Pickering talks about machinic ontology in a very interesting article called “Science, Contingency and Ontology” (2009). He contrasts a sort of static relativist pluralism of understandings of the world, which he calls a crystal ontology, with a more dynamical interactive pluralism based on a “machinic” ontology. Both are opposed to classical ontology’s presuppositions that (1) the world has a fixed structure, and (2) we can know this structure.

This ontology of fixity and knowability has been sometimes called into question in various ways and Pickering recounts how in following through the implications of the existence of incommensurable worldviews he was led to what he calls a crystal ontology:

« I thought of the world on the analogy of a crystal that could be split along different axes, and whose different faces displayed different patterns. Each axis, on this model, would stand for a specific paradigm that, so to speak, produces its own specific world » (p3).

The advantage of this view is that it introduces contingency into the very structure of the world, making it no longer inevitable that different traditions of research arrive at the same final result, leaving room for both modern physics and Yaqui sorcery. It has one drawback however: it reintroduces the inevitability and its premise of a fixed and knowable structure at the level of the crystal that contains these particular manifest realities and no other. Each particular manifest reality is contingent, but there is something about the structure of Being that pre-determines what manifest realities are possible and viable, and what realities are not possible. Or else it locates the source of this contingency in human language and conceptual systems. Either it gives all the responsibility for contingency to the objective structure of the world or to human construction.

T o overcome this weakness while holding on to incommensurability, paradigm-change (« truth-events », as Mehdi Belhaj Kacem calls them),  and pluralism Pickering advances the idea of « machinic ontology ». The idea is that machines and instruments (in interaction with us) latch onto the world and elicit it in various ways, translating it, for example, into the world of science. The agency is on both sides, that of the humans who construct machines and instruments as well as that of the material set-ups thus constructed. This is what Pickering calls the « dance of agency » that is constitutive of scientific research and discovery, but also of other materially engaged practices:

« this is the basic argument I made in The Mangle: science is built in dances of agency; chance is endemic to these dances; therefore one should see the state of scientific culture at any given time—meaning its fields of instruments and the facts, theories and social relations that surround them—as genuinely historical, as the product of contingent rather than necessary developments » (p5).

In this article Pickering does make a few scattered remarks about what he thinks of current educational practices from an ontological point of view. As for management practices, he elsewhere discusses Stafford Beer’s work as a partial example of the tendencies he wishes to encourage. But you can’t do everything, so I think Manuel Delanda has a similar ontology and so can be used to supplement Pickering’s ideas in the domain of the economy, for example here.

I find Pickering’s idea of the “dance of agency” conjugating both human and non-human participants ultimately more intellectually satisfying and more phenomenologically accurate than the idea that we are just passively moved by extra-human agencies, be they gods or moods à la Dreyfus and Kelly (though surely their position is more nuanced than certain of their one-sided formulations would seem to suggest). I also think that this emphasis on the relationality of human and non-human agencies, of the world as « a place of endlessly emergent performativity » (p5), is superior to the sort of « pan-mechanism » that Levi Bryant expounds, which seems to belong rather to the objective side of Pickering’s « crystal » ontology. Pickering’s emergent machinic performativity includes human agency as an essential part of its constitution. The best that an object-oriented ontology can do is to edify a crystal ontology, which both Harman and Bryant do in different ways. A final advantage is that Pickering situates himself firmly outside the ontologies of withdrawal, and elaborates an ontology of abundance.

Cet article a été publié dans Uncategorized. Ajoutez ce permalien à vos favoris.

Un commentaire pour PICKERING’S POST-HUMANIST ONTOLOGY: Beyond the Crystal World

  1. Ping : Freed Nature pt. 3: Lively things? « Naught Thought

Votre commentaire

Entrez vos coordonnées ci-dessous ou cliquez sur une icône pour vous connecter:

Logo WordPress.com

Vous commentez à l’aide de votre compte WordPress.com. Déconnexion /  Changer )

Photo Facebook

Vous commentez à l’aide de votre compte Facebook. Déconnexion /  Changer )

Connexion à %s