Bogust does something really interesting in this text – present us with something that doesn’t remotely resemble academic writing. It’s remarkable. Opening with a richly descriptive catalog ofthe New Mexican landscape’s countless inhabitants, Bogust shows us what it’s like to give all units equal attention. Which, at least for him, is a feat carried of with ease and style: he paints a very beautiful picture. Moving forward, Bogust explains a range of philosophical ideas and real-world scenarios, never writing in one voice for long. He’ll abandon the language of academia every few sentences: the texts peppered with lyrical turns of phrase – “seeps from the rot of Kant”, “revealing the iridescent shells” – or little jokes – “a muddle wearing a monocle” – making Bogust one of the most likeable, engaging thinkers I’ve read in this degree. Here’s what the thinker offers:
Bogust introduces us to Correlationism (Meillassoux’s term) – that is, believing things exist only in their relationship to us. We have created a binary: the human world (complex) and the natural world (simple) – I liked the earlier use of the term ‘the great outdoors’, it feels more complete by including basically all that is outside of ourselves. Abandoning Correlationism “requires us to admit that [things] do not exist just for us”. Even objects we invented, like computers, must be understood as having an independent interior life.
On Flat Oncology:
Bogust like’s Latours flat ontology, but takes issue with the emphasis on interaction outside of units, as opposed to within them. His own Tiny Ontology abandons the three dimensional humanist/scientific worldview, and even discards Latour’s two dimensional ontology: to Bogust, there’s no plane, there’s just a dot.
Bogust suggests that objects are as ‘ready-at-hand’ for one-another as they are for us. Adrian’s earlier sugar-water demonstration is a good example of this – the units interacted, they used each other as much a we could have. The interaction between the units came just as easily as our own would. With this in mind, we cannot claim superiority. We cannot situate ourselves at the top a hierarchy, because we simply are not the only things with the power to use other things. We seem to believe we are actors, and everything else is merely acted upon – forgetting, or perhaps not noticing in the first place, that objects act upon one another just as readily.
I should correct my opening statement. In thing text, Bogust actually does two really interesting things in this text: explain, with copious charm and character, a worldview which looks at all things as equal units, and make an admirable attempt to mention enchiladas more than any academic text, ever.