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Tim Ingold: The Perception of the Environment

General Introduction
Ingold should have gone to university to read natural science
He was seeking a discipline where there was more room to
There was a fracture in our view, looked from side to side.
These fractures ultimately seem to derive from a single,
underlying fault upon which the entire edifice of Western
thought and science has been build namely that which
separates the two worlds of humanity and nature
His aim has always been to bring the two sides of anthropology
The fact that human beings are the bearers of geneses whose
specific combination is a product of variation under natural
selection does not mean that they cannot also be the bearers
of cultural traditions that may be passed on by a process of
learning in some ways analogous to, but by the same token
fundamentally distinct from, the process of genetic replication.
culture of genes learning of techniques is not always
necessary instinct
He wanted to bring anthropology and biology together but
the criticism was just: there would seem to be no way of








biophysical and socio-cultural, without taking a look through

Gibson: wanted to know how people come to perceive the
environment around them. At this time, psychoanalysts
assumed that people did so by constructing representations of

the world inside their heads. Data comes from outside through
the senses and the mind put it together like a computer
Gibson approach was different. The mind was not inside but
The critical task for anthropology was to understand the
reciprocal interplay between the two kinds of systems, social
and ecological
The organism and the person could not be one and the same
slice up layers
relational thinking against populations thinking Now so
long as the organism and the person are conceived as
separate components of the human being, one could perhaps
think about the former in population terms and the latter in
relational terms, without fear of contradiction.
Relational thinking must be applicable right across the
continuum of organic life Hans Jonas: The Imperative of
Responsibility: In Search of Ethics for the Technological Age
Animal and Human Relationship
Gibsonian ecological psychology. Both approaches take as their
point of departure the developing organism-in-its-environment.
An organism is the calculated output of an intelligent design,
because its variation and therefore behaviour are passed from
one generation to the next and therefore the content of
acquired tradition Intelligent Design vs. Darwinism
Relations among humans, who we are accustomed to calling
social, are but a sub-set of ecological relations.

Western view of hierarchy: Ecological anthropology of relation






Behaviour/Inter Personal/Family Behaviour/Intra Personal

Focus is on the way in which human beings relate to








subsistence procurement
Culture, nature and environment
The Reindeer stops and stares in the face of the hunter/wolves
Biologists explained this behaviour as an adaptation to
predation by wolves
The bodily substance of the caribou is not taken, it is received
Putting the act of hunting and killing into relationship with
sexual intercourse
Science and indigenous knowledge
Animals offering themselves make perfectly good sense if we
start from the assumption that the entire world and not just
the world of human persons is saturated with powers of
agency and intentionality.
Animal anima = soul
















constituents of the natural world figure in the imagined or socalled cognised world of cultural subjects
Distinction between so-called etic (observer from outside
cultural neutral) and emic (with the eyes of the insider

The view from outside on the two worldviews can lead to the
problem of hierarchy and dominance who observes whom?
Mind and Nature: Bateson and Lvi-Strauss
Bateson: his objection to mainstream natural science lay in its
reduction of real reality to pure substance, thus relegating
form to the illusion or epiphenomenal world of appearances.
This he saw as the inevitable consequence of the false
separation of mind and nature. Bateson thought that mind
should be seen as immanent in the whole system of organismenvironment relations in which we humans are necessarily
enmeshed, rather than confined within our individual bodies as
against a world of nature out there. As he declared, the
mental world the mind the world of information processing
is not limited by the skin.
The ecosystem was nevertheless envisaged as two-faced:


and pattern + information

For Lvi-Strauss too, the mind is a processor of information,
and information consists in patterns of significant difference.
Unlike Bateson, he anchors the mind very firmly in the working
of the human brain. The mind acts more like a kaleidoscope,
casting them into patterns whose oppositions and symmetries
reflect underlying universals of human cognition.
If the senses transmit information to the mind, it goes on
working out structurally what at the outset was already
structural. Combines it with known structures to frame our
For Lvi-Strauss ecology meant the world outside, mind
meant the brain

Lvi-Strauss Mind = Brain | Ecology = World

For Bateson both mind and ecology were situated in the
relations between the brain and the surrounding environment.
Bateson Brain | ------ (ecology of mind) | World
The Ecology of Life
Biology is the science of living organisms
Organic life is active rather than reactive against Darwinian
Thus the organism is specified genotypically; the environment
is specified as a set of physical constraints, in advance of the
organisms that arrive to fill it.
Ecology is where the organism and the environment are
brought together Organism plus environment but Ingold
argues that it is more like the indivisible totality
o First, environment is a relative term my environment is
the world as it exists and takes on meaning in relation
with me
o Secondly, the environment is never complete. It is in a
process of growth and development
Problem of observer and observed the illusion that it is
unaffected by his presence Heisenbergs uncertainty theory
Communication and revelation
His father educated him by giving him to try, smell and taste.
Just like indigenous people do as well.
By letting children experiencing and telling them stories, the
truths are gradually revealed to him, as he proceeds from the
most superficial, outside level of knowledge to deeper

inside understanding. Putting spirit and meaning into matter

Theodor Abt
But information, in itself, is not knowledge, nor do we become






therefore we have to sense it

The task of a novice is not to decode it, rather to discover for
himself the meaning that lies within it.
It is therefore to develop and sense different keys and
therefore have more tools to use in different situations.
Forming and feeling
Example of the music by Janek is not just hearing, he is
listening rather then reactive he is proactive
Conclusions: Towards a sentient ecology
Knowledge not of a formal, authorised kind, transmissible in
contexts outside of practical applications. On the contrary, it is
based in feeling consisting in the skills, sensitivities and
orientations that have developed through long experience of
conduction ones life in particular environment.
Another word for this kind of sensitivity and responsiveness is
intuition emerging from traditional and long time learning
Intuitive understanding, in short, is not contrary to science or
ethics, nor does it appeal to instinct rather than reason, or to
supposedly hardwired imperatives of human nature. The
sentient ecology is thus both pre-objective and pre-ethical
Theodor Abt

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