Thursday, November 26, 2009

Harman’s thesis is that objects only relate to one another selectively, never exhaustively

An Un-canny Ontology
This blog is an attempt to work through my ideas of the un-canny and how they fit into ontology.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009

In a couple of recent posts Levi has developed his notion that objects relate to each other via translation. This means for onticology that no two objects directly encounter each other, but that instead objects - and specifically 2 or more objects - inter-act through the process of interpretation of differences.In answer to a couple of questions of mine, Levi states:
If it helps to visualize what is going on here, just think in terms of black boxes: actant1 (input) —-> actant2 (black box) —-> product (output). That’s all there is to it. Think about your phone. You have an input (electrical pulses), a black box (the phone itself), and the product (the sounds that come out of the receiver).

Therefore translation takes an actant (or object), interprets it, adds something new to it, and as a result produces something new. Another great example of this would be the process of photosynthesis. As Levi lays out in an older post:
Think about photosynthesis. Here we have photons of sunlight, the leaf and its photosynthetic cells, and the sugar produces. The leaf “translates” the photons of sunlight and produces something new: the complex sugars. There is no resemblance or identity between the photons of light and these complex sugars. Rather that sunlight becomes something new in passing through the medium of the photosynthetic cells.

So far I completely understand and agree with Levi's use of translation (I guess this is also Latour's, as well). But where I struggle, especially after Levi was kind enough to explain this concept even further, is: what exactly happens during translation? What is translation? And why do some things get translated and others do not?

Translation is more than a simple replication. Translation always involves a certain degree of interpretation in which what is inputted is always changed or transformed - from photons of light to complex sugars. Objects translate each other, they change each other without encountering each other directly, which means that objects first and foremost recognize each other.

For leafs to translate photons of light into complex sugars, they must recognize the photons of light as photons of light. Just like we have to recognize the word unheimlich as German in order to translate it, objects must recognize other objects in order to translate them. In other words, the leaf doesn't attempt to translate any and all objects into complex sugars, but to some degree sees (not literally) the photons of light as being translatable. But even this recognition adds confusion, as we can now say that objects predict, expect, or anticipate other objects - they recognize potential. Posted by NrG at 6:27 PM Labels: , , , , , , , , 1 comments: NrG said... Steven Shaviro's response to my post: November 25, 2009 5:32 AM

Translation and Information from Larval Subjects by larvalsubjects

The point is that there is always more possibilities open to any object than those actualized in any particular relation the object enters into. In many respects, then, Harman’s claim can be understood in counterfactual terms. One of his key points regarding the inexhaustibility of objects pertains to the inexhaustibility of their possible relations. If objects are always in excess of or more than their relations, if they only relate to one another under particular aspects or in terms of “sensuous vicars”, then this is because there is always an excess of other relations they could enter into under different aspects.

I hope to expand on this a bit in the near future in terms of the sorts of transcendental illusions generated through the process of translation, giving transcendental illusion not an epistemological grounding restricted to thought or the human-world gap, but an ontological grounding.

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