Saturday, July 07, 2012

Absolute Secrecy: On the Infinity of Individuation

To preserve a place is to preserve distinction. Therefore I pray God to make me free of God, for my essential being is above God, taking God as the origin of creatures. For in that essence of God in which God is above being and distinction, there I was myself and knew myself so as to make this man. Therefore I am my own cause according to my essence, which is eternal, and not according to my becoming, which is temporal.
– Meister Eckhart

[T]he essence of my self arises from this—that nothing will be able to replace it: the feeling of my fundamental improbability situates me in the world where I remain as though foreign to it, absolutely foreign.
– Georges Bataille

My secret to myself, my secret to myself, woe is me.
– Isaiah 24:16

You fear. For yourself. Because you are yourself. Because you are afraid. That you are not.
Things seem calm here. It covers the fact that everyone is shrieking in terror, I cannot win, and I am afraid to lose.[1]
This paper will address you, somehow, the one who is the problem (of individuation), the problem itself. It would be nice to speak to you radically, infernally, near the roots where you are you, that is, in hell.
Maybe one day a mystical poet will pass through here on the way to meet his beloved in paradise, talk with us where we really live.  
I am not supposed to do this. Take your pick of the reasons why, choose your favorite form of protest or civility. Already you are found out, and starting to burn. Because no one is supposed to be here.
So eager to be someone, so captivated and distracted, so smart and touchy, so interested and careless, so abstract and situated in what others think. So worried . . . sick. Insanity is the common, downhill routine, madness simply being lost in time, immersed in automatic identification with thought/feeling/body.
Why do you fool around with your life? How do you live with yourself? What causes you to go to all the trouble, to be so involved? Individuation is an anonymous material.
Everyone is a devil, a liar burning daily in willful, decisional self-deception. “You have ordained and so it is,” says Augustine “that every disorder of the soul is its own punishment.”[2] And if that doesn’t sting, the corollary will, it’d better: “if we were in a right state,” says Eckhart, “our suffering would be no suffering but a joy and a comfort.”[3] But who believes that?—too bad. As if there is truth in not. You insist pain is sincerity, argument is significance. Do you complain, sneer? You are evil. A diseased missionary, you want the world to hear what you say, take your words as truth, all the while infecting it with what you are, with what you are really like. That is what is actually published, to the universe. Sorry. It is that simple. Flattering yourself with scientistic wonder that we—whoever that is—are star dust while your heart spreads everywhere its slime. You are at the center and the periphery of the cosmic malignity. Can you at least have the decency to stop hiding the horror of yourself? Behind critique, behind the object, behind hyperchaos, behind immanence, behind becoming, behind difference, behind the real, behind anything. Will you come out into the open? “Those who have even a preliminary acquaintance with the structure and laws of the inner spheres of existence,” says Meher Baba, “know that complete isolation of human beings is a figment of imagination. Whether they desire it or not, all persons are constantly acting and interacting upon each other by their very existence . . . The world of mental life is as much a unified system as the world of gross matter.”[4] The mystic is scrupulous about mood—be not sad like the hypocrites—because he has ceased hallucinating. Julian of Norwich says, “the beholding of the sins of others creates as it were a thick mist before the eye of the soul.”[5] Now glimpse the depth of your disguise in Bataille’s mirror: “A wink of an eye in which glimmers a deceitfulness, a melancholy smile, a grimace of fatigue together betray the disguised suffering which the astonishment at not being everything, at even having concise limits, gives us.”[6]
Fortunately, problems are not my problem. The task of these words is only to accuse everyone of a mass, grave sin: the absolutely hypocritical and nearly unforgivable crime of being yourself.
Since when is accepting responsibility for that not a precondition for intelligent conversation?
Are you, or are you not, identical with reality? You hesitate to answer, or answer cleverly, or theorize the divinity of hesitation, because you want it both ways, and neither, and don’t know what you want, and don’t want to. Givenness is a fraud and belief in it produces frauds.   
Erase the incommensurable, atemporal, neither super- nor subvenient fact of me (but not really). This is the wish of much thinking, writing: put me in a prison (of my own ‘making’) where I can escape the freedom of being written, being thought. Superficial, simulated immanence: ‘I know who I am.’ Seven billion little kingdoms of self-slavery, manically clicking their own links.     
Exhibit X: The folly of thinking that thought can pass beyond itself and yet remain the correlate of oneself, the lie of all critique of correlationism that does not attack the correlation itself, the real ism: you. Eckhart says, “unless you flee first from yourself, then wherever you flee to, you will find obstacles and restlessness no matter where it is.”[7]
Who do you think everything is about? De te fabula narratur. “The very cosmos has no foundation save that of Ignorance”[8]—your ignorance. This is the first, elementary lesson of the void.
