2021/06/17 Keekok Lee | Philosophy of Chinese Medicine 2

Following the first day lecture on Philosophy of Chinese Medicine 1 for the Global University for Sustainability, Keekok Lee continued on a second day on some topics:

  • Anatomy as structure; physiology as function (and process);
  • Process ontology, and thing ontology;
  • Qi ju as qi-in-concentrating mode, and qi san as qi-in-dissipsating mode; and
  • the 4 P’s of Chinese medicine.

20210617 SSFS8 LEE Kee Kok – Philosophy of Chinese Medicine 2

Again, this online web video lecture is a complement (and update) to two prior books:

Highlights from the transcript from the Youtube recording are provided below, in the interest of scholarship.

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[0:24] Now then, where we stopped yesterday, as far as i can recall, is that I was stressing on thing ontology in biomedicine. The emphasis is on the notion of the body as machine, if you remember. Now because you are talking about the body particularly as machine, you are therefore talking about structure. And structure is a subject which is very dear to the heart of engineering. So take a watch when you from the engineering part of your watch is: what is a watch? You could take a watch to pieces, you know, the spring, and the handle at the hands of the clock, the frame, the metal frame, or whatever, and so you can split it up, deconstruct it, into its component parts. But in engineering, what you have decomposed you can also reassemble. So engineering implies also the concept of reverse engineering. You can both construct and deconstruct.

[1:58] Now because you’re talking about structure, where this kind of thinking is then applied in the context of medicine to understanding the body, because the emphasis is of the body, the thing, there, then you are emphasizing anatomy.

[2:21] Because anatomy is what occupies space, right? Now so that is why it might be sound a bit of a caricature to say that modern, that BioMedicine, is actually based on autopsy.

[2:44] In other words you learn the medicine initially by doing the section on the cadaver, on the corpse. So all medical students as far as i know, even today i believe, have to do the initial training in the path [pathology] lab. You’ve got to do a certain amount of dissection, because without dissection you cannot know about the body, how the body as a machine is structured, and held together the component parts.

[3:24] Now, another emphasis because of this ontology of body …. It also means that surgery plays a very important part in BioMedicine. So if you have structure you also have surgery.

[3:52] A medical scientist and philosopher in the 16th century called Ambroise Paré, he laid down five functions of surgery. And to this day, those five functions remain correct. So he was very perceptive and insightful.

[4:21] So what are these five functions of surgery?

[4:28] He said first, to remove what is superfluous. Now, that is quite true. Biomedicine for a long time today it might have shifted its position a little bit./ But for a long time it says your appendix is superfluous. So, when it gets inflamed, you’ve got to get rid of it. So some people jump the gun and say, why wait for it to get inflamed before we remove it? It’s superfluous anyway let us choose a time and place of our own convenience have a surgical operation and remove it.

[5:08] The same thing with tonsils for a long time, at least Americans, middle class … Americans thought that the tonsils were superfluous. So they got their children, have the operation, remove the tonsils. Appendix, tonsils, all superfluous. So that’s rule that is one function to remove what is superfluous.

[5:30] Then, the second function is to restore what has been dislocated.

[5:39] Now that can be quite helpful, I do admit. For instance, if you twisted your waist, or what we call the hips, or whatever, and it’s painful, right? So sometimes you do need an operation to readjust the dislocated hip. So i grant that that’s very useful.

[6:00] And then, the third is you remove what has been, you divide or separate what has been conjoined Now this, for a long time, was very difficult and didn’t come to pass. But I believe, in December 2020, that surgical operation was performed, a spectacular surgical operation, which involves separating two conjoined twins. So the surgeon, marvelous people, needed to divide the children, and the children survived. So that is another function.

[6:45] And then, a function is …. Suppose you sever your finger in an unfortunate, when you’re chopping on the chopping board — the Chinese use a cleaver especially not a simple small cleaver, chop chop chop chop and you chop up your finger — then you carry the finger quickly to the hospital and the surgeon can reattach the finger, right? Or a severed limb in an accident at a factory. So that is also very useful, so you see.

[7:17] And then the final function is that you also do what I call cosmetic surgery, not in the vain sense, in the sense of vanity to look good, but because it becomes a disability itself. For instance people who are born with a hair cleft. you know where the ren zhong, the philtrum had not occurred. So you know, so that’s not mere vanity, to have it stuck together, stitched together in a surgical operation. And so that is very, very important, as well.

