My only response is that he is right. I am often combative, frequently disdainful and I do have a tendency to want to tear things down. I would argue, though, that I’m rarely belligerent - especially towards Levi’s work (or OOO generally) if only because I admire it so. If I thought OOO was rubbish I would simply pass over it and move on to something else. Instead, I read everything Levi offers up and most of what the other members of the OOO tribe post on their blogs. So, if his criticism of my approach is coming from a perspective that seeks to eliminate (or at least point out) barriers to communication - and in this case quasi-academic communication - I plead guilty and sincerely apologize to Levi for any past offences.I’ve often found Michael to be rather belligerent, combative, and disdainful in his questions, so I seldom respond to him, but while I have little interest in entering into dialogue with Michael (everything seems to be a fight or about tearing things down with him), I do think his question raises an important point that might be on the mind of other readers.
Part of my problem (and it is my problem) is that I hold critique as too valuable, and as a result often begin pulling apart ideas I encounter rather than allowing them to peculate and settle. I’m too hasty. The proper gentlemanly thing to do would be to approach carefully and thoughtfully, and get to know a set of ideas before jumping in and trying to wrestle with them. And in the case of Levi’s onticology, I may have been less gentlemanly and cautious than what would be expected by the professor. (although I would note that I was reading Larval Subjects serveral months before ever leaving a comment.)
Another part of the problem, in this case, could be that I abhor metaphysics. Any discourse or philosophy that proclaims to have some strong handle on untimate truth is, to me, worthy of being torn asunder and revealed for what it truly is: learned poetics. Ludwig Wittgenstein demonstrated to the academic world decades ago that all our attempts to delineate the world through philosophical language are inherently limited and utterly implicated in the wider ‘games’ of concrete social life. Thus whatever we say about the real world is fundamentally tentative and constructed.
Through my own investigations in the world I have also come to believe that many of the intellectual projects supported by industrial society have become superfluous to the more primal and necessary project of human flourishing and becoming. We have designed amazing tools for understanding (science generally speaking) and coping (technics) in the world, yet we squander our innovations by orienting our productive activities towards product creation, consumption and the proliferation of superficial differences. So too with philosophy: we are affluent enough to create fantastic institutions of learning and research, yet we pay intellectuals to debate endlessly about the minutia of irrelevant arguments and/or create superfluous theories on which to build careers. Footnotes to Plato indeed!
For me, instead, a radically immanent philosophy takes a definitively pragmatic stance on the world of objects and relations, and enters headlong into direct confrontations with the concrete entities, structures, assemblages and social systems that shape our everyday manifest reality. This is not to say that I reject all intellectualization, because one quick sweep through this blog will show that I’m in love with ideas and often seduced by theory. Yet, in everything I do, say or write my attention has been towards praxis: the practical application of ideas and discourse towards political engagement, social justice and individual development.
What I do mean to say, however, is that both epistemological and ontological questions - e.g., questions about ‘how’ we know and ‘what’ we know - are practical rather than metaphysical issues. And although theory is important to both research and practice, at some point the internal coherence of any particular professor’s model/system becomes ridiculously irrelevant to the work that needs to be done within the social field more generally.
My style of engagement, albeit crude and sometimes less than congenial, reflects an impatience with spending time with the extrapolation of anyone’s personal ideology/model and is pointedly more interested in cultivating or extracting what I interpret to be the most useful ideas, kinds of reasoning and concepts within that particular discourse, or set of discourses. It simply just doesn't occur to me to want to collect and reify any individual theory or fashionable philosophical position. Therefore, and returning to the issue of my aggressive tendencies towards Levi’s work, any theory or philosophy worth my attention (which OOO certainly is) is also worthy of being deconstructed and held to mirror of practical significance.
All that said, I’m still deeply saddened by the prospect that my approach may end up preventing fruitful dialogue with Levi (and his brethren) about object-oriented thinking, and would only ask that before they consign themselves to slamming the door shut on my input that they also take the time to consider (perhaps in light of what I said above and not in spite of it) that if I truly thought for one moment that WHAT they were talking about and thinking about was wholly irrelevant and unimportant would I be so willing to critique it?
[ next I will turn to the strictly philosophical issues Levi raises in his response to my comments made on Adrian’s blog. I think Levi makes some great points, and, as will hopefully become clear, I am in agreement with most of what he writes. ]