Beyond the Ontology of the Ontological Turn

Thursday, 14 July 2016: 09:00
Location: Hörsaal 50 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Till JANSEN, University of Witten/Herdecke, Germany
According to Aspers (2014), the ontological turn lacks consciousness about its own ontological assumptions and does not theorize ontology adequately. It starts with a whole ontology of actors and practices and other theoretical elements that are taken for granted. Ontology is reduced to the social construction of actors – what basically makes the ontological turn a new version of social constructivism. Accordingly, the ontological turn today is not able to actually do what it claims: proposing a sociology beyond classical dualisms, as it is caught within its own ontology: “Such an approach will do little but perform ontology” (p.4).

However, the notion of an ontological turn may offer what it aims at, if we build a theory upon the very notion itself and do not think of ontologies as some part of a bigger (scientific) ontology. However, this would mean to build a theory of the social without an ontology of the very subject – which leaves us only with the possibility of a purely formal theory. Drawing on Hegels and Gotthard Günthers work on logic, we may conceptualize social order as compounds of closed, yet interconnected and self-animated logical spheres (contextures), each of which displays a positive side (ón) and a negative side (lógos). As contextures are conceptualized ontologically indifferent, they avoid e.g. the distinction of immateriality and materiality, language and world. Furthermore, they would not be something produced by actors. Rather an actor would be regarded as such a self-animated ontology – which could empirically be anything, be it human actors, ghosts, machines, organizations or hybrids that produce their own order. In consequence, we would not study how human actors struggle with ontologies, but how ontologies struggle with themselves and each other. The human actor would only be one empirical form of such an ontology.