Science and Ontology

Beistegui, Miguel de. 2005. “Science and Ontology.” Angelaki 10 (2): 109–122. doi:10.1080/09697250500417316. Miguel de Beistegui argues for philosophy's need to take science into account science in its epistemologies and ontologies. He praises the different approaches of Merleau-Ponty and Simondon as exemplars of productive encounters between philosophy and science. Beistegui quotes Merleau-Ponty: "Modern science often criticizes itself and its own ontology" (112). Beistegui claims science inspires a shift in Merleau-Ponty's philosophy to areas beyond the object—a focus on the "excess" to what is apparent in "organized and fully differentiated reality" (119). Beistegui argues that Simondon's rejection of ontologies of form, matter and substance originate with Merleau-Ponty's attempts to overcome these ontologies. For Simondon, phenomenology already begins with constituted beings and forms, and instead one must look to a preindividual state from which an individual and its milieu (sites of phenomenological perception) emerge. Simondon focuses on processes, systems and structures, language pulled from science according to Beistegui. Similarly, Simondon's ontology is based upon physical and biological individuation as described by science, as such it is a philosophical system created in dialogue with science.

Beistegui's general point is that philosophers must be in constant dialogue with contemporary science to move philosophical systems of understanding forward. For philosophy "remains philosophy to the extent that it develops an eye for what science itself cannot see, and yet discloses" (121). However, Simondon's interest was not just science and technology. He also wrote about aesthetics, affects, and technics—which he clearly distinguishes from science. As such, Beistegui privileges science too much and does not bring it back into a full dialogue with culture via philosophy—which I believe Simondon would object to. I will use this article, along with others, to situate Simondon's work within a broader philosophical discourse. It is important to keep in mind Simondon's focus on philosophy as a system for individuating thought.