How on earth have you become used to it? Whatever made you make a habit of being yourself? And it is getting worse, isn’t it? “If attachment is an evil,” says Cioran, “we must look for its cause in the scandal of birth, for to be born is to be attached. Detachment then should apply itself to getting rid of the traces of this scandal, the most serious and intolerable of all.”[9] Pretense exacerbates and overexposes the condition. The torturous fact of it seeps through your face like mold. Alternately, the Cloud of Unknowing states that the work of contemplation, whose summit is to be found in the midst of going nearly mad in the sorrow that one is, has the power of “suddenly and graciously” making the “worst looking man or woman” pleasing and beautiful.[10]   
“We now know the location,” says Meillassoux, “of this narrow passage through which thought is able to exit from itself—it is through facticity, and through facticity alone, that we are able to make our way towards the absolute.”[11] What are you waiting for? I fear that you have mistaken fear of the prison guard for security and protection.
Why something rather than nothing? That is a lazy question. Try a real one, a really stupid question: Why am I me? A question that philosophically bleeds you, rather than turns you into a mannequin or puppet for the business of philosophy. “The classical problem of individuation,” notes Peter King with respect to Bonaventure, “is the problem of existence—at least insofar as the problem of individuation can be given sense at all and it not simply confused.”[12] The problem cannot be abstracted precisely because it is you, because you are the problem. The sense of the question is the sorrow that you are, the negative identity of thought and being which you are nothing other than. “The being of Da-sein,” says Heidegger, “is care [Sorge, sorrow].”[13] But that does not mean you are human yet. “All men have grounds for sorrow [mater of sorow],” says the Cloud of Unknowing, “but most specially he feels grounds for sorrow who knows and feels that he is. In comparison to this sorrow, all other kinds of sorrow are like play. For he can truly and really sorrow who knows and feels not only what he is, but that he is. And whoever has not felt this sorrow, he should sorrow, because he has never yet felt perfect sorrow.”[14] Remembering to count the observer in your equation does not count. “The questionable character of abstract thought,” says Kierkegaard, “becomes apparent especially in connection with all existential problems, where abstract thought gets rid of the difficulty by leaving it out, and then proceeds to boast of having explained everything.” The obverse of Ecclesiastes 1:18 is even more true: he who does not increase sorrow, does not increase knowledge
            The telos of speculation is not explanation, but vision, visio sine comprehensione, as Cusa defines it. Theory is bigger than thought. It is the opening of reality measured by the space of the eclipse of what by that, an eclipse that blackens the entire cosmos. “The process of perception,” says Meher Baba, “runs parallel to the process of creation, and the reversing of the process of perception without obliterating consciousness amounts to realising the nothingness of the universe as a separate entity.”[15]
“Not how the world is,” says Wittgenstein, “is the mystical, but that it is.” [16] Do you not see that you not only see what you do not comprehend, but that you see more, beyond what you comprehend? That being here, in this black universe, with your being in it, is a mystical experience? Absolutely mystical.
            “The identity of the with (the One with the One, God with God),” says Laruelle, “is the true ‘mystical’ content of philosophy, its ‘black box’.”[17] Whence we may understand mysticism as the limitless theoretical exposure (as opposed to the philosophical photo which claims to capture its object) of the movement seized in Plotinus’s last words, “phuge monou pros monon” (Enneads 6.9.11) [the flight of the alone to the Alone]. Opening philosophy’s decisional closing of the Real’s foreclosure to thought, the operative fact of philosophy as the “organon . . . [or] a priori form which, giving us the World, forecloses the mystical experience which intrinsically constitutes humans,”[18] mysticism is the involutionary science of turning the transcendental vector of flight from World to One into the most radical immanence without reduction whatsoever, of truing World to One via unbounded or non-decisional translation of the meaning of Plotinus’s pros from ‘to/toward’ to ‘with’, which it may also signify, as in the beginning of the gospel of John: “kai o logos pros ton theon” (1:1) [and the word was with God]—translatable also as ‘face-to-face’ or ‘at home with’. Mysticism is the speculative labor of seeing through the hallucination of philosophy, its “simulation of immanence by auto-reflexive interiority [la simulation de l’immanence par l’interiorité auto-réflexive],” and opening forever “the true immanence or identity . . .  rejected in the shadows of the black box [la veritable immanence ou identité . . . rejetée dans les ténèbres de la boîte noire].”[19] More than a feeling, mystical sorrow it is the live form of the refusal of the principle of reason whereby the absolute is alone thinkable.[20] Or, in the words of Bonaventure, this sorrow is the gemitus cordis [groaning of the heart] that is the essential double of the fulgor speculationis [brilliance of speculation] whereby mind is desirously led beyond itself.[21]
Individuation is a flight of the alone with the alone, the phoenix-flight that you can never properly undertake because it is your actuality. What other option does a species of one have? Individuation is the only method or way or opening wherewith Reality makes a mirror of itself. “I was a hidden treasure who loved to be known.” On which Ibn Arabi comments: “The Reality wanted . . . to see His own Essence . . . For the seeing of a thing, itself by itself, is not the same as its seeing itself in another, as it were in a mirror.”[22] The radical spatio-temporal asymmetry of individuation curves and distorts the entire cosmos. It is the universal twist which reveals the unspeakable identity of inner and outer worlds. Warped around the black ( )hole of the fact that I am me, everything is unveiled to be a vast mirror or speculative reality.  You see yourself in the mirror—true. You do not see yourself in the mirror—true. Yet beyond the double truth is a third, more intensively real truth: that I am seeing/not-seeing myself in a mirror, that there is a real mirroring or speculative reality.
