On Object-Oriented vs. Process-Relational Ontology discussion

I have followed the discussion about Object-Oriented Ontology and Process-Relational Ontology ( http://naughtthought.wordpress.com/2011/08/19/ongoing-processes-v-objects/) and Shaviro’s very good response is really near to what I would like to say.  I try to ground a process-relational ontology in Simondon’s work and I think this approach can be useful in this discussion.

In my view, it’s a mistake try to make an opposition between substances, objects, or products, in one hand, and processes, in the other. Rather we must learn to think reality as a process-product at time. The critique adressed to subtantialism would be unsuccessful if it’s not able to give an account of persistent objects and only goes in the opposite way –i.e. saying that there are only processes, flows and so on. The first step in this critique must show the limitations of this approach to reality or what is left out in it. And what is left out? As Simondon says, one of the most important failures of substantialism is that it always starts whit already well-formed individuals and, maybe after, it looks for explain individuation. The distinctive feature of process philosophy, I think so, it’s that the primary place of explanation must be the process of individuation which generate the individuals. Maybe this is a fuzzy place where is difficult to enter, but if we don’t do that we won’t be able to understand individuals. Sometimes, philosophy have to deal with fuzzy places, and not only with clear and distinct ideas. If OOO doesn’t accept that the primary are the processes and that the products are the outcomes of the processes which coexist with them, then there’s an important distinction between OOO and PRO, and maybe an opposition. We can’t have individuals without previous (both ontological and chronological) individuations.

Second step, PRO, as I said before, must be able to give an account for persistent objects. We don’t have to deny substances or objects, but his metaphysical priority. Here we can speak of an auto-actualizing structure of the open-ended reality. Inidividuation generate an individual, sure, but this generation doesn’t exhaust the process of individuation (until the final and definitive exhaustion). We can think in a living object, properly speaking a living being. His individuation is the source of his being-an-individual, and he will have further individuations (what Simondon calls individualizations). The crucial point here is that the fact of being an individual doesn’t allow us to speak of a static object with a fixed identity and unity. Some features persists, some objects persists to some extent, but they are always submitted to processes which explain his generation, his constant change and his corruption. The identity, as Deleuze says, is an illusion which hides differences, and the persistence of differences is what explain the persistence of processes (and thermodynamics also show us that). What always persist are the processes, not the individuals. Another time Deleuze: what return in Eternal Return is not the Same, but the Return, the same return of differences. The dinamycal and auto-actualizing structure of reality generate objects with order and stability, but this stability will disappear (and others will appear). Only a reality without differences would have a definitive stability and identity, but this is not, at least at this time, our reality (and we can be happy of that: if not, we wouldn’t exist). If we can speak of individuals without speaking of identity, and to speak of processes without denying the existence of individuals or objects, I think we can advance in our understanding of reality.

I would like to speak about relations and about the distinction between metaphysical and non-metaphysical dimension, with which at first I don’t agree, but I have to leave it for another time.

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7 respuestas a On Object-Oriented vs. Process-Relational Ontology discussion

  1. Mette dijo:

    hello… and sorry … what is this good for?

  2. Filosofías del proceso dijo:

    Hello,
    I’m not sure what are you asking…I think it’s good for thinking (about reality).

  3. Mette dijo:

    i think “processes” and “substances” are just two different ways of abstracting things out of a perceptual stream. these two notions refer to two modi of organizing information. most of the time our cognition works with both modi in use at the same time – maybe this is where the so called “confusion about wether there are substances or processes” arises from, but actually it’s not so confusing as it seems to be. it’s quite obvious that we need both of this modi operandi to be able to interact with others and nature. if a ball is thrown at you and you want to avoid being hit, then you better abstract the substance “ball” as well as anticipate the process of “flying towards me”. individuation, too, is a process and a substance – i cant see how it could make things clearer.

    “Sometimes, philosophy have to deal with fuzzy places, and not only with clear and distinct ideas.”
    Well, here i’d rather follow Wittgenstein and stay silent if i can’t put my ideas into clear and distinct assumptions.

  4. Filosofías del proceso dijo:

    Hello,
    I see you had something to say, more than “what is this good for?” It looks like this is good for thinking and talking.
    Your reponse show a confusion between the ontological and the epistemological. The question whether there are substances or processes is primary an ontological question, not an epistemological one, although it has epistemological consequences. It doesn’t ask about what we do with reality (or information, as you say), but about what reality is. So it’s not so simple as to say, well, some things are interpreted as substances (the ball), and others as processes (his flying). The question is whether the ball is a process or a substance. Is there an identity and an unity underlying the ball through time?
    You don’t seem interested about what reality is independently of your cognition. But even your epistemological distinctions between “abstracting” and “perceptual stream” sound as old-fashioned analytic philosophy to me. You don’t have your perceptual content, and then you abstract this content in some way (as a process, as a substance etc.). In your perceptual relation with reality is already present what you call abstracting. Cognition is not divided between “a priori” and “a posteriori”. In your “a posteriori” is already working your “a priori”.
    To your last response, I would say that reality is not clear and distinct. If you think you are able to make your clear and distinct classifications, go ahead. But reality could not agree with you.
    Wittgenstein tried to close the circle which delimit what can you say, and he saw it’s not possible. Thinking must be an adventure.
    Bye,
    Miguel

