Object: disambiguation

by CarlD

I woke up yesterday morning from a dream in which I was talking for the first time in quite a while with an old favorite student, Jenna Howard. It was an oddly unsatisfactory conversation, in the specific way I always find those reacquaintance conversations unsatisfactory, only in waking from the dream I was able to figure out why: I was interacting with Jenna as an unfamiliar object, a strange intersector of my space, rather than as a person who I know and enjoy.

must be a duck

no, it's a kliban

According to object-relations theory, I (the subject) am ‘driven’ primarily by my desire for relations with others (my objects). In the pragmatic tradition George Herbert Mead agrees; our selves, social objects, are formed through a series of shaping interactions with and symbolic embeddings of other (therefore tool-like) objects, including what we come to recognize as other humans. I have certainly always enjoyed my relations with Jenna, who is smart and interesting and pleasantly confirms my self-image of being so also – including ongoingly in that part of myself she shaped.

Sandra Harding might say that this decidedly marginal mutual confirmation could, if we were reflexive about it, begin to ground what she calls “strong objectivity,” a kind of knowledge fully situated in the real shared experience of embodied humans, contrasted to what she calls “weak objectivity” or “the God trick” in which we imagine we can step outside of our bodies, communities and histories to see everything all at once from every perspective. For Mead too, what we call objectivity, indeed thinking itself, is a contingent product of our interactions: “Our thinking is an inner conversation in which we may be taking the roles of specific acquaintances over against ourselves, but usually it is with … the ‘generalized other’ that we converse, and so attain to the levels of abstract thinking, and that impersonality, that so-called objectivity that we cherish” (“The Genesis of the Self and Social Control,” 1924-25, in Reck, ed., Selected Writings).

Although we may all be objects and contribute our part to generalized objectivity, apparently there are objects and mere objects. For example, feminists worry about women being reduced to mere objects for men. “Man fucks woman. Subject verb object,” Catherine MacKinnon noted, excluding reciprocity and (arguably) describing reality by a grammatical trick. Subjects have popped back up as a special kind of object. On this view subjects can change the object, not the reverse; but can subjects change the subject?

Perhaps not, because similarly in the hegelian/marxist tradition, the subject is the actor, the object is the acted upon or acted toward (you may object that my object here is not clear). Fortunately, in principle subjectivity and objectivity are relational moments of being, not essential characteristics. “Practice is the actual unity of the subject and the object of activity. Moreover, as Marx understood it, the problem of the relationship between the subject and object is not identical to the basic question of philosophy, i.e., the question of the relationship between consciousness and being, because the subject is not simply consciousness, it is a real and acting person, and in its turn the object is not simply objective reality, but that part of it which has become the target of the practical or cognitive activity of the subject,” Lektorsky helpfully glosses. Incidentally, this clearly ‘reduces’ objects to their relations with subjects, actual and potential, and limits subjectivity to human beings, which does look pre-Copernican. But it’s a dialectical theory so there’s nothing essential about either of those prejudices and one may always choose to extend potential relations into an ontologically-useful infinity.

In contrast, object-oriented programming uses modules (objects) to simplify and stabilize complex programming. Objects are self-sufficient ‘virtual machines’ that maintain their own operational relations with their own data while allowing reconfiguration as parts of larger programming wholes. This looks a bit like what a subject was earlier; very confusing. I suppose we could figure it all out, though, as long as time and money are no object.

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14 Responses to “Object: disambiguation”

  1. carl the really pressing issue is will the adumbrologists find their essence as objects in the Prince of Egypt’s approving gaze, or will they remain their usual depressingly ordinary selves? It’s early to tell, but it seems they successfully contracted rabies from Dr Harman, that Rudolph Valentino of the nerdosphere.

  2. Right, it’s fascinating and sad to see when people shut down their interactive subjectivity and become virtual ballistic objects, pointy or puffy as may be. Mead might say that this is symptomatic of a restricted density and/or diversity of interaction, so insofar as Rudolph is indeed something new and gravitic, we can expect some interestingly eccentric trajectory deviations in the ‘sphere.