This whatless that standing at the occluded, placeless center of being, in the mirror itself, is equivalent to the divine image as understood by Eriugena: “the Divine likeness in the human mind is most clearly discerned when it is only known that it is, and not known what it is . . . what it is is denied in it [negatur in ea quid esse], and only that it is is affirmed. Nor is this unreasonable. For if it were known to be something, then at once it would be limited by some definition, and thereby would cease to be a complete expression of the image of its Creator, Who is absolutely unlimited and contained within no definition, because He is infinite, superessential beyond all that may be said or comprehended.”[23] The question (why am I me?), the radically immanent negativity of my existence, is the intimate image of an absolute secret exceeding all comprehensible causality. “That I am a man,” says Eckhart, “is something other men share with me; that I see and hear and eat and drink, that is the same as with cattle; but that I am, that belongs to no man but myself, not to a man, not to an angel, not even to God except insofar as I am one with Him.”[24] Likewise, in scholastic philosophy, “the actuality of a thing is not a relation to something else but something absolute [quid absolutum] in its own self.”[25] Haecceity is “a positive and simply incommunicable entity . . . neither the matter nor the form, nor a composite of them, but the mode or end term of them all, which completes and fulfills them, and is their ultimate reality.”[26] The actuality of the individual is something other than both creature and creator, yet inseparable from them, being “rather quid concreatum, concreated with the creation of a created thing.”[27] The existence of you is neither a being nor nothing.
            Mysticism means absolutely staying with this most stupid of questions, dwelling in the sheer actuality that is outside and between being and nothing, above God and inside the creature, beyond the manifest real and with the individual. In the Mystical Theology, Dionysius correlatively identifies the subject of the divine vision as “neither oneself nor someone else.”[28] That is the person—cf. Vedanta’s Thou art That—who sees, realizes Reality precisely by erasing the unreality of the in-itself. The seeming paradox—paradoxical insofar as one is identified as a singularity distinct from the one Reality—is that the real you is more yourself than you and more you than yourself, that it is, as Augustine says, “interior intimo meo et superior summo meo” [more interior than my innermost and higher than my highest].[29] In other words, why am I me? is a question whose smartest answer—I am not—does not answer it at all.
The question is stupid not because it is unanswerable, or leads into a bottomless tautology, but because it brings me face to face with an essential stupidity, with my stupidness, with stupid human being. I am too stupid to answer this question. And to ask it, exactly stupid enough.
            What is the mechanism of this question? I imagine a small organ, neither inside nor outside myself, like a polymelic phantom limb, a subtle appendage implanted at birth behind my crown, during the moment of my coming to be, whenever that was. This organ (or appendix, or tumor), whose painful inflammation is despair—“despair is the paroxysm of individuation,” says Cioran—is like a strange supplementary bodily member, intimate and inessential, which I can feel yet not move, barely move yet without feeling. Stupid organ, organ of stupidity. It moves, is moved, like an inalienable shackle, only to reinforce its immobility. Am I to sever this organ, the hemorrhage of haecceity, escape from it? “[E]scape,” says Levinas, “is the need to get out of oneself, that is, to break that most radical and unalterably binding of chains, the fact that the I [moi] is oneself [soi-même].” Just who, then, escapes? Or do I strengthen this organ, exercise it until it grows into a new kind of hand or halo? A very special monstrous growth then,[30] means of the apotheosis of monstrosity, something whose troublesome spasm is really the vibrational awakening of a primordially inherited perfection.3 This stupidity: penumbra of whatever being, like the distorted self-shadow that a lamp casts by its own light.
