IS ONTOLOGY MAKING US STUPID?: Diachronic vs Synchronic Ontologies

Here is the complete paper I presented at Bernard Stiegler’s Summer Academy, in August 2012. I translated it into English and slightly expanded it.

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13 Responses to IS ONTOLOGY MAKING US STUPID?: Diachronic vs Synchronic Ontologies

  1. syndaxvuzz says:

    Reblogged this on Guerrilla Zen and commented:
    essential

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  2. dambski says:

    An interesting essay. I don’t know much about OOO but I have an impression that their philosophical motivation was “to bring the world closer to the people”. They felt that contemporary philosophy had lost ability and desire to describe the world so they made this “ontological turn”. But – as you write – the result was horrible. Real objects – in their theories – are so far from human experience that it is almost depressing :)

    Have you read this piece: http://continentcontinent.cc/index.php/continent/article/viewArticle/93 ?

    I wonder if one could interpret OOO as an another step of dehumanization of man.
    ” What characterizes the West is its capacity for an objectifying transcendence.” – I think this is exactly what OOO does. The funny thing is that usually “an objectifying transcendence” was somehow connected to scientism but for OOO folk science is not enough transcendent from human experience…
    (sorry for my english)
    Regards!

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  3. rsbakker says:

    Awesome essay, and very near to my own attitudes toward ontology. I’m all for *ontologizing* as an exploratory exercise, a way throw light on otherwise hidden assumptions particularly. But this whole ‘speculative realist’ movement has struck me as, well, almost embarrassing. Harman is a great case in point: Just as the cognitive sciences are beginning to have interesting things to say about objects and object persistence (See, for instance, Scholls 2007) he comes out painting the noumena black. But the most embarrassing thing, from a philosophical view anyway, is this assumption that the problems of objectivity posed by Hume (the problem of subjectivity) and Wittgenstein (the problem of normativity) could be resolved by assertoric fiat. ‘Let’s just pretend none of these questions were asked, and slip back into the premodern night counting premodern cows.’ It boggles that it ever became a ‘movement,’ and speaks, I imagine, to the way the internet is changing philosophy. ‘Let’s just pretend–er, assume, knowledge at a spooky distance. Okay, everybody, altogether now!’ Low-resolution religion, fuck.
    Given your commitments I can see how it must have driven you bonkers, everyone trying on straitjackets they can’t see!
    All I would like to add to this view is an appreciation of the plural, *heuristic* nature of human cognition, to note how all these categories, ‘Being,’ ‘existence,’ ‘object,’ and so on are incredibly ‘low resolution,’ brute and all the more robust for it. But they remain elements in a heuristic system, and as such, they are matched (in the ecological rationality sense) to specific problem-solving environments. Use them out of school and you get philosophy of the worst sort, the kind that seeks to prosecute intuitions of universality. Quantum field theory provides a great example of where they need to be left behind, and it also provides a great example of how science can be viewed as a kind ‘heuristic aggregator,’ a mechanism for organizing individual humans with their heuristic limitations into larger, collective heuristic devices possessing greater scopes of applicability. On my view, *the sciences outrun ‘realism,’* obviously so, which make the perennial efforts of so many analytically inspired thinkers to stuff it into their metaphysical boxes so wrongheaded. And from what I’m beginning to understand about Feyerabend, this isn’t all that far from his view!

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  4. terenceblake says:

    Yes, in the old days people used to distinguish the context of discovery from the context of justification. Levi Bryant with his baskhardisation effect needs something like thistoo. Feyerabend came along and said it’s all heuristics folks.
    But in fact I am going too fast. What actually happened is that Feyerabend came along and said “Everything is pluralism”. He then went to von Weizsäckers seminar on Quantum Theory and said again “everything is pluralism” but von Weizsäcker showed him the way quantum mechanics arose out of concrete research. So Feyerabend concluded that “Everything is heuristics” and von Weizsäcker was not happy about that when he learned of it 12 years later. So you see even quantum theorists can have amazing ideas at the content level but balk at the heuristic implications. This is why Feyerabend looks more to Niels Bohr and Wolfgang Pauli for the heuristic attitude. So yes heuristics are ecologically sensitive and that’s the big point of all this diachronic ontology stuff.

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  5. rsbakker says:

    You definitely gotta check out Todd and Gigarenzer’s latest book, Terrence: Ecological Rationality. It just happened to fit BBT perfectly (in fact the consilience freaked me out), but I think it’s theoretical implications are vast, far more than they know.

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  7. Dee says:

    I am interested in the table question which is how I found your blog. Great essay! Have you read Sarah Ahmed’s Queer Phenomenology? It shows such a love for tables. It is full of them (writing-tables, dining-tables etc.) and she is interested in them as actual things. She is not too popular with the OOO crowd either!

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  8. terenceblake says:

    Thanks for the reference, I haven’t read it. You may also be interested in this post (a sort of sequel): http://terenceblake.wordpress.com/2012/11/02/bruno-latours-table-cognitive-dissonance-and-the-limits-of-scientism/

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