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notes on Levi Bryant's ONTO-CARTOGRAPHY by Terence Bla e
!" POST-#ONIST THO$GHT vs %HAR& AN& CON'INCING % R(ALIS#
During the post-structuralist period (Deleuze, Lyotard, Serres, but also Feyerabend and Rorty) it was widely thought that monism had been thoroughly refuted and discredited !owe"er, recent de"elopments in the last decade ha"e shown that the refutations were insufficient, as the discredit of monism began to fade and a new form of monist ontology, in both scientistic and nonscientistic "ariants, came to light and began to spread #ost-structuralism was seen as insufficient to pre"ent the rise of these new forms of monism, loosely grouped together under the rubric of $speculati"e realism$ %he post-structuralists& positi"e "aluation of $speculation$ as conceptual in"estigation and e'perimentation was considered by some to be in danger of founding a new idealism, called by some $constructi"ism$ and by others $correlationism$, enshrining the omnipotence of language, society, or indi"idual and(or collecti"e thought to the detriment of empirical reality )ertain thin*ers saw themsel"es as in"ested with the mission of reinstating $realism$ and subordinating the free play of metaphysical speculation to the hard and con"incing real state of affairs $!ard and con"incing$ realism represents a return to a grasp on reality by turning poststructuralist criti+ue against itself , *ey figure in this monist regression was ,lain -adiou, who tried to synthesize both pluralism and monism under the aegis of an ontological realism allied to an adulterated scientism %he conceptual situation became pathological under -adiousian regenting, and it was only a matter of time before a strange new malady appeared, or an old malady in mutated form .i"en the regressi"e nature of its gaze, and its rein"ention of an ontological turn already accomplished by its post-structuralist predecessors, one baptise this malady with the name $onto-nostalgia$ /n this blog, and in separate published and soon to be published articles, 0 ha"e e'amined close up two forms of this malady1 .raham !arman&s non-scientistic /// and Le"i -ryant&s scientistic renaturalisation of ///, machine oriented ontology
)" *ITH&RA*AL+ SY#PTO# O, TH( CONC(PT$AL PATHOLOGY O, OOO
.raham !arman introduced the pathological notion of withdrawal to reconfine speculati"e realism (without the scare-+uotes or capital letters) inside the monist prison, arguing that this imprisonment was necessary to permit us to escape the constructi"ist nightmare $2ithdrawal$, whether strong (as in !arman&s in"isible, untouchable, un*nowable ob3ects) or wea* (as in -ryant&s renaturalisation of it into an incoherent physicalist notion of partial causality), replunges us into the problematic of access that structuralism (,lthusserian and #opperian) had for a time dismantled, freeing speculation from the sub3ect(ob3ect aporia %he criti+ue of $correlationism$ (4eillassou'), of $philosophies of access$ (!arman), or of $anthropocentrism$ (-ryant) ser"es to falsify the history of philosophy by painting the sub3ect(ob3ect problematic all o"er the "ery mo"ements that o"ercame it /nly in this way could their own regressi"e contributions be presented as new, i e on a fa*e bac*ground that eliminated from "iew all their more sophisticated ri"als, that had preceded them and already denounced and refuted their elucubrations (only under other names) %he by now classic $withdrawal$ ontology is in fact an abstract meta-ontology and is by its "ery nature incompatible with more concrete ontologies %here is no place for a regional ontology in !arman&s metaphysics unless it is asserted as belonging to the realm of illusion, of $phantoms and simulacra$ as !arman calls it in -5LLS ,6D 2!0S%L5S %hus !arman&s //# must necessarily criti+ue -ryant&s machine metaphysics as reductionist1 machine metaphysics is not an independent $ ontology in !arman&s terms, but is only one possible instantiation of !arman&s meta-ontology) %hat
is to say that machine metaphysics is an impure, because empirically contaminated, instantiation of pure ///, and so necessarily in conflict with it, and necessarily criticised as being reductionist, despite its being at a higher le"el of generality than a simple regional ontology %his conceptual incompatibility between the two systems (!arman&s //# and -ryant&s 4//) is irresol"able as long as one retains !arman&s notion of absolute withdrawal $2ithdrawal$ as !arman uses it does not consist in the simple generalisation of !eidegger&s concept of the same name- it constitutes its absolutisation -ut absolute withdrawal doubles up not 3ust ob3ects (into real and sensual) but also properties and relations %his produces too much ontological clutter, and and lea"es no room for other entities, including scientific ones, e'cept as useful fictons ($shams$ or $simulacra$, in !arman&s terminology) Further, the real ob3ects, properties, and relations de-temporalise the world, whereas Le"i -ryant&s machines, powers and capacities comport a temporal aspect %his seems to be behind the unwillingness constantly manifested by -ryant, but also by many others, to ta*e on !arman&s full-blown fourfold ontology %he way out of these unacceptable conse+uences of !arman&s withdrawal thesis (unreality of all *nown ob3ects whether common sense or scientific, unreality of time) can only lie in dropping the notion of absolute withdrawal !owe"er, a philosophical price must be paid for that conceptual mo"e %he price is the recognition that !arman is tal*ing past himself i e that !arman as metametaphysician (ontology of withdrawal) is tal*ing past himself as metaphysician (ontology of emergent autonomous ob3ects) and "ice "ersa , higher price is paid in the generalization of !arman&s bifurcation of 6ature into real and apparent ob3ects, e'tending this bifurcation of nature into e"ery single interaction %hese are the aporias that -ryant confronts in his struggle to redefine /// as an ontology of emergence rather than a meta-ontology of withdrawal
-" PL(A ,OR #OR( (#PIRICIS#
0nstead of simply decreeing a priori, by semantic stipulation, that e"erything is an ob3ect (or a unit, or a machine), shouldn7t one approach this as an empirical +uestion8 Such a far-reaching claim should be gi"en enough testable content to be susceptible of scientific in"estigation )an one ha"e a democracy of immanence outside the transcendent fiats, so as to respect the empirical specificities of the world8 2e need more empirical research and less semantic stipulation 0f one ta*es out all the standardised polemics containing caricatures of )ontinental philosophy or of 9epistemology:, if one remo"es all the sub3uncti"e e"ocations of what one 9might: say or 9would: loo* at, of what 9perhaps: is to be found, there remains precious little in -ryant7s te'ts !is e'amples are mere conceptual possibilities, sub3uncti"e confirmations of le'ical posits Similarly, if one remo"es all the illegitimate e'amples in !arman7s te't (there can be no concrete e'amples in his //#) we are left with an ontological delirium about ob3ects in a metaphysical parallel uni"erse -ryant is unable to li"e up to the goals of his own pro3ect, and his te'ts are a dissatisfying mi'ture of conceptual incoherence, criti+ues of none'istent ad"ersaries, confusion between stipulati"e definitions and concrete theses about the world, wordy abstract ramblings combined with banal yet underde"elopped 9possible: e'amples to gi"e the appearance of a concreteness that may come (sub3uncti"ely) and that ne"er does %his last is my principal ob3ection to -ryant&s metaphysics1 not the conceptual confusion (anyone can ma*e a mista*e), not the intellectual timidity, not the absence of dialogue with anything other than straw man ad"ersaries %he big problem is that -ryan&t onto-cartography is 3ust empty wordmagic mas+uerading as in"ol"ement with concrete things
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