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Bryant’s Systemic Withdrawal and the Possibility of Perturbation

by on February 28, 2013

Bryant’s discussion of Lewontin’s understanding of an organism and an organisms ability to construct its own environment is particularly interesting to read against his onticology. It seems that understanding the organism as powerful, world-constructing subject could and perhaps necessarily would lead to a kind of weak Kantian correlationism in which no organism or object has any ability to access the world in itself, but only has access to the world through its own “interpretation” (200-1). Bryant continues to make this point of withdrawal and indirect accessibility:

Were this the case, then each substance would be controlling or ‘dominating’ the other substances or systems that exist in its environment. Just as other substances or systems can only perturb the substance without determining what information evens will be produced on the basis of the perturbations, the most the substance can do is attempt to perturb other substances without being able to control what sort of information-events are produced in the other substances (205).

In order to avoid falling into such a weak correlationism it would be necessary for Bryant to define perturbation far more precisely than he has. Would it relate to Nancy’s notion of touching? Wouldn’t any perturbation be a relation and thus an object like any other, and furthermore, a perturbation is not information. Thus no object/system can communicate or share information with another. All perturbations are merely perturbations for a particular system.

His treatment of relation like Harman’s raises an inevitable problem of infinite objects. For if my relationship to someone then creates a third object that is my relationship to that person, then why would I not then have a fourth object which would be my relation to my relation to that person and so on ad infinitum for each member of the relationship?  This again would seem to lead to weak Kantian correlationism wherein my only access to other things is conditioned by me, by my access.

Furthermore, Bryant’s treatment of how objects or systems reproduce themselves or perpetuate themselves across time is lacking. He fails to take up time as a system or object itself and note its own structure. If for instance he took up the infinite divisibility of time and its inherent sequentiality, as some of his statements imply, then it is debatable whether any object or any process could arise or would arise in the first place as he demonstrates they do. Nonetheless, he does indicate towards the end of Chapter 5 (p.242) that object each have their own individual space and time, particular space times for each system. Such endo-temporality and spatiality bring any possibility of perturbation into question for how may objects or systems so independent and withdrawn so as to have their own time and space ever encounter each other?

Finally, though I found his “translation” of Lacan’s graphs of sexuation into ontological graphs, I think his reading relies upon a mistranslation that separates the feminine from the masculine more than it should. I think a more rigorous reading would reveal that the two sides of the graph are almost (but not quite) two sides of the same coin, that they require each other, and cannot be effectively cleaved as Bryant would like. Furthermore it is difficult I think to reduce the feminine sexuation to the graph or side of “truth.”

This link (Lacan’s Graph of Sexuation and OOO) from Bryant’s blog might be helpful for further understanding his use of Lacan’s graph of sexuation.


From → Quadruple Object

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