Harman, Graham. Guerrilla Metaphysics: Phenomenology and the Carpentry of Things. Chicago and La Salle, IL: Open Court, 2005
"places in suspension any talk of the external reality of what we perceive, flattening everything onto a single intentional plane where subject and object are united. " (31)
- but the reduction must be undertaken in that objects are perpetually surprising: "the objects eternally iflaunt their otherness in my face" (31)
- there is "a strife between the unity and duality of human experience -- the simultaneous sameness and otherness of objects." (31)
This is not just a problem of human experience: we need to think of things have a relationship towards and a retreat away from other objects.
- "tries to arrive at the essential kernel of a thing by varying its modes of appearance and stripping away the more transient features until we gain direct intuition into its essence." (30)
- thinkers undertake the activity of eidetic reduction because there is from the start a tension "between the elusive intentional object itself and its particular sensuous manifestations." (30)
- the eidetic reduction is a deliberate attempt to brobe "the strife between the essence of a thing and the specific concreteness in which it always becomes manifest." (31)\
- What needs to be known here is this: things present "qualities, contours, adumbrations, and profiles" to each other even while they are unities or discrete objects in themselves." (31) this is taking place in the world, not just in humans as they deal with the world.
Here are these are the bold metaphysical claims of Object Oriented Ontology
The world has "two axes of division" (244)
There are objects divided from each other. And objects are divided within themselves. The activity of phenomenology is predicated on the real division between the entity carrying out the phenomenological reduction and the object being reduced. That division is characteristic of all objects. The bird is as related-to and divided-from the landscape it flies over as I am from the cube that I regard with the kind of gaze Husserl and Merleau-Pony regarded theirs.
I may gaze at the cube and realize that at any given moment I can only perceive the faces or intersecting verticies that the cube displays to may at that instant. The die presents only one profile to me. It also only presents one profile to the sun that illuminates it. The same applies to the sun's revelation of its profile to the cube.
"one entity [human or not] does not gain direct access to another, and neither can it approach the other entity gradually, as though each view of the object were somehow measurably closer to it than the previous version." (245)
"Instead, one object translates another in more or less adequate way [sic], and does so precisely by allowing the object to manifest itself as something more than all of its current effects in our world." (245)
How do human capacities fit?
"Perception, intelligence, and language all serve as ways of translating objects into a sphere where ojbects come to be at issue for us. Somehow, different ranges or quantities of allue provide the basis for differening quantities of sentient or cognitive power."
What is "allure"?
"Allure splits an object from its sensual notes" (245)
"by splitting apart sensual objects, allure generates two byproducts of almost radioactive intensity: the distant real object signalling from beyond, [towards which we can intend?] and the sensual notes that had previously been implicit and compressed into a single point of unity, but which are now fragmented and drawn toward the deep real object to which they seem to belong." (245)
"Allure must occur even in the inanimate realm, since otherwise causation would be impossible, and the world would be made up of frozen and isolated monads ... allure openly places at stake objects that were formerly muffled, acknowledges them as forces to reckon with, rendering the object itself distant while giving us [and not-us] intimate contact with a plurality of notes."
So, what is a note? [ ]
- another way of talking about objects
2 Qualities kinds:
"the ether of sensual traits whithout which no experience could occur at all" (153)
"the qualities of the objects themselves, quite irrespective of our contact with them" [the inotesi]
:"the public qualities and the private notes" of objects (153)
So, how does this non-conceptual translation work?
"Our bodily organs are nothing but translation machines, transforming various energies from the outer world into terms that we can grasp or fail to grasp, allowing objects to show their faces in new and more compelling ways than before." (245)
So, are these organs whose correlation is our consciousness, special. Heck no:
"All consciousness is allure, but not all allure is consciousness. What we find in allure are absent objects signalling from beyond -- from a level of reality that we do not currently occupy and can never occupy, since it [.../...] belongs to the object itself and not to any relation we could ever have with it." (245-246)
There is a school of thinking challenging the exceptional status granted to relationships in which humans are the experiencing or intending pole experiencing object incapable of experiencing or intending. Or remembering. Or communicating.Object-oriented ontology (OOO) challenge thinkers to remove the exceptional status granted to human-anchored relationships.
How to take up this challenge when I am renewing my interest in the 1st-person experience of performers. I can interview actors using the protocols developed in qualitative research or reflexive writing in performance studies. I can reflect on my own (limited, amateur/academic) experience phenomenologically or autoethnographically. But I can't interview a lighting fixture or collaborate on writing a performance text in collaboration with a copy of You Can't Take It With You and a dollar store notepad. That last option, though, doesn't it capture something of what happens?
I can ask the opening question "Describe one experience of being in the spotlight or other light-created centre of attention on the stage?" Or the follow-up "What was it like to be upstage right in the darkness while Phaedra took the centre stage for a long monologue, and you were no longer the focus of the audience's attention?" Getting on a lighting rig and asking a Fresnel lens "How did you feel when you illuminated the stage space and the audience errupted into applause when they saw Phaedra?" would not get me much data and would earn me a visit to the psych ward.