            This stupidity, an omnipresent blankness faced in the mirror of Why am I me?, is a glitch in the system, a fact whose unaccountable advent throws the integrity of everything absolutely into question. A bug, something alien and endemic to system as such. An infinitely intrinsic whim or non-interpretable decision suspending each entity in its ownmost location, giving its event the inalienable status of an empyrean conspiracy. Whence Scotus’s doctrine of haecceity as the ontic summit of a creature: “‘in those beings which are the highest and most important, it is the individual that is primarily intended by God.” This stupidity is a human stupidity, afflicting in one stroke my species-being (why am I not a cat?), the arbitrariness of my identity (why am I not you?), and my being as such (why am I happening at all?). But this stupidity is equally proper to all entity, and also to non-entities, who with respect to individuation are wholly people too. If there were nothing rather than something (as indeed there may be), it would be nonetheless actual. Long ‘after’ and long ‘before’ the existence of anything and everything is accounted for, the weirdness or a-factual facticity that individuation articulates remains, this stupidity whereby whatever is is inexplicably itself. Individuation names the invisible and horribly palpable loop whereby everything, even nothing, is anarchically something. Heidegger would trace individuation to time.[31] Yet time itself is fatally afflicted or wholly perforated by it, being a conspicuous plenitude of individuation’s ( )hole. Why is it now now?  
            We are habituated to imagining mystical vision as an experiential realization of the absolute that perforce dislocates the integrity of the individual. St. Paul’s third-person rapture: “I know a man in Christ who . . . was caught up to the third heaven . . . whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows—and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter” (2 Corinthians 12:2-4). Eliphaz the Temanite’s verbal corporeal disjointing: “Now a hidden word [verbum absconditum] was spoken to me, and my ears as if by stealth received the veins of its whisper. In the horror of the vision by night, when deep sleep is wont to hold men, fear seized me, and trembling, and all my bones were shaken” (Job 4:12-3). Yet we must also understand this dislocation as coporealization or consummation of individuation itself, the communication of its absolute, incommunicable secret. From this perspective, the exacerbated actuality of the mystical subject is not an effect of visionary experience, but its content as it were—a virtual virtual whose realness is infinitely in excess of all presence. The mystical secret is one’s identity with the immanent hiddenness of secret itself in its radically literal sense of something set apart, severed, disjoined (secret is substantive of the verb secerno). Mystical vision is the unitary realization of oneself as radical actuality, a pure actuality or absolute individuation, the infinite haecceity of nothing/everything, next to which one’s person is necessarily an indivisible division—as figured in Dionysius’s legendary cephalophory, a perfect emblem of the non-difference between individuation and the divine actus purus if there ever was one. In one direction, mystical vision secrets the subject, unites it with the Hidden. As John of the Cross says, “we call mystical wisdom ‘secret’—and it is actually so— . . . because it has the characteristic of hiding the soul within itself . . . so engulf[ing] souls in its secret abyss that they have the keen awareness of being brought into a place far removed from every creature.”[32] In the other direction, mystical vision hacks open the subject, evaporates and airs it into the limitless open of perfect, primordial actuality, a totally simple and unimaginably flat place, not of profound wisdom, but of sublime stupidity, the instant, dumb, unquestionable intelligence with which Dionysius’s corpse rises and picks up his head. “Tunc erigens se sancti viri corpus exanime, apprehendit propriis manibus sanctum caput abscissum” [Raising itself, the lifeless body of the holy man then grasped with his own hands the sacred severed head].[33] The stupidity of which the philosopher accuses mysticism is his ownmost, disregarded stupidity, his deferred intoxication whose literally returning repression is the post-conference drink. This stupidity, “the very stone which the builders rejected” (1 Peter 2:7; Ps. 118.22), is the cornerstone of mystical intelligence. This intelligence, the real intelligence of intelligence, is the actuality of a knowledge that surpasses memory, of a pleasure that surpasses its object. The “custom of such Souls,” says Marguerite Porete, “is to understand much and to forget quickly . . . and she is inebriated not only from what she has drunk, but very intoxicated and more than intoxicated from what she never drinks nor will ever drink.”[34]   
As though foreign to it, absolutely foreign. I am not an alien, but something stranger still, an insider whose essence is to actually be a virtual absolute outsider. The hellishly real impossibility that you are you is the true stupidity according to which the absolute is alone thinkable. 

[1] This and other introductory statements are influenced by the talks of Vernon Howard.
[2] Confessions 1.12.
[3] Complete Mystical Works, 547.
[4] Discourses, II.92.
[5] A Revelation of Love, chapter 76.
[6] Inner Experience, xxxii.
[7] Complete Mystical Works, 488.
[8] Meher Baba, The Everything and the Nothing,
[9] E. M. Cioran, The Trouble with Being Born, trans. Richard Howard (New York: Seaver Books, 1976). “Everything is wonderfully clear if we admit that birth is a disastrous or at least an inopportune event; but if we think otherwise, we must resign ourselves to the unintelligible, or else cheat like everyone else.”
