Ontological Expansion

  • Ilkka TuomiEmail author
Living reference work entry


Much of science and philosophy is based on the assumption that a reality exists that is independent of who observes it (realism) or that this reality is primarily a construction of the mind (idealism). In both cases, the reality is often assumed to be static, and large bodies of philosophical literature exist that study what can we know about this reality. This chapter proposes a different approach, arguing that reality is continuously expanding. Innovation and evolution create things that did not exist before. We have data or facts only about things that already exist, and the traditional epistemic theories of realism and idealism therefore have little to say about the nature of innovation, qualitative novelty, and creative evolution.

In many practical areas of concern, such as strategy and policy development, design, and innovation management and impact assessment, emerging futures play a central role. This chapter studies how realities expand and become real. It characterizes three main principles—functional shift, constant creation, and relational ontology—that underpin ontological expansion. It then discusses the dynamics of this expansion in the context of learning, narrative chronotopes, innovation theory, and the cognitive theory of “dominants” proposed by A.A. Ukhtomsky in the first decades of the 20th century. The chapter then suggests ways in which the key processes of ontological expansion can be formally modeled, using concepts from category theory.


Innovation Evolution Anticipatory systems Chronotope Unpredictability Relational ontology Functional shift Constant creation Bergsonism Cultural-historical activity theory Memory Evolutive systems futures literacy Futures studies Business strategy Policy development Category theory Emergence 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Meaning ProcessingHelsinkiFinland
  2. 2.Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study (STIAS)Wallenberg Research Centre at Stellenbosch UniversityStellenboschSouth Africa

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