The Limits of Entropy

In this post, Levi Bryant argues that object-oriented ontology takes into account the problem of entropy in a way that classical structuralism is unable to.

This seems to me a plausible claim, one that I will not dispute. Rather, I am interested in the ramifications of bringing entropy into an object-oriented ontology. I realize of course that these ramifications are far from obvious or settled (which is why I’m interested). But entropy seems to be one of those problematic concepts where the boundaries between metaphysics and science is less than clear, and even more interestingly, I have a feeling that the concept of entropy might very well attract philosophy towards ideas it does not want.

For instance, I have one latent worry concerning the compatibility of scientific conceptions of entropy and object-oriented ontology: Recent physics consider entropy to have a limit, a maximum, and claims that this maximum is in fact evinced by black holes. What does this imply? According to wikipedia, at least, it suggests that “matter itself cannot be subdivided infinitely many times and there must be an ultimate level of fundamental particles” (see this article). And it is indeed difficult to see how an entropy limit would not signify a limit in the degrees of freedom of the components of the entropic system, and each such basic, uncomposed degree of freedom signify something like a fundamental particle or a discrete state of such a particle (or could it be asymptotical?)

From what I know about the object-oriented ontologists like Bryant and Harman, they do not look favorably upon materialism and atomism, so I suppose that they are not eager to embrace entropy limits either. But what are the options? Deleuze’s account and critique of “thermodynamical illusion” (in chapter 5 of Difference and Repetition)?

In any case, I would like to propose black holes as one of the paradigm cases of “object”; not because they are typical but precisely because they are such extreme tests of any theory of objects. You have a theory of objects, you should at some point plug “black hole” into the litanizer and see what results come out. Any bias towards anthropocentrism or common sense should have a good chance of being exposed.

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