Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Object-Oriented Ontology and Politics: The Debate Continued

Levi of Larval Subjects has responded to David of Stunlaw blogging about object-oriented ontology and politics. I would rather that he respond to Throne's critique, which appears the better of the two.

I will weigh-in shortly, mostly upon the uses of OOO about which I will likely be kinder.


David is not charitable when he writes “I am working through Ian Bogost’s (2012) work as a representative example of object-oriented ontology and allow it to stand in for the varieties of speculative realism,” since no movement should be reduced to the work of one scholar, especially when that scholar is not a founder of the movement.  Throughout his discussion, he makes a lot of good points, but also is uncharitable. Regardless, his ultimate conclusion appears sound when he claims that OOO is engaged in a “performative contradiction” and “unexamined formalism.”

In general, David of Stunlaw notes the same thing that I do. OOO  appears to contain a methodological contradiction, since any method used to describe objects must be used from the human-object perspective, and unless one adopts some way of overcoming a reduction to perspective, which a nominalist is not likely to achieve, the human object becomes special. Stunlaw writes, responding to Boghost,

“But of course there is a connection, a link, a thread, performed by the philosographer who chooses consciously or unconsciously the elements that make up the chain, and which are inscribed in books and articles. The use of object-oriented ontology, then, is bound up in its apparent conservatism which rallies at the temerity of human-beings to believe in themselves, their politics, and their specialness.”

The trace of the particular OOO scholar runs through the work, and it is up to the scholar to explain how this is not the case, especially when talking about value fields such as politics.

Levi’s response to David is, for the most part, besides the point. I recommend a response in the form of a scholastic disputation, wherein a scholar charitably summarizes the opposing positions and then refutes them directly. Yes, Levi has written a lot about politics, but is this not in fact against the claimed foundation of OOO? Why should not objects destroy each other? Give me a valuation without begging the question. Any response to this question that I can imagine is likely to contradict a basic tenet of OOO. I have not seen Harman make this error, and I cannot comment on the other OOO scholars as I have insufficient exposure to their work, so I think that a response is possible while remaining coherent. But then they still suffer the charge of constructing empty formalisms. If I am identifying foundational and methodological problems, then any object-oriented philosopher is extremely likely to have this problem unless an ingenious solution is found. That solution must be demonstrated, and in the case of Harman, I suspect he will be found internally consistent, though that is not the only virtue a metaphysics should have.

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