[8:02] So there you are, you see. Paré puts forth these five functions of surgery. they remain true today.

[8:07]Now, I’m talking about the ren zhong on this point. I might as well make a point which is relevant to our understanding of Chinese medicine to BioMedicine.

[8:23] The ren zhong is simply that bit of the anatomy where unfortunately in the case of some people something happened to your prenatal development and the two bits never met.

[8:36] So now we have the technology to stitch them together so that’s wonderful. That’s fine, and one is grateful for people being restored in this way to wholeness.

[8:50] But to the Chinese, the philtrum or the ren zhong is not simply an anatomical bit. It is a cosmological site because it is the place where tian, heaven, meets earth, di.

[9:06] Tian, as we know stands for yang, and di stands for yin. So this is the place where yin yang meets. And according to qian ren xiang ying — the mouthful, macro micro cosmic wholism — unless you have zhang and jing in yourself in a microcosm, you wouldn’t be a proper person. You wouldn’t be functioning properly. You won’t be whole.

[9:34] So that is why, to the Chinese, it’s a cosmological site.

[9:41] And so, it’s not simply a piece of anatomy, it’s a very, very important site.

[9:48] So okay … Now then so, Chinese …. Western medicine and BioMedicine emphasizes structure that, therefore, surgery.

[10:00] Now, if you look at Chinese medicine, surgery I wouldn’t say plays no role, but it plays a very minor role, historically.

[10:11] So I wouldn’t want to say that Chinese medicine never took any interest in anatomy and therefore in surgery. But the anatomy was downplayed and the surgery was minor. There was a very minor surgery. And I believe in the Huangdi Neijing, there are several passages especially in the lingshu. which is the spiritual pivot, or the luminous pivot. References to anatomy — so there you are, so just make the picture correct — it’s not that Chinese medicine is not interested in it, but the role played by anatomy is somewhat minor let us say.

[10:59] So what is the polar contrast to structure and anatomy? It will be function. So Chinese medicine stresses on function. How parts of you, from the component parts which form a whole function. How your organ systems — what yesterday i called organ systems — such as your piwei [spleen-stomach system], your zangfu [the yin and the yang visceral organ-systems] — how they function. How one zangfu functions as a whole. How several zangfu in us, as a living individual, functions with other zangfu. And this is how the function works.

[11:43] So, when you’re talking about function, you’re therefore talking about physiology not anatomy.

[11:50] So to me, then, Chinese medicine following this line of exploration talks therefore about physiology, or at least the Chinese understanding of physiology.

[12:07] Now, if this is so, then i think various consequences follow.

[12:21] Now I would like to draw your attention to some of these differences very, very radical differences between BioMedicine on the one hand, and Chinese medicine on the other.

[12:42] Now, one of these differences is that — which i have just alluded to in fact — is between structure anatomy on the one hand, and function physiology on the other. I’ll come back to this point, later but let’s just call this is a fundamental difference.

[13:06] So any system of medicine which does not emphasize structure and anatomy, to BioMedicine, they would consider as an absurdity.

[13:19] So you can say, absurdity 1, according to the understanding of BioMedicine with regard to Chinese medicine is that it fails to talk to emphasize fully of structure and anatomy. So how can we take seriously a system of medicine which ignores such two important concepts structure and anatomy? So it’s not a serious thing, right? Okay, absurdity number 1.

[13:49] Absurdity number 2 is that BioMedicine takes a very very very drastic distinction between what may be called today’s medical texts, which medical students at a medical school study, as opposed to historical medical texts.

[14:14] Now, it is not part of the training of a medical student, in a modern medical school, to go and look at historical medical texts. You’ll be laughing stock if you make your students look at historical medical texts.

[14:36] So you’re not a medical student, I’m not expected to go about by Hippocrates writing, you know, we would go back to the ancient Greek because the western civilization claims to have its roots and ancient Greek stuff. But he wouldn’t ask you to read Hippocrates, Galen or any of these nonsense. And never mind that it wouldn’t even ask you to, in spite of his heavy emphasis on anatomy and structure, it wouldn’t ask medical students to look at Berzelius, who in the 16th century wrote the definitive, put modern, put study of, anatomy on the modern basis as it were. Oh, no, no, no. They are for fuddy duck people like myself, philosophers and historians of science and medicine, who may be interested in these ancient tones

[15:37] So, these are museum pieces for them. So today in fact, as far as I know, you have to have the latest medical knowledge. And where do you find your latest medical knowledge? Not even in a textbook, because today, textbooks, hard copy, take a long time to be produced. the latest is to be found online. Online publications.

