Assemblage Theory Rhetoric/Composition

object-oriented philosophy in a pickle

My daughter got this card game for her birthday. With In a pickle you get a deck of cards, each card with a noun (thing/object) on it. Four cards are laid out on the table and each player gets five cards. You then have to play a card so that the card on the table either goes into the one you've played or the one you've played goes into the one on the table (e.g. the letter goes in the drawer, the drawer goes in the elephant…. err if you shove it hard enough). The rules are only a little more elaborate than that but the real point is to have a kind of brain-stretching, creative fun.

In any case, I started noticing what an oddly bi-directional preposition "in" can be. Now one immediate objection would be that such a claim could be possible. The letter is in the drawer. The drawer can't be in the letter… unless of course it is a letter concerning the drawer. Now perhaps you think that's just a facile example I set up. Maybe. And I'm sure one can find counter-examples, but in the play of the game I was struck by how easily nouns could be transposed. Is the DNA is the cat or is the cat in the DNA? Is the table in the universe or is the universe in the table?

I am willing to submit that this is a problem of language that in a Wittgensteinian way gets resolved by cultural rules outside grammatical or logical rules (as in the case of the game where players get to vote on whether a move is acceptable or not). That is, objects may really either be inside other objects or not, and outside of an Escher print objects shouldn't be inside one another in a bi-directional way. So we might easily say that the drawer is not really in the letter, but on the other hand, the drawer's exposure to the letter might have a dramatic effect (e.g., maybe the letter instructs that the drawer be destroyed or painted red).

But I also started thinking about the withdrawal of objects, where in some sense objects could never be inside of one another because they are vacuum-sealed as Harman puts it. And yet, the objects are in a vacuum then, right?  Again, perhaps a problem of language, which is not to say that such issues are solely language games but only to point out how difficult it is to speak about such matters. I think it is pointed that Harman turns to metaphor and humor in Guerilla Metaphysics since it is precisely these unexpected turns in language that both make it productive and at the same time resistant or slippery in relation to a project like OOP.

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