“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

Friday, July 22, 2011

Activity and Passivity

Thanks to Dirk Felleman I'm urged to clarify my thoughts on dreaming, remembering and objects. I'm going to take a little detour around some rather more basic prejudices about action and passion before I deal with the pith of Dirk's questions.

Dirk's quite reasonable objection is that I don't seem to have given an account of the active work of dreaming and remembering. What disturbed Freud (as Dirk puts it) was his discovery that the unconscious actively edits incoming stimuli. 

Now this agency can perhaps be thought of in two distinct ways. The first is that some supervenient property such as imagination or will or creativity adds something to the mix. The second is that there is a physiological process that does roughly the same thing. 
First of all let's look at the big picture:

(1) The binary opposition activity–passivity is, according to OOO, somewhat overrated. OOO is predisposed to disregard the opposition, to some extent, since it seems to map onto human–non-human, or perhaps sentient–nonsentient. Or, looking to Aristotle, animal–vegetable (and mineral). 

(2) There are deeper reasons why OOO would be chary of the active–passive binary. If as Graham Harman argues in Guerrilla Metaphysics, free will is overrated, I believe we're signalling that what is called activity and passivity are both as-structured: they are both of them sensual phenomena that occur between objects. And there are reasons to suppose the binary is just spurious, as I shall try to demonstrate.

Now returning to the activity of memory and dreaming: supervenient entity or physiological process.

If every encounter between every entity is a parody or a translation, we have all the fuel we need for the things that look like action, passion, imagination, memory and so on.

Dirk's questions are right on the money I think, above and beyond the active-passive conundrum I've discussed thus far.

So we are always dealing with an object's dream of another object.

The unconscious is precisely that: not what we call "subject." It's automatic. It seems as if we have all we need then for a theory of how objects dream.

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