[-empyre-] Ontology again

Eugene Thacker eugene.thacker at lcc.gatech.edu
Wed Oct 24 01:28:06 EST 2007

Ontology, what ontology?:

"The question of being thus aims at an a priori condition of the possibility not
only of the sciences which investigate beings of such and such a type - and are
thereby already involved in an understanding of being; but it aims also at the
condition of the possibility of the ontologies which precede the ontic sciences
and found them. All ontology, no matter how rich and tightly knit a system of
categories it has at its disposal, remains fundamentally blind and perverts its
innermost intent if it has not previously clarified the meaning of being
sufficiently and grasped this clarification as its fundamental task."
- Heidegger, Being and Time

"We commit ourselves to an ontology containing number when we say there are
prime numbers larger than a million; we commit ourselves to an ontology
containing centaurs when we say there are centaurs; and we commit ourselves to
an ontology containing Pegasus when we say Pegasus is. But we do not commit
ourselves to an ontology containing Pegasus or the author of 'Waverly' or the
round square cupola on Berkeley College when we say that Pegasus or the author
of 'Waverly' or the cupola in question is *not*. We need no longer labor under
the delusion that the meaningfulness of a statement containing a singular term
presupposes an entity named by the term. A singular term need not name to be
significant...To be assumed as an entity is, purely and simply, to be reckoned
as the value of a variable."
- Quine, "On What There Is"

"It is absolutely necessary, for the peace and safety of mankind, that some of
earth’s dark, dead corners and unplumbed depths be let alone; lest sleeping
abnormalities wake to resurgent life, and blasphemously surviving nightmares
squirm and splash out of their black lairs to newer and wider conquests."
- Lovecraft, At the Mountains of Madness

Quoting Brian Holmes <brian.holmes at wanadoo.fr>:

 sdv at krokodile.co.uk wrote:
 > Actually I disagree with the way in which you present ontology as a
 > philosophy of being, for isn't ontology at the very least concerned with
 > the the investigation of being or existance which is disallowed by the
 > proposition that ontological work might result in an act of 'symbolic
 > murder'.

 Well, on this point I would like to appeal to the philosophers among us
 for some thoughts on ontology. I would say, ontology doesn't exist in
 the absolute, it rather names certain kinds of presuppositions about
 existence that people make and/or act upon, the point being that many
 such sets of presuppositions have been developed among the cultures and
 societies on this earth. I get the impression that you tend to find the
 most promising definition of whatever interests you and then assume that
 this is THE operative definition, for everyone. Which after all is a
 wonderful optimism!

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