[10] “Whoso had this werk, it schuld governe him ful seemly, as wele in body as in soule, and make hym ful favorable unto iche man or woman that lokyd apon hym; insomoche that the worst favored man or woman that leveth in this liif, and thei mighte come to by grace to worche in this work, theire favour schuld sodenly and graciously be changed, that iche good man that hem sawe schulde be fayne and joyful to have hem in companye, and ful mochil thei schuld think that thei were plesid in spirit and holpen by grace unto God in theire presence” (The Cloud of Unknowing, ed. Patrick J. Gallacher [Kalamazoo, MI: Medieval Institute Publications, 1997], 54.1874-80).
[11] Quentin Meillassoux, After Finitude, 63.
[12] Individuation in Scholasticism, 158.
[13] Martin Heidegger, Being and Time, trans. Stambaugh (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1996), 262.
[14] “Alle men han mater of sorow, bot most specyaly he felith mater of sorow that wote and felith that he is. Alle other sorowes ben unto this in comparison bot as it were gamen to ernest” (The Cloud of Unknowing, ed. Patrick J. Gallacher [Kalamazoo, MI: Medieval Institute Publications, 1997], ch. 44). All translations are mine unless otherwise noted.
[15] Meher Baba, Discourses, II.98.
[16] Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, tr. C.K. Ogden (Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 1998), 6.44.
[17] “L’identité de l’avec (l’Un avec l’Un, Dieu avec Dieu) est le vrai contenu ‘mystique’ de la philosophique, sa ‘boite noire’” (Laruelle, Mystique non-philosophique, 60).
[18] Laruelle, Dictionary of Non-Philosophy, 53.
[19] Laruelle, Mystique non-philosophique, 66.
[20] “The absolute is thinkable only by a refusal of the principle of reason. . . . speculation, understood as thought about the absolute, is possible only by not being metaphysical” (Quentin Meillassoux, “The Immanence of the World Beyond,” 444). Accordingly, the principle of the sorrow of being demands understanding thought’s not being metaphysical in a literal sense. The sorrow of being is the real negative form whereby thought is not metaphysical. Real refusal of the principle of sufficient reason is other than the thought of it. 
[21] “No one is disposed in any way to the divine contemplations which lead to ecstasies [excessus] of the mind without being, like Daniel, a person of desires [vir desideriorum]. But desires are inflamed in us in a double way, namely, through the cry of prayer which makes us roar with groaning of the heart, and through the brilliance of contemplations, by which the mind turns itself most directly and intensely to the rays of light” (St. Bonaventure, Itinerarium mentis in Deum, Works of St. Bonaventure: Volume II, trans. Zachary Hayes [New York: Franciscan Institute, 2002], Prologue.4, trans. modified).
[22] Ibn Arabi, The Bezels of Wisdom, trans. R. W. J. Austin (New York: Paulist Press, 1980), 50.
[23] John Scotus Eriugena, Periphyseon (De Divisione Naturae), eds. I. P. Sheldon-Williams and Édouard A. Jeauneau, trans. John. J. O’Meara, 4 vols. (Dublin: Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, 1999-2009), IV.73.
[24] Sermon 17.
[25] Hediegger, Basic Problems, 103-4.
[26] Mauricio Beuchot, in Individuation in Scholasticism, 465 [summarizing Scotus’s opinion].
[27] Hediegger, Basic Problems, 103-4.
[28] Mystical Theology, 1001A.
[29] Augustine, Confessions, 6.9.
[30] ‘A being—a face, a gesture, an event—is special when, without resembling any other, it resembles all the others’ (Agamben, 2007, 59).
[31] Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics, 80-2.
[32] John of the Cross, The Dark Night of the Soul, 2.16.3-2.17.6.
[33] Odone, De sanctis martyribus Luciano episcopo, Maximiano presbytero, Iuliano diacono, 5.21, Acta Sanctorum Database (ProQuest).
[34] Mirror of Simple Souls, chapters 18, 23.

Obiectum (belated SMs2 closing remarks)

I see an elision or lacuna in these proceedings, possibly significant: the lack of discussion, in a conference rather inspired to speculate objects in the mirror of medieval works, of the medieval origins of the concept and word object. Is this an oversight, a structural failure of vision to bump into what it ought to see? Or is it a purer kind of non-event, the causeless not-happening of something? Sometimes I get the feeling that what does not happen is inexplicably powerful, an abyssically negative spontaneity ruling and seducing all existent things from its universal invisible domain. The issue might provide an interesting playground for thinking the objecthood of the inexistent, of what is not there. This is a good limit-problem for any philosophy wanting to relate to reality as constituted by how things are. It is also a question that the medieval, as a zone where a saint recommends preaching to non-existent creatures, philosophers theorize divine alteration of the past, and mystics see nonbeing as an excess of being, is already answering.      
