As I’ve been working through Hägglund, I can’t help but recall this summer’s epic controversy with the OOO crowd over Derrida’s supposed correlationism. It seems to me that Hägglund’s contention that everything is necessarily non-identical bears some resemblance to the core OOO claim that “the object withdraws.” And I also think that Hägglund’s polemic against a “negative theology” reading of Derrida, while perhaps overdone in some respects, does provide a useful scheme for thinking about the relationship between Hägglund’s deconstructive claim and the OOO claim.
Hägglund follows Derrida in arguing that the negative language of negative theology is really intended to point toward a super-abundant fullness — and with regard to the historical tradition of negative theology it seems hard to dispute that. By contrast, Hägglund’s deconstructive ontology (if I may call it that) is putting forward the ideas of finitude and incompleteness without any ideas of infinity of completeness to compare them against, and indeed he’s arguing that infinity and incompleteness are impossible.
I suspect that OOO is more analogous to negative theology than to deconstruction, insofar as the object is supposed to have some kind of content. In fact, in conversation with Levi he has said that the “withdrawn” object includes unrealized potentiality, which then serves as the ground of the possibility of change. I still maintain that we don’t need any hidden content to make change possible. You can get change through negativity or inherent ontological incompleteness, and indeed I would argue that the change achieved in that model is more “real” than the change Levi was promoting in that conversation, because the unrealized potential of the object is “always already there” even if it doesn’t manifest at any given moment. (This isn’t the main point of the post, however, and I may be wrong about what Levi meant.)
What’s more, everything I’ve read from Harman and Levi indicates that the object is the self-identical “ground zero” of reality — so that the withdrawal of the object from all relationships (including and especially its relationship to human cognition) serves to reinforce its base-level self-identity.
So overall, it seems to me that OOO’s approach to the object is similar to negative theology’s approach to God. Am I getting anything horribly wrong here? (Just to be clear, I don’t mean to say that OOO is “secretly religious” or anything of the sort — I’m only talking about the formal similarity between OOO and negative theology.)