As I prepare for a class on John Cage and Loss Pequeño Glazier, I want to put up a link that’s mostly a review of Timothy Morton’s Realist Magic, and partially an appraisal of the trajectory of Object-Oriented Ontology in particular. (Thanks to Justin Read for pointing me to the review.)
Most of the essay is a scathing review of Morton’s book, but the beginning, where the author talks about Graham Harman is more interesting to me. In particular, this observation seems right on point: Harman’s insistence on the discrete character of objects, we read,
supposes an initial stasis from which “every object in the cosmos” would be unable to break free; it doesn’t allow for the possibility that the constitution of objects and relations is never absolutely stable, so that change need not derive (and how could it?) from their non-relational, “vacuum-sealed” interiors.
The point makes a lot of sense to me, inclined as I am toward a view of objects informed by Gilles Deleuze’s meditation on the virtual and the actual, and by Manuel DeLanda’s theory of emergence (which mostly extrapolates from Deleuze). Indeed, and I’m not quite sure about this, it seems to me that the stability of objects might secretly owe to precisely what Harman seeks to avoid, which is anthropocentrism. I agree with his general sense that objects interact with one another independent of human agency, but our very understanding of them as objects may owe more to human priorities (the convenience, for humans, of seeing different regions of the earth as objects). From the position of certain nonhuman beings, the relevant category may be nothing like an object, but rather the dynamism of matter that never becomes an object.
As Cage puts it, composition is “characterized by process and essentially purposeless.” I want to remain tentative here, but I think that objects–as a way of categorizing the world–result of purposeful human interaction. Without that purposefulness, perhaps other categories of reality are more convincing.