But I prefer not to go there, wishing that I could instead move (or realize that I am only ever moving) like the guild navigator in David Lynch’s Dune: “I did not say this. I am not here.” Instead I will close the event by trying to open it into some avenues of understanding along which the medieval origination of object might lead the way. To find the start of these avenues, imagine a generic medieval intellectual, that is, someone infused with ‘the love of learning and the desire for God’, encountering contemporary object orientedness. First the bad news: there is no absolute knowledge, no arriving at the omnipresent center. Then the good news: we really have figured out what everything is: objects. Bad news: objects incommensurably withdraw, remain irreducible to relation, are never knowable in themselves, so no theosis, henosis, subject-object union, incarnation, soul-body suppositum, eternal individuals, or anything like that. Good news: it is because of the above that anything is happening at all . . . and so forth. Maybe the fellow would find relief, like a good bloodletting, in the demotion of his desire from the desire to be everything to a desire to be with things. Perhaps he would despair. Perhaps he would think he was in paradise, intoxicated with the idea that these objects are God. Or perhaps he would object, discovering new truth through his own understanding of the word object.[1]

Obiectum is a substantive meaning the object of a power. From ob-jacere (to throw something before, to make it appear, present), the word has a verbal meaning:[2] a casting before, a putting before, a lying before, a being interposed and thus what presents itself to movement or perception, what gets in the way.
            Importantly, the sense of objection (argument, accusation, charges) is developed in advance of the philosophical sense of object: obiectum (objection): 1125-1343; obiectum (object): 1286-1444.
Obiectum is both what we go after and what strikes us.  Cf. the problem of distinguishing facts and judgments. Likewise, obiectum indicates objects of both apprehensive and motive powers (passive or active).
“Objects are things/appearances thrown over against (ob-jecta) subjects  who are thrown under (sub-jecta) the field of manifestness.”[3]
The primary philosophical sense of obiectum is the object of a power, typically a human power. In that sense it is a term of human-world correlation and would fall under the same Heideggerian critique of object that GH mentioned in his lecture. The medieval obiectum in this sense is exactly not the sense of object pursued by object-oriented philosophy, which seeks to redefine things or entities as objects. However, the semantic firstness of obiectum as dialectial objection or argument should alert us to suspicion of such a ‘purified’ notion of object, precisely because it suggests an occluded or unspeakable relation between the philosophical concept of object and the intellectuo-appetitive practice of raising arguments and throwing down objections. Is object-oriented philosophy’s ‘hypostasizing’ of the object a correlate of its will for real philosophical argument, for objective jousting over reality itself?
GH’s call for “universal philosophical dialogue” on the model of premodern intellectual smack-downs, “a more wild and fruitful form of intellectual combat of a kind that no longer exists,” does seem to confirm this medieval semantic diagnosis. He writes, “The Middle Ages are widely remembered as a period of rampant intolerance in intellectual history. Minute subtleties of theological dogma served as ground for harassment and excommunication . . . Although intellectual persecution is usually the result of stupid authoritarian behavior, it nonetheless suggests an atmosphere in which the consequences of ideas are taken seriously . . . I would like to describe a sense in which all of these persecutors are closer to the ideal model of universal dialogue than we in the tolerant and apathetic West.”[4] That a fantasy and/or event of contiguity between objection and object is at work in object-oriented philosophy is suggested more specifically in GH’s recommendation for the production of such an atmosphere of serious consequences, in which different philosophical positions would be encouraged to hit each other like free objects via the mysterious occasionalist mediation of “a powerful blind-reviewing committee”: “the dominance of insular specialists would come to an end, and universal philosophical dialogue would prosper at the hands of those willing to risk a staged combat between ideas of different philosophers or altogether different traditions. The measuring stick in such combat can only be reality itself . . . Although I have no wish to be burned at the stake, I would also prefer not to work in a profession in which there is was never any real combat over fundamental principles.”[5] The desire here is for a testing and proving of thought on the universal battlefield of objectal relation, not because that would constitute real discourse in the sense of authentic communication, but precisely because real communication is impossible, because the only way things ever ‘talk’ is by touching and hitting each other: “When a meteorite strikes the moon, it hardly matters that these objects are not ‘conscious’ of one another. They have to appear to one another in the sense that they affect one another. And they never appear to one another in the totality of their being, but only in a limited, perspectival way.”[6] Combat is in this sense an object-oriented criterion of philosophical truth, precisely because it can never effect the cores of things, because violence does not alter their autonomous essences. In other words, the prospect of being burned at the stake is for GH a fit, flirted-with image of a world of real intellectual stakes because, like cotton, he is an object that would not be exhausted by burning: “When fire burns cotton, it does not matter whether the fire is ‘conscious’ of the cotton in some primitive panpsychist manner; all that matters is that the fire never makes contact with the cotton as a whole, but only with its flammability. The rich reality of cotton-being is never drained dry by the fire, any more than by human theories of cotton or human practical use of it. There is a certain unreachable autonomy and dignity in the things.”[7] Among the first question this legible correlation between the two senses of object—“Some might object that inanimate objects . . .”[8]—raises is the question of the appetite or motive for combat, the question of the originary semantic element that is elided in object(ion)-oriented thinking. What is the power that seizes object-oriented philosophy as its object?
