Sunday, August 14, 2011

Shaviro on Harman and Latour: Select Highlights

Shaviro at The Pinnochio Theory posts on Latour vs. Harman and their relation to Whitehead as discussed in The Prince and the Wolf.  The post confirms a lot of my inferences about objects, although recent helpful discussion has shown that I should treat different object-thinkers with care rather than generalize.  I keyed into the various passages that cover what I have been ruminating over here.  Some highlights:

"For Whitehead, an entity cannot ever exist apart from its connections, even though the entity itself is not reducible to these connections."

*This is notable because I have heard the concern that process views risk reducing an entity (identity) to its relations.  I have denied it in my case, and it is good to see corroboration.

"The problem for Whitehead is not the occasionalist one of how to bring unconnected things together, but rather the one of how to produce gaps, discontinuities, and changes in a world in which everything (every actual entity) has a reason, which reason is always another actual entity (or a number of them)."

*I have noted this before, and I have connected it to the problem of discerning determinate identity or the "in-itself" if you have read my other previous posts.  For my Peirce-Deweyan conception, the question becomes "how is emergence possible and what is it?"  The answer is a sort of emergent teleology, where emergence occurs at a nexus of active potentialities that give rise to newly actualized potentialities.  It should be noted , since I have not previously made it explicit, that order or structure has causal efficacy in this view, and thus the mere local existence of the same potentialities is necessary but not sufficient for the same emergence.  See Mark Bickhard of Lehigh University's work on this that is devoted to theories of representation, as is mine. In the Shaviro essay, the issue comes up at the end.

"And this, coming near the end of the volume (page 108), is perhaps the crux: Latour claims that “every single entity is expectant of a next step.”Harman responds: “Not expectant, but it becomes a possible mediator of other two entities.” Latour responds that he does intend the stronger meaning that Harman rejects: “No, but for itself, we are talking about the thing itself. It is expectant, is it not?” Harman says no, where Latour says yes. As for me, this is precisely where I side with Latour (and Whitehead) against Harman. Things are indeed “expectant,” because they feel what they prehend, and in turn set down conditions for what will prehend them, i.e. ways in which they will (expect to) be felt."

Finally, comes an issue dear to my studies,

"precisely because we can no longer accept the notion of substance, the question that exercises him the most is one of subsistence."

Why, gentlemen and ladies, subsistence is "habit."  And this is where the Dewey comes in, for he allows us to take Peirce's concept and metaphysics and render it biological, cultural, social, political, etc.


  1. JH, where does Dewey say that objects, outside of the animal kingdom, have expectations about how they will be "felt"?

  2. Anonymous, who I presume to be DMF,

    He does not say that. I have no idea what you mean, given that how you employ the words "object," "expectation," and "felt" deviates greatly from their proper denotation in Deweyan pragmatism.

    Feeling generates "objects," and they have not "expectations." Rather, "expectation" or the anticipation of the body, generates objects when that habitual anticipation as act is resisted by the local environment.

    Objects are, by definition, a localized complex of environmental-bodily interactions that have become conscious. That is, an experience of an anoetic object is simultaneously a felt quality (phenomenon), felt tension (experience of resistance), feeling (embodied conscious act productive of resistance), bodily act, and environmental context that resists. I have just named the basic phases of the process; the conscious experience of an object is a semiosis or symbolization of a real existence wherein the phenomenon is continuous with the existence. No noumenon here.

    This might not be informative about what an object is, as much background is required to understand this, but I meant to give an indication of what an answer would look like.

    I will defer a "real" answer, because I do not wish to discuss my scholarship until it is at least accepted for publication. I am more than willing to give numerous references to Dewey if you have specific requests, e.g., what is an object, what is feeling, what is anticipation, etc.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. p.s. I deleted a crucial comment when editing. My explanation should be understood from a realist phenomenological perspective. It also incorporates process metaphysics qua Peirce.

    If you are not DMF, or want a real answer, please do ask for specific clarification. I could not guess how the question was meant.

  5. I am writing a new post that more directly answers the question, what is an object? I feel like I somewhat dodged the question, and I find that unacceptable.