  3. I just read the narcissistic cat’s response to you. Bless the cat, she only wants to rid the world of ideologies, hegemonies, plutocracies, religious fundamentalisms, corporatisms. She just wants to try something original, thread novel paths, fly across the Rainbow, REASSEMBLE herself. She’s just looking for a little excitement in this morass of dead ideas, this coffin full of putrefying concepts. And yet so many obstacles on her way, it’s painful to watch – especially that rigid classicist Mikhail, who will never leave Kansas because he’s just TOO OLD and soooo unwilling to change. Why can’t dr. Sinthome be allowed to take a two-way exit?

  4. And I’ll tell you why, Carl; the reason is that the narcissistic cat is trying to resolve her obsession, her anal ambivalence through this object-oriented adumbrology. There’s nothing more terrifying to the cat than the idea that she’s so obsessed, she could be mistaken for a Leftie fundamentalist!

  5. Dejan, I think you could be totally right in diagnosing the syndrome. There’s evidence consistent with your analysis; I see the parade of reassemblies. But I don’t want to rush there because for me, what Levi is calling the “hegemonic fallacy” has always been an ordinary principle of analytical adequacy. So in this case, even if he’s every bit as neurotic as you claim, that doesn’t mean the ideas he’s producing as self-therapy have no other meaning or value. It may even be that the anxiety-wad he’s got his panties twisted into is uniquely suited to a cleansing wipe of some stanky old philosophical crap. In particular, he seems to be working on opening metaphysics out to context in a pretty substantive way, which for non-philosophers is a no-shit-sherlock moment but would really be profound within that discourse community. And because I know from close up how deep the philosophical habitus goes, that’s really pretty impressive and admirable of him. The parade of reassemblies is also consistent with learning stuff, which I’m all for. I also know I haven’t exhausted all possible analyses here. I’m still learning too.

  6. Carlo, I have to confess to you that I do not entirely share the cat’s highly fashionable and modern inclination towards debunking the hegemonic fallacies, first of because I think over time most two-way vectors end up pointing in one direction – it takes a true genius like my hero and cyberpunk icon Shaviro to remain original well beyond the age of fifty – and second of all because Christianity in my view has never been as hegemonically Phallo-monolithic as the narcissistic cat tries to portray it just because she went through a bad patch with some Texan Bible thumpers. That is to say in its proper Greek form it has always presented the idea of continually evolving ”assemblages” that allow for the existence of paradoxes, parallel realities, weird twisted narratives and all this legacy of quantum physics that we’re dealing with in this day and age, Carl. And then you have to consider the deadlock that without the hegemonic fallacies, it would be hard to come up with any hip assemblages, because taken together, the hegemonic fallacies and the hip assemblages, ALSO, form an assemblage, and in it, they are equally important constituent parts. So there’s this meta-assemblage into which the cat gets trapped when she starts pouncing on the hegemonic Phallus.

    But with the object-orientatism, though the cat managed to explain that its alleged value is more in the realms of combating the Phallocentric hegemony of structuralism, I just don’t see the point of obsessing over the possibility that my socks, too, have a soul. Clearly my soul is more advanced and talented as long as I am able to put the socks in the service of my feet. I already feel animal right activists and wimmin breathing down my neck, getting ready to come up with some new form of suprematism, in this case HUMAN SUPREMATISM against inanimate objects, and then sooner or later, the suprematism of moving objects against immobile objects.

  7. “And then you have to consider the deadlock that without the hegemonic fallacies, it would be hard to come up with any hip assemblages, because taken together, the hegemonic fallacies and the hip assemblages, ALSO, form an assemblage, and in it, they are equally important constituent parts. So there’s this meta-assemblage into which the cat gets trapped when she starts pouncing on the hegemonic Phallus.”

    Out from behind the smokescreen of easy dick jokes and snark comes one of the comprehensively smartest things I’ve read in all the blogoverse. Sweet. Really wish I’d said this. And there’s even still a dick joke.

    I haven’t seen the part about souls and socks, so beyond noting that socks have soles I’m in the dark here. As for suprematisms I think part of the project is to intercept them, at least philosophically, by decentering any possible claimant into an assemblage that can be expanded or collapsed any time an object gets too big for its britches.

    See, I can do dick jokes too.

