Wednesday, October 03, 2018

Ontological coherence

Leaving Umeå just before the first snow falls, I am reminded of how fond I have become of the High North and its serenity, even as I could not be more excited about the coming days in Malmö. Hopefully, I will have a chance to catch up with old friends, go for a run along the seafront and also make some progress with the 200+ exams I have to mark.

In his 1996 article in the Humboldt Journal of Social Relations, Douglas Porpora concludes that he stands “unpostmodernistically with those who seek ontological coherence”. To me, part of the beauty with the social world has always been the very impossibility of such coherence, that "there is a crack in everything” to speak with Leonard Cohen and that, whatever scheme or system we come up with, there will always be contradictions and surprises.

Still, I understand that many social scientists find it stressful that the world is so messy and that our ideological lenses determine so much of what we see (and not see), at least until they consider how boring and ethically meaningless it would be to live if the social world was indeed law-like and deterministic. Nevertheless, preparing for being discussant this afternoon has forced me to think hard about issues that I rarely engage with outside my introduction classes to the philosophy of science. What always complicates these issues for me is their close association with other fundamental ontological questions about existence more generally and how the human condition should be understood in relation to any transcendental domain.

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