[16:07] So if I want to be really at the cutting edge of modern western medicine, I would have to be constantly on, and find out who has said what. What are the latest experiments, etc etc.

[16:21] And every day, the revision goes: what was extant knowledge at time t1 is no longer extent knowledge at time t2. And the difference the the difference between time t1 and time t2 maybe indeed yesterday and today. So there’s a tremendous pressure to keep up with the latest development, it does. So no museum pieces anything which reaches beyond the present. The present moment is really ancient knowledge. We don’t want to know. It might be knowledge in the past, and we may deign to call it ancient knowledge, but it’s not present knowledge, and not extant relevant knowledge. So we move on.

[17:08] So I look at the Chinese. What do they do? If you want to learn Chinese medicine, what do your master, your shifu, tells you to do? Go and study the Huangdi Neijing. The Shanghan Lun. If you don’t know .… First of all, you have to know this by heart, best of all. Otherwise you know you don’t really know your text. Having learnt it by heart, you must always carry it in your mind. Never mind carrying your mind, you consult it if you come across problems in your clinical experience. so if you’re puzzled by a patient and you diagnose, right, you say, ooh, this sounds a bit odd.

[17:54] And you could make sense of, you know, the results of the four methods of diagnosis in chinese medicine. So the moment you have the time, you go and turn over the pages of your Neijing to find the relevant pages and to hope to get inspiration and wisdom for it. You’ll meet up with a fellow, a group of fellow physicians, and you discuss this. And you go through the pages of the Neijing and the Shanghan problem.

[18:29]. And so now, if you have the mentality of BioMedicine you would consider this as a ludicrous, absurd, activity. Why do you want to look at ancient texts? They’re museum pieces. “They’re not relevant to your present preoccupation.

[18:46] An, no, the Chinese say this: you don’t understand what we are doing. So, talking a conversation between the deaf and the dumb, as it were. So you get nowhere.

[19:05] Another absurdity, which follows from the second absurdity, would be that, naturally, you use the prescriptions which physicians used more than 2 000 years ago, to try to apply it in your clinical, in your clinical case, the case before you, it you know, in your consultation room now.

[19:44] To BioMedicine, this again is simply absurd. Simply absurd. Now to see how absurd it is, let me give you a small history of modern of biomedicine from the point of view of treatment. And then you could begin to see how absurd it is.

[20:12] Now, the treatment modern western medicine began, let us say, roughly from the time of the Ascanius, and slowly, slowly, it built up to today. So the theoretical understanding to, up to a point, was well in advance of its ability to offer treatments to patients who are, who were, ill.

[20:41] Now what did … It was not until in a sense, as late as 1945, the second, post-second World War, that biomedicine had efficacious treatment for a lot of disease. Now you may be surprised to hear this. Now this is not a fantasy of mine. I’m going to back it up with with evidence now.

[21:10] Now before that moment, what did people do? What did the biomedical — so we didn’t call them biomedical physician, then, we just called them the doctor, right — the medical doctor. The doctor, the doctor had two ways of coping, probably three.

[21:30] But two important ways. One is what is called venisection, I’ll explain what that means. And the second is leeching.

[21:47] Now, what is venisection? That is, I do know that there is a very important distinguished journal in BioMedicine which is called a Lancet. Now why is it called a lancet? Now it’s called The Lancet, because people before the end of World War II, they use a little knife, I suppose a scalpel called a lancet in order to cut away, then a section, cutting a vein, in order to draw blood from it. Because they believed that the blood is no good. I mean, this is putting it simplistically. We have no time to go into the detail. So you drain the blood, as it were. And after draining the blood, you’ll be fine, they think, right?

[22:42] So the other instead of cutting your vein, and draining the blood with the lancet, the other thing is by leeches. Leeches. You know little little creatures called leeches. Now, medicine, modern medicine, used up so many leeches, that the leeches of the uk were used up. So they imported from France. And france also used leeches at that time as well, right? So leeches became almost extinct in Western Europe.

[23:21] So they had got to go to Turkey to import leeches. So there you are, you say, these were two modes.

[23:27] Now back to venisection first. Now venisection, in the end, killed a lot of people.


