File spoon-archives/bhaskar.archive/bhaskar_2001/bhaskar.0106, message 9

Date: Fri, 15 Jun 2001 10:35:56 +0200
Subject: Re: BHA: real "essences" of "things"


I would like to ask a few questions about these concepts (metaphors?):

what is a "thing"? is everything a "thing"? for example: women, men,
nations, racism?

and what is the "essence" (or "nature"?) of women, men, racism?

is it really necessary to talk about the "essence" of wo/men, racism
etc  if we want to analyse social relations and structures (and I
presume that for social sciences the examples of frogs and dogs and
birds are not verry helpful) in a non-relativistic way?

Best regards,

Hans P wrote:
> Hi Ruth,
> There seems to be two sides of such a stance.  (1) the (neo-)Kantian view
> that exploits the ontological/epistemological ambiguity in coming to Know a
> thing's "essence" and (2) the nihilistic view that rejects the very
> ontological status of essences.
> In that you state your interlocutor maintains modern science has itself done
> away with any "talk" of essences, I take it that (s)he is employing the
> epistemological/ontological ambiguity to deny their existence, i.e. arguing
> from (1) to establish (2) (a rather common postmodern strategy).
> A stronger claim for the nihilistic stance would be to exploit time/change
> dimensions, that is essences evolve, develop or change through time, hence
> what was believed, or in fact once was, essential to thing, is no longer
> essential.  Suggesting an analytical mistake or categorical error ...
> Nonetheless it seems to me none of this does away with a thing having an
> essence.  It just makes its that much harder for human beings to come to Know
> a thing's essence.  Questions I like to pose to the postmodern mind is
> something like this:  puppies don't grow up to be frogs, how do I know this?
> Even the most modern of experimental scientists do not jump out of airplanes
> without parachutes, why?
> The ontological/epistemological ambiguity necessiates Transcendental
> arguements and reasoning (at least) for estabilishing a *philosophical
> ontology*.  However, they will not relieve the epistemological anxieties of a
> *scientific ontology* (this necessitates science itself, experimental
> activity, [historical] constrastives, and abstraction).  They do offer a very
> broad ontological boundary to work within.
> The time/change problem is more difficult, nonetheless I am not convinced
> that it denies essences.  Rather it seems to necessitate dialectical logic, a
> conception of internal relation, and highlights the (ontological) role of
> contradiction and emergence.
> Hans D
> In a message dated 01-06-14 10:21:31 EDT, you write:
> << Hi guys,
>  I'm in the midst of an exchange with a philosopher here who asked what I
>  thought was an interesting question.  I responded, but I'm curious as to
>  what others might have said.  My interlocutor suggested that modern
>  experimental science has itself done away with any pre-Newtonian talk of
>  "essences" in virtue of which things occur -- that the ontology of RTS, at
>  least, is at odds with the substantive findings of natural scientists.
>  Any takers?
>  Ruth
>   >>
>      --- from list ---

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