  5. Mette dijo:

    hey, good points. but in fact i doubt wether we can say something about what reality is independently of our cognition, as you phrased it. Basically, with your mentioning of an somewhat artificial division of cognition into a priori/a posteriori, you seem to agree with the view that even the most elaborate and adventurous thinking always grounds in certain schemes which we most of the time cannot manipulate or are able to manipulate only in ways that our cognition’s structure allows. One of this structure’s features is duality for example. We wonder wether there are processes or substances, if our assumptions about reality are wrong or right etc.. The point i want to make: as human beings we experience reality through certain cognitive/sensual mechanisms, so to speak. out of this we can create whatever ontological wisdom we want to, but in the end, it’s all nothing but bound to these mechanisms. i have a problem to see how we would be able to make assumptions about a reality that we do not experience, for this kind of reality you seem to have in mind when insisting on a description of “what reality is” and at the same time hesitate to analyze what parts of that reality you can make descriptions of. to sharply divide ontology from epistemology is a bit confusing in regards to everyday experience.. at least i cant come up with an example where it would make perfect sense to do so.
    luckily thinking is an adventure, right you are.
    so wether you keep on weakening my doubts or open a new topic to discuss what Wittgenstein really wanted to show being not possible (it was the circle, you spoke of, itself), i thank you for keeping up the excitement

  6. Filosofías del proceso dijo:

    Hi,
    now I see you can be even friendly. Anyway your previous aggressive style got their effects, starting “the excitement”. So perhaps I must say: well done.
    I understand what you say, and I think these doubts are at the core of philosophy. In my view, you can talk about how things are independently of human acces to reality, and this has a name: metaphysics. For sure, metaphysics doesn’t give us knowledge, but speculations. And for sure “as human beings we experience reality through certain cognitive/sensual mechanisms”. But human acces to reality is not the only reality there is; it’s the reality that we, human beings with certain cognitive structures, have. For europeans, America didn’t exist before they arrived there; but this doesn’t means that America wasn’t there. And then, europeans think that they “discover” America. That’s a problem. When I insist in the importance of ontology, I want to make a critique to the anthopocentrical point of view by which human-constructed reality is considered all the reality. This contsruction is a product of the relation between human beings and its milieu, and the fact that it is a construction doesn’t means it is less real. But the stones and the frogs also have a relation with its milieu, and this is real too, independently of us.
    We can speculate whether the stone is a process or a substance. And here come the relation between ontology and epistemology. You seem to talk about cognitive structures as something already done that we can’t change, and I don’t agree. Our epistemology is always grounded in some metaphysical assumptions we can’t demostrate. So new metaphysical speculations can change our cognitive structures. If you think the ball is a process, you won’t see the same ball anymore. Maybe it has lost some electrons, and if you think it’s a process, you can think: it’s the same ball than yesterday but it isn’t. For sure, the ball remains the same whatever metaphysical assumptions you have. But your human-constructed ball has changed. The sensual and the intelectual are always interrelated because we are one perception-action world-oriented-organism, not two.
    Thank you too.

  7. Mette dijo:

    well, i share your perspective on most of the things you mentioned in your last post. that is: yes, i can be friendly and yes, sensual and intellectual processes are interrelated. I’d say they are incorporated – to stress the body, the biological substrate … but i’ll get back to that soon. i especially find your comment on metaphysics opening up things in an interesting and valuable way! let me sum up, though it might take us a step or two away from the process/object investigation, but hopefully this might help bringing us back to the topic on the ground of a common perspective on human perception, human reality and reality without a human observer:

    – the results of metaphysical thoughts are speculations
    – speculations here means speculations on how a reality without a human observer could be like
    – human-constructed reality is based on human perception and “its milieu” (=its ways of gaining and processing environmental information)

    Now, back to the ball you threw at me. I agree: i can speculate about the nature of the ball. I can speculate that it is a process. I can justify that by referring to a sub-atomic structure that constantly changes. I can justify that view of the ball as a process by arguing that my normal perception of objects is due to some cognitive phenomena, but i metaphysically overcome this view of objects by reuniting them in the higher abstraction of processes.
    But what do i do when i do that? I would say, I just designed some schemes to describe my perception of the ball AND what i think this perceived object (!) could be if it’s seen in an abstract/metaphysical way. I might call it a process and force my thoughts to ignore the fact that my visual sense strongly recommends this round flying thing to be an object (due to some biological/psychological mechanisms; gestalt-laws if you want to call it that). The problem is: as soon as it hits me on the head i am damn sure it is an object. This is a sureness, a truth, that only tactil sensation provides, i guess.
    To put it straight in accordance with the above: i’d agree that we can speculate in quite astonishing ways about a reality without human observers, but as soon as this very reality strikes us, we sense the object-character of “our world”. human perception, as i see it, is like a little “human window” that allows us to have a glance at a borderless absolute reality – the price of this is that our “human window” unfortunately has borders, that is: we organize our view of reality in suitable packages – suitable to recognize, organize and compare with each other: objects.

    You wrote:
    “You seem to talk about cognitive structures as something already done that we can’t change, and I don’t agree. Our epistemology is always grounded in some metaphysical assumptions we can’t demostrate. So new metaphysical speculations can change our cognitive structures.”

    This reads rather twisted. You should consider that epistemes and the logic ruling their parsing and processing is far away from being grounded in metaphysical assumptions. Its quite the opposite: Grounded in the experience of everyday life (human perception), we construct metaphysical assumptions! Can these change our cognitive structures? Can thought change its substratum? Sure, if thoughts are “built up” to habits there are whole synaptical connections destroyed and newly constructed and, for example, new neuromuscular structures are created if you just practice your instrument enough … but again: what is the framework for all this? can we change the substrate of all this, too? can we change the biological facts making all this possible? i doubt it. my point is then, and i’ll put it in a way the cognitivist would surely like: my point is that the perceiving of objects belongs to the “basic hardware” and is impossible to change by metaphysical assumptions.

    i’ll break here. would like to work on the “Discovery of America” argument as well … maybe the next time ..

    I liked also to read about the “critique to anthropocentrical points of view”. Here we share a common goal i guess. Obviously and interestingly we approach to it from two sides ..

    All the best and take care!
    Tom

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