[24:20] So that were the two main techniques. And the third one, which they also used, and which Chinese medicine also — I mean not that chinese medicine didn’t use venisection and leeching, they did, but on a very very small scale, right? And also the third method, which were used by western medicine, was also used, occurred in Chinese medicine, but again on the small, not on the large scale, but on a small scale. So it was cupping, right?

[24:54] Ba guan. So it was cupping. So, in fact it’s some chart in some French novels, in the early 20th century the late 19th century, stories of rural France you can still read, you know, the doctors doing cupping and things like that. So today, I think it has probably fallen out of use in western medicine but it remains one of the methods in Chinese medicine.

[25:28] But chinese medicine includes a whole suite of treatments, of which the two main ones, as we know, like acupuncture and decoction. Using medicinals to decoct and make up a brew, and then to drink the very unpleasant liquid from such a decocted material.


[27:54] Modern practitioners in Chinese medicine, admittedly use the prescriptions in what they call a linghua manner. Linghua, I suppose can be translated in a sensitive nuanced manner. You make modifications, but in a nuanced sensitive manner, in the light of your actual clinical assessment of the patient in your consultation role. So you adjust the ancient prescription formula, in order to address the peculiar characteristics of the individual in front of you in a consulted role. But that is how China medicine is so obviously is a piece of nonsense according to BioMedicine.

[28:50] Now, the fourth absurdity I would like to draw your attention to about Chinese medicine, in the eyes of BioMedicine is, I think, even more nonsensical than the other three that i’ve mentioned. Why is it so nonsensical? Because it amounts to a boasts if you like. And what is this boast of chinese Medicine? It boasts that Chinese medicine can cure any illness, of course, in principle,

[29:37] In principle, I’m not saying every Chinese practitioner can cure it but in principle it has the intellectual resources to cure any illness which the patient presents him — I’ll use the plural — presents themselves, right, so that’s not to be gender biased.

[30:12] So, now that is obviously ludicrous. How can you, in principle, cure whatever illness is presented by the patient in your consulting room? Even in principle, this is absurd, without knowing “the cause” in biomedical understanding of what is “the cause” of the disease suffered by the patient.

[30:43] Now what is the biomedical understanding of “the cause” suffered by the individual patient in front of you as the practitioner as the medic.

[31:00] Take Covid-19. According to biomedicinem all diseases are caused by either a bacterium, a virus, poison, a prion — a prion is a piece of protein — or today, since the human genome project of genomics, a piece of the effective gene through you, right? So your illness is caused by one of these five things.

[31:43] So, some of these things, we can do something about as biotechnology improves. And other things in the past, you can’t do anything about.

[31:56] Today, we can do something about your faulty genetic sequence. Not all genetic sequences can be so easily cured by biotechnology unfortunately but a very limited amount one can do. For instance, in single gene defect you can do it. But not many diseases are caused by single genes defect. So having said that, you’ve got to hand it to BioMedicine, that in very limited cases, it can even fiddle with your genome, with your individual genome, to remove the offending bit of DNA sequence which you happen to have inherited from both your parents, right? So that is what, precisely what, it claims to to be able to do.

[32:52] Whereas, Chinese medicine is totally different.

[33:01] One doesn’t assess, analyze disease. We don’t call it disease in chinese medicine, anyway. We call it an illness because a disease presupposes that that variable, the relevant variable, is an entity. But as I say, Chinese medicine is not based on thing ontology.

[33:28] It is based on both process ontology and thing ontology. So it is a functioning of both right now.

[33:42] This now leads me to cover a gap which, something which I left out yesterday, because it was inconvenient and to reintroduce that matter. But now I think I will. Now yesterday I say that chinese medicine is Daojia medicine, Daoist philosophical medicine, medicine based on Daoist philosophy. And I said a YjJing is a daoist text, that the DaoDeJing of the Laozi is definitely a daoist text. That is a Daoist philosophical text.

[34:21] But there is also another text, which is the Zhuangzi. The Zhuangzi is also a Daoist philosophical text. Now yesterday, I said the DaoDeJing or the Laozi, although it did not never mention the word yinyang, nevertheless, you’ll never be able to understand yinyang, unless you have the concept of yingyang.

[34:50] Because it presupposes that everybody knows about the concept of yinyang, so he didn’t bother to set it out, all over again. And also the concept of what I called dyadism, and not dualism. So it also presupposes that but anyway.

