For a long time now, I have been struggling to make sense of the two kinds of essences that Graham proposes in his model: Essence and Eidos. Eidos has three interesting synonyms: Form, Idea and Essence. However, Graham appears to be using eidos as essence, but of a different kind. Then how is eidos different from essence? This question has lingered in my head for quite sometime and I have been trying to find in several of Grahams texts, if he has offered a more detailed account of the difference between the two terms? Even in The Quadruple Object, Graham does not fully clarify the difference. By difference I mean, why use two similar words to describe two different kinds of polarities of tensions in the fourfold structure of the model?

I found some answers to this question in his essay from 2010 Asymmetrical Causation: Influence without Recompense. Graham writes in the essay ” An analogous event occurs in what I have called ‘eidos’. Here perception is not enough to do the job, for when I encounter the mailbox as a vaguely durable unit amidst transient alterations, I have not yet articulated the separate crucial or eidetic features that belong to it. This work is performed by a different kind of fission that deserves to be called theory. It is the task of theory to piece out the various characteristics that belong to an object of our awareness.”

In this post I am rearticulating that understanding to clarify for myself -and of course to muse with thoughts about Grahams fourfold structure.

In Graham’s ontology -as is well known- there are two kind of Objects -Real and Sensual- and both these kinds of objects have two types of Qualities -Real and Sensual. Both object and its qualities are in a four fold tension between the two kinds of object poles and two kinds of qualities pole:

(Tension 1) Real Object + Sensual Qualities = Space: the gap between the inaccessible real object and its sensual qualities that any perceiving being perceives. Graham argues that this is the tension that makes any art work engaging. As it alludes to the ever hidden real object. Or, as Graham would have it, the allure of the art object fuses the sensual qualities and the real object. Which also means that the sensual experience of the art work or an architectural work is as exalting as a fusion of two atoms. In a nuclear fusion event the two lighter atoms fuse to form a new atom. The newer atom is lighter the combined mass of the two atoms. The difference of mass is released in the form of energy. In some sense, this also means that when we strongly experience a work of art or architecture or a built-form we produce a new -fused- object which is less (not more) than the sum of its parts? Elsewhere Timothy Morton has famously theorized this ontological reduction of the whole as ‘subsendence’.

(Tension 2) Sensual Object + Sensual Qualities = Time: where the experience of the shifting qualities of the perceived object is located -like the wind animating a tree, we perceiving the object from various positions and so on. This is also the realm of perception, fiction, image, simulacra and so on.

To this model of time and space Graham adds two more tensions called essence and edios:

(Tension 3 ) Real object + Real Qualities = Essence: as in those qualities of objects that are essential for the unity of the object/ substantial form/ monad etc. No object ever has complete access to either the real object or the real qualities.

Lastly, (Tension 4) Sensual Object + Real Qualities = Eidos: or those qualities of the perceived object that are essential for us to make sense of it as that particular object and not another object. So in a way, Eidos is the essence of sensual object which despite its varying perceptions in our mind alludes to some essential qualities of the object -while always remaining inaccessible. This is also the tension where Graham locates theory -the labor of elaborating, or conceptually breaking down things, producing fission or picking out crucial or eidetic qualities / features of any object, while never gaining full access to all the real qualities.

On second thought, perhaps the realm of theory is perhaps also the realm of caricature and comedy?

I would recommend reading Graham’s essay mentioned at the beginning, along with The Quadruple Object and his famous essay On Vicarious Causation.

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