It occurs to me, after writing the preceding post (“Objects”), that object-oriented programming (OOP) differs from object-oriented philosophy in one important respect. The objects in OOP are instances of abstract classes. They lack any sense of opaque, materially impenetrable autonomy. They are the product of conceptual design/abstraction. In this sense, OOP subscribes to a Platonic model, with the field of formal classes providing the foundation for any possibility of instanciation whatsoever. Yet Plato’s pure forms precede any labour of deliberate design. They are cast not as human constructs but as real metaphysical entities. Genuine formally constituted reality only become apparent when the philosopher escapes the cave of illusion – in which derivative objects (mere shadows) appear as essential truths – and ascends to the blinding light of properly formal existence. In OOP, however, the realm of formal origin (classes) is itself a space of artifice. It involves writing and invention. The realm of objective, differentiated being (program running) appears as a theatrical construct, but one that is itself based upon practices of fiction (modeling).

If this has any relevance for object-oriented philosophy, it is perhaps to caution against imagining the absolute autonomy of the object. The eidetic character of the object always entails a work of perceptually framed and culturally situated abstraction. In terms of our relationship to real world objects, this abstraction involves, for instance, the recognition of defining qualities and coherent boundaries, as well as positioning the object within the universe of other things – recognising its place within a network of similarities, differences, associations. This is not to say that this perceptual-categorical labour exhausts the field of the real. The real, as an attractor, as something that we can never exhaustively apprehend, has many more dimensions than we can perceive and categorise. But, for me, the notion of the object is inevitably caught up with this problem of delimited perception and cognition. The problem of an object, of an object taking shape for a subject – taking shape within perception, consciousness and language – preserves a vital sense of ambivalence. The object at once exceeds our relation to it and contracts into the form of an object as such. The notion of an object indicates a convenient fiction – it reduces the impenetrable character of the real to ‘objectively given’ things that can be neatly perceived and categorised. To naturalise the object, to position it over and against the awkwardnesses of perception, cognition and cultural relational identity, reduces the object in another sense again. Much better, in my view, to find other means of referring to the patterns, flows and accretions within the real that exist beyond all of our efforts to adequately name and account for them.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *