EDEV_504 Week 3_5

If I understand you correctly regarding your question about Doyle and Griffin, the question is whether the ontological status of a past event can be re-examined in order to re-present the data as evidence to support a future political position. Your suggestion seems to be that past events are recorded as historical states, i.e. as fixed happenings in past times, and that this state is somehow amenable to being viewed as non-fixed. (For the present purposes, we can bypass any kind of historical revisionism based on the many possible interpretations of the events themselves. That is eminently possible within a positivist and constructivist epistemology. Also, for the present purposes, the more helpful ‘being’ definitions of ‘ontic’ can be bypassed; see Wright [2015] for ‘being’ ontics. This issue here is one of ontological mutability.)

To get my head around this, I need to conceptualise this more concretely. I need to ask how would an event look different when seen both as ‘being’ and as ‘becoming’. Then, I need to consider how that event may be recorded. In doing so, perhaps I can look at the recorded version and visualise the alternative. However, Gray (2009) notes that the Parmenidean ontology of being is “composed of clearly formed entities with identifiable properties … represented by symbols, words and concepts” (p. 20). Given that ‘becoming’ ontologies are characterised by “formlessness, chaos, interpenetration and absence” (p. 20), it would seem that they are not receptive to representation. In these cases, how would they be recorded? Weinbaum (2014) describes the Platonic notion that physical matter is altered by mental ideas of form; in other words, there is “no ontological foundation to change” because change effects only the already existing materials (p. 285). On the other side, Deleuze’s ‘becoming’ ontology is summarised by Weinbaum as having ‘difference’ at the core element (p. 289). ‘Difference’ refers to the notion of flux, of continually changing realities that are not open to definitive assertions. This leads us into highly constructivist positions, beyond perhaps radical constructivist perspectives, where meaning is seen to be highly contingent on “the epistemological primacy of human-constructed perceptions, concepts, and theories” (Boden, 2001, p. 88). Maybe Gray’s (2009) observation is founded upon what actually is humanly possible. The Tao de Ching begins; “The Tao that can be trodden is not the enduring and unchanging Tao. The name that can be named is not the enduring and unchanging name” (Lao-Tse, n.d.).

Less poetically, I’d like to add that my limited knowledge and understanding of this field should not be the impetus for making strong claims against the possibility of recording ‘becoming’ ontologies. Rather, I’d very much like to see examples of them that relate to actualities and not just philosophical possibilities. I’m sorry, but at this stage, I can’t envisage how a ‘becoming’ lens may become.


Boden, M. a. (2001). Against Constructivism. Constructivist Foundations, 6(1), 84ā€“89.

Gray, D. E. (2009). Theoretical perspectives and research methodologies. In Doing research in the real world. Los Angeles: Sage.

Lao-Tse. (n.d.). The Tao Teh King, by Lao-tse. Retrieved January 25, 2016, from http://www.gutenberg.org/files/216/216-h/216-h.htm

Weinbaum, D., & Weinbaum, D. (2014). Complexity and the Philosophy of Becoming. Foundations of Science, (Article), 1ā€“40. http://doi.org/10.1007/s10699-014-9370-2

Wright, C. (2015). The ontic conception of scientific explanation. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A, 54, 20ā€“30. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.shpsa.2015.06.001

About theCaledonian

Scot living in north Japan teaching at a national university.
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