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The Sensibility of Surfing Uncertainty

Wed, August 30, 2:00 to 3:30pm, Sheraton Boston, Floor: 3, Beacon F


A renewed interest in non-Cartesian metaphysics seen in New Materialism, Object Oriented Ontology, Multiple Ontologies, and other posthuman scholarship, is raising new questions about the nature of causality. Since these metaphysical projects - particularly those with an ontologically focus - invite a multiplicitous understanding of reality they also invite new, disrupted models of cause and effect. As Mol (1999) posits,
Talking about reality as multiple depends on another set of metaphors. Not those of perspective and construction, but rather those of intervention and performance. These suggest a reality that is done and enacted rather than observed. (p. 77)
Mol’s focus on performance privileges kairotic timing, space, place, and the material surround, confounding our ability to accurately determine who or what is directly responsible for actions.

If the sciences and its public policies are attempts to manage uncertainty, then metaphysics that multiply uncertainty represent a serious existential challenge. In light of such disrupted notions of causality, there is a pressing need for the sciences to cultivate new sensibilities to better decide and act with uncertainty.

This paper works to articulate a sensibility for acting within uncertainty by pairing Alfred North Whitehead’s process based philosophy - or “Philosophy of Organism” - with a case study of the World Surfing League’s “Big Wave Tour”. Understood in terms of Whitehead’s ontological work, the Big Wave Tour’s ability to organize and execute large-scale sporting events around the unpredictability of ocean swells offers a compelling model for how the sciences, and the public policies that rely on their work, can act productively in deeply uncertain waters.