[35:08] So the missing element comes then from the Zhuangzi. The Zhuangzi, of course, is later than the Laozi, but in the Zhuangzi, there is a very important distinction made and about qi. As you know that the fundamental category, in Daojia philosophy, in Chinese philosophy in general, is qi.

[35:38] Now qi, as i say, if you want me to explain what qi is, you probably have to have another 10 lectures on the subject, so I’m not going to attempt. All that I say is to rely on one’s intuitive understanding of what yang qi, as opposed to yin qi, right? That’s all I want to say because one has just about no time. But anyway if you think of yang qi or yin qi, or whatever it is that the qi, according to the Zhuangzi, occurs in two forms in the macrocosm, as well as in you, the microcosm. It is qi ju, and qi san.

[36:30] Now qi ju, I have personally myself translated as qi-in-concentrating mode, and qi san as qi-in-dissipating mode.

[36:50] Now in the macrocosm, of course, there is qi-in-concentrated mode, because qi-in-concentrating mode, in the abiotic world, in the world of the of nature which is non-organic, such as rocks, primarily — that’s the most obvious example of qi-in-concentrating mode in nature. Mountains made of rocks, et cetera, right? Now that is qi-in-concentrating mode, it exists as a thing. The Himalayas exist as a thing. But the Himalayas is very very tall.


[38:10] The Himalayas will become shorter and shorter and shorter, because erosion will have taken place, weathering would have taken place. And as a result, what was concentrated in the concentrating mode has become qi-in-dissipating mode.

[38:35] Now, in the laws of thermodynamics, in the modern laws of thermodynamics, we talk of the production of entropy. Now, of course, the Chinese have no equivalent direct equivalent concept of entropy, but I think if you read between the lines, the implications of qi-in-concentrating mode qi ju, as opposed to qi-in-dissipating mode, which is qi san, then you begin to grasp that the chinese do have some implicit understanding of what entropy could be.

[39:15] Because entropy is just simply, you know, an object like a table, no longer exists as the table. It exists as bits of wood, and from bits of wood, eventually become atoms and molecules of all bits, of standing for, bits of … I don’t know what they are.

[39:34] But anyway you can imagine what the physics of that may be.

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The ideas of qi-in-concentrating mode and qi-in-dissipating mode are more fully explained in Keekok Lee’s 2018 book. Here’s a table.

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[39:40] So, this is what it is about now. Then, in Chinese medicine, of course, you use we use the decocted, we use medicinals, which are qi ju, qi-in-concentrating mode.

[40:02] We use bits of plants, bits of animals and you’ll be putting them together put some water in it — water is also qi-in-concentrating mode — put them together, put the fire underneath, and you decoct and and you drink, right?

[40:18] But surprise, surprise, of the two medicines and there are various domains of Chinese medicine but primarily you can say — Efrem may may correct me in this if i’m wrong — two forms:

[40:37] One is decocted material that you drink, qi-in-concentrating mode. And the other you don’t use medicinals which consists of things, of things.

[40:5t] What you do is acupuncture.

[41:02] Now, ironically, ironically, acupuncture seems to go down better in the west today, than decoction.

[41:16] Now,l this to me is a puzzle. It’s very very strange. Because acupuncture is primarily about qi-in-dissipating mode.

[41:31] Medicinal decocted medicines treat the ill patient, the patient, via qi-in-concentrating mode, via things. But in acupuncture you are treating the patient not via things, but via qi-in-dissipating mode.

[41:54] That I find it very, very strange, that the most difficult concept from the BioMedical point of view, for some odd reason, the West buys much more, and much happier with it, than the other version. It fits in better with its metaphysics.

[42:18] Now, I see why the west buys acupuncture, which is the difficult notion as opposed to a decocted medicine which is metaphysically the easiest thing to cope. I express it in terms of geopolitics, and economics.

[42:38] First the geopolitics. Why is it that it goes down so well and that has something to do with Nixon. If you remember Nixon and Kissinger were the ones who broke the ice with China, with communist China in the 1970s.


