Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Ontology and duck typing

Some computer languages (notably Python) favor duck-typing: instead of relying on checking whether an object officially falls under a type like duck, one checks whether it quacks, i.e., whether it has the capabilities of a duck object. You can have a dog object that behaves like a vector, and a vector object that behaves like a dog.

It would be useful to explore how well one could develop an ontology based on duck-typing rather than on categories. For instance, instead of some kind of categorical distinction between particulars and universals, one simply distinguishes between objects that have the capability to instantiate and objects that have the capability to be instantiated, without any prior insistence that if you can be instantiated, then you are abstract, non-spatiotemporal, etc. Now it may turn out that either contingently or necessarily none of the things that are spatiotemporal can be instantiated, but on the paradigm I am suggesting, the explanation of this would not lie in a categorical difference between spatiotemporal entities and entities that have the capability of being instantiated. It may lie in some incompatibility between the capabilities of being instantiated and occupying spacetime (though it’s hard to see what that incompatibility would be) or it may just be a contingent fact that there is no object has both capabilities.

As a theist, I think there is a limit to the duck typing. There will, at least, need to be a categorical difference between God and creature. But what if that’s the only categorical difference?

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