Rather than pursuing that question, I will simply try to furnish some relevant facts and thoughts, materials through which we might converse with OOO’s imaginary medieval interlocutor, through which the medieval genesis of object may be meaningful in a philosophical ‘third zone’ or ‘great outdoors’ beyond the subject-object correlate.[9] On this note it is significant that GH’s atheistic or secular occasionalism does not and perhaps cannot dispense with negatively deploying the name of God, that it seems to fall under discursive necessity for a kind of apophasis, of defining the absolute occasional power as a not-God or immanent infinite absence. Contrarily, thinking the speculative medieval object, the object as both autonomously real and the correlate of human powers, may lead toward the (always) new great indoors, a third universal conditioned neither by God nor not-God, an outdoors that one not only points to from inside, but actually lives in.

The relation between object and appetite is clear from the Latin-to-Greek context where obiectum translates ‘that on which power depends’, ‘for which there is desire’, ‘to which a power is related’, Aristotle’s to antikeimenon/ta antikeimena (that which lies over against). Object is soul food, as represented by Aristotle’s discussion of nutritive powers in the De Anima. It is what keeps a body going and is thus intimate to life as animation, movement. Here object represents a kind of close/distant opposite, as the stomach is alterative of food. Dewan shows that obiectum is not the product of simple translation, that the commentary tradition creates the concept out of Aristotle and does not take it from him as such.
The appetitive sense of object may be compared to OOO predilection for models of burrowing and tunneling, the worm being the perfect and traditional figure for appetitive animation. “We do not step beyond anything, but are more like moles tunneling through wind, water, and ideas . . . We do not transcend the world, but only descend or burrow towards its numberless underground cavities.”[10]

Dewan analyzes the word in the context of the De Anima of Robert Grosseteste, which concerns how the soul, like the eye, is affected where it is not. Similarly, the obstacular nature of object is central to Augustine’s discussion of the extromissive theory of vision in De quantitate animae. Boethius’s Consolation of Philosophy (5.5) similarly concerns the indeterminate substantiveness of obiecta as things being thrown up against powers. Chaucer’s translation makes this especially clear, where he uses the verbal “thinges objecte from withoute-forth” to translate obiecta extrinsecus. Boethius is a possible source for the application of the word obiectum to the Aristotelian context.
But Augustine also uses corpus obiectum as corporeal object of sense, not in sense of object of a power but more purely in the sense of obstaculum, what stands in the way. Here we should consider the fascinating paradox of how the objects of powers/appetites also stand in the way in a more essential sense, how precisely what satisfies or fulfills a desire is also what thwarts and hinders its fulfillment. Obstaculum is what rays of light issuing from the eye hit up against. The sensed is the impassible, which also means that what is seen is exactly what is not. For Thierry of Chartres, only earth and water are truly visible, not fire or air. This was applied to the question of the invisibility of God: God cannot be seen because he lacks obstacularity. What is everywhere hinders nothing. The model is applied to the operation of intellectual powers and also concerns the effect or lack of effect of a power on its object when it ‘offends’ or strikes it (offendere)—another space of conceivable correlation between attack and understanding. Cf. deconstruction and GH’s interest in understanding something as intellectually ‘ruining’ it. Boethius, for example, address how the freedom of a being is not disturbed by its being an object of divine knowledge. God’s invisibility and omniscience are two sides of the same reality.   
The obstacularity of object reveals the interplay between the movement of the soul to things and the movement of things into the soul. Here we must consider the equation or identity of what strikes you and what you hit up against. Note how humans ignorantly love to strike back at what they have, under their own power, first bumped into.

As noted above, the use of obiectum to mean object (of a power) develops after the sense of objection and remains contemporary with it. Is there a substantive connection? Perhaps a connection is visible in use of object in Middle English to mean objection, in that there is a logical continuity between tangibility and objection, the sense is which things are objections, arguments. Nothing is simply there but is also pressing itself into the world, talking to it and continually imposing itself on other things in one way or another. Things are objects, arguments. An entity is something that says, what about me? Biosemiotics investigates this domain.