[44:06] And the other is, this is also economics. Because, imagine you are an American. In america where there’s no national insurance, no free medicine, you’ve got to buy your own insurance, right? Now, for people who have no insurance then you cannot go to a consultant– a grand consultant, a BioMedical consultant — if you have an illness because you haven’t got the insurance to cover you, and you are suffering. So you realize maybe I could consult a bumble jumble man he costs less. So you go to your Chinese practitioner who probably charges you one-twentieth of what, or one-thirtieth of, what the grand consultant, you know, at the John Hopkins hospital, or wherever, whatever, or the Mayo Clinic would charge you.

[45:00] So, it’s both a geopolitical reason, and for economic reason, that acupuncture has become better acceptable, accepted in the west, than decoction.

[45:24] But in terms of metaphysics, it’s a very, very, difficult concept, it seems to me. Because you’re now talking about qi when the acupuncturist sticks the needle in you, in the jingluo, in the network of the jingmai, you are fiddling with qi-in-dissipating mode, in order ultimately to affect qi-in-concentrating mode.

[45:58] Now how is this done? This is done via a fundamental postulate methodological postulate which I will now introduce.

[46:28] And in Chinese it reads bu tong zhi teng, tong zhi bu teng. Now that sounds like a mouthful, because they all sound alike, you know, in Chinese, right?

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Here’s a helpful translation from Don Tai, on appreciating the Chinese language.

These are opposites and say the same thing:

  • bu4 tong4 zhi2 teng4 不通只疼 If there is a blockage then there is pain;
  • tong1 zhi3 bu4 teng2 通只不疼 if there is a clear path then there is no pain.

This is some word play she is doing.

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[46:33] So let me explain a bit. The first bu tong zhi teng, the bu tong here means a blockage. No passage. No right through passage. A blockage.

[46:48] So, if there is other words … At the second bu tong zhi tong, the second tone — although it sounds the same to a person who doesn’t know Chinese — the character is the << ? >> because the second tone means pain.

[47:09] So, bu tong zhi teng, means if there’s a blockage — blockage of what? — of qi, if there’s a blockage you’ll feel pain.

[47:18] Now the second bit tong zhi bu teng, the first tone in the second part is, if there’s no blockage, there is no pain.

[47:33] So the whole thing, bu tong zhi teng, tong zhi bu teng, translated it means, if there’s << spot? >> blockage, there’s pain.

[47:52] If there’s no << pop with? >> blockage there’s no pain.

[47:57] So in other words, then what does acupuncture actually tell us, when the patient comes to your consulting room, if you were a Chinese practitioner, medical practitioner? Ah, you will say, where’s the pain, right?

[48:12] Oh, of course, the patient is usually voluble, and can tell you without prompting, even, and so says, oh it hurts here, or it hurts there, or it hurts somewhere, pointing to a bit of the anatomy.

[48:25] And, of course, the Chinese medical practitioner would then take the pulse, ask questions, look at your complexion, and with these four diagnostic methods, pseudo, he would come to an assess, or she will come to an assessment, of what is wrong with you.

[48:44] And then, ah, then the practitioner would say, right, if I’m an acupuncturist — you need acupuncture. He might prefer to use medicinals but imagine, like Ephraim, who prefers presumably to choose acupuncture. I don’t know, I’m attributing it to him.

[49:03] He will then work out which is the right place to poke, you know, to stick the needle in, which is the correct xuewei of the jingmai, on which jingmai, you know, which will then unblock the blockage of qi. And once he unblocks the blockage of qi, there’ll be no more pain, right.

[49:26] So that is why, to me, this methodological postulate is very important. Because it directs the clinician’s attention to how to treat the patient.

[49:38] So your attempt is simply to unblock the blockage of qi, and when you have unblocked the blockage of qi, that lo and behold, the patient will tell you, ah daifu, there’s no more pain, right? No, if not immediately, at least a few days, or after a few sessions. It doesn’t mean that after one session you might be cured.

[50:13] Sometimes it requires a few sessions before you can tackle the business. So anyway, that is that.

[50:20] So, that’s a fundamental distinction very radical distinction between these two sets of medicines. And nothing presents the difference quite so drastically as in the notion of acupuncture. Because in acupuncture — as i keep repeating, and it may bear laboring the point — you are dealing with qi-in-dissipative mode.

[50:52] That’s why one owes it to the Zhuangzi, the Zhuangzi, for drawing attention to the distinction between qi ju and qi san.

[51:03] I don’t normally see this distinction much talked about, even in medical texts today in Chinese, written in Chinese. I’ve come across it before, but it’s not as often emphasized as you might think. So I think to pay a due respect and acknowledgement, we should put it Zhuangzi for having drawn our attention to these two modes of existence of qi.

