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Endo-structure problems

by on February 24, 2013

Professor Reid, I apologize for the late post – it’s been a crazy week.

I hate to repeat myself but I still find it hard to accept the existence of objects as autonomous entities in themselves. I think that it may be possible to reduce them to what Bryant calls their “exo-relations”. I’m not convinced that the endo-structure or the virtual proper-being should be granted any kind of solid ontological status. It’s a useful concept, but I don’t know that we should theorize about it as if it were a real property of objects. Speculating that an object actually is, in a certain sense, all of its possible states, seems like a mistake. I’m finding it difficult to flesh out my objection here…it just seems like Bryant is making an improper, almost dogmatic leap of reason with this idea. As he says, “the virtual proper being of an object can only ever be inferred from its local manifestation in the world” (88). No object can ever be complete in itself, or be exhausted in all its possibilities. So why not admit that fact and concede that objects exist on a sort of asymptotic scale of actuality, instead of creating a speculative realm of completeness? If virtual proper being is not granted firm ontological ground, the theoretical result would be that objects don’t actually withdraw from each other. They are what they are at any given moment, once the realm of potentiality is removed from their being. Then relationality and flux would be allowed to play a larger role in being, which I think it should. I find it too hard to give up on the essential inter-mixture of being, in light of discoveries like the fact that bacteria cells outnumber human cells – in humans – by 10 to 1, and the decentering of the subject in postmodern theory in all its forms, from structuralism to Agamben’s biopolitics to deconstruction, etc.

I found Bryant’s critique of Lacan-Zizek very interesting. I would never expect someone to make such intimidating thinkers seem so silly and naive so easily. Basically, Bryant says that they hypostatize the human linguistic structure and vastly over-apply it to the rest of the Universe. I haven’t quite grasped what implications of this argument might be for Lacanian theory (maybe that it has overstepped its bounds?) but I find it quite convincing. There was one point about Lacan-Zizek, however, that I didn’t buy: “Absent a world that is structured and differentiated, the surface of the world, as a sort of formless flux, would be too slippery, too smooth, for the signifier to structure at all” (132). I think Bryant is just wrong about this. It still seems to me that, for humans, the world really is that treacherous and slippery, and can only be made sense of through language.  But other than that, I have come across my first really solid critique of Zizek’s seemingly boundless theoretical power. Can anyone rescue him for me?

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One Comment
  1. The position you appear to be advocating is probably closer to Deleuze in its emphasis on process and relationality. Or perhaps it is more like DeLanda’s. Is it your argument that objects are the products of a historical-causal process? Or would you assert that there are non-deterministic (quasi-causal) mechanisms that disconnect input from output? Virtual proper being is Bryant’s attempt to account for the latter without calling upon a monist virtuality of the Deleuzian variety.

    Potential is an interesting concept here as it is precisely not possibility. It is not the mathematical calculation of chance that bothers Meillassoux. Potential is both more and less than possibility. Given the infinite number of possible relations for any object, an object’s capacities (produced through those relations) are not contained within its potential. Instead the virtual/potential side of an object is comprised of singularities/attractors (we get different terms here) that generate the exo-structure of objects.

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