On the Origin of Objects

by Brian Cantwell Smith

The MIT Press | January 23, 1998 | Trade Paperback

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On the Origin of Objects is the culmination of Brian Cantwell Smith''s decade-long investigation into the philosophical and metaphysical foundations of computation, artificial intelligence, and cognitive science. Based on a sustained critique of the formal tradition that underlies the reigning views, he presents an argument for an embedded, participatory, "irreductionist," metaphysical alternative. Smith seeks nothing less than to revise our understanding not only of the machines we build but also of the world with which they interact.

Smith''s ambitious project begins as a search for a comprehensive theory of computation, able to do empirical justice to practice and conceptual justice to the computational theory of mind. A rigorous commitment to these two criteria ultimately leads him to recommend a radical overhaul of our traditional conception of metaphysics.

Everything that exists -- objects, properties, life, practice -- lies Smith claims in the "middle distance," an intermediate realm of partial engagement with and partial separation from, the enveloping world. Patterns of separation and engagement are taken to underlie a single notion unifying representation and ontology: that of subjects'' "registration" of the world around them.

Along the way, Smith offers many fascinating ideas: the distinction between particularity and individuality, the methodological notion of an "inscription error," an argument that there are no individuals within physics, various deconstructions of the type-instance distinction, an analysis of formality as overly disconnected ("discreteness run amok"), a conception of the boundaries of objects as properties of unruly interactions between objects and subjects, an argument for the theoretical centrality of reference preservation, and a theatrical, acrobatic metaphor for the contortions involved in the preservation of reference and resultant stabilization of objects. Sidebars and diagrams throughout the book help clarify and guide Smith''s highly original and compelling argument.

A Bradford Book

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 432 pages, 3.5 × 2.36 × 0.39 in

Published: January 23, 1998

Publisher: The MIT Press

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0262692090

ISBN - 13: 9780262692090

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– More About This Product –

On the Origin of Objects

by Brian Cantwell Smith

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 432 pages, 3.5 × 2.36 × 0.39 in

Published: January 23, 1998

Publisher: The MIT Press

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0262692090

ISBN - 13: 9780262692090

About the Book

"On the Origin of Objects" is the culmination of Brian Cantwell Smith's decade-long investigation into the philosophical and metaphysical foundations of computation, artificial intelligence, and cognitive science. Based on a sustained critique of the formal tradition that underlies the reigning views, he presents an argument for an embedded, participatory, "irreductionist," metaphysical alternative. Smith seeks nothing less than to revise our understanding not only of the machines we build but also of the world with which they interact.Smith's ambitious project begins as a search for a comprehensive theory of computation, able to do empirical justice to practice and conceptual justice to the computational theory of mind. A rigorous commitment to these two criteria ultimately leads him to recommend a radical overhaul of our traditional conception of metaphysics.

From the Publisher

On the Origin of Objects is the culmination of Brian Cantwell Smith''s decade-long investigation into the philosophical and metaphysical foundations of computation, artificial intelligence, and cognitive science. Based on a sustained critique of the formal tradition that underlies the reigning views, he presents an argument for an embedded, participatory, "irreductionist," metaphysical alternative. Smith seeks nothing less than to revise our understanding not only of the machines we build but also of the world with which they interact.

Smith''s ambitious project begins as a search for a comprehensive theory of computation, able to do empirical justice to practice and conceptual justice to the computational theory of mind. A rigorous commitment to these two criteria ultimately leads him to recommend a radical overhaul of our traditional conception of metaphysics.

Everything that exists -- objects, properties, life, practice -- lies Smith claims in the "middle distance," an intermediate realm of partial engagement with and partial separation from, the enveloping world. Patterns of separation and engagement are taken to underlie a single notion unifying representation and ontology: that of subjects'' "registration" of the world around them.

Along the way, Smith offers many fascinating ideas: the distinction between particularity and individuality, the methodological notion of an "inscription error," an argument that there are no individuals within physics, various deconstructions of the type-instance distinction, an analysis of formality as overly disconnected ("discreteness run amok"), a conception of the boundaries of objects as properties of unruly interactions between objects and subjects, an argument for the theoretical centrality of reference preservation, and a theatrical, acrobatic metaphor for the contortions involved in the preservation of reference and resultant stabilization of objects. Sidebars and diagrams throughout the book help clarify and guide Smith''s highly original and compelling argument.

A Bradford Book

From the Jacket

On the Origin of Objects represents the final stage in Brian Cantwell Smith''s decades-long investigation into the philosophical and metaphysical foundations of computation, artificial intelligence, and cognitive science. Based on a sustained critique of the formal tradition underlying reigning views, he argues for an embedded, participatory, "irreductionist", metaphysical alternative. Smith seeks nothing less than to revise our understanding not only of the machines we build but also of our world with which they interact.

From Our Editors

On the Origin of Objects represents the final stage in Brian Cantwell Smith's decades-long investigation into the philosophical and metaphysical foundations of computation, artificial intelligence, and cognitive science. Based on a sustained critique of the formal tradition underlying reigning views, he argues for an embedded, participatory, "irreductionist", metaphysical alternative. Smith seeks nothing less than to revise our understanding not only of the machines we build but also of our world with which they interact.

Editorial Reviews

Like the work of Simon, Chomsky, Kuhn, and Foucault, Brian Cantwell Smith''s On the Origin of Objects comes into philosophy from theoutside and stands to shake things up. This is an essay in fundamental metaphysics, but not like any we''ve ever seen before. Bringing to ontology the training of a computer scientist, and the sensibilities of an artist-engineer, Smith recreates our understanding of objects essentially from scratch -- and changes, I think, everything.

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