Thursday, August 28, 2008

What's a Diorama?

Hey you smart people, help me out. I've come across this word "ontology" a few times now, and I've looked it up and studied it a little, but I simply can't make it stick. I can't make it work for me. It feels useless and confusing.

I'm counting on you Justin, Mr. Philosophy major, to sell me on this word. When and why should I use it?

"The study of the nature of existence." Don't we have clearer, more common words for this? Isn't this science?


fulleju said...

when in doubt be greek about it.

"ontos" is the concept of existence, the infinitive "to be" and the genitive "of being" and anything at all relating to "Being"

logos, commonly interpreted as "science" or "study of" is inaccurate but convenient for our language and communication structures. more accurately "logos"(the root word of -logy suffix) should be described as "an account given via words"

So we have an account of being. But what does that mean? how does it derive its authority? well, historically, its authority comes from god...and in a quite literal sense.

In the beginning was the word (logos) and that word is God. God is Logos in Genesis 1. Think about authority, how words receive their power and in turn their meaning.

Ontology is at once an abstraction from the specific and specifies an abstraction that is, generally, phenomenological all-ness.

My advice is for you not to use this word casually, much like you probably would not like someone who knows nothing about evolution to throw it around loosely. It is a philosophical concept-word that really cannot be helpful until you see its deconstrution hidden within Kant's critique of pure reason.

so all of that was off the cuff because i haven't thought about ontology in a while and grandma just surprised me with an unannounced visit to my apartment and now she's standing behind me and she wants me to say "I miss you Jay and I look at the picture that you drew me everyday" touching.

fulleju said...

This word is not, by the way, a synonym for science. Think of it like an account of the multifaceted conceptions of reality. Its a huge umbrella under which Science and religion sit. or stand or whatever. Ontology is not a rigorous method like science, nor is it a passive dogmatism making unchecked claims; rather, it is an umbrella or frame or container or whatever metaphor you want that would sort of give context to how one might interpret existence.

If you ask "who am I?" there can be ontological responses "I am a male, I am 24 years old, I am great with the ladies" etc. Then there are epistemological responses; Descartes' cogito ergo sum "i think therefore i am" is the most famous probably.

I hope this is helpful. Philosophy hates calling itself philsophy, it is not a discipline for giving explanations but rather of asking questions and engaging in dialogue. so a philosophical explanation of ontology is impossible, but we can just keep talking ad infinitum and let the pieces fall where they may.

Jay said...

Hi Grandma!