But to describe the space where the lines of experience, expression, and affect intersect requires attention to all the components of that space, even if the human occupants of that space are the primary source of attention.
So let me begin, in the spirit of the Bauhaus ballets, to bring objects and actors, roles and bodies, into an experimental dance with one another. At least, on the screen.
"What's it like to be in the beam of light that illuminates the stage for the audience?" could be asked of the actor. That question puts the emphasis on the human actor, attending to an object in the theatre, with reference to an observer that is aware of both.
The actor has an intentional relationship to the light, has an attitude about it, as been turned toward it and revealed by it before any deliberate thinking-about or feeling-about takes place. Moreover the actor is aware that they are before the gaze of another. The first person "I" is at play here, a second person "It," and a third person "They."
What happens to this three-termed relationship when there are two non-persons involved, or three? The light can be treated as a grammatical subject: IT [the light as subject] illuminates [verb] the divan on the stage[direct object] for [a preposition denoting a relationship]the audience [the indirect object]. In German we could assign the light to the nominative case usually reserved for the active entity and call it "Die Licht." The set would take the case used for the passive recipient of an activity and as such would become "den Diwan," the accusative version of the nominative "der Diwan." Now, I could say that this illumination is taking place before the audience, or "vor den Zuschauern," with the spectators thereby both placed in the dative case by the pronoun "vor" and, more than being relegated to mere indirect objects by the grammar of the statement, they are demoted by the sense of the statement to the status of indirect observers of the main event.
Syntax and semantics are already doing the work of relating the objects to each other and demoting the audience from the place of active humanity to the shadowy and indirectly-experiencing spectators to the activity of the light, and the receptiveness of a piece of stage furniture to that light.
Language makes it possible to take humans the distanced observers of an activity taking place between two objects. Can thought accept as real what has been hinted at by language?
But what about the extreme case where there is no person or perceiving animal in the description? The light illuminates the divan for ... what? The video camera monitoring the theatre for the security purposes? That camera is there for some human purpose, ultimately? What if the light was left on by accident? A human failure is at work there to. Can any sane person formulate the statement "The light illumninates the divan for the air molecules in the theatre" or "for the mirrored panels at the back of the house"?
One way lies in taking relating and relationships seriously while at the same time avoiding anthropomorphizing objects. But taking them seriously will have ontological "blowback": depriving the kinds of relating and relationships characteristic of people -- the relations designated by "feeling," "desiring," and "thinking -- of any privileged status. It means making the light's illumination of an on-stage couch no different ontologically from the the actor's intention to walk toward the couch and sit on it.
It might be possible to think in this way. But I can certainly write this way. That will take a lot of practice, first.
For years I have treated the relationships between the people and people, the relationships between people and things, and the relationship between things and things as very distinct domains.
There is philosophical warrant for not proceeding in this way.
- Current Location:basement
- Current Mood:Autumnal
- Current Music:Safar: Gypsies of Rajasthan
20+ years of absorption in blank verse has made it difficult to deal with poetry that does not have a continuous rhythm under it, with broad swaths of extended syntactical units and long cadences.
Add a bit of immersion in heroic couplets and some touches of long hexameters.
That means I am unversed in dealing with short lines, with rhythmic variation operating at a scale of word to word instead of a bit of change inside a farily continuous line.
It's like someone used to a consistent backbeat and 4 bar units has to deal with irregular folk ballads or some avant-garde shattered formality and total serialism.
Shake, Dryden, and Moliere (via Wilbur) have just about made it impossible to roll with the modern dance.
Now the incantatory is different, the Bible and drama use the same principles that Whitman and Ginsberg do.
I couldn't do that.
As an unrelated exercise in music composition I studied the rhythmic structure of the poem and marked its emphases and weak stresses, along with the cadences indicated by punctuation and line breaks.
It's not possible to bracket the visual and procede only on the aural: the material has been comprimised.
I will see if the experiences can be kept distinct in reflection.
"of who knows how many
doors ajar, windows"
Kid on the T.V., discomfort with the heat. I cannot get the words inside when the sounds from outside keep pulling my attention.
With the sounds of the poem pushed out by exterior sonic distraction, I make a resort to imagery. There is a visualization of the lines of the poem. But then attempting to use the visual environment to evoke the words.
So I looked at the light of the interior, wave my hand in front of my visual focus (but do not give them my focus), look at a door that's ajar, and turning to look at the windows.
So the first four are down.
. / . . / . .
. . / . .
. . / . . .
/ . . , / .
I wonder if I can recreate the immediate visual environment as an aide to the memory while reciting the poem in other locations. I can bring back objects that have been put into focus, and the somatic memory of the hand gesture, but not the objects on the fringes of those focal events.
is the admixture"
- on the first try, all I get is "The light of interiors is": mentally, I had one line of sound
- second try, the two lines came back to me: mentally, I had the afterimage of this screen before my inner eye and was reading off of it The sound wasn't there.
