quick response to Vitale

August 18, 2010

We made some progress in the exchange, but in the end there’s still this:

“What I’m asking, if indirectly, with my Hjelmslevian excursus, is the following: sure there are lots of Parises (my Paris, Graham’s Paris, Henry IV’s Paris, etc.). But is there an ontological Paris, a ‘real’ Paris underneath all these, for OOO? If so, I can’t get on board. Because then I feel that OOO brings a God’s eye view (which is a version of ‘our’ own filters) through the backdoor, in the name of ontology… So my question for Graham – is there A REAL Paris? If so, I just can’t jump on the wagon. But if not, if there’s an infinite number of potentially incompossible graspings layered on the spacetime location of Paris, then sign me up!”

My answer will be disappointing for Chris: there’s a real Paris. (With a few minor caveats that would confuse the discussion if I were to get into them here.)

The problem with Chris’s passage here is his claim that believing in Paris entails a “God’s eye view.” But that’s precisely what it does not entail. The object is not a view at all.

If I were doing an object-oriented theology and my first step was proving the existence of God, my second step would be proving, somewhat perversely, that the God of OOO is not omniscient. (On the bright side, at least it would solve the problem of evil.) Why not omniscient? Because even a super-encyclopedic, godlike knowledge of an object is not the same thing as that object itself. An object is irreducible to any knowledge about it, even God’s. So, to accuse OOO of a “God’s eye view” on objects is incorrect.

You don’t need a God’s eye view to know that objects must be there. You just need to see that phrases such as Vitale’s “infinite number of potentially incompossible graspings” don’t work. And I’m afraid I think that people continue to hold onto such phrases precisely because they live in the assumption that philosophies of unified things lying beneath appearance are reactionary schoolroom pap, and that the real innovation is on the sides of phrases like the above. I’m not even sure what “infinite number of potentially incompossible graspings” means, but I think it means something like a number of different Paris-perceptions linked by a “family resemblance.” But this doesn’t work, for reasons I’ve discussed in my books, and I’m too tired to repeat them here.

So, looks like Chris and I will remain on different sides for at least awhile to come. Table’s always set for you, friend.


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