What is an Ontologue?

In his Moralia Plutarch wrote “the mind is not a vessel to be filled but a fire to be kindled.” My interests are myriad. One of the most satisfying intellectual phenomena I experience is establishing connections between disparate ideas. The other is seeing well organized information in outline. Another, perhaps, is trying to understand how various notions apply to my own existence. Of course there is likely a degree of narcissism present here. But I believe narcissism is a term only narcissists apply. No Catholic would accuse St. Augustine of narcissism. One of Borges’s greatest strengths as a writer was his graceful interweaving of personal circumstance with universal truth. Every time  I begin to peer into the depth of Heidegger’s well, I wonder how he avoided frequent use of the first person pronoun.

I don’t believe it is too grandiose to say that all my most earnest thinking must derive from my sense of my personal presence in an overwhelming and supervenient sequence of actions and passions, relationships and ignorances. To the extent that I am aware of the complex systems in which I am enmeshed, then I am also a responsible agent in that system. It becomes remarkably easy, I find, when trying to conceptualize my place in the world, to slip into overly abstract phraseology. I live in Jackson, Mississippi. I work in a public library. I have coworkers with whom I have relationships that are of a different substance than the relationships with which I have with my young adult group at church. There is poverty here. There are international relations that are influenced but not controlled by my country’s foreign policy. The temperature of the coffee shop from last night seemed to drop when the two women who were talking to each other about work left; my experience of those women was entirely indistinct, but nevertheless that experience is not a privation of a possibly fuller experience, but a unique form of experience in its own right….
The possibilities for the types of analysis of a phenomenon can never exceed the extent of intelligible information inherit in the world qua phenomena.  Phrased a little differently, the totality of the universe is larger than my capacity to know, but not beyond my ability to understand my presence within it.  The ontologue is a journal that gives scrupulous attention to the distinction between events as real and events as known; events as recorded by others, events as recorded by myself.  The etymology of the word suggests a discussion of being, being in the widest conceivable sense.  As metaphysics is the queen of the sciences, so I seek to incorporate all the sciences in my discussion of being.

My greatest obstacle is my own ignorance.  The blog is an appropriate genre for my continual investigation into history and the present and my own position within the timeline of the human community: because it is almost entirely amorphous; is a writhing, shifting extension of the internet, the new total library, which will, sooner or later, notwithstanding total societal collapse, and with a loosening of information property laws, will absorb completely all extant libraries of the past.  What is also important here is that the blog (or podcast, or vlog) is a genre still alive.  I am mostly convinced the power of the novel as a singular instrument for moral and informational awareness was exhausted by Wallace. It will continue to do its job of creating an imaginative environment where the hard rules of facticity are somewhat unbounded so that greater truths can be shared, but it may only contribute to something larger, something still in the process of revealing itself.  The novel at its best has always been a composite form: where the author may playfully experiment with all the rhetorical genres that have preceded it. A blog is similar.  Perhaps the greatest defect, however, from the point of view of the writer, is that blogs participate in the open community: work freely given to others.

The ontologue is a journal with a difference.  It is the genre where in which I accumulate documents from the vast cataract of information, absorb what I may, and fashion in return what I must.  But no reading is ever without a reader.  This is a self conscious genre.  It wishes to house and organize other genres within it.  It is one intellectual’s attempt to create a living database of experience and understanding, and share the sources taken in and the insights derived therefrom.