Friday, February 26, 2010

Question of statecraft and good government is preeminent

  1. Amod Lele Says: February 25, 2010 at 11:16 pm
Hi Levi – thank you very much for this post. As I mentioned, my understanding of SR is very limited, and I was really hoping an SRist or OOOist would come in and trip me up to help me figure out what I wasn’t yet understanding.
That said, I’m not entirely sure that I did misunderstand, though I suspect I didn’t state my points clearly enough. There are clearly a vast number of nuances and subtleties I don’t yet know, some of which your post helps explain; but I have a feeling I may still have been right on the basics.
First on Rand. I certainly didn’t mean to say that Object-Oriented Ontologists were basically Objectivists (and actually hadn’t even been thinking of the “Objectivism” name when I wrote the post). I was focusing specifically on the idea of correlationism. While Rand’s thought is certainly anthropocentric in a way that OOOists would oppose, it still seems to me that she would share the opposition to correlationism qua correlationism, as it is found in Kant. Things in the world – including humans – are real things, and while it is a noble and heroic task to dominate them, we can only dominate things in a way that they themselves allow room for. Things resist our attempts to make of them what we want. To leave the things themselves out of the picture and be entirely anthropocentric, allow human subjectivity free rein whether in a broadly Sophistic or more narrowly Kantian sense – that is what leads to “mysticism,” one of her favourite pejoratives, which is something that (to her) hippies and Christians share. This mysticism leads in turn to a lazy refusal of productive work, a refusal to engage in a transformative relation with the physical world; and if one doesn’t want to do productive work oneself, one will end up siding with the “looters” who appropriate others’ productive work, the communists and socialists. Now obviously these reasons for rejecting Kantian correlationism are very, very different from OOO’s reasons; I admit that and should have been clearer about it. But it seems to me that the critique itself remains similar: Kant is refuted by the persistence and obstinacy of “the things themselves.” Is there something I’m still missing here?
On to China, a comparison which I think is much less of a stretch. It strikes me that the way you characterize OOO in this section of your post still describes classical Chinese thought quite well. Especially: there is no question, to my mind, that humans are among the objects of the world for Chinese thinkers. The concern of classical Confucian thinkers was very much with the human – but with the human conceived relationally, as an object (in this sense) interacting with other objects, especially with other human objects. Thus the question of statecraft and good government is perhaps the preeminent question in the thought of Confucius, Mencius and Xunzi (just as it is peripheral – at best! – to the Upaniṣṣshads or the Buddhist Pali canon). How can one create harmony in the world, among humans and the other things they are a part of? 
In this respect I neglected to mention an important aspect of Chinese landscape painting: those landscapes do usually involve a human figure somewhere, but very small (finding him is almost a matter of playing “Where’s Waldo?”). Humans on this line of thought are integrated into their environment, whether the human environment or the natural environment. As I mentioned in the post, there is debate among modern interpreters as to just how much subjectivity or interiority remains (as, perhaps, there might be among the circle of SR, especially if the Churchlands are included in the picture…?) But I don’t think that changes the point that subjectivity is not the focus of the picture here. Now there isn’t a critique of the Indian or Western subject, since the classical Chinese hadn’t encountered those yet (although later Confucian thinkers, with whom I’m less familiar, might be very interesting on this point). Rather, it seems to me that the starting point of Chinese thought is much, much closer to SR/OOO conclusions than are either Indian or Western thought.
  1. larvalsubjects Says: February 26, 2010 at 12:50 am Amod,
The only reason that I can surmise that you would compare object-oriented ontology to Rand’s objectivism is because rhetorically you’re engaging in a rather underhanded attempt to besmirch OOO and SR with the disapprobation generally directed at Rand’s despicable philosophy. Here are some other thinkers that are critical of Kant: Marx, Whitehead, Deleuze, Bhaskar, Latour, and Stengers. Each of these thinkers is more or less realist, yet none of them advocate a metaphysics or epistemology even remotely like Rand’s. I’m not sure why the comparison would even come up unless for rather unappealing reasons, hence my strong response. The line of reasoning here seems similar to arguing that members of the Tea Party are critical of the American government, Marxist socialists are critical of the American government, therefore members of the Tea Party and Marxist socialists are the same.
The reason that there has been a focus on Kant isn’t out of any particular animosity towards Kant, but rather because Kant invented correlationism. 
Speculative Realism, Indian, Chinese and Aurobindo's thought

Amod Lele  has a brilliant post that has initiated a discussion that gets interesting by the day. I have had some connectivity problems since yesterday and this has indeed prevented me keeping pace with the threads regularly. I have entered into a discussion in person with a colleague of mine who has told me about his understandings of Aurobindo and is candid enough to admit his own shortcomings when talked to about SR, but on the whole is quite startled to learn the probable points of convergence between the two ways of thought. This is a post that deals mainly with the replies and opinions and would have to wait for a deeper understanding of Aurobindo's thought and thereby correlating (oops!, I believe this is taken as a dictionary lexicon) it with SR. 

I had never thought of Chinese philosophy coming close to SR. I myself have had issues with coming to terms with Harman’s notion of OOO and the dismissing of Anthropocentrism and many Indian thinkers I have had the chance to discuss the nullifying of human-centeredness have directed me close to Buddhist thought, wherein at one level, the being and what is being thought become one. I also found some interesting linkages between SR and Aurobindo’s thought. But the real problem lies in ‘correlationism’ and is it ever possible to exorcise the ghost of it. One thing is for sure that Indian thought is getting more and more human-centric and there I think your analogy of moving away from Indian Philosophy and ever closer to Chinese philosophy as what the SR is doing sounds interesting. though, i must admit, Chinese philosophy is hopelessly unexplored by me and this post would get me to look into it. thanks for it. another point is, can everything be treated as objects as in Harman’s OOO. As in one of his criticisms, it is said, that Harman’s (Kvond’s blog) attempt to decenter and remove the human from the privileged point of access for any ‘first philosophy’, naturalizes the human by smuggling it through the backdoor: he takes Husserl’s transcendental starting point of the Cartesian withdrawal-into-self through universal doubt and then extends it to the propositions that “all objects withdraw into themselves” is apt. isn’t it? 

Amol replied by asking to elaborate on the linkages between SR and Aurobindo, to which I have only cursorily replied at present:

The link between SR and Aurobindo is what I am deliberating on with a colleague of mine from the ashram. It is said by Aurobindo that even an inanimate object has consciousness that could act morphogenetically to evolve. This consciousness is innate/inherent and is particulate in nature: a kind of separated one at that from the cosmic consciousness. this could be looked upon as a play, albeit never a revision to determine if the particulate consciousness on its own could evolve to realize the divine plan. as of now, in the writings, man is invested with the exponential acceleration of realizing the plan, or even if he fails in his endeavour, the superman concept of Aurobindo would achieve it. Although this is to a large extent human-centric, what really interested me and is still is baffling me is the contingency invested in the inanimate object with its particulate consciousness to achieve it as well. This is where i see the link between SR and Aurobindo and Meillassoux's reaction to post-Kantian 'correlationism'. This might not have been articulated all that well, but i have just laid hands on my copy of letters on yoga by Aurobindo and this purports to strike some revelations. himanshu POSTED BY HIMANSHU DAMLE AT 08:09:00 

No comments:

Post a Comment