Democratic ontologies…

I’m a bit tired after flying over to Scotland, so take the below in that vein. I wanted to say I was heading to a conference, but then I remembered someone had a post up calling it star fucking, which means I must be totally off my game when I got to those things. I am looking forward to the objects conference though. 

Another great LS post on democratic ontology. I love the if that begins this…

If the object-oriented ontologist is committed to a thesis as strange as the idea that a phoneme is an object or that Norway is an object, then this is because the criteria for being an object is not whether or not an entity is physical, but whether or not it makes differences…. That which exists is that which is capable of producing differences. But if this is the case, then it follows that we should practice an egalitarianism of difference, thereby arriving at a flat ontology. If to exist is to be capable of making differences, then whatever makes a difference is. This egalitarianism or ontological difference is not the thesis that all beings equally make differences, that they are all equally important (a normative judgment), that all differences are desirable or valuable (another normative judgment), but simply that regardless of the degree to which something makes a difference, if a difference is made then that thing is

I like this because it gets rid of the typical rejoinder, which conflates flat ontology with flat-headed normative claims: “but aren’t you saying the tick or the dart board or the dog is the same as the suffering child?” But I wonder to what degree here this difference is quantitative or qualitative. The word “degree” above suggests that we can wash this out with some good old mathesis, and I’m not sure. That is, I measure some X difference (Harry Potter the fictional character makes Y children smile, and quanta of energy Z is measurable in such and such a way) and thus I have an object. And in so much as this object is … is as different, that is, as making a difference, then I can have a flat ontology, which incidentally has the great upshot of getting out the dead-end of the countless types of realism in analytic philosophy (I remember once getting asked about whether speculative realism fit into some ten different categories). But why not “qualitative”–and I just use that term to raise the question, since I’m not imaginative now. In other words, I’ve been thinking this through someone like J-L Nancy, whose work on sense and realism is really good…and quite “flat.” (Now I’m starting to worry that Tom Friedman metaphors are coming in.) And so I would want to hear more about if one could have what we could call a substantive democratic equality while also noting that when something makes a difference, it also matters, and thus we return to the question of sense…