« Confusionists and superficial intellectuals move ahead while the ‘deep’ thinkers descend into the darker regions of the status quo or, to express it in a different way, they remain stuck in the mud. » Paul Feyerabend, AGAINST METHOD p53
This opposition of « confusionists » and « deep thinkers » is well illustrated by the contrast that Andrew Pickering sketches between Mondrianesque and De Kooning-like approaches in art, science, engineering, and everyday life in his article New Ontologies.
Pickering begins with the contrast between the painters De Kooning and Mondrian. Mondrian’s paintings are taken as exemplars of a dualistic approach, where the subject distances itself from the world so as to dominate it, on a transcendent plane which imposes its abstract representations on a passive matter. In contrast, De Kooning’s canvases participate in the elaboration of the work. There is a continuous interaction between the painter and the canvas resulting in the generation of new and surprising end-products: « His painting was a continual back-and-forth between perceptions of emergent effects and attempts to heighten them, leading in an open-ended fashion to canvasses that no-one, including the artist himself, could ever have planned or anticipated in advance ».
The De Kooning approach is « confusionist »: it involves an immanent, open, concrete, incarnated process of engagement in the world, and it exemplifies an ontology of becoming. The Mondrianesque approach is « deep »: it implies a closed, disincarnated, abstract, transcendent process of detachment from the world, and it exemplifies the erasure of duration and becoming. The latter corresponds to Heidegger’s notion of the technological enframing of nature (where « we humans seek to step outside nature, dominating and controlling it, challenging it forth as ‘standing reserve’ for circuits of production and consumption. At the same time we challenge ourselves forth as specific kinds of beings, as standing reserve for those same circuits. » ), while the former corresponds to the practice of unveiling.
Pickering calls for us to break the spell of Mondrian and to accept and work with, and even enjoy, the confusion of becoming. The De Kooning solution is to « imaginatively and critically explore the open-ended spaces of the world’s possibility. »