I think OOO is confused. Why do I think that? I’m not sure I can articulate it all, it’s a nagging sense I get as I read Harman et al. The problem here is there is so much I do agree with and I see the project as a late phenomenological attempt to rescue things (objects). It’s informational interactions seems good, there’s definitely something I agree with there. But what are the problems: I think the lurking Heidegger interpretation is somehow wrong. This withdrawal notion has been (at least to me) misunderstood. But maybe that’s because of my Wittgensteinian (at least of a sort) position. I’ve always lumped the difference between present-at-hand and ready-to-hand as being basically the same as the Augustinian (naming) language picture and meaning as use. I’m not the first to find this harmony and I won’t be the last and maybe its in making this identity that my OOO disagreement comes.
I cannot see how Wittgenstein can be escaped. Philosophy carries on fascinatingly after the Investigations and maybe not even pointlessly but what it must do is establish there being an escape route post-Wittgenstein. This I have not seen elsewhere (it is what I try to do here precisely because I see he has made a serious blockage). Cavell thought and maybe still thinks the ripples of Wittgenstein have still not landed properly and I can heartily agree with this.
Why is this? Well for me it turns on trying to articulate this notion of ‘meaning as use’ and what the implications of this are. I think it can only in a sense mean that contrary directly to the OOO speculation in fact there are no objects at all. I then have to immediately retract that statement because that isn’t true either. I have truly in this instance run up against the limits of language. Do we have to remain silent? No not at all, its just that we have to try harder.
Why are there (kind of) no objects? Well part of it runs like this:
If the meaning of a word is its usage then it never actually reaches out to anything. To think the words mean unique pieces of the putative outside is a mistaken understanding of how language is working. This is true at least, if some kind of continuing spatio-temporality is true. In the common place manifestation of spatio-temporal continuity (which I assuredly must acknowledge much of the time less I become an inert gibbering wreck), this point of awareness that I articulate with ‘I’ (I too is a use term) does various things, and can see various objects. Can’t it? The grammar, the rules that I use for this world that I find ‘myself’ in need a word like objects, at least for the kind of creature I am. I recognize various separate things, things that I can lift, things that I can’t, different regions in this ‘world’. I am taught a word in a context and I apply the rule for it as best as I understand it. If I had two identical contexts with some discoverable difference later down the line I would use the same word for them. I wouldn’t be wrong because the matter isn’t sorted by this later to be discovered ontological criterion (which would mean there was a thing that was determining the meaning). Indeed if that indiscernible difference is never discerned the that’s just what the word means. Words don’t designate, they are just use terms. This applies to meta-terms like objects. It sounds confusing because it makes you make nonsensical statements like ‘there are no objects’ when you can blatantly see there are. This is a grammatical confusion. ‘There are objects’ is a grammatical sentence that makes perfect sense but its just a use term in the meta-context of being-in-a-world. Object exerts such a powerful effect precisely because no one can say very well what the grammar of ‘object’ is. What is the grammar of the copula ‘are’? Obviously that’s a big question, but you could answer by saying simply that it is those instances in which we wish to link use terms in a certain nested way (this is this).
OOO wants to escape Kant and Heidegger but I don’t think you can, or at least not by that route. These grammatical objects might have no identity outside of the our being. It is a coherent manifestation to say that we make the discretion and contemplating their external to us existence as if they were persisted discretely is not necessary.
Meillasoux comes upon the same problem: You don’t know that our awareness isn’t having an effect upon what ever it is that’s out there (note I’m not saying you don’t know awareness isn’t having an effect on objects, as actually they’re quite keed on that. I’m playing with the manifestation of our kind of awareness having a particular kind of effect on things, a reifying kind of effect and yes this does need expanding on). To be fair, OOO is called speculative philosophy and isn’t claiming a rigorous foundation ( I hope not anyway). But now you wonder ‘what am I talking about? I was on about Wittgenstein and now I’m saying something very very unWittgensteinian?
Yes, it’s a problem isn’t it. This answer relates to the paranormal parts of the discussion herein. The synchronicity argument takes the inference to be that in the manifestation in which the synchronicity obtains information itself must have effected the putative ‘external world’. The ladies dream brought the scarab beetle out of the dream world.
There is a grammar of weird that is cogent precisely because we don’t know things like ‘what being is like outside of our perception’. If we knew that in a strong sense we could dismiss this grammar yet the manifestation of the paranormal, information interfering with solidity world persists. This persistence guarantees the grammatical application.
If you stay with the informational interference manifestation then you must in some sense be tied to a kind of idealism. There is is the notion of the externality but everything you that is about you is equally a concept.
Now the problem is: If there are no objects, the words don’t designate, then how does the informational interference obtain? And now we can return to a state in which I agree with OOO. Accepting the paranormal manifestation, words actually reach out to something. This something unlike in OOO is not an object talking to other objects in its disclosure withdrawal, but it is an accretion of informational substance that I have called pneuma. There is as stated, the idea of externality (which I have called umbra) but pneuma is all we can experience because we must conceptualise (we have no choice). Is it a duck or a rabbit? the flipping is a pneuminous flip, a different accretion is exposed.
The manifestation of the umbratic solidity is strong, is suggests its presence. Pneuma affects umbra under certain circumstances ill understood (magick). Use terms, readiness to hand terms create their accretive correlate. As pure use, there is no object, just a meta-term.
As pneuminous accretion there is a something that can be uniquely or generally designated. OOO in my opinion is studying accretions, and within a certain framework we can make these imaginings. However without certainty of the strength of affect the perceiving being is having granting these objects autonomy as objects is a manifestation that needs a hefty presupposition (I know I know speculative) to get it going. There is more to it than this but this is a stab at articulation.