Objects and their environments: From Aristotle to ecological ontology

In The Life and Motion of Socio-Economic Units. Taylor and Francis (2001)
Abstract
What follows is a contribution to the theory of space and of spatial objects. It takes as its starting point the philosophical subfield of ontology, which can be defined as the science of what is: of the various types and categories of objects and relations in all realms of being. More specifically, it begins with ideas set forth by Aristotle in his Categories and Metaphysics, two works which constitute the first great contributions to ontological science. Because Aristotle’s ontological ideas were developed prior to the scientific discoveries of the modern era, he approached the objects and relations of everyday reality with the same ontological seriousness with which scientists today approach the objects of physics. We shall seek to show that what Aristotle has to say about these commonsensical objects and relations can, when translated into more formal terms, be of use also to contemporary ontologists. More precisely, we shall argue that his ideas can contribute to the development of a rigorous theory of those social and institutional components of everyday reality – the settings of human behavior – which are the subject of this volume. When modern-day philosophers turn their attentions to ontology they begin not with Aristotle but rather, in almost every case, with a set-theoretic ontology of the sort which is employed in standard model-theoretic semantics. Set-theoretic ontology sees the world in atomistic terms: it postulates a lowest level of atoms or urelements, from out of which successively higher levels of set-theoretic objects are then constructed. The approach to ontology to be defended here, in contrast, starts not with atoms but with the mesoscopic objects by which we are surrounded in our normal day-to-day..
Keywords identity  change  ecology psychology  J. J. Gibson
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