Here I only want to briefly address a few of the issues Adam raises to see if I can clarify in my own thoughts and see where we disagree.
Now I definitely agree with both Adam and Levi on the role of 'enaction' in the genesis of events and objects, but would shy away from relying solely on speculative metaphysics (Whitehead) to describe the operations of any such actually existing instances of enaction. Although I’m not as familiar as I would like to be with Whitehead’s ontology, I see no compelling reason why we should graft such a speculative ontology on to what can be easily understood through empirical investigation of the materials and dynamics involved. I argue that enaction can only be explained with reference to the materiality and expressivity (actual properties) of whatever specifc entities are involved.
For example, the enaction of a football game can be described as the interplay and contingently structured conjunctions of atoms, organisms, leather, nylon, metal, grass, oxygen – each with their own properties – such that a particular state of football affairs, composition, assemblage, or “regime of attraction” emerges. Likewise with, say, neo-liberal ideology; which relies on the confluence and circulation of textbooks, discourses, humans, learned schema, guns, the university of Chicago, vast networks of affiliation between elites, exploitable governance systems in “the third world”, etc. The historicity and particular character of enactions is generated through the activities and relations of specific substances and properties.
Yet Adam writes:
Although I share Adam’s view that epistemic activities are generated within distributed networks (ecologies) of media and materials, I am still left wondering what justifies the claim that such activities “share the same ontological qualities” as rocks? Epistemic events are enactions involving very different substances and relations than, say, a fireplace ‘event’, as an assemblage of rocks. The properties and qualities which go into these two events, and the emergent conditions they each enact are very different in kind and effect in ways that make all the difference.“[K]nowledge (or epistemes in this case) are embodied in specific media (e.g., brains, books, and bytes), are not “other than” those media and, in this way, also share the same ontological qualities as ‘physical’ interactions between, say, tornados and barn doors.” [source]
I think the problem of understanding the difference between epistemic relations and causal relations is crucial here. ‘Causal’ in this context is meant to refer to structural integrities and material-energetic influences (affect generally) whereas ‘epistemic’ is meant to signal animal imagination and symbolic representations. In this sense, imagining or visualizing or hallucinating punching someone in the face is ontologically different than punching someone in the face. Both the imagining and the punching are Real, but they are deployments of very different capacities.
Put another way, epistemic imagination is qualitatively different than radioactive waste, for example. There is an abstract totemic (projective and imaginal) quality to symbolic apprehension that is not shared by rocks or radioactive waste. Therefore simply equating the properties and capacities of thought with pre-imaginal properties and capacities based on some refication of ontological tendencies does nothing to add to our understanding of the Real. Erasing the differences which obtain here through a type of will to speculation only serves to confound.
My problem with “withdrawal” is based on this distinction. Objects are absolutely withdrawn from our conceptions of them (as Wittgenstein and Derrida both claimed), but are only partially withdrawn from our embodied capacities for directly affecting or intervening in their substantial configurations.
I’m not sure I follow the logic here? Cognitive ecosystems can be considered Real in the same sense as “other ecosystems”, but not in the same “way”. In fact, I would reframe all of this by suggesting, rather, that epistemic activities are features of the very same ecosystems as other entities and assemblages but they embody very distinct properties. Thus animal cognition is generated out of the same ecological circumstances as photosynthesis but the enaction of human cognitive events includes the emergence of imaginal representation in addition to physical processes. Epistemic relations and activities (as emergent capacities) are as Real as other purely physical relations and activities, but not in the same way because each set of activities have intrinsic onto-specific organizations, associations and properties."Object-oriented philosophy’s account of withdrawal holds true for both ontological and epistemological domains, where the ontic and the epistemic can be distinguished analytically to perform certain philosophical tasks, but are ultimately integrated in the embodiment of beings such that epistemic and cognitive ecosystems are ontologically real in the same way that other ecosystems are." [source]
To be clear, I don’t oppose epistemology and ontology because how we know is a function of what there is. Epistemic relations are in fact one type of ontological relation - only with distinct properties and operations.