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Performative Objects

by on February 28, 2013

Last class, we touched briefly on Bryant’s bricoleur style. We noted draws from an eclectic group of scholars in order to construct his onticology, and we raised the question of how we felt about this approach to scholarship. This question was foremost in my mind as I read the second half of The Democracy of Objects.

On the surface, I am skeptical of the way Bryant uses systems theory, Lacan’s graphs of sexuation, and a number of the other theoretical concepts he employs. It seems to me that Bryant is engaged less in building on these concepts than downplaying their original content and appropriating the structures for his ontology.

On the other hand, this very practice seems to illustrate the withdrawal of objects as Bryant himself characterizes it. He says, “entities or substances withdraw from one another insofar as no entity encounters another entity in terms of how that entity itself is, but rather every entity reworks ‘data’ issuing from other entities in terms of the prehending substance’s own unique organization.” Prehension is the catch-all term for object relations. In context of prehension, it seems that what the prehending object grasps is not the unmediated reality of the prehended object, but rather the prehending object’s own internal projection of it.

Similarly, Bryant does not often claim to grasp the “reality” or essence of the theory-in-itself which he cites. Rather, he presents to his readers the essence of the theories for him, that is, as information: “that event that selects system states, actualizes virtual potentials belonging to the virtual proper being of an object, which are then deployed to produce local manifestations.” Even for the philosophies which we might suppose Bryant knows intimately, he often downplays his own prehension: “What onticology and, I believe, object-oriented philosophy propose…”

While it might be a stretch to say that Bryant intentionally constructs a performative text to illustrate his philosophy of object relations, it might not be unreasonable to consider that withdrawal is “in the air” so to speak. Indeed, Bryant suggests that these ideas might be used to reconfigure the discipline, of which his book is conceivable a first attempt.





From → Quadruple Object

One Comment
  1. 7sshare permalink

    I enjoyed this book for its bricoleur style. It makes for a fun read, and I like to write that way myself. Making references to all sorts of different theories throughout a work seems to be a style that is in the air nowadays. I tend to imagine this as a result of the massive information overinundation we are experiencing with the Internet, and the corresponding loss of desire to engage in a small amount of works fully when we can engage in an infinite amount briefly.

    But if this bricoleur style is, even if unintentionally, a result of Bryant’s ‘withdrawal’ theory, what does this say about that theory? If objects don’t fully encounter one another, do they still have the responsibility to encounter one another as fully as possible? I guess one’s view on this depends on whether or not they fault Bryant for his bricoleurism.

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