Thursday, December 08, 2016
In e-flux, Geert Lovink interviews Yuk Hui.
In his debut, Yuk Hui elegantly plays with the double meaning of the word “ontologies”: on the one hand, the eternal level of the question of Being; on the other, the technical meaning of the word used by computer science to describe the hierarchies inside representations of knowledge such as metadata.
In the first decade of the century I went to a couple talks by semantic web researchers who talked about "ontologies". I asked them a couple questions about what they meant by "an ontology", and the answers were either the standard definitions of epistemology or taxonomy. They were unaware of Aristotle's contributions. Yet another indication that many researchers are too specialized and getting lost because they skipped the learning the foundations. Which surprised me a little because a decade earlier, a popular software methodology was Object-Oriented-Analysis, which reached back to Aristotle to organize digital knowledge.
The philosopher Edward Fredkin has proposed what he calls a “digital ontology,” or “digital physics,” since he takes 0 and 1 as the foundation of being, like Thales’s water, Heraclitus’s fire, or Anaximander’s apeiron. However, when we look at things from a phenomenological point of view, this digital metaphysics doesn’t do much except confirm Heidegger’s critique of technology: its essence is no longer technological but enframing (Gestell), and being is treated as a calculable standing reserve (Bestand). This is why I have proposed that we focus on the question of data as the main question of the digital.
"Digital ontology" sounds like predicate logic to me.
When Heidegger talks about Being as es gibt, the word geben is emphasized as sending (schicken), as Geschenk, and what is given presents itself and hides at the same time, as Heraclitus says in his fragments. We might say that there is Datum an sich, like Kant’s Ding an sich, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that data is a black box or that it withdraws, as some speculative realists have said. For Heidegger, only through hiding is revealing possible. And even if we say that data belongs to the noumenal world, most Chinese philosophers would disagree with Kant that humans don’t have intellectual intuition and cannot access the noumenal. This is why I wanted to turn this dead-end question of “withdrawal” and Ding an sich into a question of relations.
Reminds me of Doyle's deducer:
“Data! Data! Data!” [Holmes] cried impatiently. “I can’t make bricks without clay.”
-- The Adventure of the Copper Beeches
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