Here’s one of the participants at the AAA’s ontology panel, McGill anthropologist Eduardo Kohn, applying ontological speculation — including Peirce and biosemiotics — to animals and forests:
Tag Archive: ontology
For interdisciplinary scholars, it’s always a challenge to decide which conferences to attend and which to forgo. The problem is particularly acute when the conferences are held at the same time, as occurred last week with the annual meetings of the American Anthropological Association (AAA) and American Academy of Religion (AAR).
As I’ve been attending both of them off and on for years, the decision hinged for me around the fact that I had organized the Latour session at the AAR.
Latour himself, however, would be attending the AAA. (We tried to get him to bilocate, but didn’t succeed.) And it turns out that his session, “The Ontological Turn in French Philosophical Anthropology” — featuring an all-star cast of Philippe Descola, Marshall Sahlins, Michael M. J. Fischer, Kim Fortun, and Latour — was scheduled for the very same time as our panel.
I’ve always been more of an improviser than a long-range planner, but my job requires that I occasionally dabble in long-range projections of my work. Here’s one.
While a number of concerns have framed my scholarship over the years — ethical, political, cultural, ecological, and theoretical concerns — the philosophical core of it has been solidifying around a certain conceptual machine, which I am setting to work in different contexts.
In response to my Dharma of file sharing post, visual artist Tom Gokey, whose work readers may know from Speculations journal, shared a link to his video on “Public Libraries, 3D Printing, FabLabs, and Hackerspaces.” It is… stunning in its implications. Just watch.
The democratization of production? The total plasticization of the world?
A new book by Tim Ingold is always good news, especially one that — like his 2000 collection Perception of the Environment — brings together several years’ worth of work into one volume. Ingold describes Being Alive: Essays on Movement, Knowledge and Description as “in many ways” a “sequel” to that earlier book, and it’s interesting to examine the territory he’s traversed since then.
Chris Vitale has a nice post up on Deleuze’s Bergsonian notion of the image as a “slice of time,” or a “slice of the world” — which for Deleuze amounts to more or less the same thing. In a similar spirit, I thought I’d post briefly about a Whiteheadian notion of time.
Normally when we think of slicing into time to depict a moment of it, we tend to think of it as a linear flow. Slicing into time is like slicing into bread: what’s on the left of the slice is the past (for westerners and others who read from left to right), what’s on the right is the future, and the slice itself is where we’re at right now. The world as it appears to us is a cross-section of the loaf.
Or a better metaphor, since we’re in motion, might be a train moving forward on the track of time: the tracks ahead of us are the future, those behind are the past, and the train is us.
This is the second post in a series on the intersections between ecology, ontology, and politics. (The first reviewed Andrew Pickering’s The Cybernetic Brain.) Here I focus on integral ecologist Sean Esbjörn-Hargens‘s article An Ontology of Climate Change: Integral Pluralism and the Enactment of Multiple Objects. This post can also serve as a prelude to the cross-blog reading group on Esbjörn-Hargens‘s and Michael Zimmerman’s Integral Ecology, to begin in May of this year. The next entry in this series will look more directly at Integral Theory founder Ken Wilber’s relationship with the ideas of process philosopher Alfred North Whitehead.
Ecology, ontology, politics: These three terms are among the most common themes of this blog, but their intersections deserve a more sustained exploration. This is the first of a series of posts that will do that through critical discussion of various readings and concepts.
This first post reviews and reflects on some of the questions raised by Andrew Pickering’s latest book The Cybernetic Brain: Sketches of Another Future (Univ. of Chicago Press, 2010). The next two posts will examine the integral theory of Sean Esbjörn-Hargens as applied to climate change, and integral theory pioneer Ken Wilber’s critique of process philosopher Alfred North Whitehead.
To the extent that ontological questions drive my recent writing (which includes Ecologies of the Moving Image, Ecologies of Identity, and a metaphysical manifesto-thriller called Why Objects Fly Out the Window), they are predominantly the following two:
- How do things enter into relation with other things?
- What happens (in the world) when they do?
In other words, I’m grappling with the nature of events, which I would define as new relational processes arising unpredictably from the encounter of previously unconnected processes. View full article »
Tim Morton seems not to have liked my comment suggesting that reality is a mix of stability and instability, and that stability is an achievement rather than a default position.
The universe, I would say, is an achievement as well. His much-loved (?) lava lamps are achievements, as are Graham Harman‘s Lego blocks. They don’t fall from the sky; they are made into objects that withstand a fairly high degree of turbulence in their environments. Humans have become great producers of such things — of things that can be shipped all the way from China (as Leonard Cohen used to sing) and that work for a little while according to their instructions, before we tire of them and order next year’s model.
But even in a world without humans, there are achievements aplenty: planets and galaxies (amazing achievements, they); oceans teeming with life, some of it organized into social groups; and ecosystems, geological formations, bacterial networks, individual organisms, and all the rest. Even the things that do fall from the sky — asteroids and meteorites, for instance — are achievements, though the more impressive achievement is the atmosphere that protects those other things from the onslaught of the meteorites. They all take a fair bit of work being made and maintained — not necessarily work by “themselves” (though that, too), but work on a multitude of levels and scales. And they are all in process (or, to be more precisely, in various kinds of process), always modulating between stability and instability but, fortunately (for us) crafting enough stabilities to make a pretty richly diverse world possible. View full article »