- third try, the two lines are forming a definite sound pattern: looking at the room and speaking suppressed the prominence of the afterimage and I heard my voice more
- fourth try, the visual is crossing over into the semantic and the sounds: I used a word from my commentary -- "afterimage" -- instead of the poem's "admixture," slapping a 4 syllable word in place of a three. The sound was not retained.
- mnemotechnic applied: stress and unstressed
. / . . / . .
. . / . .
- fifth try, and the "TER i ors" is being echoed rhythmically in "AD mix ture" of line two
- sixths try and after: I try looking into space and saying the lines but the ghost outline of the screen's afterimage is still present. It is as if I am trying to read ghostly writing in the air and say the words at the same time. The words aren't "in" or "coming from" me.
This gives me the right to use the adjective "poetic" until Summer 2017.
However, years of blank verse and rhyming ballads have deadened my ears to the sounds of other poetics.
To remedy, I am going to try to memorize some contemporary poems and cary their sounds around with me for a while.
The Light of Interiors
by Kay Ryan
The light of interiors
is the admixture
of who knows how many
doors ajar, windows
unblinded or opened,
oculi set into ceilings,
wells, ports, shafts,
loose fits, leaks,
and other breaches
of surface. But, in
any case, the light,
once in, bounces
toward the interior,
glancing off glassy
enamels and polishes,
softened by the scuffed
and often-handled, muffled
in carpet and toweling,
buffeted down hallways,
by the scatter and order
of love and failure
to an ideal and now
sourceless texture which
when mixed with silence
makes of a simple
table with flowers
"Despite the fact that listening to recorded music is a predominant form of human interaction with music in general, music scholarship often continues to classify listening as a passive form of reception in comparison to the “activity” of actual music performance. This thesis presents the idea that music listening is actually an embodied and agentive form of reception that varies according to different listeners, their listening strategies, and other surrounding contexts. In order to provide detailed analysis of this assertion, Nirvana’s 1993 album In Utero is the primary recording that this thesis examines, arguing that the album contains specific embodied properties that ultimately allow for embodied forms of listening and responses within the musical experience. Phenomenological reasoning and scholarship from popular music studies, history, cultural studies, and other humanities fields contribute to the central argument." (Abstract)
I love it when an analysis gets into the practical techniques of experience generation:
"when death metal guitarists remove the midrange sound frequencies from their amplifiers and equalizers (leaving an amplified level of treble and bass), their goal is to emphasize 'aural extremes' that are 'iconic of social opposition and affective extremity,' thus contributing to their musical identity. Therefore, signified forms of embodiment become palpable through the sonic materiality of recorded music. This does not mean that we should privilege the material nature of recorded music over lyrical representation and vocal indexicality. Rather, these components contribute to the affective presence of the recording together; it is just necessary to recognize the (traditionally ignored) embodied aspect of recorded music itself. (31)
No really. I get that Heidegger and Kant couldn't deal with evolution or Big Bang cosmology. It's no wonder that they persisted in building critical philosophy on what was supposedly unique to human beings or Human-being. But this book took me back to the stunning vistas opened up by Carl Sagan's Cosmos and the revelation that I am part of this universe, not the centre of it, just one more interesting part of it. One attraction of the science-fictional fantastic for me was the way that it extended and deepened this sense of wonder at what is.
I am not sure of the direct application of Harman's theories. It is a radical step to resituate human intentional relationship to things in a general theory of relationships, and thereby eliminating any special human "being for itself," or ex-stasis, or nihilation, or transcendence, or reflection, that puts me on a plane of being utterly different from that occupied by rocks, scorpions, and myths. Given my academic immersion in language, experience, and history -- in the particular domain of theatre -- it's very disconcerting to have the basic orientations undergirding hermeneutics and phenomenology undermined. But it is stimulating.
This remark, from Harman's conclusions, contains none of the axioms that he develops and applies in his book. But it lays out the stakes of his investigation very plainly.
"Efforts are frequently made to locate human uniqueness in language or tool-making, in the ability to plan for the future, or in our having a history rather than a fixed essence. But some of these features are arguably found among the higher animals, and in a few cases the eveidence seems fairly obvious. Beyond this, none of these features alone is sufficient to explain human peculiarity. We can state far more generally that humans are the most object-oriented animals. We are the most nihilistic creatures only because we are the most gullible, only because our powers of destruction survey a wider field to which to apply their childlike energies, whereas sharks or scorpions never dream of eating empires and moons." (Harman 247)
Harman manages to take the intentional objects apprehended by the human imagination and make them part of the whole universe of real objects. The intentional relationships between objects is the more general case of the intentional or representation-making done by perceiving and thinking beings like myself (on my good days).
Hard going for someone with no philosophical training, but plenty of vivid examples and points where the author recapitulates prior concepts before proceeding.