Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Ontic Principle in 1909!?!

David, a friend of mine, found this in James Bissett Pratt's book What is Pragmatism? (1909). Could this be an early form of the Ontic Principle?

(from page 6)


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

3 Types of Relationships Between Selfish Objects - A Brief Outline

In my last post I argued that Levi’s onticological objects are selfish in nature – that is, that if defined by the Ontic Principle, objects must produce with an indifference to what they are producing. This indifference to the product (or the difference made), I argued, is what made the object ontologically selfish, since it is only worried about producing (i.e., keeping its ontological status as real). But this got me wondering what types of relationships could such ontologically selfish objects have?

Yet before I answer this question, I have to bring up a question of my own. For onticology, every object is radically split between exo- and endo- relationships. Exo-relations are between object and object, while endo-relations are internal to an object independent of any other object. My question, then, has to do with the paradoxical nature of such a split, when ultimately all that is needed in order to be is to be-a-difference that makes-a-difference. Therefore, why split the object? What good does this do since objects, regardless of scale, are all differences that make a difference? How can endo-relations be distinguished from exo-relations (unless by an observer)? Aren’t we essentially talking about a multitude of objects in relation to each other?

So in what follows I would like to briefly outline three types of relations that selfish objects have with each other. Please keep in mind that this is an outline, so I’ve in no way concretized my thoughts. But, I feel that such an outline allows me to not only answer how selfish objects – that is, objects which only seem to reinstate their own ontological status as real by indifferently producing differences – come into relation with other selfish objects, but also how essential it is to deny the split Levi finds necessary to discuss objects in the first place.

3 Types of Relationships Between Selfish Objects:

1) Cooperation: In perhaps the most common type of relationship between objects, differences made are differences that make, with little to no reciprocity between the objects in the relationship. In other words, as an object makes a difference, this difference (as object) makes its own differences which do not directly affect the parent difference, and so on. Metaphorically speaking, we can think of the movement associated with this type of relationship as runners in a relay race, each of whom runs in their own style and with their own object-hood, but nonetheless all have a simple relation to each other runner. However, this might not be the best example since the baton might be taken literally as the same difference, when in onticology this is never the case given Latour’s Principle (that there is no transportation without translation). Regardless, cooperation is often weak, and weakens as the chain of differences lengthens.

2) Collaboration: In this type of relationship objects maintain difference production in a more reciprocal nature, unlike in cooperation. For collaboration, two or more objects benefit from the same relation (i.e., they depend upon each other). Unlike in simple cooperation (which we could read as the simple onticological necessity for beings even to exist), collaboration requires that at least one of the objects involved both makes and is made by another object (difference). Such a relationship maintains the object’s selfishness, since ultimately every object involved satisfies the drive of being, yet at the same time collaboration allows for a slightly stronger tie between objects. An example of this relationship would be the way in which the organs in my body each rely upon each other. So that my heart depends upon my lungs to provide it with enough oxygen, and my lungs depend upon my heart to pump blood to them. Collaboration can be either weak or strong, with the objects’ own dependence upon each other being the deciding factor.

3) Collusion: Finally, we have the most important yet most complex relationship between objects. In collusion the ties between objects are so strong that ultimately this relationship itself becomes an object in its own right – that is, the relationship makes its own difference. The collusive relationship obtains ontological status by making its own differences. This is as close to an idea of form as we can possibly get, since one of our goals here is to deny the split object, which presupposes form in the exo-relation. Therefore, instead of discussing a table as having an endo-relation between its parts (its four legs and flat top) and an exo-relation as a complete table, collusion allows for a single relationship between all of the objects involved. It is because of the strong collusive relationship between the parts of the table that the table exists as a whole. And it is because of the strong collusive relationship of the particles in the wood that the table’s legs, or it’s top exists, and so on. This relationship also allows for the irreducibility claimed by onticology since no object can ever be reduced to any other object – or the table (as a collusive relationship) cannot be reduced to a single leg, or the top; but is instead the complete relationship between all of the parts. In this way collusion is different than both cooperation and collaboration since it provides the structure for a new object or a new difference to be made.

Friday, October 2, 2009

TV Shows and Tube Socks: Same Difference

Deleuze distinguishes between difference in his terms and empirical difference. Empirical difference distinguishes between two objects – "x differs from y." For Deleuze, though, difference is even prior to this empirical differentiation as a principle. In other words, there has to be a sufficient reason for x to differ from y, and this sufficient reason – this process – is difference. Difference "becomes a transcendental principle that constitutes the sufficient reason of empirical diversity as such" (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosphy). Difference is what makes differentiation possible. It is no longer an identity (x differs from y), but should be seen as the process (context or grounds) for such actualization to take place.

