Page 123 - MODES of EXPLANATION

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Where the realist sees a debate about truth (or rather where each realist side of the debate
proclaims its truth in light of the other side’s falsehoods), the pragmatic constructivist sees a
clash of fundierung – of the very backgrounds, environments, assumptions, and attended-to
affordances that provide to each side its sense of meaning and of identity. Fundierung is the
ultimate expression of context dependence. Rota put it this way:
“All whats ‘are’ by the grace of some Fundierung relation whose context-dependence
cannot be shoved under the rug. Viewing, in manifold modes, is a function; seeing is
the facticity that founds viewing … Western philosophy since the Greeks has been
haunted by a reductionist anxiety, steadfastly refusing to draw the consequences of
taking Fundierung seriously. The history of Western philosophy is riddled with
attempts, some of them extremely clever, to reduce Fundierung relations to
‘something else’ that will satisfy our cravings for certification of existence. We find it
inadmissible that ‘unreal’ functions should turn out to matter, rather than ‘real’
objects or neurons in people’s brains.”
Fundierung is the invisibility we afford the pen as the instrument when we are focused on
accomplishing the writing. We look past the “foundation” (fundierung) that affords the very
activity we seek to accomplish. The danger lies in our reaction at those times when we are
forced to overcome the fundierung relation and look explicitly at the medium of which we are
making use (as when the pen runs out of ink). The success of the iPhone is due to fundierung
(we can ignore the phone while making use of the apps) and the opposite (the very need to be
aware of our interactions with the phone) describes much of Microsoft’s problems in the
marketplace. (BlackBerrys by this analysis found themselves in the middle, often with apps
that afforded fundierung and yet demanding enough of attention to be recognized as “using a
BlackBerry.”)
“Tools are further striking examples of Fundierung relations. Pencil, paper,
and ink are tools I use in writing. They are normally taken as material objects. But
this is a mistake, one of many we are forced to make in our everyday dealings. Pen,
paper, and ink are functions in Fundierung relations. The pen with which I write I
ordinarily take to be a material object. Strictly speaking, the pen is neither material
nor object: it is a function that lets me write. I recognize this object as a pen only by
virtue of my familiarity with its writing functions. The facticities “ink,” “plastic,”
“small metal ball,” etc., of which the pen is “made” (as we ordinarily but imprecisely
say) let this odd-shaped object function as a pen. Like all facticities, they are
indispensable in a pen’s function; this indispensability of facticities leads to the
mistaken “identification” of facticities with the function of pens. The absurdity of this
reduction can be realized by eidetic variations: no amount of staring at this object as
an assemblage of plastic, metal, and ink will reveal that the object we are staring at
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