Writing Under Influence (2-28-2017): Synthesis, With-drawing, Correlation as love, Access as temporal

“It could be said that pipe organs were the first synthesizers.” But the organ actually does not synthesize–it just outputs different sounds from the different pipes. Synthesis is conducted by the listeners. The listener is the synthesizer, and sound belongs to this synthesis. Otherwise, sound can be imagined as existing out there, regardless of listening/synthesizing process, like an object: an object oriented ontology of sound.

To read Hegel as a theory of synthesizers.

If objects have an inside that withdraws from everything else, doesn’t that mean they are irreducible even to themselves–i.e. objects? You can’t keep both–the interior as well as the exterior. In this sense, object orientation is actually not oriented to objects but to the subjectivity of objects, their withdrawal.

To withdraw is to with-draw. To draw with somebody. A collaboration between the object and the human observer who perceives the (irreducible) interiority. The interior is composed by and through the other.

To say something withdraws from access, one must presuppose the difference between exterior (what is perceived) and interior (what withdraws). If all access remains local, and always missing something (blind spot = perspective), there must be something that binds this multiplicity of accesses: the singularity of the interior. Whatever that withdraws is always one thing. Object oriented ontology doesn’t think that several different things can withdraw within one object (like a jar containing many Aladins). In other words, it is fundamentally based on a certain presupposition about numbers. One withdrawal per object. But one is always synthesized, it is always a result of synthesis (like sound). So if numbers are presupposed, this means that the theory is necessarily blind to its own constitutive synthesis.

Even in terms of cognitive synthesis it is presupposed that one can count–count the multiplicity that is synthesized. Synthesis, by nature, has always already happened. It does not the enter the experience since it grounds it. Like programming and user interface.

Sound/objects do not exist by themselves; in order to exist they need an observer who will count them as one thing. Without this collaboration–with-drawing–there can never be a withdrawl. That objects can withdraw, means that they are one (otherwise withdrawals can also multiply). If there are two withdrawals, that would mean there are two objects. And two objects cannot withdraw as one. So either the singularity of the object is measured and revealed through withdrawal, or it is simply presupposed. Both involves the role of observer (external synthesizer), and by the same token, this observer necessitates an object itself to be singular. The back and forth of gaze that constitutes an entity is an issue of synthesis (cf: “Unconditional Restoration” in Matters of Act (A)).

What must be noted, however, is that in this exchange, only one of the sides is singular, and the other is plural, at a time. And they exchange sides, among other things: now I am one and you are all dissolved, so let me synthesize you. This goes back and forth over time. It is what creates time: the exchange between synthesizers. Time is the time of synthesizers: the process of synthesizing being and being synthesized is what creates time.

In general, the problem of theories of access and networks is that they have to presume that they can count the agents/nodes/actors in advance. But that means that the role of observer/epistemology is integral to the very constitution of the theory. In other words, it cannot be a pure ontology. In order to be one, in this world, one needs an observer that counts/uses/sees it as one. “One” is therefore always something with-drawn, a collaborative composition, the result of primordial, proto-synthesis. In this case, synthesis is between the object and the observer.

Is there a difference between the ear and the eye (as synthesizers)? What about those 3D magic eye images? Unlike listening, we need to train ourselves to see them. But there is a more fundamental synthesizing that the eye conducts: that between the left and the right eye. Theory of perspective is based on the fact that we have two, not one, eyes. Perspective, therefore, is always a product of synthesis–it combines more than one element. Perspective is therefore always already multiple, but we tend to be oblivious to that synthetic nature, in two ways: 1) we are oblivious to the synthesis it conducts between the two eyes (its inherent multiplicity), 2) we ultimately believe that what is seen exists before they are seen (realism). The multiplicity of perspectives (epistemological plurality) arises at the expense of multiplicity of a perspective, for it is conditioned by the singular particularity of each perspective. Either the observer or the observed must be singular for the other to be plural: A) epistemological plurality (of observers) depends on ontological singularity (of what is observed); and B) ontological plurality (of the observed) depends on epistemological singularity (of the observer). Multiplicity is accounted for/counted by the singularity of the other (something that works as a point of comparison, a stable ground of reference).

This is correlationalism par excellence. As far as the object ontologist is concerned, it is easy to collapse his claim: simply tell him that withdrawal is always a with-drawing (a correlative process), and therefore his own theory must depend on the existence of the observer (epistemology). But then the speculative realist enters and says, “well, that is correlationism.” But the trick here is that correlationalism that went through object orientation is no longer the correlationism centered in the human subject: it happens between objects as well. So it is devoid of the anthropocentrism (the enchainment of objects to us) that speculative realism criticizes. But neither is it about our enchainment to objects (object regulation) and the effort to cut this correlational shackling through our capacity of speculation.

There are two sides/vectors to correlationism: anthropocentrism and object regulation. If we take the latter into account, speculative realism is revealed to be the most conventional theory that preserves and values the power of the agent of speculation–the potential of speculation to break away from object regulation. Because of this, both object oriented ontology and speculative realism demonize epistemology–the particular situatedness of the observer. But as a result, it brackets out its own situatedness, turning the discourse into something transparent and neutral, non-particular. In particular, it turns its blind eye to the rhetoric it uses to convince the readers. In other words, the blind spot of oo and rs is the discourse’s constant correlation with its readers. Is discourse/theory an object? And if so, does it ever withdraw? Or is it with-drawn?

