How Better to Register the Agency of Things: Ontology

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Lecture Details

Yale Tanner Lecture 27th of March 2014

The tools I offered yesterday come from semiotics broadly conceived, that is, from an attention to the textuality of the accounts provided by the many disciplines of natural philosophy or of scholarship. Even though it is slightly irritating for many scientists to be reminded of such an elementary fact, they all do write accounts of what has happened in the various set-ups they have built with great care and at great expense. This is true no matter if they deal with the mathematical formalism of ant colonies, expeditions on the canopies of the Amazon forest, visualization of neuron firing in the hippocampus, survey research on gender discrimination, etymology of the word “pragmaton” in Aristotle’s philosophy or the immensely long history of air bubbles trapped in Antarctic ice cores. They all have, in the end, to write a report. It is this common concentration on the production, assemblage, collation, gloss and summary of textual documents that allows all of us, as members of what I still want to call a “university”, inside our various scriptoria (or better “screentoria”!) to say that we are the sons and daughters of exegesis — so many scribes interpreting the traces left on disjointed documents through the careful application of our shared interpretative skills.