Ontology in diversity, or, What you see is what you get

The other day, and not for the first time, I heard the statement that science concerns itself with what “everyone can see, feel, touch and get the same results” from, and that this is why science was THE system having reality better than any other culture’s approach, because it was able to communicate truth in an unbiased way. But that is a misconception, and it refers to science, to justify the claim that science is quasi-synonymous with reality – and that’s a bias in and by itself.
Giuseppe ArcimboldoAll ontologies i.e. systems of knowledge, are cultural. Science, like all the other stories about what is true and real and knowable, is subject to interpretation, it is, on top of that, shaped by physical abilities and constraints of the observer (Six Blind And The Elephant...), and this affects especially every deduction produced from it by logic, math, theory, symbolic or language representation. This is why, and how, humans developed all those different ontologies and mythologies (incl. science) in the first place, and none of them has it any better per se; it is the cultural context that provides it with truthfulness and usefulness. If you want to fly to the moon science does a great job. If you want to live in harmony with all of creation try something like animism or Buddhism.

Where science claims exclusive access to, and representation of truth it becomes a totalitarian ideology, the religious doctrine of scientism which is holding that thought and symbolic/written representation of a scientist’s observations are more real than reality as such.

We need to be open to the fact that most of the things we thought were true, including scientific research results, have contributed to the unfortunate situation the living planet is currently trapped in, and that we need to rethink them and be open to other pathways.
Giuseppe Arcimboldo
So I am not railing against science here, I simply deny its claim for exclusive universal truth. All one has to do to falsify that claim is to immerse oneself a while in a non-materialistic culture, to understand where those people are coming from, or to practice Meditation, Contemplation, and Inquiry as proposed by Zen or mystic traditions like Sufism. I can assure you that the insights you get from there are the exact opposite of “making things up”.


Thomas Henry Pope said...

I love this, using the meaning of language to see that words and concepts get confused with reality all the time. Opinions and statements ultimately belie what they attempt to prove. (This was much of the Buddha's message and teaching.) Thanks for such deep insight, Jurgen.

pax said...

Yays, Thomas! And the funny thing is that it applies to this very article as well, and every time I say that sth is, or is not, this or that way. I have started writing a dictionary of ideas and phenomena with relation to the functioning of societies and communities. It is deliberately going to be anything but 'neutral' or 'objective', openly confessing my attempt at toppling the mainstream meaning of words. Most of those meanings are relatively new, serving the worldview of separation, and especially neoliberalism. One might as well make them imply concepts that foster more holistic understandings of existence. I run into the paradox you mentioned with every single line I write. The shape and meaning of words is wholly arbitrary and empty -- and yet, at the same time, it is so important to be conscious about how one uses language.