Series Editor's Preface
Garcia 'uses the term 'thing' to describe whatever is in some way'. His 'flat ontology' extends flatter than his predecessors did.
'For Garcia, each thing is equally solitary with respect to that which it is not: namely, the world.'
We can speak on entities 'as composed of other objects and enter[ing] into the composition of further objects. This process continues until we reach the universe, which unlike the world is a 'big thing' composed of all the things that are. The object is neither that which is in it, nor that which it is, but rather the difference between these two extremes.' [Author's emphasis]
'Garcia can be viewed as the first 'Millenial' philosopher in the continental tradition, or even the first 'post-Speculative Realist'.
'Our time is perhaps the time of an epidemic of things. A kind of ‘thingly’ contamination of the present was brought about through the division of labour, the industrialisation of production, the processing of information, the specialisation of the knowledge of things, and above all the desubstantialisation of these things.'
'We live in this world of things, where a cutting of acacia, a gene, a computer-generated image, a transplantable hand, a musical sample, a trademarked name, or a sexual service are comparable things.'
'For the more one excludes this or that from the world of things, the more and better one makes something of them, such that things have this terrifying structure: to subtract one of them is to add it in turn to the count.'
'This work was born from a feeling which it simultaneously attempts to uphold, illustrate, and rationally respond to: there are more and more things.'
'The goal of this work is to bring those who do not yet share this feeling to admit it, and to propose to those who already admit it a way of ridding oneself of it. This involves the construction of a new model of the division of things – of things around us, of things in us, and of us among things.'
'This treatise is for those of us who love things, but who struggle in the face of their accumulation.'
'Philosophies of intentionality, consciousness, language, and action that try to address our relations to things fail insofar as they begin by establishing a relation aimed at objectivity. The goal of objectivity is soon abandoned and never attained. For whoever believes that thought commences by aiming at the ‘things themselves’ always ends up eclipsing things, which were the ends, and siding with this movement of thought, knowledge, and action, which were merely the means.'
'By beginning this way, whoever bets on thinking primarily about our knowledge or consciousness of things produces an object of thought that they identify with a relation. Henceforth, on this view, each thing that will be an object of thought can only be recognised if it resolves itself within the relation.' - What does he actually mean here?
'Therefore, it is in our best interest to initiate a way of thinking that attaches itself to things – rather than to this or that type of relation directed at things – in such a way that desire, will, mind, or subjectivity can be conceived as objects.'
'The question is therefore: is it better to begin by thinking about our access, which will never have access to things, but only to our conditions of access, or to begin by thinking about things, which, if we do not want to cheat, obtains the thinghood in every possible mode of subjectivity?' - I think this is important but I don't know why. Reason for exploring.
'The second solution deserves our approval for at least three reasons. First, we have been incapable of doing otherwise, since we are caught reflecting on things from adolescence. Everything that proves to be a thing appears to us behind the mask of its thinghood. But this reason only holds a posteriori – and only because we have reluctantly entered a certain state of mind. This reason is singular. Second, our time is plagued by the metaphysics of access. The twentieth century – to which this treatise in some way proposes to bid adieu – was a period of theorising our methodological access to things, rather than theorising about things as such....Third, we must understand that by initially thinking about things we are not prevented from conceiving of our thought, 4 Form and Object language, and knowledge as things equal to things thought, said, and known. On the other hand, by initially thinking about our relations to things, we systematically fail to accomplish our original goal, the things themselves;' - This treatise attempts to bid adieu to the twentieth century. The twentieth century theorised about access to things not things in themselves.
'...a second-order thought about our thought about things, for example, promises an access to things that it ultimately denies the existence of.'
'Real things matter to us – and, for this reason, other kinds of things as well.'
An object-oriented metaphysics rather than a philosophy of access.
Flat ontology - theories that do not order worldly entities hierarchically.
'We begin this treatise with an investigation of a flat ontology, or the possible ontology of a flat world, where things are devoid of any kind of intensity.'
'No classical determination – including the property of being non-contradictory, of being individuated, or of having identity or unity – is contained in our concept of the most unrestricted, emptiest thing and in the most formal possibility of a ‘thing’. We consider as inessential all that may characterise a thing until we have properly identified what defines it as a thing, and not as a consistent thing, individual thing, or one thing. We thus aim at neither the being of unconditioned things, nor at that of undetermined things, but rather at the being of de-determined things.' - is this then a form of Ontological Deconstructivism?
'Once the possibility of a description of such a flat world of de-determined things is accepted, we must still prove its necessity, or at least its utility. The goal of this de-determination is to have at one’s disposal a cross-sectional plane of every container and every order which maps the topography of the physical, biological, animal, and human universe; artefacts; artworks; economic networks of production, exchange, and consumption; class, gender, and age differences.'
'In short, our project attempts to generate a formal world of de-determined things.'
'We must understand that only the possibility of considering the flatness of things will enable us to locate ourselves among values, intensities, classes, order and chaos, the maelstrom of everything that inter-comprehends itself inside out.'