  8. decentering

    yes yes it’s like that time Obama won, the point is not that Obama is pretty much Clinton’s girl with badass black makeup, it’s more that as the narcissistic kitten observed, the ”rules of the chess game” have been changed so that now, not only one solution is possible, et cetera. I am sick of having the cat repeat that banal Lefty point, along with her other platitudes such as the value of respectful dialogue, and the especially that part on PRODUCTIVITY. She’s boring me at the moment, there’s no dick in it. And that’s all those other neoMarxians trannies of the nerdosphere having been saying for years now: Neither Teheran nor Washington, but international Communism. A NEW field of possibilities. QUEER as opposed to STRAIGHT solutions. Bla.

    And for all that rhetoric, for three years now, they can’t confess that Dr. Zizek participated in the overtly globalistic and anti-socialist project of conquering the Eastern European market and political space by breaking up the ol Yugoslavia! Talk about ignoring the historic dimension.

    By the way there’s an ongoing conspiracy, which could be a part of the New Object-Oriented Stalinist Sobriety fad, involving Dr. Jodianne FOssey and Kim Dot Ram It deleting all of my comments. Revenge will be SWEET and LONG.

  9. As you know I’m disposed to agree with you. I see no virtue in doxic queering. And I’ve got no particular affinity for Zizek, still less for his cult. What I wonder though, is how much all you impute to him was ‘intentional’, or even, in context, foreseeable. The owl of Minerva flies at dusk and all that. Eating up the mousies and voles and other tasty rodentia. And can he ever be forgiven? What would it take?

    I look forward to spectating your revenge; short of being taken seriously, it brings out your best work. This must be why you systematically engineer situations in which revenge will be necessary, by identifying others’ boundaries and then deliberately transgressing them. As a conscious strategy and not just a psychological tic there’s something admirably nietzschean about such acrobatics.

  10. Speaking of assemblages, Carlo, do you see anything surprising or even remotely original in dr. Sinthome’s fall under dr. Harman’s Phallic hegemony which has now made him lose the little sense of humor he used to have, his discours is full of neoliberalisms like WORK and PRODUCTIVITY and he even went so far as to accuse good old dear OLD Mikhail of being mean? What is this some kind of a post-apocalyptic Kafka fucking opera? Mikhail, take me to the Swan Lake, I need some color in my life! Just – get me away from the Objects!

  11. No, you’re quite right. He’s got a linear purpose now, which was always the quest; always the quest of philosophy. But again, I don’t want to reduce that to diagnosis. The upshot is that he’s saying a bunch of really interesting and, in context, useful things. Mindfully, admirably. He’s not just a syndrome. Dear old Mikhail wandered into the path of a jetfueled engine of philosophical transformation / translation; get on board or grab a parachute.

    Say more about work/productivity/neoliberalism. I see an edge there but I’m not catching it.

    Only very good friends have ever called me Carlo on purpose. Thank you.

  12. you don’t suppose that under the right circumstance… if we got really close and deep… it could become… CARLA?

    what i meant by the cat’s neoliberal turn is her constant and annoying plea to productivity, work (”I’m trying to work here” , she told Kvond), labor, effort, focus, results.

  13. Carlo, here’s an example of the stupid nihilism which comes smelling out of Dr. Harman’s Egyptian temple:

    Hence, to call death just a long and peaceful sleep strikes me as the most incorrect of all possible statements. Either your soul continues to exist in relation to other entities, even if supernatural ones, and in that case it lives on the molten interior of new objects. Or, you simply cease to exist. You’re not going to be sleeping in either case.

    What is the purpose of such a statement??? People compare death to sleep in order to avoid its unfathomable horrors, in order to make sense of something that is beyond comprehension – what could be more reasonable and realistic than that. But Dr. Harman, with his oppressive mathematical language inserted into affective matters, like blocks of concrete in the middle of a lovely green park, feels it necessary to face us with either or, almost legal clauses: it’s almost like if we preferred the option that after death, we don’t exist, because in this way the objects could remain indifferent to each other in order to fit his fun-less theories. Furthermore how does he manage to establish the difference between existing in relation to supernatural entities, and dreaming, for in dreams we also come in touch with spectral entities and don’t nobody fucking dare tell me that Dr Harman actually KNOWS whether or not they are supernatural???

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