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Morton and Self-Sublimity

by on March 21, 2013

I liked the Morton readings for today and find his approach entertaining. His writing can be amusing and though his willing dialogue with and use of correlationists thinkers such as Lacan, Kant, and Heidegger may not make him unique among object oriented ontologists, he has an acute sense of where an how to draw on whom. I particularly liked his discussion of the sublime in Speculations II. Willing to both draw upon and dismiss Kant’s structure of sublime, Morton draws a four-fold (Brilliance, Clarity, Transport, and Phantasia) counter of the speculative sublime. It seems from his description of these four parts and the object’s necessary self-withdrawal, that in fact any object, or any subject, could find itself (or oneself) to be sublime, or perhaps could not help but find itself sublime. For if the self is no closer to itself than to any other object, or if it is only a bit closer, and yet still withdrawn, what prevents the self from encountering its own objecthood from this goldilocks zone from the very moment the object prehends its simultaneous self presence and withdrawl? And would this sublime not be prehended or experienced every moment the object or one perehends this gap between one and one’s withdrawal?

I suppose this brings me to my next point, which is one I believe we have talked about before in class. Morton ends this chapter “Sublime Objects” by suggesting that instead of a no-man’s land of bleak nothingness, the world he orders is more akin to a “Tibetan zoo, an Expressionist parade of uncanny, clownlike objects” (226). I must admit that I don’t actually know what he means to add by describing the zoo as Tibetan, or if Tibetan zoos include clowns. Perhaps its meant to add a sense of nowhereness, state of exception, or self withdrawal (the Tibetan’s land is not the Tibetans). Anyway, it seems that such an uncanny place, where one simultaneously is and can never be, would refuse the possibility of motivated political action. The image he leaves seems to almost encourage the dictatorship or rule of some charismatic, self-important Overman. If he is interested in preventing global warming, then perhaps a zoo or circus is not the best place to start. These spaces of enjoyment and lack lead back to Lacan, whom he occasionaly sites, and, at least for me, to Zizek. For whoelse could tell us more about the politics of the circus, and the “Wo Es war, soll Ich werden.” As with Bryant, I think Morton could have had a lot to contribute to the talk at UB last semester about the possibilities of object oriented psychoanalysis.

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4 Comments
  1. 7sshare permalink

    I was very interested in the withdrawal of the self as well. I like the way you word your question here: “what prevents the self from encountering its own objecthood from this goldilocks zone from the very moment the object prehends its simultaneous self presence and withdrawl? And would this sublime not be prehended or experienced every moment the object or one perehends this gap between one and one’s withdrawal?” Perhaps the queer thing about the human experience is that this is exactly what’s happening – we are constantly sublimely prehending our own presence and withdrawal? This is the I / me split that, in psychoanalytical terms, results from the Oedipus complex in a sort of strange reverse causality. But does this imply that during their pre-Oedipal infancy, selves are not withdrawan but totally present? Perhaps it means that selves are not objects at all until they withdraw. I think that Morton’s grief, “the photograph of an object buried deep inside you”, is exacerbated by not coming to terms with oneself’s own withdrawal.

  2. I have had the exact same thought about an “infancy self.” The idea of a tabula rasa of thought is of course on par with a correlationist “great beyond” (or whatever variations of the same are out there). But at one point, the self has to be so basic that everything is laid out, mainly because there is so little to display (the sounds and limited sights of the womb, introductory emotions and sensations, etc.) and those eventually develop into more complicated perceptions, and then are completely blown up by our first sensations of the whole wide world beyond the womb, egg, etc. But for a fleeting moment, there is a blank slate without experience, is that the moment prior to withdrawal, or is the sensory bombardment that comes later what necessitates withdrawal (if the latter, is withdrawal an evolutionary adaptation? A way for us to mitigate the constant flood of sensations in order to act accordingly to those most pressing and immediate? I’d like to think not, because that would also mean that withdrawal could be unique to animate or conscious entities (which I don’t believe), and in the case of inanimate objects, would point back to that correlationist The One, or just a mound of blank slate matter, but this too is tempting for me, as it all still points to a moment before the withdrawal). The split second that we lose this simple, composite perception of everything for a far more dynamic, deeper reality could even be considered a sublime moment. For Burke, it could be the moment when we realize that cosmic authorities (physics maybe) mitigate the day to day of reality and that we are subject to it, and to some degree helpless in its face and must submit to the standards of reality. For a Kantian sublime, maybe it is the moment when we realize that reality does not depend on us being around to observe it (maybe, the moment we leave the womb and realize a whole big environment has been going on without us noticing), thus we experience freedom in that we know reality is not dependent on us, revealing a cognitive failure, and thus removes some of the burden from our shoulders (this might be a stretch, but it was just the best analogy I came up with now).

    I would have to say that from a purely semantic view, “withdrawal” is a verb: for an object to “withdrawal” it would have to be present at one point, otherwise it is not withdrawn so much as it is invisible. So in the end, I am left to think that at some moment, “it” (the real object) was there, and then had to backpedal away, either for our own sake (the evolutionary angle), the limits of physicality and knowledge (we become aware that we are ourselves, and therefor can never experience “being a bat” since that awareness will never leave us again), or because if God’s around, maybe it just likes a secret.

  3. And side note, I was also unsure about the Tibetan Zoo. Is it “Tibetan” because it all exists on equal footing (is that even the perception of Tibetan monks?) or because it is there for us but not our own like the sociopolitical Tibet?

  4. jmdaven permalink

    Related to this self-sublimity, or auto-affection is Morton’s notion of time, which for him arises from objects. He would then seem to rely upon some sort of second order time or internal time that is prior to lived or actual time. This matters because self-sublimity and the autonomy of contradiction limits the capacity for objects to actually change. As Meillassoux notes, contradiction allows for necessity, for a thing to be by necessity. And since this thing would be necessarily, it would also seem to be immune to any change, any causal or aesthetic encounter. If so, how then would things end or be destroyed or pass out of being? For Morton are all objects eternal caught in reflection of self-sublimity?

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