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[Xmca-l] Re: Time, Imagination, Metaphor

Hi Greg!

Post-modernism certainly makes the case that things mean different things to different folks doing different things, and now it appears ontology also means something different now too!

I must offer a thing that may make all these other things a little nuanced:

First, I agree that the subject and the object dualism must be readdressed to move away from the Objective Reality Which Is Really Fiction. One way to challenge this is to say that there is no Objective Reality and that there is only Subjective Reality interpreting objects as they come along, which indicates that there are an infinite number of realities present and apparent. I don't know how this can work effectively, because somehow there must be commonality or agreed-upon terms and realities, a kind of Social Contract pertaining to objects, always available for reevaluation.

Second, I would like to propose a different way to look at this. Rather than isolating the subject or the object, and emphasizing that, perhaps what is more important is the Context in which the subject and object are located. That is, the environmental factors, which would include culture.

In other words, the ontology can still maintain something of the classical definition, but there can be an expansion to include where the object is located in space and time. Much of these indicators are not captured in language explicitly, but implied in the cultural setting. So I think what this means is that everything about meaning can't be captured by language, and that language is an important piece, but not the only piece (Not that anyone is saying that here).

For example, no one living would recall that Edward Muybridge created the stop-photography of the galloping horse because he was hired by Mr. Stanford to help settle a bet whether or not a galloping horse's hooves are ever up off the ground at point it its gait. When people think about Muybridge they think about the objects he produced, the photographs. 

But that wager was the originating context of that work, between two tycoons, no doubt. From that whim discovery of a new world of action was revealed, in which the flow of the world was made available for visual inspection that without the tool of the camera had been beyond our perception. Of course out of that came the invention of moving pictures and the film industry. 

That world was always there. Horses have galloped in the world for as long as they could gallop, and that fact of being up off the ground was also present in the world. We just didn't know about it. Just like we may have forgotten the wager that was the genesis of the stop-action photographs.

What does this have to do with the price of fish?

Well, I mean to impress the idea that it isn't necessarily the object (in this case the photograph) that changed, but the environment in which it was used and purposed. The subjects not possessing understanding about the nature of the photograph didn't have preconceived notions about it, and so ignorance was a virtue. But when we look back at these objects, they have changed in meaning.

Furthermore, I'd say that contexts not being made available in the language might have evolved in this manner because it makes language ecological not to include them. They are implied between the speaker and the listener.

Unfortunately, this absence of context creates more conflict about meaning than the notion of an objective definition. It would be analogous to the various photographs taken by Muybridge. If one party sees the horse never leaving the ground and another party sees the horse leaving the ground, each party could point to a different photograph to assert one's claim. But the horse is in motion, it is both up off the ground and on the ground. These points of contact (an individual photograph) to a given context is not only difficult to capture in language, it is difficult to show that they actually change. 

And so people are left making wagers without a method of stop-photography to show not only the differences but also the flow of change, or even the acceleration of change. Each of these transitions create different problems. And there are all these unanswered bets on what is really (emphasis on real) going on here between subjects and objects!

I propose that we require a system in which to encapsulate contexts, a kind of stop-action photography for language, by which to frame and determine these points of meaning and how they ebb and flow in time and space. Does this exist? If not, I would like to invent it, with a little help from my friends. This it the thing I would like to offer as a possibility.

On that happy note, I would like to ask you Greg, would you mind to provide to me a few articles that encapsulate this new understanding of ontologies in the last 20 years to which you refer? 

This could be added to the ABC!

Kind regards,


From: xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu <xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu> on behalf of Greg Thompson <greg.a.thompson@gmail.com>
Sent: Saturday, December 20, 2014 2:28 PM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: Time, Imagination, Metaphor

terms, terms, terms.
Just wanted to mention that there are different understandings of this term
"ontological". The classic understanding of "ontological" is that it refers
to the "real" nature of things in time and space.

But there is a new understanding of "ontological" that has come up in the
social sciences in the past 20 years or so that takes seriously the
possibility of "plural ontologies" - i.e. that there may be different
"reals" constituted by people in different times and places - all of them
"real" (if perhaps "real" in different ways). The hope of this literature
is to get beyond subjective/objective dualism that is implied in the
classical formulation of "ontological".

I feel that these are important considerations to keep in mind so that we
don't talk too much past each other. I think that it is also important to
keep these in mind so that we can appreciate how the concerns of XMCA folks
might intersect with current conversations in social theory.