on 25 August 2013
Thsi is for anyone with a deeper interest in the ways in which we in the West have represented the world around us since the Renaissance. My review is a professional artidst trying to better understand how the world around me has been represented in my culture. This set of essays from the early 90s onwards considers various different but related models of representation of the world we inhabit, some contemporary and others from previous eras. Ingold boldly challenges orthodoxies from academia, including from his own area of anrhropoplogy, but more bravely from the world of science generally. He argues that the rational, experimental evidence based modelling of life misses an important aspect of human experience and history. Typically science places the observing hypothesising mind outside the world, representing nature as something 'out there' with a rigid spatial framework and set of unchanging principles that govern all interactions through a chain of cause and effect (ideas that took hold in the 18th century and which Prof Brian Cox happily promotes to the next generation). Ingold asks us to accept, as Heidigger argued, that we cannot in reality be outside of nature acting as a neutral rational observer but are always involved intimately in the unfolding of the world, our lived experience entangled in and inseperable from the events and phenomena our minds see. He argues against the separation of mind from body,proposing that our concepts of the world are embodied in our sensory experience which inevitably will frmae the world in different ways depending on our priorities for survival and the qualities of the surronding environment. There is in reality no precise point of separation between the phenomenon experienced and the perception of it, where object 'out there' becomes mental projection separate from it. Most daringly he argues (as I understand it so far) that modern genetics' model of a DNA blueprint for life effectively ignores this way in which our entire unfolding development from single cell to complex human, fully engaged in the wider world around us, is not, logically, separated from the environent in which it is developing and moving. This is difficult to understand given that the model he tries to undermine seems to have delivered some remarkably useful products, for example in medical diagnostics and therapies, and these outcomes would seem to rely on an accurate and predicatble model of genetic transmission. I would like to read the counter argument before giving this book the full 5 stars.
on 9 January 2012
Tim Ingold's The Perception of the Enviroment is an unmissable experience. It delivers a whole new perspective on the human condition, with academic precision corroborated by delightful ethnografic material. It is as captivating as it is insightful. I am eagerly waiting for Being Alive to arrive in my mailbox!