An ontology of stuff (2)

-Dennett dismisses dualism as involving “spook stuff”. My guess is that he wouldn’t lean too hard on the term “stuff” but just liked its rhetorical punch. Still, the ontology of stuff shows what’s wrong with the critique: “stuff” connotes what can be possessed or controlled, and which therefore can be understood through our control over it.

-Control gives understanding over what can be possessed. The “can be” is both ontological and normative – we’re talking about what can be justly possessed. It’s an interesting locus of the normative and ontological: we might call some person our chattel or property, or have a law that makes such persons no different from houses or cars or crops, but all we ever have in fact is an imaginary entity forced to hang together by acts of violence.

-Understanding experimental, model based knowledge in terms of the ontological division of possessor and possession shows the problem of “dualism” as a description of the belief in immaterial existents. Is contract law dualist for dividing persons and property? One assumes that “dualist” would divide some domain into two components. True, if there were stuff and spook stuff we would have a real dualism, but there cannot be immaterial stuff, i.e. an immaterial resource to be mined, modeled, experimented on, and placed at the disposal of some possessor. Even the immaterial joined to a body cannot exist like this – which is why human chattels are impossible.

-Things that can be controlled act on each other by interaction; and interaction is to exert control over what exerts the same kind of control over you. Therefore, the control of a possessor over a possession is not interaction.

-Sure, we live in a world of stuff. All the objects of our world are somehow objects of our possession, but this description still needs an “our” or world of selves standing to stuff just as we do- and the world of stuff relates to other selves outside of it.

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