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Being Is Flat: The Strange Mereology of Object-Oriented Ontology

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by Paul Bryant on 3 May 2010

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Transcript of Being Is Flat: The Strange Mereology of Object-Oriented Ontology

Being is Flat: The Strange Mereology of Object-Oriented Ontology What Object-Oriented Ontology is Not:

OOO does not propose a naturalistic or materialist ontology.

OOO is not the attempt to eradicate subjectivity in favor of objectivity.

OOO is not the attempt to champion the scientific over the cultural.

What Object-Oriented Ontology Is:

A realist ontology.

An ontology that attempts to escape the obsessive focus on the gap between the human and the world.

An ontology that seeks to place all entities, human and nonhuman, natural and artificial, symbolic and physical, on equal ontological footing.

Vertical ontologies are ontologies of heights and depths that erase and dissolve objects.

Heights: The erasure of objects beneath some entity that descends from the heights such as the subject, God, language, signs, discourses, or narratives.

Depths: The erasure of objects in terms of some fundamental depth that is treated as ontologically primary such as subatomic particles, neurons, the One, pre-individual fields, etc. Flat ontologies are ontologies of the surface where metaphysically heterogeneous objects are arrayed alongside one another.

The Three Primary Claims of Flat Ontology:

Being is composed entirely of objects.

There is no relation of ontological primacy with respect to cultural objects or natural objects, physical objects or artificial objects, symbolic objects or material objects, humans or nonhumans.

All objects are on equal ontological footing. Bruno Latour: The concept of society should be replaced with the concept of collectives.

Societies: Composed of humans alone and human phenomena such as power relations, language, signs, narratives and discourses.

Collectives: Can be composed of objects alone or associations of humans and nonhumans, but never of humans alone. Overmining: Overmining philosophies say that objects are naïve because they are posited uselessly as substrata lying behind what is more directly given. This given might be consciousness, language, bundles of qualities, etc. (Graham Harman) Undermining: Undermining philosophies say that objects are naïve because they are not deep enough. This depth might be subatomic particles, the One, the pre-individual, water, fire, etc. (Graham Harman) The 5 Dimensions of Objects: 1. Objects are essentially split-objects.

Objects are split in 4 ways:

Objects are split between their status as substances and their qualities.

Objects are split between their parts and their status as wholes.

Objects are split between their endo-relations (internal composition) and their exo-relations (relations to other objects).

Objects are split between their "virtual proper being" (internal composition + powers or capacities) and their local manifestations (actualized qualities).

2. Objects are necessarily autonomous and independent of one another. 3. Objects cannot directly encounter one another, nor can they be perceived. 4. Objects are "difference engines" or "generative mechanisms".

Objects are difference engines insofar as they have the power to produce differences in themselves and other objects. 5. Objects only entertain and maintain selective relations with one another.

World: The totality of objects that exist at any point in time without itself being an object.

Environment: The openness or selective relations an object entertains to other objects.

Each object is oblivious to a number of other objects. All things exist equally, but do not equally exist. 1. Objects do not come in one type or flavor, but rather being is composed of heterogeneous types of objects. 2. Objects at different levels of scale equally exist or are equally real.

There is no level of scale that constitutes the "really real". In addition to semiotic phenomena, social, cultural, and political theory needs to devote more attention to the role played by nonhuman objects in collectives involving humans. Within the context of social, cultural, and political theory onticology seeks to investigate how objects contribute to the scale and form of associations and actions among objects.

Entanglements: Exo-relations among objects that tend to evoke repetitive qualities in objects by virtue of the persistence of these relations.

Sticky Networks: Networks that lock objects into certain exo-relations limiting the degree of freedom enjoyed by the object. Cartography: The mapping of sticky networks and entanglements among objects to locate those exo-relations that tend to lock objects in place and discern strategic points of weakness within networks that might allow for the formation of more free relations. German Toilet French Toilet English Toilet Examples of Objects: Nations Couples Molecules Naked People Descending
Staircases and Artworks
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