[51:36] So that is why Chinese philosophy and Chinese medicine is not simply about the body, the physical body here. Never mind understanding the body as a machine. But just this body is not simply understanding around this body but understanding the qi circulating in this body as well.

[51:58] And so that is why in Chinese philosophy and medicine, nobody would be interested very much, in what a corpse is. Because a corpse has no live qi.

[52:17] So admittedly, and Ephraim will remind me of this, I’m sure, when a person dies, for a first few hours, the relatives people around the dead person wouldn’t notice much change. Quite often, the dead look as if they’re asleep, right? But if you don’t bury the dead straight awa,y after a few hours, and leave it lying about for seven days ah then it’s a different matter.

[52:49] It is no longer a qi-in-concentrating mode, a thing in the body, but the body, you know, becomes qi-in-dissipating mode, and you wouldn’t like that.

[53:03] And so, as a result, Chinese medicine doesn’t pay any attention to the corpse, because a corpse exquisite, has no qi-in-dissipating mode flowing through it, running through it.

[53:22] Whereas BioMedicine say, you cannot kill people, we cannot give you certificate to certify you as a proper doctor if you didn’t know your anatomy, if you didn’t know your bits of your skeleton, bits of your tissue, and now bits of your DNA, as well.

[53:41] So they are concentrating on single ontology and qi-in-concentrating mode at the expense of qi-in-dissipating mode.

[53:57] But in Chinese medicine you are concerned with both, because if something is wrong with your qi-in-dissipating mode, it will express itself as felt pain in a part of your body. And your body is qi-in-concentrating mode.

[54:18] So it marries, as I say before, thing ontology and process ontology, because qi-in-dissipating mode is about physiology. it is about function, and function is a process not a thing.

[54:43] So it marries the two: thing ontology with process ontology.

[54:53] So, in this sense I think, if you go back to acupuncture, you will see how this works … you can work out for yourself, those of you who know more about acupuncture than I. How qi-in-dissipating mode, in which you emphasize on, but not necessarily to the expense of qi-in-concentrating mode, you try to to combine both modes in your practice, in your theory and your practice.


[55:52] I’ll move on to a slightly different, though related, topic right now.

[55:59] I want to show that how Chinese medicine operates in practice, because i’ve been talking about high theory quite often. Too much so, according to some people. Now let me descend to the ground a bit more.

[56:19] And that is to talk about what sometimes is now called the four P’s in medicine.

[56:28] I don’t want for the moment to talk about the analogous four P’s is in BioMedicine which has developed,just eight or nine years ago, but I talked about the four P’s of chinese medicine.

[56:47] That chinese medicine is predictive, << modern? >> P; preventive, second p; personalized, third P; fourth P, participatory medicine. So four P’s, right? So what do I mean by the four Ps?

[57:14] Prediction. I’ll just do prediction and prevention together, because according to Chinese medicine, which is again absurd to modern BioMedical ears, if you know how to diagnose, your diagnosis will immediately lead you to an understanding on how to treat the patient. So I’m going to treat the two P’s prediction and prevention.

[57:51] Now I will choose an example which I have already used yesterday, because I think it’s good. It refreshes people’s mind. And I don’t have to cope with more examples. So I’ll use an old example which I used.

[58:05] If you remember yesterday, I said from the writings of Liu Lihong, I have got this particular narrative, this particular story, and that is that a particular, very distinguished, therefore excellent Chinese practitioner physician, who is therefore a shang gong and not a xia gong. A xia gong is not a very competent practitioner. A zhong gong, which most practhitioners are, they are competent but not really distinguished. But this is a genuine shang gong, really very distinguished, I’m told anyway.

[58:51] So this particular very distinguished practitioner took the assessed, the mai profile of a particular patient. And he said that, look there’s something wrong with you, because it is now winter and you are not presenting a mai profile which is consonant with the season of the year, because it is not a winter mai that you are showing, it is a summer mai.

[59:25] So qian ren xiang yin, macro micro cosmic wholism, means that you are out of synch with. Your microcosm is out of synch with the macrocosm. The macrocosm out there is winter, but your microcosm is overpowering already. Whereas in winter, yang qi is very subdued.

