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Different ontologies

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The Age of “Worldviews”

In the 1920s and 1930s a theme dominated, in Germany as in France, orchestrated by Karl Jaspers Psychologie der Weltanschuungen, the intellectual scene: that of the “Vision of the world” or Weltanschauung which claimed “to determine both subjectively as lived, or objectively as a world having received a real configuration” writes Jean Greisch. Some, like Edmund Husserl and Martin Heidegger, opposed this reduction; “Philosophy as an ontology takes being as its only and true guiding theme, which obliges it to exclude “the Vision of the world” from its domain”.

Lavelle’s dialectical ontology

At the beginning of the 20th century, a French metaphysician revived the problem of Being rejected by the university. Starting in 1912, Louis Lavelle developed an ontology of the total presence of Being conceived as Act, that is to say as pure freedom. In its reflective activity, human consciousness discovers its operating center which is its act of being and once again an Act which goes beyond it and in which it participates: it is the participative intuition of Being “everywhere present entirely” in each point of the universe.

The Lavellian Being should not be understood as a being but as the totality from which all being takes its meaning. Consequently, Lavelle escapes the Heideggerian critique of the forgetting of Being. We can understand the total presence as a mille-feuille that is constantly being deepened by reflective activity. Being, initially vague and indeterminate, must be participated and presents itself as a horizon that one cannot lose sight of without canceling oneself.

Using a method that Lavelle calls reflexive dialectic, he never ceased to analyze our relationship to Being, first through the deductive analysis of the sensible, then in his great Dialectic of the Eternal Present (1928 -1951). The second volume of this dialectic, On the Act (1937), is Lavelle’s major synthesis.

Analytical ontology

Jeremy Bentham in his Of Ontology proposes to analyze what exists by applying Ockham’s Razor and to reduce certain entities to logical fictions which only exist in a secondary way (just as an addition is not an entity additional above its members). This logical project of parsimony and paraphrase (of logical retranslation) has played an important role in the ontology of analytic philosophy.

Bertrand Russell began with an ontology close to Alexius Meinong’s Theory of Objects and he initially admits any entity, universals, sets and even possible entities. Then he develops a method of paraphrase (cf. his theory of descriptions) to maintain only two types of entities, particulars (which can be analyzed as events and not as objects) and universals (Russell always remained opposed to the nominalism of the tradition of empiricism). Subsequently, he even reduces particular events to “bundles” of qualities and only admits these qualities.

Willard Van Orman Quine in his article “On what there is” took up the term ontology to designate what exists according to a theory (we can thus speak of the ontology of the calculation of probabilities or the ontology of theology). He formulates a logical criterion to specify what a theory affirms as existing and what it speaks of without implying that it exists.

This criterion of ontological commitment is quantification in logic (in the sense of the theory of quantifiers in logic). To be is to be the value of a bound variable. If a theory quantifies about entities (in logic, says it is true for some entities or any entity), the theory affirms their existence. If a theory can actually find a logical construction to avoid this quantification, the theory does not assert anything.

This has several general consequences. First-order logic only quantifies over individuals and not over properties, but second-order logic would be committed to a realism of properties and then to problems of identity of these properties. Modal logic in its quantified form affirms the existence of possible worlds and individuals.

Hakim Bey’s ontological anarchism

In the Art of Chaos by Hakim Bey, the author devotes a section to a description of ontological anarchism, which is in fact a doctrine stemming from the tradition of individualist anarchism advocated by Max Stirner. This is an observation, which, starting from the failure of language, twists the neck of doctrines and advocates abandoning them all, by combating the ghosts of Stirner, such as the State, the Fatherland and Anarchy in as an abstraction, to turn it into a chaos guided by Mad Love and an unbridled passion for Life.

The ontology of Cornelius Castoriadis

Castoriadis relies on an in-depth knowledge of Western philosophical heritage and integrates the most recent achievements into his thinking. Castoriadis’ ontology comes in the form of two complementary assertions:

  1. The world lends itself indefinitely to “ensidic” organizations. Translated into everyday language, this expression refers to a universe which one might call Cartesian, where each object can be identified and classified in “clear and distinct” terms, and where the relationships between objects or classes of objects are purely logical. This is typically the universe that the scientific enterprise supports.
  2. The world is not exhausted by these organizations. We always let slip something of the real if we limit ourselves to an apprehension of the ensidic type. There exists in all realms of reality a first stratum or natural stratum which yields to ensidic organizations, but another underlying stratum, present everywhere, remains elusive in terms of ensidic logic. This stratum that Castoriadis often designates by the terms chaos, abyss, or bottomlessness is at the same time the seat of the creative power immanent in what is. Creation, under the pen and in the spirit of Castoriadis, does not mean that something is produced from nothing. As he understands it, it signifies the appearance over time of new modes of being such as life first and then being-man.

(Includes texts from Wikipedia translated and adapted by Nicolae Sfetcu)

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