IS ONTOLOGY MAKING US STUPID? This is the title of my paper given at Bernard Stiegler’s Summer Academy. In it I consider the ontologies of Louis Althusser, Graham Harman, and Paul Feyerabend.
Abstract: I begin by « deconstructing » the title and explaining that Feyerabend does not really use the word « ontology », though he does call his position sometimes (and the « sometimes » is important) ontological realism. I explain that he talks about his position as indifferently a « general methodology » or a « general cosmology », and that he seems to be be hostile to the very enterprise of ontology, conceived of as « school philosophy ». I then go on to say that there is perhaps a concept of a different type of ontology, that I call a « diachronic ontology » that perhaps he would have accepted, and that is very different from ontology as ordinarily thought, which I claim to be synchronic ontology (having no room for the dialogue with Being, but just supposing that Being is already and always there without our contribution). So I discuss Althusser and Graham Harman as exemplifying synchronic ontology, giving a reading of Harman’s THE THIRD TABLE. I then discuss Feyerabend’s ideas as showing a different way, that of a diachronic ontology, in which there is no stable framework or fixed path. I end with Andrew Pickering whose essay NEW ONTOLOGIES makes a similar distinction to mine, expressing it in the imagistic terms of a De Kooningian (diachronic) versus a Mondrianesque (synchronic) approach.
Interesting, Terry. I’ve just been looking through A.O. Lovejoy’s classic The Great Chain of Being which is, as you know, a history of that most static of ontologies, the Great Chain. What interests me is that, according to Lovejoy, one of the driving conceptual principles behind that GCB is plenitude, which sounds an aweful lot like abundance. Thing, as the GCB fell apart as an ongoing enterprise during the late 18th & early 19th centuries. And it fell apart over temporality. Becoming upstaged Being. And also Darwinism, though Lovejoy doesn’t mention it.
So maybe we’ve got to go even deeper than diachronic ontology.
Yes Bill, but there is a big difference between intra-paradigmatic abundance and the abundance of paradigms. The Great Chain of Being has plenitude as one of its driving principles OK!, but it does not envision the existence of other incommensurable understandings of Being. The same goes for Darwinism, which itself is just one paradigm. I am not merely advocating an ontology that contains becoming, but a diachronicity of ontology itself, and also of Being. As for going deeper, be my guest, de profundis non est disputandum!
Yes, the Living Cosmos spins forth Being upon Being, ontology from ontology from ontology, without end.
Ping : Dying To The Alienations1 | mouth of the thread
Ping : Dying to the alienations 3 | mouth of the thread
If you are to draw a diagram, I wonder where « cronies » and « fish » can be. Are they part of « diachronic ontology » or « synchronic ontology » or the fray zone? Or elsewhere (the outside) in a sense that they are on the way towards your creation of concepts? Can you help?
Reblogged this on mouth of the thread and commented:
I wonder where “cronies” and “fish” can be in a diagram of Two Ontologies: Diachronic vs Synchronic. Are they part of “diachronic” or “synchronic” or the fray zone (in the middle)? Or elsewhere (the outside) in a sense that they are part of Terence’s creation of concepts?
« Concepts are not waiting for us ready-made, like heavenly bodies. There is no heaven for concepts. » — Giles Deleuze in What is Philosophy?
Great quote that I want to meditate while reading Is Ontology Making Us Stupid? https://www.academia.edu/1955628/IS_ONTOLOGY_MAKING_US_STUPID
Cronies are the fish in the water who do not know they are in water. This image is a combination of David Foster Wallace’s notion in THIS IS WATER and of Bernard Stiegler’s idea that we are like flying fish going with the current, who may sometimes jump out of the water and see it for what it is and so change direction if they choose, only to fall back in again, till their next jump. I talk about it here, but in French: https://terenceblake.wordpress.com/2012/05/08/poisson-noetique-david-foster-wallace-et-lindividuation/.