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I have yet to find a good description of the difference between ontology and ontography. Can anyone help clarify?

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I don't think I've ever heard the term 'ontography' before. Is it a made up term? Where have you heard of it before and what did your dictionary say? –  Mitch May 6 '12 at 18:11
@Mitch - there is a definition for it at OED.com if you have access. –  Matt E. Эллен May 6 '12 at 18:13
The writer Ian Bogost uses it. I'd say it is partially made up, as least in its non-geographic usage. Seems to mean "ontology" but without humans, if that makes any sense. –  Jefferson Bailey May 6 '12 at 18:25
The OED seems to suggest that the word ontography was a one-off use, viz. "a description of the nature and essence of things (Mayne)". It's transparently made out of onto- (the combining form of present participle of the Greek verb 'to be', also used as the word for 'thing' or 'entity') and -graphein 'to write'. I've never heard it before. Ontology, on the other hand, is a standard term in philosophy, and has been for centuries. That's the one to learn; forget the other. –  John Lawler May 6 '12 at 21:50
That’s only the first definition. The second, the one I gave in my answer, has three supporting citations from 1902, 1941 and 1983. It is used, admittedly, ‘Chiefly with reference to the work of W. M. Davies’ (no doubt of blessèd memory for some). –  Barrie England May 7 '12 at 10:58

3 Answers 3

The first is a philosophical term describing the study of being. The second is a geographical term, describing the branch of knowledge which deals with the human response to the natural environment.

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In object oriented philosophy folks like Ian Bogost and Graham Harman have started to use the word ontography as a term for composing works that help illuminate the existence and relationships between objects.

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Harman gets the term "ontography" from a story by M.R. James - "Oh Whistle and I'll come to you, my lad" - James made up the term and Harman reclaims it for philosophical purposes. –  user38792 Mar 5 '13 at 18:14
Yes, the more infrequent term is used by M.R. James to denote a fictitious professorship. The professor/protagonist is a earnest sceptic re. ghosts, i.e., he does not believe in them as beings, as beings essentially. –  user92446 Sep 25 '14 at 0:03

Ontography as a 'working method' is beautifully explained in Graham Harman's book 'Weird Realism: Lovecraft and Philosophy. The context is Lovecraft's writing, but the principles can be applied elsewhere.

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