Wednesday, October 21, 2009

There’s nothing that allows me to prohibit God

Realism is not a Synonym for Materialism
from Larval Subjects . by larvalsubjects

Harman accords well with the theses of Laruelle in Non-Philosophy II, whom I detest, but whose points are nonetheless well taken. To begin with an idea of what is real is to begin within the framework of an idealism that allows the concept to dictate being. By contrast, object-oriented ontologies, paradoxically, do not begin with a thesis of what is real, they do not allow an idea to dictate being, but rather hold that we do not know what the real is, only that the real is.

In my own ontology for example– an ontology of which Harman is not guilty –I begin from the modest principle that to be is to make a difference. However note that I do not regulate what is capable of making a difference. What makes a difference is completely open within the framework of my ontology. Material beings certainly seem to make differences, but fictions, humans, contracts, semiotic entities, and numbers also make differences. I suspect that there are many other things besides that make differences. To be quite honest, I’m rather surprised that certain philosophers of religion and theologians haven’t exploited this point when characterizing me as the wicked, secular-humanist, materialist atheist.

For if the ontic principle is rigorously followed through, then there’s nothing that allows me to prohibit God, and other things besides, from the order of being. A theology or philosophy of religion premised on the ontic principle might lead to some surprising results contrary to traditional theistic conceptions of God where God overdetermines everything else, but the very coordinates of my thought prevent me from excluding the divine as productive of difference. I suspect this is one reason that I get so much flack from more materialistically oriented philosophy as they, at some level, recognize the democracy or non-idealistic clamor that the ontic principle threatens to unleash as an ironic criteria of the real. I also suspect that this is the reason that some theologians and philosophers of religion have been rather enthusiastic about object-oriented ontology and the ontic principle.

In the end, I take it that as leaky as my ship is, this capacity to surprise is the mark of a good philosophy or ontology. Since I first formulated the ontic principle in January or February, I’ve been on a witches broom of thought, no longer knowing where I’m being led or am going. In other words, my basic ontological commitments might not only be surprising to others, but are surprising to me as I carry out their implications. I do not take this as a negative thing, but as precisely what a philosophy should do.

If a philosophy doesn’t make you become, if it doesn’t change you like some infectious parasite that rescues from doxa whatever that doxa might be, if it doesn’t generate new problems, questions, and concepts, if it doesn’t shift lenses, if it doesn’t manifest the world otherwise, then what is it good for? A philosophy should be relief, where relief is not thought as the reduction of tension, but in the artistic sense of bringing into relief.

(title unknown) from For The Turnstiles by DGA

The more interesting aspect of this question has to do with the unexamined political and social consequences of these assumptions. And this is where I started with the analysis of Aurobindo that opened up the "Syntheses and Surprises" paper back in 2006. Aurobindo is a really useful source for Wilber because his theory of history and time synthesizes so many of these latent assumptions and presents them in nominally intellectual prose. Those who are engaged in authentic, integral spiritual work are at the edge of the cosmos's development--such is the claim. If you want to be in the "in" group of exceptional persons (hello Protestant exceptionalism, American exceptionalism, &c), simply identify with that in-group and find ways at all costs to defend that claim.

I would still like to know why and how one would produce some evidence in support of that claim, however. Might there be a more plausible way to explain yogic phenomena and world history, with an eye toward responsible behavior, than reifying some providential Spirit as the engine of transformation and as a commodity for sale (hey, first month free!)? Yeah, probably. I suggest you stop shopping for it, though, and instead start making it.

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