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Relational Ontologies


Barbara Thayer-Bacon

Relational Ontologies uses the metaphor of a fishing net to represent the epistemological and ontological beliefs that we weave together for our children, to give meaning to their experiences and to help sustain them in their lives. The book describes the epistemological threads we use to help determine what we catch up in our net as the warp threads, and our ontological threads as the weft threads. It asks: what kind of fishing nets are we weaving for our children to help them make sense of their experiences? What weft threads are we including and working to strengthen, and what threads are we removing or leaving out? It is important to carefully re/examine these most basic ways of catching up what sustains us in our ocean of infinite experiences, as the threads we weave for our children will determine what they catch up in their nets, until they are old enough to re/weave their own. Relational Ontologies reweaves America’s epistemological and ontological fishing net on a larger scale, turning to indigenous cultures and diverse spiritual beliefs for assistance in reforming American schools.

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Chapter 1.   Water: James’s Pure Experience


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In developing a relational epistemological theory and comparing it to other relational ways of knowing, it was impossible to not have ontological discussions cross over into the work, our understandings of “reality.” As we learned in the Introduction, I use a metaphor of an Ocean as representing our “pure experience” as William James describes this, and fishing nets to describe our ontologies and epistemologies that help us catch up our experiences and give them meaning. I have been giving credit to James for first developing this metaphor, but now I think that I may have given him more credit than he is due for the reason that I have not been able to find a reference to oceans in my rereading of James. I have reread his essays on radical empiricism and a pluralistic universe in order to prepare for this project and I cannot find the metaphor to which I thought he introduced me.1 I see references to streams, as in streams of consciousness, and occasional references to nets, as in our concepts are like nets that help us make sense of our world, but something always escapes from them. For example, “(Y)ou can no more dip up the substance of reality with them (concepts) than you can dip up water with a net, however finely ← 15 | 16 → meshed.”2 But, nowhere have I been able to find a reference to an...

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