“Was not their mistake once more bred of the life of slavery that they had been living?—a life which was always looking upon everything, except mankind, animate and inanimate—‘nature,’ as people used to call it—as one thing, and mankind as another, it was natural to people thinking in this way, that they should try to make ‘nature’ their slave, since they thought ‘nature’ was something outside them” — William Morris

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Interobjectivity: Questions on Hyperobjects 2

Christy Reynolds writes:

I am still a little confused about interobjectivity. I recall that, in Ecology without Nature, you criticized those who posit the earth as a vast network of intersubjectivity (i.e. trees and animals and landscapes as subjects, like us) actually reinforce subject/object dualism, so the turn to interobjectivity, and thus an ontology in which everything is an object, makes sense.

But since both you, and the others that you critique (ecomimetics) both want to give all things in the universe the same metaphysical structure, is there fundamentally any difference between intersubjectivity and interobjectivity? Especially, considering that the the interobjective relation is one in which humans "human" other objects, and cups "cup" the table, and so forth.

Humans understand themselves as subjects, and so it seems to be on your view, that when we relate with other, nonhuman things, we relate to them in terms of our self-understanding as subjects, which could lead to a more genuine intersubjectivity than the one posited by David Abram, and others. In other words (again), is there fundamentally any difference between a truly nondualist intersubjectivity and the interobjectivity that you propose?

There's a lot to talk about here. First up, yes, I argue that what is called intersubjectivity is a small island in a larger ocean of interobjectivity. In other words, “intersubjectivity” is really human interobjectivity with lines drawn around it to exclude nonhumans.

This seems particularly clear in deconstructive critiques of intersubjectivity: they often rely on the ways in which intersubjectivity as a concept excludes the media that organize and transmit human information such as classrooms, cellphones and markets. Or paper and ink and writing.

“Truly nondualist.” Well I think I would like to push back against that. In the first place in a really genuinely nondualist system, there would be no subjects at all, there would be no “inter,” which implies 1+n subjects. I think this is my beef with ecophenomenology in general. Ecophenomenology assumes that intersubjectivity gets us out of our skin encapsulated egos. I'm not convinced, I think it just puts some aesthetic bells and whistles on a basically Cartesian self.

If we mean monism when we mean nondualism then interobjectivity can't deliver on this score, because it depends upon 1+n objects that are outside the interobjective system.

The human anthropomorphizes the cup and the cup cup-opomorphizes the human, and so on. In this process there is always 1+n objects that are excluded.

There's a lot more to say on all this.

1 comment:

Eric said...

"The human anthropomorphizes the cup and the cup cup-opomorphizes the human, and so on. In this process there is always 1+n objects that are excluded."

It sounds to me like interobjectivity extends Kant's difference between things-in-themselves and appearances to all object-object relations. But that makes interobjectivity sound like a reification of discursive cognition, or a universalization of the commodity form. So I am curious whether OOO has its own version of a non-discursive form of cognition (like phronesis for Aristotle or mimesis for Adorno), or is it discursive cognition all the way down? And if the latter is the case, then how is OOO not a form of skepticism?