far off. This doesn’t mean anyone of our contemporaries believes that the horse emerges as an ideation of the horse Gestalt.

    So I don’t quite understand what is the big deal with turning this into an ontological quibble of real horses and intentional horses or virtual horses and manifest horses?

  5. I do think the major point of disagreement with OOO is its transcription of an epistemological problem into an ontological one.

    It drives me a little bit nuts! It is a materialist Husserlism with the transcendental reduction gone berserk.

    Withdrawnness isn’t something absolute but it happens relative to other objects and their material plasticity.

    If I had to guess I would peg you as a Deleuzian – in OOO, withdrawal is the operation of Gestalt, it ensures the telos of the object is for itself and doesn’t deviate and contaminate itself in its extended form. This is a key and essential point, as is this move that authorizes going beyond that straw-man of “philosophies of access”.

    So I don’t quite understand what is the big deal with turning this into an ontological quibble of real horses and intentional horses or virtual horses and manifest horses?

    As it ostensibly overcomes anthropocentrism by providing a kernel for the human(?!) object orientated ontologist to discover and prove his anti-anthropocentrism credentials by negating his own interpretation/’discovery’ via stating that objects are “for themselves” .

    Rejecting Kantian convergence of final ends, also means that there is no basis in which to say the OOO interpretation of an object does or does not match with the withdrawn object.

    Will.

  6. It drives me a little bit nuts! It is a materialist Husserlism with the transcendental reduction gone berserk.

    Nice. But is it even materialist? A companion of an outjected Husserlism might be Buddha nature. In that case it might be wiser though to not comment.

  7. When folded into each other they amount to the same, but if one was to abide by the traditional distinction I would say it was materialist. OOx still abides by form/content distinction with content being materialist albeit reduced ultimately to form.

    Will.

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