My first thought was maybe Morton is looking for exposure and blogosphere credibility by snuggling up to Bryant and crew - thereby gaining the attention of a whole cadre of young grad students in the process. After more considered thought, I realized that Morton might perhaps see something in object-focused rhetoric that does in fact ‘resonate’ with his seemingly more relational and ecologically sensitive approach? And if this is indeed the case, then maybe I have been missing some subtle nuance to OOO, and of Bryant’s onticology in particular, that I should probably investigate further?
Here are a few recent examples of comments from Bryant with what seems to me to be a bit of a relational turn in Object-Oriented truth-speak:
I still can't figure out why, if objects are dynamic systems and 'become and decay', Bryant wants to signify such a temporary and fleeting individuality with the term “virtual proper being” split off, or “in excess of”, the actually existing entity? I’m not sure if this is Bryant accepting deep relationality into his ontology of objects, or if these few sentences are mere concessions as he tries to mesh his framework in with Morton’s? Or have I been reading too much into Bryant’s ‘spit objects’ all along - missing the more relational and more transitive aspects of objects as Bryant conceives them?
“Within the framework of my onticology, the distinction between virtual proper being and local manifestation draws our attention to what takes place when relations between beings emerge. There are not two terms here, but three terms: Virtual proper being, local manifestation, and exo-relations. [source]
“What I don’t understand is why objects are conceived as fixed and static. Nothing in our experience seems to suggest such a characterization of objects. Objects become, they decay, they evolve, and so on.” [source]
“In addition to this, I argue that objects are dynamic systems.”[source]
"Objects are generated out of other objects. When objects enter into certain relations with one another closure, under certain circumstances, is achieved and a new object is born. In other words, objects are emergent entities that emerge out of other entities. It seems to me that object-oriented ontologists talk about such emergence quite often. Likewise, the destruction or perishing of objects takes place when enough of the parts belonging to the endo-structure of an object are destroyed or taken away, undermining the ability of the object to maintain itself across time." [source]
Now Bryant and Graham might not see it the same way, but in the sense described above I completely agree with OOO that “objects” may just be the most important ‘actants’, ‘agents’ and ‘operators’ in the kosmos – and thereby should command an appropriate amount of our attention. Yet, what I and others have suggested is that object-ness or ‘individuality’ is only a part of the onto-story we should want to tell. There is absolutely no need to subordinate relationality conceptually in our speculations about ‘the way things are’. If quantum mechanics, molecular biology and energy physics (to suggest but a few) are to be believed, all things are simultaneously entangled and deeply relational with internal and external relations at varying scales and with varying intensities – ontically open to non-locality, hybridization, parasitic relation, decomposition, outgrowthm, ect. – while also occasionally coalescing together in such a way as to generate unique individuals or assemblages, with defining and specific actualizing characteristics or properties.
In less words, object-things never completely “withdraw”, and are never truly “split”. Objects are never truly autonomous and without supporting context or relations. Objects continuously interpenetrate, mix and mingle in relation. And all things are never too far from contact because they are implicated (and intimated) in the same actualizing ‘flesh’ and flourish of the world. No matter how ‘deep’ or stratified (mereologically speaking) an assemblage-object is it is still part of the world from which it comes and simultaneously relative and in relation to other things. All objects are coalesced actualities with specific and immanent material-energetic properties enmeshed in the real kosmos. Everything about objects involves properties borrowed from elsewhere, and elsewhere always comes from somewhere, and that somewhere is nowhere other than right here: the immanent life.
And yet the OOO peeps, in my evaluation, are still insightful because they are making the ‘depth of objects’ a priority by arguing (in their own way) that all assembled entities have buried deep within them a certain degree of irreducible individuality (or strict onto-idiosyncrasy) that acts upon the world. And because of that OOO is a required discourse for our times.
In discussion with Jeff Bell on another topic Bryant says the following:
I will say– and Graham, no doubt, will box me around the ears for this –that I wonder how significant these differences are. In other words, at the level of analytic praxis I suspect we’d come to similar and complimentary conclusions and just desire to place emphasis in different areas. With Graham, Whitehead, and Shaviro, my universe is Leibnizian or discrete, whereas the Deleuzian-Bergsonian-Spinozist universe is monistic and then carved up. I’m not sure how much of a difference it makes, however, at the level of concrete analysis… A terrible thing to confess. [source]I like this "confession" because it shows much more flexibility than Bryant has historically shown in my opinion. And it is in this vein that I read the 'withdrawal' and 'split objects' thesis as refering to the depth and irreducible individuality of objects. And it is because of concrete analysis on percpetion and actual interacting entities that I will choose to place the emphasis there.
I need to flesh many of these ideas out more, but for now, and in sum, I want to reiterate the kernel of my own position by suggesting that a thorough investigation of the actual world indicates that the kosmos generates ‘objects’ via relations, and that the dynamics involved reveal not two separate dimensions, but one contingent and simultaneous reality of being and becoming.