I’ve been reading Alain Desrorieres’s book The Politics of Large Numbers: A History of Statistical Reasoning, I’m about 30 some pages in. I’m surprised at how much I like it. A few abstract riffs —

To be an object of intentional action, an object must have some measure of epistemic solidity. That is, it must be an object of intention, which means it is perceived and is perceived as an object. The term ‘object’ in this sense has a broad scope, referring to any phemonenon toward which intentions can be formulated. In many cases objects and their attendant epistemic solidity (their object-ness, so to speak) appears immediate (and perhaps is, I’m not particularly interest in this at least at the moment), so much so that we can overlook it. In some cases, if people don’t find a level of predictable, reliable epistemic solidity to some classes of objects (relative to what are considered acceptale norms), they are considered to suffer from some disorder (the same is true if people do experiecne a level of epistemic solidity to objects that others generally don’t – recurrent hallucinations, for example).

For other objects, their epistemic solidity is not always apparent. Or, more to the point, with other objects it is possible to identify historical processes of the object’s coming into existence. Furthermore, and this is where my own interests lie for the most part, at least some of the preconditions for an object’s existence as an object are themselves objects, which is to say, the creation of epistemic solidity can be taken as an object, at least for particular cases.

This article on silicosis illustrates the point, I think. Silicosis itself has a history. It only began to occur when people were doing particular sorts of work. And the particular conditions in which it came (or comes) to be diagnosed as a disease vary and are themselves subject to study as that article does.

In looking into the constitution of objects, there is a basic division between looking at them as objects as such (their objectness, the qualities they share with any other object insofar as they are objects, perhaps their ontology) and looking at the particulars of their being that-object. There are other divisions, of course. Silicosis as simply a sort of phenomenon among others is different from it as a disease, is different from it as a policy problem, is different from it as a lived reality in the life of one particular person, etc. Each of these registers has its own relative autonomy, I think.

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