Relative realities, theoretical sensitivities

Annemarie Mol’s take on empirical philosophy:
Science studies brought the sciences down to earth. Instead of accepting the existence of ‘universals’, it explored how facts relate to local practices and what it takes to transport them. This is to not say that ‘it all depends from which side you look at it’. For reality-in-practice is not the focus point of many perspectives, but rather variously enacted, variously done. An anatomists enacts a body as a three dimensional substance; a physiologists as a set of processes. When a patient has pain upon walking, a surgeon may (anatomically) operate on her arteries while a physiotherapists will rather (physiologically) encourage her to train her walking. In this context, to say that bodies are multiple is not just a theoretical move, but also an interference with a (medical) world where some versions of reality (more static, easier to measure) tend to win out over others (more fluid, more relevant to daily life). It allows for ontological politics. With which repertoires do we order the world?
Additional questions present themselves. How, in combination with realities, are goods and bads being done? How are processes being ordered – e.g. in the linear mode of decisions and choices that depend on control; or in the iteratively tinkering mode that befits care? And what about spatialities: how do varied local sites and situations relate?
In my talk I will not answer these questions extensively, but lay them out in some detail to argue that philosophy of (or in) the social sciences should not aim to lay foundations. Rather than offering handholds, we better foster inquisitiveness, engage in explorations and cultivate everyone’s sensitivities.

One response to “Relative realities, theoretical sensitivities

  1. Reblogged this on Installing (Social) Order and commented:
    Annemarie Mol’s take on empirical philosophy; I saw this talk, or a nearly identical one, when she later gave it at Københavns Universitet this fall. There is a thread to be curious about, however, and that is a comment she made during the Q&A of the session I attend. I asked: “I have read much of your work and recall words like “ontology,” “multiplicity,” and so on, which are now missing in your new work — why?” Mol’s answer, roughly paraphrased: “I like to keep things fresh so now I use “onto-norms”…” I thought: that’s a little odd, but perhaps new concepts for every new project has some appeal, but the “I don’t like them anymore” or “I prefer fresh concepts” just strikes me as more of an aesthetic decision than anything else, not that I dislike aesthetic decisions, but it just struck me as odd in a talk about empirical philosophy.

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