'Since we have the impression that there are too many things (to see, know, or take into account), our thought, life, and actions become paralysed by the apprehension of objective complexity. This impression overflows with factors, networks, and relative positions which divide, intersect, overlap, and contradict each other, like so many injunctions that one cannot follow by simply remaining faithful or coherent (to whom? to what? one hardly knows any more). The formal plane of thought enables us to cut short all epistemic, experiential, or enacted accumulation through simplicity; its impoverished surface makes possible this or that as ‘something’, neither more nor less.'
'We combine our formal ontology of equality with an objective ontology of inequality. If this treatise presents an ontology of a flat world, its sole aim is to then propose an encyclopedia and topography of the universe and objects, of practical problems of division, and of the valuation of cosmological, biological, anthropological, cultural, artistic, social, historical, economic, and political domains. Far from concluding with a description of a formal world where differences between things have been reduced to zero, this book aims to assemble a description of a flat world of things that can match the antagonistic reconstruction – between universalism and relativism – of the magnitudes, values, depths, variations, and interests of present objects, accumulated endlessly, and contested by several methodological approaches.'
Is it that these are not problematic approaches in themselves but that we have become unbalanced over time in our exclusive predilection for them?
'Quite simply, how does one retain things – neither too closed on themselves, nor too transient?'
'We must determine whether the concept of things is still possible.'
'The challenge of this book is to be neither determined by a positive content nor structured by an analytic or dialectical method.'
'...it seeks its own architecture. It does not put forward a satisfactory explanation, a narrative where everything organises itself humanly, naturally, socially, historically, and so on. Here, in the last instance, things will never lie in a household altar of this kind – without actually being an entirely vacuous narrative.'
'Articulated by no logic, admitting neither the law of noncontradiction nor the a priori conditions of rationality, our argument may also risk seeming to an analytic philosopher, unconscious, inconsistent, without infrastructure, or as refusing to admit what is implicitly its own infrastructure.'
'no thing is reducible to nothing...no thing is absolutely reducible to any other thing.'
'we must find a non-substantial and non-vectorial way of allowing the being of things to circulate. Substantiality tends to compact being in the final stage of its process, overdetermining self-saturated things or things in themselves. The pure eventiality of the vectors of being tends to dissolve and disseminate being, and transforms things into effects, illusions, or secondary realities. Our concept of a thing fits neither the first nor the second model. The first produces a thing which is too much of a thing, which is ‘compact’, while the second generates a thing which is not enough of a thing, which is only a construction or ephemeral projection. Our aim is the following: to conceive of a model that is neither too strong nor too weak, and to represent things that are really in the world without being in themselves.'
'Being comes inside a thing and being goes outside it. A thing is nothing other than the difference between being-inside [l’être entré] and being-outside [l’être sorti].'
'Things correspond to the circle indicating the gap, difference, and inadequacy between the entering arrow and the exiting arrow, and are inscribed or imprinted in the world.'
'that in which this slate is can never be inferred from everything that is in this slate. From everything which composes it, I will not obtain the slate’s location in the world, the relations in which it inscribes itself, the fact that it is now in my hand, the function of a weapon that it can exercise if someone attacks me, its place in the landscape or in the series of slate pieces scattered alongside this valley. That which it is, this unique thing which exists in the world, and I hold in my hand, is outside itself.'
'A number of things are in this black slate. The black slate on its own can enter into the composition of a number of other things. Therefore, the black slate is not in itself.'
'A thing is nothing other than the difference between that which is in this thing and that in which this thing is. '
- Why not the sum of these two things? Is the 'itself' only those things which are unique to it or is it not also in a way the sum of all it is, the uniqueness coming from the unique collection? I hard find it hard to be convinced that this could be anything other than the case.
'Some ways of thinking seek salvation. Here we seek to redeem nothing: not the soul, not personhood, not the body, not thought, not a community, not the proletariat. A thing among things, this treatise attempts to save neither me nor you; between things there is no salvation whatsoever.'
'Salvation is the hope of situating oneself outside things...Signification is the disappointment of never managing to abstract things from the relations that we maintain with them. Salvation situates us outside of things, while signification precludes things from being situated outside of us.'
'I do not wish for the salvation of my soul, my body, human beings, my ideas, or my individuality. I do not ask for the (linguistic, cultural, historic) signification of things – our way of referring ourselves to them, of constructing their significance, of using them, of exchanging them, of making them significant among us, for us, and by us. No, I simply search for a meaning of things, whether this is the meaning of me, of you, or of a piece of black slate.'
'...for each thing to make sense, it must have two senses. Nature or history as things contain many things (first sense), but they are contained by things other than themselves (second sense).'
On the work's structure:
'The structure of the treatise shows us how we can consider these two steps. Setting aside the Coda, which marks the collapse of the whole, the entire treatise is carried out in two books, which complement and respond to each other in sixteen chapters. The first book’s formal system demands some confidence from the reader, for it is deliberately devoid of references or citations from the history of philosophy, although it tackles classical questions (for example, the One, the Whole, Being). This book combines affirmative and numbered propositions and full-page argumentation alongside descriptions of the flat world. The second book’s objective system is based on first book’s forms, but it puts them to the test in connection with various determined and ordered objects – structures of the universe, an individual’s death, definitions of life, animality, art, and the economy – by adopting a more discursive style, strengthened by explicit and much more common references.'
Book 1 - Burn it all to the ground
Book 2 - Build something sustainable from the ashes