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

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A Toaster, an Octopus, a Plan, a Canal

Ian Bogost is on a bit of a tear today about toasters not being octopi, and I don't blame him.

Ian says this: “So much of poststructuralism deals with blending and bleeding borders.” Yes. I was trying to get at that with my post on horror. Bodies are determinate and fragile. You can break them. They are not infinitely malleable. When I cut you, you bleed.

It's even more drastic than the admirably clear way Ian outlines it in his post, saying that an octopus is not a toaster. An octopus is not an octopus. Not because it is a toaster, but its very octopusness withdraws, even from its own appearance.

OOO finds cracks and chasms everywhere, where immanence theories find smooth fuzz.

For the immanentist to claim (as has been done recently on empyre) that the octopus is a toaster actually requires that octopi be distinct from toasters.

If they were toasters then they would just be toasters already, without being distinguishable from octopi. And so on. If a toaster really could be an octopus it wouldn't be a toaster, and so couldn't be an octopus...

It's like those drawings by Escher: they only work if foreground and background are in fact different.

OOO-ers are to some extent transcendence people. There is a radical cut between foreground and background, octopus and toaster.

For the immanentist, octopi are just n moves away from being bent into toasters.

Conclusion: you will fear OOO if you are an immanentist. It is you who think that the world is one great big lump of whatever, not us. We think it's octopi and toasters, forks, lemonade and Brazil.

1 comment:

Bill Benzon said...

Um, err, ah, ...Tim? R U there?


As those eminent metaphysicians from the Disney High Academy of Low Philosophy established in their definitive treatise, Disquisition on the Fate of a Big-Eared Baby Elephant in a World of Jive-Talking Crows, it's all elephants, baby. Pink elephants all the way down. An octopus is a pink elephant. A toaster is a pink elephant, a utopia is a pink elephant and, by A=A, a pink elephant is also a pink elephant.

Except when it's a Ford. The Fordist Recension established that pink elephants are, in fact, Fords. In time, pink elephants will degrade into Fords, but not vice-versa, entropy being what it is and all.

In any event, these mavens of the magic kingdom established the definitive elephant-oriented ontology. The Fordist Recension is taught to members of the Inner Octagon, entrance to which requires years of study and no fewer than ten family vacations at your favorite Disney World resort.