“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

Thursday, September 22, 2011

OOO Troy Davis

To destroy an object is to reduce that object to mere appearance. Somehow something interferes with the rift between essence and appearance and translates the object so radically that the rift collapses. Since objects are temporary autonomous zones, this must be caused by the object translating the translation in the same way that my genome creates more viruses under certain conditions.

The reduction of an object to its appearance (“criminal,” “scapegoat,” “cop killer”) is a reduction of an object to consistency. An object is internally riven: it is fundamentally inconsistent. Thus the imposition of consistency is simply violence, at the most profound level on which violence can manifest.

Non-violence, at this level of being, is allowing an object to remain inconsistent. This is why ecological coexistence, the conscious realization of which by humans involves all kinds of awkward hypocrisies and compromises, is so tricky. Ecological coexistence necessitates struggles to allow as wide a variety of inconsistency as possible.

An object is intrinsically nonviolent in this sense, since its very existence is in the mode of coexistence: between it and itself, its form, its notes, its essence—let alone with other objects. It is not that objects are themselves and somehow are constrained to “get along” by relations. An object must get along with itself.

Thus Levinas is wrong, in a subtle sense, to say that my existence as such is a form of violence, quoting Pascal: “My place in the sun is the beginning of all usurpation.” Me and my and I are profoundly ambiguous entities that can only exist as long as there is an uneasy, uncanny face-off between itself, if that is not too strange a way to put it. (One sometimes has to stretch grammar to breaking point to make things clear.)

When the state executes someone, it is committing an act not only of physical but also of ontological violence, reducing an entity to memories, appearances, a news story, a corpse. The reasoning that “this particular execution is justified” only makes things worse, since reason is now co-opted to the side of sheer appearance. If this excuse were the blunt end of a well worked out philosophical view, that view would be total instrumental nihilism.

Philosophy is required in such moments to step up and say things.


zareen said...

Taking up the call to step up and say things.

Anonymous said...


I have read your blog for awhile and I think this particular post helps me to articulate a question/problem, or maybe a reason, for my own particular aversion to something like OOO or S/R. And it is precisely the objectification of life.

If one begins referring to lives as objects, are we not imposing a violence onto those lives? I'm sure between the two of us we could think of many political movements in the U.S. and abroad that refuse the objectification of life. My concern here is not with the loss of some kind of anthropocentrism or the loss of the privilege of the human, but with the language and methods that seem to be operative here that work to explain the relations among the living and toward death. Isn't is precisely the objectification of animals, for instance, that allows for the possibility of disavowal, abuse and violence?

So I guess this is to say, when you refer to Troy Davis as an object, how does OOO problematize the violence that is operative in processes of objectification?


Matt Applegate