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SIGNALING STATIC: ARTISTIC, RELIGIOUS, AND SCIENTIFIC TRUTHS IN A RELATIONAL ONTOLOGY

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Abstract.

In this essay I point toward the difficulties inherent in ontological objectivity and seek to restore our truth claims to validity through a relational ontology and the dynamic of coimplication in signals and noise. Theological examination of art and science points toward similarities between art, religion, and science. All three have often focused upon a “metaphysics of presence,” the desire for absolute presence of the object (the signified, the divine, the natural object). If we accept a relational ontology, however, we must accept that the revelation of presence is always simultaneously a concealment. This helps explain technoscientific achievement without recourse to a philosophically flawed objectivity. Twentieth-century information theory shows the impossibility of a “pure signal.” By accepting that signal and noise are permanently interconnected, we begin to see how noise makes signal possible and even how noise becomes signal (allowing the discovery of novel facts). Information theory thus underscores important similarities and leads toward new approaches in aesthetics, Christian theology, and scientific research. By comparing art, religion, and science, I argue that rejecting a metaphysics of presence without rejecting presence itself allows human beings to know the world. Although religion, science, and art often seek the absolute presence of their objects, they function better without.
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Keywords: Bruno Latour; Mark C. Taylor; Michel Serres; aesthetics; art; epistemology; iconophilia; information theory; metaphysics of presence; noise; objectivity; ontology; philosophy; relationality; religion; science; signal; subject; subjectivity; theology

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Manhattan College, Riverdale, NY 10471;, Email: robert.geraci@manhattan.edu.

Publication date: 2005-12-01

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