John comments on the issue of objectology and politics (I am going to combine both of his comments here):
Why should every philosophy be expected to address politics just because all philosophers are affected by politics? “Ontology is play-science for philosophers,” says the I.T. post in question, and I can’t help but agree. But I don’t see why “real” scientific work should be regarded with suspicion just because scientists don’t explicitly discuss in their scientific articles the political and economic factors that influence the trajectory of their work. To the contrary: I would be particularly suspicious of chemists or physicists who claimed that their scientific work and findings were influenced by their political position.
I think, though, that the objection is more direct than that: ontology is pointless, like alchemy; go make better use of your philosophical talents.
Although John is using the term “ontology” I think it’s clear that we are talking about a very peculiar kind of ontology, i.e. objectology. Here’s what I think, and it’s going to be fairly short: there’s a fundamental difference between understanding politics as what politicians do (elections, issues, platforms and so on) and politics as a simple structure of human coexistence (polis) – this is not a novel idea or a novel distinction. I think that John means politics as as an area of political activity done by or in some relation to politicians, I think most objections to objectology are not that its members are not politically active in this sense, but in a sense that the argument seems to suggest that a reconfiguring the relationship between humans and non-humans does not have any immediate political significance or is not in itself a political activity.
Now, I know that this whole angle has been presented before – demoting human beings from their ontological pedestal and making them equal with objects does not mean objectification or diminution of humans: humans are still cool, but the stones are as well. This change in human status does not carry political consequences, it is in itself a political move because it redefined the complex web of human-human and human-nonhuman interactions, it redesigns the polis, it’s pretty self-evident, I think, but let me illustrate my point:
Imagine that I (male) decided that having one wife is so old-school and hegemonic, that this monogamous oppression has lasted for too long and that I need to change something. So I bring a second wife home and I give my wife the following speech: Listen, it’s not that you are no longer my wife and that our relationship is in any way different, it’s just that I think this woman should be my wife as well, I’m not putting you down, I’m raising her up to a new status, now everyone can enjoy me as their husband, nothing changes, you see?
Of course this is not the argument of objectology per se, something does change and changes significantly, and these changes are political (but not only these, of course, there are other aspects of this change – for example, we can ask psychological questions such as “What kind of person would say that stones are better than human? What does it tell us about her state of mind?”) because they deal with humans. Again, it’s not as if we invent an ontology first and then political implications follow, the relationship is much more complex, but it is a relationship. So is objectology breeding apolitical nihilism? I don’t think so, but it does have a political dimension as any philosophical effort that attempts to reassess the role of humans.
As for “ontology as play-science of philosophers” I think it’s quite true: take just one example – a certain objectologist describes his future book as a work in which he develops “his ontology” – how can I say my ontology? It makes about as much sense as saying “I’m currently working on formulating my physics.” If one wants to do ontology and talk about how things are without any reference to human subject, then where does this “mine” perspective come from? Ontology is ontology is ontology. Certainly there are differences of scientific opinions in mathematics and physics, but there’s also a large overlap in the sense that these people are identified as mathematicians and physicists. If you are calling yourself an ontologist and yet you do not claim any universality (or even generality), how is it anything else but your own personal (human) opinion, even if it is about nonhuman objects?
Grandpa out – John?