Wednesday, January 1, 2014
Though it has, by some, been a note of surprise that the OOO camp has found an affinity between their system and that of the New Aesthetic, a closer analysis of this will reveal that it is entirely too logical. Much as good literary scholars these days encourage a close-reading, the ultimate verification of this ideas can be afforded by a close reading of the New Aesthetic's favourite symbol, fresh pizza.
The objective thinker posits the inhuman existence of a given object - s/he disagrees with Berkeley that the forest's tree will evaporate when lacking a percipient, and affirms the autonomy of trees in the face of human listeners. While the sensual experience of a tree may well be important to the objectifier, s/he realizes that the tree's life will go on even after s/he is gone. On the other hand, for Berkeley, as soon as sie stops gazing at the tree, the tree will warp out of existence (provided we don't allow God into the picture and we don't assume that He sees everything or likes looking at trees). Does the tree need me? Does it want me? The object-oriented thinker would like to say that it does not care, although what's it going to think when you go to cut it down? Things might change then. If that tree was then vacuum-packed for shipping, cutting it off from the rest of the world, it might be even more unhappy.
Was Berkeley a tree-hugger? Maybe. What else did he do when he looked at trees? We can't be sure. What is clear is that he would've hated the New Aesthetic. The New Aesthetician would ask what the tree saw, and explain how the vision of the tree was a new vision that was not quite human vision but not totally unrelated to human vision. And it was new. The Berkeleyan would have said well how do you know that? And then the New Aesthetician would have brought up pizza - and Berkeley would've hated that.
- what about pizza?
- what *about* pizza?
The New Aesthetician's point about pizza, while at first seemingly flimsy, gets at the core of Berkeley's realist problem. Was the tree there, or wasn't it? Why did he spend so much time looking at trees? Are there other factors involved that we don't know about? The New Aesthetician would say that there were. He'd say that the tree was looking at him, and that pizza was involved - *autonomous* pizza.
Just as before the internet no one realized the profundity of object-oriented philosophy, likewise before the internet no one was aware of the autonomous nature of pizza. "It's a human construction", was the common dogma, the rights of food becoming a silent casualty of what we now realize was the ignorance of that time period. "They didn't know any better", we say, "they just did their best" - well, so did Berkeley, but it's not entirely clear that the trees appreciated that.
The object-oriented thinker wants to free the tree, wants to undo the shackles of correlationist subjugation, and allow the tree to blossom into what they want, according to their own will. Should we write their philosophy when they might want to write a philosophy of their own? What about poetry? Maybe they'd like to clearcut humans? As Serres would no doubt agree, it's anything but an ecopolitical crisis to not allow for the possibility of that counter-voice. The tree, like the pizza, deserves to speak. If there's anything to learn from the New Aesthetic and object-oriented ontology, it's this.