Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Time and Object-Centered Rhetoric

In perhaps a more rhetorical question, Larval Subjects in his most recent post asks his readers, “What is time?” He points to the seeming paradox of light speed travel uncovered by Einstein's general and special relativity, and in an interesting move discusses time in terms of Leibniz's Monadology and principles of non-contradiction and self-identity. And although I'm sure Larval is not expecting an answer to his post, especially one that goes beyond (perhaps in left-field as I seem to do) it, I thought this would be an excellent opportunity to begin discussing what I propose to be an object-centered rhetoric that will lead us ultimately to a construction of an object-centered temporality.

Ultimately what Einstein discovered is that time is relative to the subject and the location of the subject, so that if a person were to travel at the speed of light away from the earth while another stayed on earth, the person traveling away from the earth at the speed of light would actually experience less time passing by than the stationary one. Time, then is relative to the observer and location. However, what if we talk instead about objects instead of observers? What then?

Most rhetoric that deals with objects deals with them from the standpoint of an observer. So that for instance when talking about a book and a table, they consistently say something like, “the book is located on the table” or “the book is located on top of the table.” Both of these are still observations – that is, observations from a third perspective or an observer. An object-centered rhetoric, instead, attempts to discuss the encounter of the book and the table from both the perspective of the book and the table. So that statements like the one's above become something like: “From the point of view of the table, the book is located above it” and “From the point of view of the book, the table is located below it”. See here how simply changing our use of words and language creates a more inclusive and less observer-centered way of talking about objects. Also, what this does is that it allows the book and the table to exist in their own right, not tied to the observer, whom might have a motive or create a generic hierarchy from which to classify the book as being superior to the table (or vice versa). Object-centered rhetoric also allows objects to be approached from all angles. So that the two object-centered sentences just uttered actually are that – two individual, different sentences. If we stick with our observer-centered rhetoric, the book and the table become synonymous with each other in their encounter, so that what is ultimately being stated is that the encounter is what is important. Instead, object-centered rhetoric places the object(s) at the center of the speech act, requiring the encounter to be explained from different perspectives, without favoring one over the other.

There might be a couple objections that might occur with such rhetoric, namely: A) saying the book is located on top of the table is the same thing as saying that from the table's perspective the book is located above it and B) that using such rhetoric makes sure that you could never fully understand any interaction or encounter between two objects whatsoever.

When I ask for directions or give them, I always have to listen for or make statements such as “it will be on your right” or “you'll see it on the left, if you are going south”. As far as directions are concerned, these are the types of sentences you (as a lost soul) want to hear, for they orient you to what you are looking for, where you are going, and where you might find it. If I were to just tell you, “it's on this road,” a million different questions would spring to mind: “Which direction, north or south?” “Where on the road, or how far down or up the road?” “Will it be on my left or right?” Answering any or all of these questions will put the traveler closer to the destination and with more accuracy. Therefore, the speaker or direction-giver would have to orient him/herself to how and where they are traveling, as well. So that in saying that “heading south, it will be on your left”, one is also saying that a) you will be facing this direction, b) do not look right, as there is nothing of interest on that side, c) if you head north you will not see it, and d) if you miss it, and turn around, you will be heading north and therefore it will be on your right and not your left.

However, by making a statement such as “the book is on top of the table” is tantamount to saying, the place you are looking for is on this road. It fails to orient the location and observer. From which direction is the book located “on top” of the table? What if I look at it from underneath the table, is the book still there? Or if I'm looking at it from above, couldn't I assume that the table is actually below the book? Object-centered rhetoric then places the objects as points of observation, as focal points from which all spatial location is then made available. For example, when I claimed earlier that from the table's perspective, the book was located above it, I was not only making a statement as to the relation of the book and the table, but I am also stating that this relation is relative to the table – that only from the table's perspective can the book be located above it. And, the same goes for the book's perspective. In this sense, the book and the table are given back their unique perspectives, perspectives that are equally important in understanding the relation between the two objects.

And this brings us to our second problem, that using such rhetoric makes sure that you could never fully understand any interaction or encounter between two objects whatsoever. In response to this I would like to ask another question, what purpose is there to understanding an encounter in its entirety? Is this even possible from an observer-centered rhetoric? I propose that any object-centered rhetoric is never exhaustive in describing an encounter. We can see proof for this when in an earlier post we discussed the encounter as the propagation of the event (E), which creates meaning stretched out over time. The meaning of an encounter is the immediate result of such an object-centered utterance. So, from the books perspective, meaning is created when the table is seen as being below it. How much meaning, what type of meaning, and what importance does the meaning have, are all questions we will leave unanswered for now. But, what I've hopefully done is shown the importance of object-centered rhetoric, so that we can now discuss the object's temporality.

Before we begin, I would like to add another diagram to our growing catalog:

As you can see, we have kept all of our previous parts of the object, and only added a few lines. Each line represents a movement of time and thus a temporalizing of sorts. For the most part, the lines originate in the thing-itself (A) and move outward. The only exception is the line that connects the encounter (B) with event (E). But, before we get into this exception, lets look more closely at the other lines. If you will note, the lines originating from (A) move outward, almost as if the object were expanding. Keep in mind, though, that such expansion is in no way an expansion of space (which I will discuss in a later post) but is a temporal expansion. By this I mean simply that each object moves through time in its own way – that is, time is relative to each object. It moves away from its pure Being towards its non-Being, but each object does so at its own rate. Therefore, a flower will have a different temporal existence than say a Styrofoam cup; however, each object continues to temporally expand until this non-Being is reached. Why so many lines? Well, simply put, because each object temporally expands in all directions. So that from the object's perspective time is felt in all parts, in all realms, and in all encounters, events and movements. Think of your body, so that you feel time not only mentally but you feel it when your nails grow, every time you realize you need a hair cut, etc. So that every object (here, your body) temporally expands in many directions.

Finally, we might note that the line connecting the encounter (B) with event (E) takes a different direction with regard to those originating from (A). This is because time here is also an encounter, but an encounter that does not originate from the object, yet encounters the object, and continues outside of the object itself. For example, I eat a really tasty orange. In this encounter, meaning is formed (regardless of whether it is “oranges are good” or “this particular variety of oranges are tasty”). But this meaning is formed out of the utterance and continues past the orange's (the object's) non-being – for I've effectively eaten the orange. Instead, this encounter has a temporality unto itself. So that if we have to think time relative to the object (or orange), we must also think of time as relative to the encounter and thus connecting encounter (B) with event (E). Does this time line end? Well, like we said when we discussed Porter's book on (M)eaning, meaning only becomes non-consequential (and thus meaningless) when all of the possible meanings have been exhausted or are no longer consequential. Time for the encounter (B) then should be seen in terms of consequentiality, for every encounter (B) immediately produces an event (E), which is and moves outside of the object proper.

Every object, then, is part of at least two (but really quite a bit more) temporalities – the temporality in itself and that of its encounters. Our only problem then is to shift our language from the temporal nature of discussing our encounters with the object to a language that discusses the object-itself in all of its expanding temporal qualities.