Ontography in (and out of)

How far back to place a person’s beginning—whether at birth or conception or somewhere between—is up for grabs, because the utility of the word ‘person’ has not hinged much on that detail until recent times.

—W. V. Quine, 1986

Quine’s economy appears to have been matched only by his sophistry, for we may hinge more upon “the word ‘person’” than his dry wit would lead the laity to believe—at least insofar as our conceptions of its meaning are further “up for grabs” than the meanings of our conception. Should we strive for some sort of scientific realism, we are apt to “place a person’s beginning” at neither of Quine’s termini—post quem nor ante, nor “somewhere between”—but a further anterior terminus a quo, along with the makings of our humbly spinning orb, its neighbors and ours, near and far in space and time.

[cont’d:] A point that has seemed strangely in need of being driven home is that it is simply a question of the human use of the word ‘person’, whether the actual use or some use that is being proposed. It is not a question of discerning a hitherto undiscovered meaning of the word ‘person’. Words, as Humpty Dumpty appreciated, are no more than we make them.

By goading all the King’s horses (and a few of his men), we aim to drive such specimens as “person”, “interest” and “utility” into the conceptual corral—with any luck, without crushing their shells underhoof: from Humpty Dumpty to Heidegger, from the germinal to the terminal, from theory to praxis—but perhaps we’re getting ahead of ourselves . . .



a Nutshell (or three)

1. The Evolution will not be Relativized

      1.1 “A thing is identical with itself.”

      1.2  of animals from the other pieces

      1.3  predesterminationisms

2. You can’t get Then from Here

      2.1  dead reckoning

      2.2  we used to think “we used to think”

      2.3  panopticonomata

3. We will Never have been Postmodern

      3.1  the sordid boon of freedom

      3.2 “The spirit is a bone.”

      3.3  your knowledge of Jacques is always-already foreclosed


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