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Levi Bryants Onticology general notes from wikipedia and elsewhere

Bryant opposes the post-Kantian anthropcentrism he finds intrinsic to philosophy and especially metaphysics. For Bryant, the Kantian contention that reality is accessible to human knowledge only because it is structured by the human cognition limits philosophy to a self-reflexive analysis of the mechanisms and institutions through which cognition structures reality. In other words, Bryant disagrees with Kant and says that it is wrong-headed to assume that reality is preconditioned by human cognition this only allows the almost self-serving analysis of being qua Dasein, as Ive heard it put. Dasein here refers to Heideggers use of the term, as the particular viewpoint of the human condition. Being is not analysed as being as such, but rather being as human, or filtered through humanity. Bryant says that Kants Copernican Revolution reduced philosophical investigation to the interrogation of a single relation: the human-world gap. Bryant argues that under this view, the object is related through only an anthropocentric idea of agency: objects are relevant because of the human will, and the human will is merely a prop or vehicle for human cognition, language, and intentions without contributing anything of its own.

Onticology features three principles. I. The Ontic Principle states that there is no difference that does not make a difference. Because all existence creates differences, this principle necessitates that knowledge cannot be fixed prior to engagement with difference. This is true because, prior to any discussion of access or relationship between mind and world (subjects and objects), knowledge is first concerned with questions of difference: people first wonder the difference between an object and subject, or what differences change and which dont. In posing the question of knowledge in terms of the relation between subject and object, mind and world, or in terms of questions of access, epistemology forgets that it presupposes difference as the ground of all these distinctions. Epistemology proceeds on the basis of a pre-epistemological comprehension of difference that guides and directs the manner in which epistemologies pose the question of knowledge and what kinds of theories they develop. We are always already situated among differences, and thus the would-be knower must confront the Ontic Principle prior to even posing questions of knowledge. Every epistemology or critical orientation favors its particular differences that it strives to guarantee: we are not always interrogating our assumptive epistemological practices prior to anything else, after all. For Bryant, the thesis that things-in-themselves exist outside the boundaries of knowledge is untenable because it presupposes forms of being that make no differences because knowledge, again, cannot be fixed prior to engagement with difference.

Concepts of difference predicated upon negation that which objects are not or lack when placed in comparison with one another are dismissed as arising only from the perspective of consciousness, rather than an ontological difference that affirms independent (maybe even autonomous?) being. [HARMAN DISAGREES HERE.] In other words: it is not, as the structuralists would have it, that language is difference by negation (A is A because it is not not A; and not A is not A because it isnt A), because this privileges a particular (and particularly anthropocentric) form of knowledge and being: rather, instead of placing objects in negation and comparison to one another, they are positively different there is an ontological difference that affirms an independent being of the objets in question: they are not what they are simply because they arent what they arent; they are rather what they are for what they are.
Heres something I sent to Aubtin Heydari, because I was confused at this point: I can't tell what his theory of difference is all about. At first it seems that, as in most all of (at least continental) philosophy today, difference for Bryant is negative - "A" is "A" because it isn't "not A," and "not A" is defined as such by virtue of its not being "A." But if this is the way he conceives difference, then how does it make sense that concepts of difference predicated upon negation - that which objects are not or lack when compared with one another - are dismissed as arising only from the perspective of consciousness rather than an ontological difference that affirms independent (or one might even say autonomous) being, as he argues in his essay in The Speculative Turn "The Ontic Principle"? Furthermore, if he conversely conceives of difference positively - that "A" is "A" for its properties that make it "A," rather than in "A's" being-different from everything that is "not A" (or something like this, I can only speculate) - how is true that the concept of difference-producing-difference isn't restricted to human domains? It seems that if difference produces difference, then difference has to be negatively defined.