Continuity between the nominal and verbal senses of obiectum, and thus indeterminacy regarding the substantiality of objects, is communicated by object as adjective in Middle English, as in the phrase ‘object thing’. Here we should consider the question in relation to the good as the will’s object and truth as the intellect’s. That is, how shall we go about sorting out the interplay between telos and obstacle with respect to argumentation? Is not argumentation, as a practice of raising objections, often a form of futile telos or confusion of end and obstacle? Argumentation at once aims toward the good, the true and prevents passage to them. Argument is an art of laying down an object in both senses before your interlocutor, both something they should stumble upon, hit up against, and thus be prevented from arriving at their own object, and something that should become their object in the sense of telos or aim, their new truth.[11]
Dewan considers the double meaning of obiectum (objection and object) to be insignificant, a point of possible linguistic confusion, but not an inherently significant polysemy. He writes: “we might ask what attraction was to be found in the word ‘obiectum.’ There was one obvious drawback. Its equivocal double was already in use to mean an objection. Still, this is a much less grave difficulty than with the other words mentioned above [oppositum, finis, motivum]. The reason is that in the case of ‘obiectum,’ the double or equivocal pertains to the discussion of discourse itself, rather than ‘obiectum’ being a word to signify an aspect of things in their own intrinsic entity. In fact, one is rarely in doubt as to which of two ‘obiectum’ equivocals one is dealing with” (442).
On the other hand, one can see that this is precisely the blindly constitutive doubt of philosophy itself, which determines its objects on all levels via the decision to philosophize, to treat the world as there for philosophy in the first place. My suspicion is that the philosophical word-concept of object is the product of a climate of intellectual objection and appetitive love of argument traced in the temporal gap between the senses of the word (1125-1286), which is precisely the period marked by reception and scholastic institutionalization of Aristotle, roughly, from Abelard’s Sic et Non (1120) to the Condemnation of 1277 at the University of Paris. In other words, object is essentially a medieval document of philosophy’s fundamental aberration, as recognized by Nietzsche: “The aberration of philosophy is that, instead of seeing in logic and the categories of reason means toward the adjustment of the world for utilitarian ends (basically, toward an expedient falsification), one believed one possessed in them the criterion of truth and reality. . . . This is the greatest error that has ever been committed, the essential fatality of error on earth: one believed one possessed a criterion of reality in the forms of reason—while in fact one possessed them in order to become master of reality, in order to misunderstand reality in a shrewd manner.”[12]
“All of the Bilateria are worms, including men (and in this, medieval theology is not mistaken). That is, they have a longitudinal axis, a ‘monumental axis’, a right side and a left side. This differentiates them from the Radiata, in which several rays radiate from a centre. For us Bilateria the world is bilaterally symmetrical: there either ‘is’ or ‘is not, and the third is excluded. The dialectic of the worm.”[13]
“Things are not outside us, in measurable external space, like neutral objects (ob-jecta) of use and exchange; rather, they open to us [sono esse stesse che ci aprono] the original place solely from which the experience of measurable external space becomes possible. They are therefore [the very beings, esse stesse] held and comprehended from the outset in the topos outopos (placeless place, no-place place) in which our experience of being-in-the-world is situated. The question 'where is the thing?' is inseparable from the question 'where is the human?' Like the fetish, like the toy, things are not properly anywhere, because their place is found on this side of objects and beyond the human in a zone that is no longer objective or subjective, neither personal nor impersonal, neither material nor immaterial, but where we find ourselves suddenly [improvvisamente} facing these apparently so simple unknowns: the human, the thing.”[14]

[1] The essential study, on which I rely on and freely borrow from  throughout these remarks, is Lawrence Dewan’s “’Obiectum’: Note on the Invention of a Word,” chapter 26 of Wisdom, Law, and Virtue: Essays in Thomistic Ethics (New York: Fordham University Press, 2007).
[2] The verb-noun relation was also addressed earlier in this symposium.
[3] Rober E. Wood, Placing Aesthetics: Reflections on the Philosophic Tradition (Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 1999), 3.
[4] Graham Harman, “Some Preconditions of Universal Philosophical Dialogue,” Dialogue and Universalism 1-2 (2005): 165-6.
[5] Harman, “Some Preconditions,” 179.
[6] Harman, “Some Preconditions,” 172.
[7] Graham Harman, “Asymmetrical Causation,” Parallax 16 (2010): 100.
[8] Harman, “Some Preconditions,” 171.
[9] The logic of ‘the third’ was a de facto theme of the symposium.
[10] Graham Harman, “Vicarious Causation,” Collapse II: Speculative Realism (2007): 193. For a critique of such subjective enclosure, see Nicola Masciandaro, “Mysticism or Mysticification?: Against Subject-Creationism,” English Language Notes 50 (2012): 255-60.
[11] The symposium discussion about telos vs. becoming is relevant here.
[12] Friedrich Nietzsche, The Will to Power, trans. Walter Kaufman and R. J. Hollingdale (New York: Vintage, 1968), 315.
[13] Vilém Flusser, Vampyroteuthis Infernalis, trans. Rodrigo Maltez Novaes (New York: Atropos Press, 2011), 25.  
[14] Giorgio Agamben, Stanzas: Word and Phantasm in Western Culture, trans. Ronald L. Martinez (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1993), 59.