KLI Colloquia are informal, public talks that are followed by extensive dissussions. Speakers are KLI fellows or visiting researchers who are interested in presenting their work to an interdisciplinary audience and discussing it in a wider research context. We offer three types of talks:

1. Current Research Talks. KLI fellows or visiting researchers present and discuss their most recent research with the KLI fellows and the Vienna scientific community.

2. Future Research Talks. Visiting researchers present and discuss future projects and ideas togehter with the KLI fellows and the Vienna scientific community.

3. Professional Developmental Talks. Experts about research grants and applications at the Austrian and European levels present career opportunities and strategies to late-PhD and post-doctoral researchers.

  • The presentation language is English.
  • If you are interested in presenting your current or future work at the KLI, please contact the Scientific Director or the Executive Manager.

Event Details

Brian G. Henning
KLI Colloquia
On the Need for a New Ontology of Individuality
Brian G. HENNING (Gonzaga University, Spokane)
2017-06-29 16:30 - 2017-06-29 16:30
Organized by KLI

Topic description:
Western conceptions of individuality have been dominated by the substance traditions’ emphases on independence. Whether an individual is defined by its essential independence, as with Aristotle, or by its existential independence, as with Descartes, it is the distinctness, separateness that is the mark of the individual. Further, the denotation of individuality has been dominated by sight, which locates individuality through boundaries that are observable at human spatial and temporal scales. Individuals are visually identifiable by their skin or some other membrane. In the modern era, this ontology of individuality as independence often brought about corresponding emphases in the domains of ethics, law, and politics, where concepts such as freedom, responsibility, and autonomy came to dominate. In contradistinction to these dominant ontological traditions, in this presentation I will argue that there is no independence of existence; to exist is to be a constitutively interrelated process. Specifically, using examples of macrotermes termites, I will argue that individuality is ultimately a matter of degree, more or less, and is not best determined by visually identifiable boundaries. I conclude that the ontology of individuality must be fundamentally reconceived along the lines of an organicist process metaphysics. A brief discussion of the ethical implications of this ontological shift will be included, time permitting.


Biographical note:
Brian G. Henning is Professor of Philosophy and Environmental Studies at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington (USA) where he serves as the Faculty Fellow for Sustainability. He is the Founding Executive Editor of the Edinburgh Critical Edition of the Complete Works of Alfred North Whitehead. His research includes more than thirty articles and seven books and edited volumes, including Beyond Metaphysics? Explorations in Alfred North Whitehead’s Late Thought, Beyond Mechanism: Putting Life Back Into Biology, and Thinking with Whitehead and American Pragmatists. His 2005 book, The Ethics of Creativity, won the Findlay Book Prize from the Metaphysical Society of America and was named a “Top Ten Pick” by Foreword magazine. He is currently working on a book on environmental metaphysics.