Oct
24th

Drawing the four ontologies

Categories: Categorie 1 |
Drawing the four ontologies

Ever since the exhibit « The Making of Images » at the Museum Quai Branly curated by Philippe Descola, who currently holds the Chair of Anthropology of Nature at the Collège de France (which institution has been filming and putting online lectures, seminars and conferences of its professors for some years now, you can view them all on the site), I have been thinking about how to evolve the way we think about nature and ourselves.

In a climate of focus on climate, with the COP21, the United Nations Conference on Climate Change to be held in December in Paris, I’ve been focusing on understanding Professor Descola’s seminal work on the four ontologies extent on the planet today and reconnecting concerns about spaceship Earth with my current art practice.

The current Western view, naturalism, sees human beings as gifted with interiority, a soul, so to speak, while the rest of nature is simply reduced to physicality, with top-down controlling relationship between us and everything else in the world.  The Garden of Eden model.

Then there’s animism, where, on the contrary, everything has a soul, an interiority, both human beings and everything in nature.  This one certainly appeals to me.

Then there’s totemism, where humans and other life forms share qualities that create relationships and correspondences.

Finally there’s analogism, where everything is different in all respects, and only analogy and metaphor can help you understand a completely fractured reality.  The Great Chain of Being is one example.

We all recognize the classic 4 part matrix here.  And there are all sorts of implications in terms of social structures and collective organizations, beyond the scope of this blog.

4 ontologies Descola graphic facilitation matrix s

Now this is of course totally oversimplified.  There’s many resources out there on the internet and a number of fascinating books if you are interested in going into more depth.

As I try to understand all this, seeking for new ways to think about the concept of nature and how we see ourselves in relation to our environment, I’ve been making a few visual notes (in French).  Enjoy!

4 ontologies Descola graphic facilitation 1

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