Nature is not natural and can never be naturalized — Graham Harman

Monday, April 25, 2011

Hysterical Objects

Storm Thorgerson's photo of a veil for Pink Floyd, Wish You Were Here

I'm reading through some of Levi Bryant's posts on hysteria (here is a really beautiful recent one)—btw if you're going to write a groundbreaking book on ontology it's also handy to be a trained psychoanalyst...

In any case, it's been striking me, also through thinking about Lacan, that the default position of objects to one another is hysteria. Why? Because of withdrawal. If I can never know the object as such but only a sensuous appearance that interobjectively emerges between me and it, I am in the position of the hysteric, wondering what the heck the object must have in mind, if anything.

That's the trouble, isn't it? Or as Lacan puts it:

What constitutes pretense is that, in the end, you don't know whether it's pretense or not.


It would be fine if I knew you were lying. Then at least I would know that you were not to be taken seriously. But the trouble is, I don't know whether you're lying or not.

This is similar to the esoteric idea that reality is like an illusion. It's not an illusion. It's like one. If you were sure it was really an illusion, true reality would be located in some beyond that transcendent the illusory status. But if it's like an illusion, you can't be so sure.

Why? Because every object finds itself in the position of being inside another object. There is at least one (1+n) objects for which any system of objects can't account.

Pretense depends on the existence of 1+n objects that are totally withdrawn from access. Since this withdrawal is a deep fact about reality, it is the case that for every interobjective system, there is a play of pretense. Objects are hysterics.

It gets much much weirder when you think as I do that causality is aesthetic. That means that the machinations are not happening under the pretense. It means that the machinations are the pretense. Causality is happening “out in front of” the object. That's why it's so hard to see.

Many indigenous cultures think of Nature not as the reality underneath things, but as the pretense in front of things—as a Trickster. As a clown.

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