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Pigs can't fly, or can they? Ontology, scientific realism and the metaphysics of presence in international relations

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  29 April 2009

Abstract

In recent debates in IR theory a specific trend has evolved which advocates a renewed focus on matters of ontology as a way to overcome or at least to reconceptualise the divides within the field of IR that we encounter especially after the considerable widening of scope after the end of the Cold War. Responding to these claims the article sets out to provide a closer look at the different arguments presented for a renewed concern with ontology and its ramifications. With this task in mind, three particular complexes will be addressed. First, we have to identify the central claims of these new ontological approaches and assess them in respect to coherence and analytic rigour. Secondly, then, we will proceed with identifying the underlying reasons for their shortcomings which as will be shown lie with the misguided concept of ontology. If this conception is properly reworked, can indeed bring new light into otherwise protracted or even deadlocked debates.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © © British International Studies Association 2009

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References

1 Patrick Thaddeus Jackson, ‘Foregrounding Ontology: dualism, monism, and IR theory’, Review of International Studies, 34:1 (2008), p. 129.

2 Ibid., p. 130.

3 Ibid., p. 131.

4 Ibid., p. 132.

5 Colin Wight, Agents, Structures and International Relations: Politics as Ontology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), pp. 1–2 and Alexander Wendt, Social Theory of International Politics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), p. 6.

6 Wendt, Social Theory; Heikki Patomäki and Colin Wight, ‘After Post-Positivism? The Promise of Critical Realism’, International Studies Quarterly, 44 (2000), pp. 213–37; Wight, Agents, Structures and International Relations; Milja Kurki, ‘Causes of a divided discipline: rethinking the concept of cause in International Relations theory’, Review of International Studies, 32:2 (2006), pp. 189–216; Colin Wight, ‘Inside the epistemological cave all bets are off’, Journal of International Relations and Development, 10 (2007), pp. 40–56; Colin Wight, ‘A Manifesto for Scientific Realism in IR: Assuming the Can-Opener Won't Work!’, in Millennium: Journal for International Studies, 35:2 (2007), pp. 379–98; Milja Kurki, ‘Critical Realism and Causal Analysis in International Relations’, in Millennium: Journal for International Studies, 35:2 (2007), pp. 361–78; Jonathan Joseph, ‘Philosophy in International Relations: A Scientific Realist Approach’, Millennium: Journal for International Studies, 35:2 (2007), pp. 345–59.

7 For a convincing critique of such a view see Friedrich Kratochwil, ‘Of communities, gangs, historicity and the problem of Santa Claus: replies to my critics’, in Journal of International Relations and Development, 10 (2007), pp. 57–78.

8 Martin Heidegger, OntologyThe Hermeneutics of Facticity, translated by John van Buren (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1999), p. 5.

9 See for instance the excellent study by Louiza Odysseos, The Subject of Coexistence (Minneapolis: Minnesota University Press, 2007).

10 Wight, Agents, Structures and International Relations, p. 25.

11 Ibid., p. 1.

12 Ibid., p. 2.

13 Ibid.

14 Other examples of Wight's rather superficial engagement with Kratochwil's thought can be found in Wight, ‘Inside the Epistemological Cave’ and Wight, ‘Manifesto for Scientific Realism’.

15 Wight, Agents, Structures and International Relations, p. 3

16 Ibid.

17 Ibid.

18 Ibid., fn. 3.

19 Friedrich Kratochwil, Rules, Norms, and Decisions. On the Conditions of Practical and Legal Reasoning in International Relations and Domestic Affairs (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), p. 21.

20 Ibid.

21 Ibid.

22 Kratochwil, ‘Replies to my Critics’, p. 72 and Karin Fierke, Diplomatic Interventions. Conflict and Change in a Globalizing World (Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005), p. 7. FN).

23 Kratochwil, ‘Replies to my Critics’, p. 72.

24 Wight, Agents, Structures and International Relations, p. 2.

25 For this position see for instance Alexander Wendt, ‘The Agent-Structure Problem in International Relations Theory’, International Organization, 41:3 (1987), pp. 355 and 370; Alexander Wendt, ‘Constructing International Politics, International Security, 20:1 (1995), p. 75; Kurki, ‘Critical Realism and Causal Analysis’, pp. 364–65 and Joseph, ‘A Scientific Realist Approach’, p. 346.

26 Wendt, Social Theory, p. 51 and Wight, Agents, Structures and International Relations, p. 26.

27 Wendt, Social Theory, p. 22.

28 Wight, Agents Structures and International Relations, p. 29.

29 Ibid., p. 55.

30 Wendt, Social Theory, pp. 58–9.

31 Wight, Agents, Structures and International Relations, p. 26.

32 Ibid., p. 29.

33 Ibid.

34 Ibid., p. 28.

35 Ibid., p. 55.

36 Ibid.

37 Wendt, Social Theory, p. 56.

38 A perfect example for such a view is Malebranchian occasionalism.

39 W. B. Macomber, The Anatomy of Disillusion. Martin Heidegger's Notion of Truth (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1967), p. 75.

