Saturday, October 22, 2011

A Question about Withdrawal In Object-Oriented Ontology

I have a question to ask of object-oriented philosophers, and I hope that they can clarify a crucial point.  If they cannot, then much of their ontology remains a mystery.  I suspect that such individuals have an answer, but even if they do, then the exact details are significant unto the entirety of its ontology, and it would be good to explain them.

If the real being of an object is withdrawn, then what does "real" mean in regards to it?  And what is this "real being" as contrasted with whatever the term is not signifying?  I ask the question from the standpoint of a person not satisfied with answers that repeat and reinscribe withdrawal, because then one merely defers a keystone question of their metaphysics.

My insufficiently tutored suspicions are that "withdrawal" is much less novel than it first appears.  Can not many process metaphysicians also point out that what is becoming is processional, then what exist now comes into the light from out of a dark past, out of a dim hallway of its history to which we cannot have immediate access?  We could call that "withdrawal."  The more I think about it, the less mysterious the concept becomes, until I remember that OOO frequently claims to be a substance metaphysics.  Then I wonder whether the confusion is my own, or whether what is discussed is not clear, and I hope to be enlightened on the subject.

I suspect that the answer depends on the specific thinker, and I would welcome responses from any.


  1. I remain similarly concerned/confused about the meaning of withdrawal in OOO. I think the difference between how process thinkers and object-oriented thinkers conceive of the withdrawnness of entities is entirely overhyped. The only difference is that process thinkers take time seriously as a metaphysical reality, whereas for object-oriented thinkers it is a sensual quality (i.e., not "real").

  2. I would agree with you and Adam on this point, but not in all cases, since I think this is not a uniform thing in OOO. As for time, I haven't come across that point in my limited perusal in the OOO literature. Of course, time and creativity is so basic to process that one does not understand it without them.

    Speaking hypothetically, I get the feeling that OOO is motivated more by social and political concerns and not the distinctly metaphysical concerns of process. These are not separate, but biases that direct where work is done. Again, a hypothesis.

  3. Matt,

    Let me be specific about the analogues. From my viewpoint, an analogue of withdrawal in process is "asymmetry." Time as process is asymmetric, and thus, e.g., our attempts to know are rebuffed because human knowingly only occurs in a certain range of phases of the natural process that we call consciousness. We cannot, in the conscious phase, know the prior phases immediately. However, the "receding" or perhaps "withdrawing" nature of those phases are due to the futural asymmetry of the time-process. This is only a partial analogue, because object-object (nonhuman) interactions are not identically affected by the asymmetries of phenomenological temporality as a time-process.