Relational Ontology

A relational ontology - as opposed to an individualistic one - acknowledges a basic condition: We are related to other people, to the world around us, to nature, our society and political systems, to our friends, our family and oursvelves. "The sheer variety of relations seems to make the category of 'relation' intractable", says Wildman.

Thus, related beings are both One and one (O/one). Stout 2012: 390

The main contention of a relational ontology is that the relations between entities are ontologically more fundamental than the entities themselves. One could say: the relations are primary to what they are relating to.

This contrasts with substantivist ontology in which entities are ontologically primary and relations ontologically derivative. (Wildmann 2016)

The Blinds and the Elephant. source

However, as Wesley Wildman points out: Convincing philo sophical theories of relations have proved to be extraordinarily difficult to construct for several reasons.

# Features - relations commonly convey or encode or express value, especially in personal, but also in aesthetic and moral contexts. Wildman's example: the relation between a nation and its flag confers dignity on the flag and identity on the nation. - is not underpinned by culture or debate on wheter real"

- don't bring about hierarchical relationships by design (as the individuals are not separated from the source of being)

# Problems with Relational Ontologies - key idea of relations remains unclear, but relations are also omnipresent, "taken for granted" - even ordinary causes (e.g. collision) and ordinary fields (e.g. electromagnetic fields) represent such a diversity of relations, that a unified philosophical account seems out of question - if relations convey value - see above - what does value exactly refer to and how can it be "matched" with physical phenomena in one single notion? - some relations are theological in character (e.g. God-world-relation). "Are ordinary relations mere analogies for these theological relations?


# Helpful Questions

- What is it that something relates to? - What does the relation confers to the related? - others

# See also

# Sources

Lesley Green (eds. 2013): Contested Ecologies, Dialogues in the South on Nature and Culture, pdf Carina van Rooyen (2016): Indigenous knowledge and cognitive justice: Towards a co-production of knowledges, on Slideshare, html Wesley J. Wildmann (2006): An Introduction to Relational Ontology, Boston University, May 15, 2006 pdf