The theory needs a reader, as speculation needs an investor. Thus we are thrust back again into the circle of correlation. Speculation cannot happen without correlation (investor). Otherwise it would just be a free running of random thoughts and fantasies. In order to ground speculation, speculation needs to prove its ground. It does so by taking recourse to logic and rhetoric–by presupposing a reader. Thus the discourse is with-drawn, a collaborative effort. Logical positivism was, in this sense, the object oriented theory of logic. In both cases, the desire to do away with epistemological particulars results in the rhetorical attempt of consolidating everything to the present moment where a name is passed on and shared, so that one may forget about time = particular par excellence (cf: “How Humans Grow,” in Matters of Act (A).)

Time as particular par excellence. If time only arises as with-drawing/correlation, then anti-correlationism erases time. For this reason, anti-correlationism cannot account for the issue of process: of rhetoric, of the procedure for understanding. Logic effaces the time it takes to think, to go from point A to B (just as knowledge effaces the time it took to acquire it, after it is installed). But logic does need to get from one point to another (and knowledge needs to go through the installation process), and it requires the accompaniment of others in order to do so–it needs to convince others for with-drawing.

The tools of conviction (the maneuver of time) is either logic (effacing time to create an illusion of atemporality) or rhetoric (guiding the other throughout the process so that it forgets about time–entertainment: when you are doing something fun, you forget about time). So the atemporality of speculation is actually sustained by the temporal process of engagement with the readers/investors. And again, one synthesizes the other: time is synthesized to an atemporal point = object. When no one reads, or is convinced, the theory disperses, and is necessarily multiplied.

The fact that ontologists need to write and sell books, that they need to promote and defend their discourse, means they are in no way transcendent to the epistemological mechanism of particulars. Speculation needs an investor, and it needs to perform well so that it can sell. In other words, speculative realism must perform speculation and perform it well. It must make the readers believe that this thing exists regardless of themselves, which is to say regardless of their act of reading–that they are not partaking it its creation. It must make them forget the time they are spending. But ultimately, ontological speculation does a bad job at performing and not acknowledging that process, or erasing it after the fact–it is simply a bad performance.

One is always a synthesizer–one is always therefore an instrument. But an instrument, to be an instrument, requires another instrument (even if this was instrumentalized sound). An instrument cannot be an instrument on its own because it cannot play itself (and an instrument is something one can play). So it needs at least another synthesizer besides itself.

Sound exists both outside and inside ourselves. It oscillates in and out. Hence it only exists in reflection: a synthesis of the past. To synthesize always means to synthesize the past. For one is always synthesizing the elements that are given = in the past. Synthesis necessarily takes place after the elements for synthesis are in place. So if listening is an act of synthesis, then that means that listening only exists as reflection. One can only listen to the past. Even when one listens to the future, the fact that one is listening to it makes the future the past. One is a synthesizer and the synthesized. That is why sound goes back and forth, in and out, of us.

One is never one. In order to be (counted as) one, one needs another one (the counter).

The dichotomy between composition and improvisation, and the question of whether a given music is composition of improvisation, are always matters of scale. One is always composing to a certain extent on one scale, and improvising to a certain extent on another. What indeterminate notation determines is an issue of scale. There is always something that is indeterminate, for otherwise the score would become the piece. Indeterminacy is like a promised withdrawal, not into the past or present, but into the future. One never knows the outcome in advance. It is like the temporal version of “one never knows the other (object)” condition (though for indeterminacy, the passing of time necessarily reveals the unknown outcome).

Correlation/with-draw is coupling, and therefore a problem of love. And that it is a matter of time, makes it a matter of performance. While the ontologists claim that objects withdraw, they also commit to writing books and selling them–to reaching others and making them see the world as they do. This is an act of love. Pedagogy is an act of love rooted in the desire to survive by becoming the other (turning the others into you). It is grounded on the fact of epistemological plurality. Love is particular par excellence. The attach on correlationism is therefore an attack on love.

“Perception has drawn philosophical attention since antiquity. Plato distinguished appearances from reality—and inflated this distinction’s consequences concerning what exists and what can be known through the senses.” It is always the problem of what can be accessed and what always withdraws from access. Speculative realism claims everything can be accessed. Object oriented ontology claims nothing can ever be access fully. But nothing is always accessible or always inaccessible–the possibility of access changes over time. The idea of access clearance: takes time. Some things are accessible now, others might be later (and vice versa: some things accessible now might be no longer later). This temporal nature of access is based on the fact that access entails actually going to the point of access–it requires traveling. And one cannot go to two places at once–hence, one access at a time. What prevents access to A is access to B. No need to posit metaphysics, since this temporal condition is already metaphysics–irreduction to physics (i.e., atemporality = generality). In other words, ontological speculation cannot deal with change. Despite the fact that speculative realism focuses on change and the possibility of everything changing, it disregards the change that is always already happening. One does not need speculation to cause or perceive change; on the contrary, speculation needs change in order to perform itself.

The notion of withdrawal is predicated on access. It is a general negativity and as such it is contingent upon what it is negative in relation to. Hence, in order for withdrawal to take place, there needs to be another entity which accesses it. In order to withdraw, with-draw must happen first. Withdrawal is the result or effect of interaction (with-draw) and exists on multiple scales (not only human).