Nihilism, Theology, and the Limits of Blogging
by Adam Robbert
A whole new round of posts have gone up in response to Footnotes2plato’s post regarding OOO, theology, and nihilism. Levi Bryant (here and here) Tim Morton (here - love the phrase “theism-nihilism tango” BTW) Tom Sparrow (here and here) Leon Niemoczynski (here - he has several more on the discussion as well) and one last one from Matt Segall (here). I’ve tried to be comprehensive in my accounts of the dialogue going on here, hopefully I am not missing anyone.
Beyond the interesting and generally in depth level of discussion happening around the questions of nihilism, naturalism, theology, OOO, and process philosophy, its been a very interesting case study in the limits and capacities of theory blogging. I apologize if I misrepresent or occlude anything vital in these discussions, but it becomes very difficult for me to sort through not just all of the interesting posts, but also all of the associated comment streams. If any software engineers or web designers are reading this – please help us, we need better mediums to communicate with!
More than problems of medium, there is also the more general problem of disparate approaches, disciplinary backgrounds, philosophical aims and methodological strategies that are frequent in the blogosphere. I think Tom hits the nail on the head when he writes:
There’s a very large methodological problem lurking in background of this discussion which Adam (Knowledge Ecology) touches upon in his comment. It is, unfortunately, the question: What is philosophy (supposed to be doing)? Adam seems to favor a style that takes from here and there and builds a view that is something like a patchwork of ideas. This way of going about things seems to be antithetical to the major variants of OOO, which, as I understand them, aspire to be systematic. Favoring the former approach leaves the door open for the fusion of OOO and process theology, or any theology for that matter, but if one is taking a particular iteration of OOO and trying to work out all of the metaphysical problems it raises, then it seems that these must be addressed internally.
I think Tom has fairly depicted how I approach philosophy, though I’m not sure if I totally agree with his comments about OOO being totally “systemic,” as it seems to me that OOO is highly promiscuous in its inclusion of multiple different philosophical and theoretical systems. I’m thinking here of the “feral” philosophy posts initiated by Michael from Archive Fire and Levi from Larval Subjects in the past few weeks (an approach to which Levi seemed favorable). OOO-variants are indeed building systematic philosophical arguments, but they draw from a diversity of fields (systems theory, process philosophy, Heideggerian philosophy, phenomenology, computer programming, ecology, panpsychist discourses, ANT etc), thus I think OOO is both systematic and a patchwork. My point about the ecology of ideas (to which Tom is referring) has to do with the fact that, by virtue of being performed or expressed in thought or practice, all modes of thought touch and influence one another, whether or not systematic theory building has taken place. I think these very discussions are evidence of this. Fusion can and will occur, regardless of specialization or systemization.
Personally, I do draw from a diverse group of philosophies and approaches, though this is not necessarily because I’m uninterested in specialization or rigorous approaches to specific issues within a given philosophical framework (Tom, I don’t think you implied this was the case, I am merely drawing the issue out further). Rather, I organize my research around specific problems rather than specific disciplines or systems. Yeah, yeah, call me a pragmatist. Pedagogy and the issues of transdisciplinary research are central interests of mine, especially as they relate to media ecology and multiple approaches to problem solving. In this sense I am appreciative of what Tom is asking us to consider when in dialogue.
If you look at my approach from a problem-based perspective, I would argue that one would find a great deal of consistency in approach, but diversity in influence. Using a certain problem or question as a central attractor makes it seem, from a disciplinary perspective, that all kinds of lines are being blurred (because they are), from a problem-based perspective, however, I think one will find a great deal of consistency insofar as the diversity of approaches are being organized around a single aim or task. This is not the only way to do philosophy and theory, its just the way I have learned to do it, and one of my interests happens to be in integrating multiple disparate perspectives (see the multiple posts on integral ecology on this blog).
Thanks to everyone for participating in these discussions. As the links to the above posts indicate, there are a plethora of issues that should each be taken up individually and with care here.