Abstraction as Dissection of a Flat “Ontology”: The Illusiveness of Levels (Paper)


…while an ontology based on relations between general types and particular instances is hierarchical, each level representing a different ontological category (organism, species, genera) [or strings, quarks, baryons], an approach in terms of interacting parts and emergent wholes leads to a flat ontology, one made exclusively of unique, singular individuals, differing in spatio-temporal scale but not in ontological status.

The following discussion, however, seeks to go further than DeLanda’s account of hierarchy, extending it to all entities of spatio-temporal entities, thus the interjection of “strings, quarks, baryons” into the quote. That this extension is natural should be clear once van Fraassen’s role in this level-denying consilience. Furthermore, van Fraassen’s account will be employed to illustrate why any level-like organization attributed to the components of an explanation has no bearing on the explanation, and arises due to two things:

1) erroneously clumping together all types of belief statements into a single branch of philosophy that deals with knowledge, and

2) attempting to stratify the causal thicket that is the world, so as conform the produce of scientific enterprise with monism and fundamentalist predilections.

Finally, there is one other way in which the account differs from DeLanda’s flat ontology, when touching upon Kant’s antinomy of teleology: the idea that levels of mechanisms telescopes to a flat ontology, as every part and whole enjoys the same status in a scientific explanation, and only differ in size.


Figure: The larger arrows point toward the conclusion of consilience. The smaller arrows suggest relationships that create cooperation toward the thesis. The blue bubbles represent the positive web of notions that cohere, and the red bubbles are those notions that are excluded from web. The red arrows indicate where the ideas not included in the web arise, and the totality of this paper works toward a final explication as to why these are to be excluded. There are a few thin blue lines that are not included, because they would make a mess of the image, such as a line connecting abstraction and James’ pragmatism. However, the paper (Abstraction as Dissection of a Flat Ontologythrough) endeavors to make these connections clear, for example, quoting James to show that James presents an idea that seems a precursor to Cartwright’s notion of abstraction. (Note: Yellow lines are really blue lines, but are yellow to avoid confusion that might ensue from blue lines passing through blue bubbles. Green lines are to indicate additivity. The red lines denote notions not connected to the web, yet bear some relation to ideas in the web.) 


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