As I understand it, this is why for Levi, if we have a world made up of a single substance, a color or a sound, even though nothing else exists to distinguish this singularity by or from, this entity in and of itself is a difference – that is, it is the condition for differences to be created. Yet, with Levi's onticology and his definition of differences, this condition or possibility for the creation of differences is turned into a necessity – for there is no difference that does not make a difference. Every difference must make differences, or every difference must produce. But what I find incredibly interesting is that in discussing objects in terms of Deleuzean differences, we have shifted from a discussion of product – What is produced? Why it is important? What can it do for Me? – to one of production – How and under what conditions do differences get made? In other words, if difference is a necessary product of the process of difference, then this differenc-as-product is unimportant or in-different. So for example, suppose we have object A, and object A fulfills the requirements of an object under onticology – that is, it is a difference that makes a difference. If object A must produce in order to maintain its ontological status as real, then it must persistently produce differences, and it does so always in relation to other objects. Therefore, the differences produced by object A are in-different to the relationships (whether exo- or endo-) between object A and this other object. What is important is how and under what conditions object A produces these differences – as I say in my composition course, process over product.

If we want to look at this from a Lacanian point of view, we can think of it in terms of desire, drive, and objet petit a. In The Four Fundamental Concepts, Lacan states:

Even when you stuff the mouth – the mouth that opens in the register of the drive – it is not the food that satisfies it, it is, as one says, the pleasure of the mouth.[…]

This is what Freud tells us. Let us look at what he says – As far as the object in the drive is concerned, let it be clear that it is strictly speaking, of no importance. It is a matter of total indifference. (167-68)

What Lacan finds here is that the object we supposed would satisfy the drive or the larger desire is of no real importance – that is, this object could be anything: chips, candy, or a four-course meal. It doesn't matter. Instead, the satisfaction of this drive is fulfilled by something other than the food – it is the pleasure of the mouth, the process of desire that succeeds in satisfying said desire. Food, itself, is completely indifferent. What is misperceived is what Lacan calls the object cause of desire, or objet petit a – the necessity of pleasing the desire, not the object of momentary fixation (in this case, food).

For onticology, if the production of differences (exo- or endo- ) is a necessary condition for existence and the difference itself, then the satisfaction of this necessity, of this drive to produce, can only be met by producing and not by any of the actual differences produced. Difference becomes the drive of Being – the process of producing process.

But what about the second half of the Deleuzean process – repetition? Of what importance does it hold in onticology, if any? For Deleuze repetition is more than the simple mechanical replication of an object. It is the repetition of the singular, and in this way gives structure to difference as a process. Repetition is the actualization of a difference from a difference. In other words, every repetition is unique. That is, it contains something the parent difference did not.

In onticology, however, the parent object does not distinguish itself from its progeny, or the difference made. Instead, the repetition (by being a difference itself) is already distinguished. And in this distinguishing, in this actualization of a difference from the original process of difference, a creation (or genesis) takes place – new differences are born. Or in diagram form:

The only problem with the above diagram is that it supposes an original difference, which under onticology is impossible. To be a difference is to not only make a difference but also to be made by a previous difference. There is always a prior and subsequent difference to every other difference.

And it is in this way that onticology denies both a singular, unchanging monad or object, but it also denies an origin object. By origin object, I simply mean a difference that started it all – that is, a difference with no prior differences. Therefore we would have to redraw our diagram to look like:

Difference (as a process), then, makes differences (or actualizes them) and is itself actualized by a previous difference. This is why I feel we can call difference the process of being. Difference needs a before and after, and in this way is reliant upon other objects (whether internal or external to itself). The point that I have been leading up to, however, is this: these other objects are always indifferent others.

If objects are processes (thought of like drives or desire) then products are of little importance to the process itself. But, it seems to me, if what this process creates is simply similar processes, then the product becomes even less important or indifferent to the overall chain. We might be able to think of this last point in terms of a factory. Now the goal of a factory is to produce an object. But as far as the factory itself is concerned, this object is of little importance. The factory simply needs to produce to stay in business, for if the factory stops producing it is shut down or ceases to exist. If being is the process of difference, of making differences, then (again) the difference produced is indifferent to the original process. The factory of being simply needs to produce. We can take our example one step further and say that all objects in onticology seem to be factories of this sort – except that what they are producing are other factories of the same sort (and these factories are doing the same, ad infinitum). Therefore, if being is determined not by the material (or what these factories are made of), the formal (or what shape they take), or the final (or what they produce), then efficiency is all that is needed. To be is to be efficient, to be-produced and produce-being.

Now let me clarify and muddle this last statement with something I said earlier. If difference is only worried about the production of difference and not about the produced difference itself, and if we find the Ontic Principle (that there is no difference that does not make a difference) to express the notion that "to be means to be-produced and to produce-being," then being qua being is ultimately indifferent to everything else. Being, as a process, as difference, exists solely for itself – that is, for the process of being. Unlike an object that has being for others – that has a duty towards or cares for an other object – the onticological object has being only for itself. It is a selfish object, an object that gives but gives only to please itself, to satisfy the drive and desire of difference.