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Flat ontology and geography

Lookup NU author(s): Dr James Ash



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC 4.0).


Human geographers are increasingly drawing upon a range of philosophical positions that espouse a more or less flat ontological approach for theorising a range of phenomena. These approaches differentiate between entities in terms of degree rather than kind in order to avoid essentialist, hierarchical or binary modes of thought. To achieve this, they understand the differences between entities as relational. Building upon these perspectives, this article offers a flat ontology that differentiates between things according to their form, which can be identified through a process of de-determination. The concepts of form and de- determination offer a supplement to existing flat ontological approaches by accounting for the difference of entities in terms of where their qualities begin and end as well as their location within a particular set of relations. To demonstrate how the concept of form and de-determination can be applied, I turn to the example of the legal and regulatory debates in the US around the difference between semi-automatic and automatic weapons that have arisen through the development of bump stocks: weapon accessories that allow semi-automatic rifles to mimic fully automatic fire.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Ash J

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Dialogues in Human Geography

Year: 2020

Volume: 10

Issue: 3

Pages: 345-361

Print publication date: 01/11/2020

Online publication date: 17/07/2020

Acceptance date: 19/11/2019

Date deposited: 27/11/2020

ISSN (print): 2043-8206

ISSN (electronic): 2043-8214

Publisher: Sage Publications Ltd.


DOI: 10.1177/2043820620940052


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