University of Exeter. At the time of writing, the author was at the University of Illinois.
In The Mangle of Practice (1995) I argued for a specific ontological vision of the world and of our place in it, a vision in which both the human and the nonhuman are recognised as open-endedly becoming—taking on emergent forms in an intrinsically temporal ‘dance of agency.’ Here I seek to enrich and extend that vision, beginning from some different places. I first discuss the paintings of Piet Mondrian and Willem de Kooning as exemplars or icons of, respectively, a Modern dualist ontology and a non-Modern mangle-ish ontology. Echoing Martin Heidegger, I argue that the Mondrianesque stance (1) is associated with projects of domination and (2) veils our true, de Kooning-like, ontological condition from us. My second example concerns the struggles of the US Army Corps of Engineers with the Mississippi River. Again, these exemplify a project of domination and control, now including scientific knowledge, that is both embedded in and conceals the flow of becoming. In the second half of the essay, I ask whether it would make a difference if we adopted a stance of self-consciously acting out an ontology of becoming. I argue that it would, drawing upon examples from the arts, religion and philosophy, but seeking to draw attention especially, and contra Heidegger, to branches of science and engineering that themselves assume an ontology of becoming. I conclude with a brief discussion of a ‘politics of experiment’ that would go with an ontology of becoming.
Chapter to be included in a forthcoming book: ‘New Ontologies,’ in A. Pickering and K. Guzik (eds), 'The Mangle in Practice: Science, Society and Becoming', Durham, NC: Duke University Press, forthcoming.