Does ‘ontology’ matter?

At Social EpistemologyZsuzsa Gille questions whether ontological positions on ‘matter’ have any necessary ‘political valence’ – in response to a piece by Myra Hird on indeterminacy and waste. I find it quite peculiar that people do still make arguments which presume that ontological claims have political significance – mainly, because the significance that they are meant to have always ends up looking a little predictable: things could be different, things are a little bit contingent, things are open to transformation, and by all sorts of influences, things could be more inclusive. Not sure one really needs a strong or even a weak ontology to find those sorts of ideas persuasive – the presumption that one does need ‘ontology’ to open up new political possibilities perhaps tells us more about what people think politics is, rather than what ‘ontology’ is good for.

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One thought on “Does ‘ontology’ matter?

  1. “… the presumption that one does need ‘ontology’ to open up new political possibilities perhaps tells us more about what people think politics is, rather than what ‘ontology’ is good for.”

    Yes!

    I really think that politics in any sense is hugely underdetermined by ontology in its philosophical sense. I mean: unless your position on ontology is that the world is essentially unchanging and unchangeable (unlikely) then … I really don’t see that there are strong connections here. I find squabbles over ontology that boil down to thinly-veiled debates about where the participants stand politically really frustrating.

    I don’t think it makes one a dualist about the social vs physical worlds to maintain that politics functions at a pretty separate conceptual level from ontology. I used to try to make these sorts of connections but I’m sceptical now, for exactly the reasons you give.

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