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Sunday, 24 April 2011

Oriented metaphysics

Been thinking a bit about orientation, inspired by Sara Ahmed's Queer Phenomenology. Orientation is maybe a very interesting idea to import from phenomenology as there is no composition without orientation. In fact, the very notion of home (and the alien) is central to debunk a view from nowhere: there is no view without orientation - that is not blind, or mute... Orientation is provided by forms like space and time or by concepts that would allow us to recognise the traces of our pets or the smell of our workplace. But orientation is not concept-driven. (Yet, it is not enough to provide full-fledged content). Ticks, mammals, trees, salt, planets, train tracks and fire have orientation. It is, also, a way to think of the double modes of existence of properties (or features, or affordances) suspected by C. B. Martin: dispositional and categorical, functional and manifest. Something can be oriented towards a squared wood surface either as a categorical square or as a component for a fitting table.

In fact, orientation is related to directedness, what Molnar sees in intentionality. But it generalises the idea somehow. And provides a way to put together indexicality and perspectives (or dispositions, thought in terms of intentionality): Perry's essential indexical is the irreducible orientation. If all thought is de re, all thought is crucially and irreducibly oriented (or orientated). To think of oriented objects is to think about de re objects: like me, like here, like hot, like liquid. It is an ontology of neighbourhoods: anything is a bundle of its neighbours. This is maybe what interests me: an ecological element to everything, what always responds to their surroundings throughout. Relations of neighbourhood (contact, contagion, immanence) are the origin of any causal power - and this is how I am somehow attracted by occasionalist attempts to vindicate some mitigated form of actualism.

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