Robustitude

The final chapter of my dissertation will require me to briefly sketch out an ontology. Naturally, I’m worried that it will not be robust enough, and I will be subjected to the ridicule of my Radical Orthodox peers. (Speaking of which, is there any way we could start a movement whose name incorporates “tubular,” “cowabunga,” or both?)

The first step in achieving robustitosity is of course knowing what “robust” means in connection with ontology. Sadly, I have looked up “robustness” on Wikipedia and do not find a ready-made answer. Surely there are Radical Orthodox people — perhaps among the large youth contingent belonging to that movement, tendency, sensibility, or whatever it is — who feel comfortable editing Wikipedia, but I suspect that this omission is actually intentional: it forces me to reason by analogy.

I’m not yet participating in the truth of robustitude, however, and I need my readers’ help. What is meant by a robust ontology? How does one go about articulating an ontology that displays a suitable level of robustitude? In what specific ways is, for example, the Radical Orthodox ontology of Christianized Neoplatonism robust? Why do other ontologies fail to meet that high standard? For instance, what is non-robust about Deleuze’s ontology?

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18 Responses to “Robustitude”

  1. Daniel Lindquist Says:

    It is short for Radical Orthodox, Backed by an Unclear Standard or Test.

    So, Deleuze’s ontology is not “robust” because it is not Radical Orthodox. And all Radical Orthodox ontologies are robust.

    For proof: Suppose there is a Radical Orthodox ontology. For reasons that are not clear, but which are supposedly based on some (occult) standard or test of “robustness”, we can call it “robust” (where this is a dummy term, signifying nothing). But then the ontology is Radical Orthodox and is Backed by an Unclear Standard or Test. Hence it is robust (where this is not a dummy term, but is Very Important and crucial to being a respectable ontology).

    Also: Cowabunga Idealism is the only way of ensuring Tubular Realism for all gnarly objects of kickin’ thought.

  2. Thomas J Bridges Says:

    It seems to me that on their terms an ontology is “robust” if it has enough layers, and [some] RO folks think that Neo-Platonic ontology with more layers and pure immanence, or a univocal being. Why have simple Being (regardless of all of the fascinating deterritorializing and reterritorializing of it), when we can have a whole hierarchy of beings, with God, angels, bishops, kings, nobles, merchants, guildsmen, and serfs? But if this is the case, why not return to Homer and all of the gods? I am jesting, but I think this is really kind of what is going on at a general level – a sort of call for complexity. The question is, “why?”

  3. Thomas J Bridges Says:

    Adam,

    I apologize for being so serious, and defiling a good joke, but I should add, in case anyone would wonder: I think ontology is something (relatively) unavoidable, and I think when laying out an ontology one should be clear on whether the goal should be to correspond with reality, or create reality (though I think the latter has its limits). I think a lack of clarity on this can really blur things.

    I look forward to your ontological sketch.

    Peace,
    Thomas

  4. Alex Says:

    “God, angels, bishops, kings, nobles, merchants, guildsmen, and serfs” is the problem and this is precisely why D & G assign absolute immanence. No ontological difference, merely ethical. Nothing is worse than assigning what are nothing more than social positions (often inherited ones) as if they are neccesarily part of the very fabric of the universe itself.

  5. Thomas J Bridges Says:

    I concur with your assessment of what Deleuze/Guattari are doing (as very much a non-expert). I was merely pointing to the “layers,” which from their perspective are ethical, not ontological, as you point out.

  6. Adam Kotsko Says:

    But why layers rather than connections?

  7. Adam Kotsko Says:

    Or for that matter, why not more ice cream?

  8. Anthony Paul Smith Says:

    Well, in D&G I would argue it is more like “connections” than “layers”. But layers do exist (stratifications).

  9. Adam Kotsko Says:

    I’m not against layers per se — they just seem like a subset of connections. And so Radox people are saying, “If you notice that layers are a subset of connections rather than being the ultimate thing in ontology, you’re a nihilist.” What this has to do with Christianity is also unclear to me.

  10. Thomas J Bridges Says:

    It seems to me that Christians must distinguish between creation and Creator – that would be the fundamental ontological distinction entailed by Christian scripture.

  11. Adam Kotsko Says:

    That’s the key ontological principle in all the major debates of the patristic period as well.

  12. Anthony Paul Smith Says:

    Why though? Why must you distinguish between creation and Creator? Isn’t it somewhat anthropomorphic to ask about this? Though I’m not against anthropomorphism in some respects, but I have a very non-robust, nihilistic reason for that (ok, so it’s robust and actually not at all nihilistic).

  13. Thomas J Bridges Says:

    APS,

    I am confused, and cannot tell where (or if) you are joking.

  14. Adam Kotsko Says:

    I would say that the questions are non-jokes, the remarks about non-robustness and nihilism are jokes, and the parenthetical is back to non-joke.

  15. Daniel Lindquist Says:

    There is no reason for not more ice cream.

    I would think that layers are preferred to connections because connections can be disconnected. Layers can’t be delayered. (Because layers are abstract objects — you can turn a three-layer-cake upside down, but this doesn’t turn the layers upside down. It just makes it so that the cake has its flavors in the wrong order now. And if you put a mitre on a serf and send a bishop to farm dirt, the serf/bishops tiers remain the same. It’s just that this bishop and this serf are in the wrong places. Whereas turning the cake upside down really does change the way things are connected. D&G would then be anathema because they are not Platonists, in a variety of senses of that term. Their layers are not elements of Plato’s Heaven.)

    “Nothing is worse than assigning what are nothing more than social positions (often inherited ones) as if they are neccesarily part of the very fabric of the universe itself.” — The fabric of the universe itself lacks layers, and layers are the source of meaning (real meaning, not the historical placebo of “social positions”). Behold the nihilism. (cf. Bernard Williams’s “Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy” for a related nihilism.)

    (That last part was (partly) a joke. Though Williams is a “moral skeptic” in a bad sense, despite himself, at that period in his work. cf. John McDowell’s “Aesthetic Value, Objectivity, and the Fabric of the World”.)

    I want some ice-cream-cake now.

  16. Being, Hierarchy, and Social Ontology « La Perruque Says:

    [...] Kotsko, our friend at An und für sich, recently published an amusing post that included the following questions: What is meant by a robust ontology? How does one go about [...]


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