II. The Principle of the Inhuman asserts that the concept of difference producing difference is not restricted to human, sociocultural, or epistemological domains, thereby marking the being of difference as independent of knowledge and consciousness. Humans exist as difference-making beings among other difference-making beings, therefore, without holding any special positoin with other differences. All objects produce difference by virtue of existing this is not a purely human characteristic or property, but rather an effect of being itself ontology. III. The Ontological Principle maintains that if there is no difference that does not also make a difference, then the making of difference is the minimal condition for the existence of being. If a difference is made, then the being is, said Bryant himself. Any idea or conception of difference entails that there is some corresponding being or entity or object that created that difference.

Under Bryants onticological framework, objects are composed of differences coalescing into a system that reproduces itself through time. Changes in the identity of an object are not changes in substance (as Bryant says, substance is a particular state attained by difference), but rather shifts in the qualities belonging to a substance. For Bryant, a quality is the actualzation of an objects inhered capacities or abilities (known as an objects powers.) The actualization of an

objects power into qualities or properties at a specific place and time is called local manifestation. Importantly: the occurence of local manifestations does not require manifestation; real manifestations can occur outside of human awareness or cognizance. In this way, qualities comprise actuality, which refers to the actualization of an objects potential at a particular spatiotemporal location among a multitude of material differences. Virtuality, however, is constituted in virtuality, or the potential retained by an object across time (and thus not contingent on local manifestations or actualized potentialities). As objects are distinct from local manifestations and one another (this is known as withdrawal), their being is defined by the relations forming their internal structure (endo-relations) and retained powers. This withdrawn being is known as the virtual proper being of an object and denotes its enduring and unified substantiality. When relations external to an object (exo-relations) consistently induce the same local manifestations to the extent that the actualization of qualities tend toward stability, the set of relations forms a regime of attraction. For example, the sky remaining blue because of the reliable constancy of Rayleigh scattering on atmospheric particles constitutes its own regime of attraction: the same local manifestation of the-sky-being-blue tends toward stability.

Onticology distinguishes four different types of objects: Bright objects objects that strongly manifest themselves and heavily impact other objects, such as the ubiquity of cell phones in high-tech cultures. Dim objects objects that lightly manifest themselves in an assemblage of objects; for example, a neutrino passing through solid matter without producing obsevable effects. Dark objects objects that are so completely withdrawn that they produce no local manifestations and do not affect any other objects. Rogue objects objects that are not chained to any given assemblage of objets, but instead wander in and out of assemblages, modifying relations within the assemblages into which they enter. Political protestors exemplify rogue objects by breaking with the norms and relations of a dominante political assemblage in order to forge new relations that challenge, change, or cast off the prior assemblage.

And, Bryant has proposed the concept of wilderness ecology to explain the philosophical pluralization of agency away from human pivilege. For Bryant, wilderness ontology alludes to the being of being, or common essence characteristic of all entities and their relations to one another. Resisting the traditional notion of wilderness that views civilization (the inside world of social relations, language, and norms) as separate from the wilderness (the outside world of plants, naimals, and nature), wilderness ontology argues that wilderness contains all forms of

being including civilization. Accordingly, the practice of wilderness ontology involves experiencing oneself as a being amongst, rather than above, other beings. In generalizing the agential alterity of being as a foundational ontological, Bryan posits three theses (again): First, wilderness ontology signals the absence of ontological hierarchy, such that all forms of being exist on equal footing with one another. Second, wilderness ontology rejects the topological bifurcation of nature and culture into discrete domains, instead holding that cultural assemblages are only one possible set of relations into which nonhuman entities may enter in the wilderness. (This reminds me of the earlier cellphone example, in which the wild or raw materials assemble in such a way that the nonhuman entitiy of the cell phone can permeate the nature-wilderness divide and enter into civilization as a cultural staple.) Third, wilderness ontology extends agency to all entities, human and nonhuman, rather than casting nonhuman entities as passive recipients of human meaning-projection (as in the case of any declaration of value or utility from the human subject to the nonhuman object). Employing these theses, Bryant pluralizes agential being beyond human finitude, and argues that in so doing, the intentionality of the nonhuman world may be investigated without reference to human intent.