40 Wight, Agents, Structures and International Relations, p. 55.

41 Wight, Agents, Structure and International Relations, p. 19.

42 Ibid., p. 39.

43 Ibid., pp. 39–40.

44 Ibid., p. 42.

45 Ibid., p. 51.

46 Peter Winch, ‘The Idea of a Social Science and Its Relations to Philosophy’ (Abingdon: Routledge, 2008), p. 11.

47 Wight, ‘Manifesto for Scientific Realism’, pp. 379–80.

48 Charles Taylor, ‘Philosophical papers. Human Agency and Language’, 1 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), p. 218.

49 Maurice Merleau-Ponty, ‘On the Phenomenology of Language’, John O'Neill (ed.), Phenomenology, Language and Sociology. Selected essays of Maurice Merleau-Ponty (London: Heinemann, 1974), p.81.

50 Chris Lawn, Wittgenstein and Gadamer. Towards a Post-Analytic Philosophy of Language (London and New York: Continuum, 2006), p. 14–7.

51 Ibid., p. 15.

52 Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, translated by G. E. M. Anscombe (Oxford: Blackwell, 1972), p. 11 and Steven Shaviro, ‘From Language to “Forms of Life”: Theory and Practice in Wittgenstein’, Social Text, 13/14 (1986), pp. 216–36. In an IR context see also Karin Fierke, ‘Links Across the Abyss: Language and Logic in International Relations’, International Studies Quarterly, 46:3 (2002), p. 337.

53 Georgia Warnke, Gadamer. Hermeneutics, Tradition and Reason (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1987), p. 38.

54 William Blattner, ‘Existence and Self-Understanding in Being and Time’, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 56:1 (1996), p. 97.

55 Martin Heidegger, Being and Time. A Translation of Sein und Zeit, translated by Joan Stambaugh (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1996), p. 127.

56 Blattner, ‘Existence and Self-Understanding’, p. 102.

57 Ibid., p. 100.

58 Heidegger, Being and Time, p. 52. See also Hubert L Dreyfus, Being-in-the-World. A Commentary on Heidegger's Being and Time, Division I, (New Baskerville: MIT Press, 1991), p. 44.

59 Heidegger, Being and Time, p. 52.

60 Dominique Janicaud, ‘The Question of Subjectivity in Heidegger's Being and Time’, in Simon Critchley and Peter Dews (eds), Deconstructive Subjectivities (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1996), p. 49.

61 Martin Heidegger, ‘The Age of the World Picture’, in The Question Concerning Technology and Other Essays, translated by William Lovitt (New York: Harper, 1977), p. 133.

62 Wight, ‘Manifesto for Scientific Realism’, p. 392.

63 James DiCenso, Hermeneutics and the Disclosure of Truth. A Study in the Work of Heidegger, Gadamer, and Ricoeur (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1990), p. 116.

64 Macomber, Anatomy of Disillusion, p. 102.

65 For a pithy and concise treatment concerning the role of causation in IR see for instance Kurki, ‘Causes of a Divided Discipline’, pp. 189–216.

66 Heidegger, Being and Time, pp. 140–1. See also Dreyfus, Being-in-the-World, pp. 198–9.

67 Robert Sokolowski, Introduction to Phenomenology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), pp. 11–2.

68 Wight, ‘Manifesto for Scientific Realism’, p. 389.

69 Ibid., p. 383.

70 Ibid., p. 389.

71 Martin Heidegger, ‘Building Dwelling Thinking’, in David Farrell Krell (ed.), Martin Heidegger. Basic Writings from Being and Time (1927) to The Task of Thinking (1964) (London and New York: Routledge, FN) 2007), p. 348.

72 Martin Heidegger, ‘The End of Philosophy and the Task for Thinking’, in David Farrell Krell (ed.), Martin Heidegger. Basic Writings from Being and Time (1927) to The Task of Thinking (1964) (London and New York: Routledge, 2007), p. 432.

73 Martin Heidegger, ‘What is Metaphysics?,’ in David Farrell Krell (ed.), Martin Heidegger. Basic Writings from Being and Time (1927) to The Task of Thinking (1964) (London and New York: Routledge, 2007), p. 99.

74 Ibid., p. 95. A detailed critique of the modern notion of science and its conceptualisation of the world as ‘picture’ and human beings as ‘subjects’ can be found in Martin Heidegger, ‘The Age of the World Picture, in The Question Concerning Technology and Other Essays.

75 Martin Heidegger, ‘The Age of the World Picture’, in The Question Concerning Technology and Other Essays, p. 133.

76 Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, translated by D. F. Pears and B. F. McGuinness (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1961), pp. 114–5.

77 Martin Heidegger, ‘Letter on Humanism’, in David Farrell Krell (ed.), Martin Heidegger. Basic Writings from Being and Time (1927) to The Task of Thinking (1964) (London and New York: Routledge, 2007), p. 237.

78 Macomber, Anatomy of Disillusion, p. 107.

79 Karin Fierke, Changing Games, Changing Strategies. Critical Investigations in Security (Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 1998), p. 3.

80 Martin Heidegger, ‘What calls for Thinking’, in David Farrell Krell (ed.), Martin Heidegger. Basic Writings from Being and Time (1927) to The Task of Thinking (1964) (London and New York: Routledge, 2007), p. 370.

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