Prompted by Ben Woodard, there’s been a recent flurry of posts in the philosophy blogosphere about the differences between process philosophy and object-oriented ontology. Specifically, Ben argues that thinkers of process are stuck “in the twilight of becoming” and content to allow “becoming to be utilized as an escape hatch in argumentation.”
Shaviro offers mild objection to the characterization of lumpy or lava lampy materialism, while admitting that advocates of process philosophy would do well to clarify their positions more clearly. He adds my accusation that process philosophy is firehose metaphysics to the lumpy/lava mix, and here I should clarify that my reasons for using that term have more to do with my dissatisfaction with flow and continuance as metaphysical fundamentals than they do with my desire to accuse process philosophy of indistinction. It seems to me that the indistinction is meant to be a feature of process thinking, not a bug.
But as Levi explains, the object-oriented ontology’s dispute with process philosophy is a philosophical one rather than a rhetorical one: “Whitehead undermines objects by treating “actual occasions” as the ontological foundation of being.” That’s right.
In my short paper about process and procedure that birthed the term “firehose metaphysics,” I offered a distinction between process and procedure. Despite Shaviro’s argument that Whiteheadian process is that of composition rather than flow, it seems quite clear to me that there’s no denying the fundamental processuality of process philosophy, particularly the sort derived directly from Whitehead, in which actual entities are processes proceeding from from phase to phase. Instead of processuality, and borrowing from my interests in processes in the algorithmic or computational sense, I’m more interested in procedurality, or the logic by which something works. Levi and I sometimes talk about objects as systems or machines, and we do so because procedurally is of greater interest to us than processuality.
Thus it’s no surprise to hear Steve say, “I’m inclined to think that all procedures are in fact processes, contra Bogost’s opposition between them; but that not all processes are procedures.” As a process philosopher, of course Shaviro sees the processes as the firmament that underwrites procedures.
To respond in a sideways way to Woodard’s original question: on the one hand, more and better clarifications of the fuzziness sometimes present among process philosophers would be a welcome source of better discussion among all of us, particularly since so many such responses seem to amount to incantations of Whitehead. But on the other hand, the fundamental dispute between OOO and process philosophy is a legitimate philosophical disagreement, not just a failure to communicate or understand.