Contemporary Relational Philosophies

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Otto Paans:

"Relatively new sciences like ecology and environmental toxicology are already departing from from an exclusive reliance on mathematical modelling, although this still plays a central role. Be that as it may, the underlying issue is now how to replace atomistic thinking and inventing a new form of cognitive representation that adequately addresses the problems that we face at the beginning of the 21st century. In recent years, there have been interesting developments in thinking about objects from a mereological rather than decompositional standpoint.

Examples in this philosophical orientation are

  • Object-Oriented Ontology (OOO),
  • Actor-Network Theory (ANT),
  • Speculative Realism,
  • Onticology, and
  • new ecological thought.

All these new developments have one thing in common: they reject the easy, hard-and-fast distinction between part and whole in favor of relationality. Once one lets go of the idea that every compound entity is constituted by easily definable parts that can be removed and re-assembled at will, one has made the first step in leaving the mechanistic worldview behind. This does not mean that its utility as such is questioned, but simply that its area of application is constrained to the domain where it is actually useful, appropriate and informative. All areas in which the scientistic, mechanistic, and materialist/physicalist commitment to atomism led to oversimplification can be revisited with a new, and more appropriate set of concepts in mind. An outstanding example is the field of design science, that, as we saw, had been forcibly shoehorned into the natural mechanist worldview, only to discover its own nature rather recently."