[59:48] So he diagnoses, and therefore he predicts, that if you don’t do something about it, come this summer, bring the yang qi in summer is at its maximum, and added to your own disorder already, you add to the yang qi from the outside world, oh you’ll be a goner he said.

[1:00:14] This man was very stubborn. He says no, there’s nothing wrong with me, he said. I don’t believe in your bumble jumble anyhow. You’re not scientific. I believe in Western medicine. Western medicine isn’t wrong but we haven’t been through all the tests. So if I’m fine, fine, fine. Nobody can force another person to have treatment, anyway.

[1:00:32] And so, okay come this summer, the following summer, indeed the daughter of this chap then rang up the physician who had diagnosed her father, and said, I’m afraid father had gone because the yang qi was overwhelming. I think he had a heart attack of some kind. So he was gone. Right, you say.

[1:00:55] So you say prediction, diagnosis, … prediction and prevention go together. So he knew that his prognosis would be correct and and so on.

[1:01:10] Now that personalized medicine …. I’ll give you a story, this time not from Liu Lihong, but from another very very distinguished writer, a practitioner, a scholar, scholar practitioner, called Hao Wanshan. Now I think Hao Wanshan is today acknowledged in China as an authority on the Shanghanlung. So I’m only borrowing from him. I take it he is the authority, to which I bow lower deeply, and so this is what he tells me.

[1:01:54] Personalized medicine he said during a particular flu epidemic in Beijing, some time ago — not this epidemic but another earlier epidemic — a couple came along to see him. And this couple then said to him – the woman was obviously the person who wore the pants in the household, right, in this couple — so she says, daifu, we have been to see the medical, the BioMedical doctors. And they say that we have the same virus, it’s flu. So you just give one prescription that will do duty for both of us. Because they suffer from the same thing.

[1:02:48] So Hao Wanshan was quite shocked by this, and patiently explained to the couple, the patients. He said look, this is you’re giving me an account of the illness from the BioMedical point of view, but I’m not a BioMedical doctor, I am a Chinese physician, and so I diagnose differently. I have to diagnose each of you separately, because it is personalized medicine that I do. I don’t do, you know …. Of course, this is not to say there is no mass produced formula in Chinese medicine but it’s always a faute-de-mieux, faute-de-mieux, because you have no time in an epidemic, you suddenly have no time to see individual patients, so you do have, you know, mass produced stuff.

[1:03:36] But ideally it’s personalized medicine. So, in the end, what it turns out is, the woman wore the pants. She was the extrovert. She was a person who dictated terms to the husband. The husband was a mouthy fellow. An introvert. And so the physician, Hao Wanshan, diagnosed accordingly. One was an extrovert. The other was an introvert. But therefore the personal condition was totally different according to Chinese medicine. But to cut a long story short, he had to give them two separate different types of medicinals, in order to cope with that, with their situation. And it turned out why the woman was so keen that they share one prescription [was] because her workplace had covered her with work insurance. So she said, whereas if the hospital knows i had a separate prescription he won’t be covered, then we’ll have to pay out of our own pocket. So why not save costs, so by asking for one prescription. So that was her thinking. So that was very funny. So that is you know what is meant by personalized or individualized medicine.

[1:04:56] Each person, technically, from the BioMedical point of view, you may have the same virus in you.

[1:05:03] So today a SARS-COV-2 might come along. Yeah, indeed, one has SARS-COV-2 but it doesn’t mean that your COVID-19 is the same as somebody else’s COVID-19.

[1:05:15] According to the Chinese practitioner, you’re one, you need a different types of treatment, all together, right? That’s it.

[1:05:22] Now participatory medicine. What could that mean? Hao Wanshan also gives, what I think is, a very a lovely example of what the Chinese practitioner means, medical practitioner means, by participatory medicine.

[1:05:41] He describes a client, a patient. This woman came in one day, looking very, very, cross very very angry. And then she also said she had a stabbing pain in the throat. Pain in the stomach.

[1:06:08] Well, anyway, she was all worked up. She couldn’t sleep. Insomnia was what she suffered from, as well. So she couldn’t sleep at all, right? Et cetera, et cetera.

[1:06:21] Now, Hao Wanshan then probed her, through the technique of asking the patient, wen,

[1:06:28] So through asking, the asking technique, he got her to put in the story of why she’s so angry. It turned out that a woman, her neighbor, wanted to build a kitchen against her external wall, by the side. And in digging up, to make the extension, the woman discovered that it was a huge boulder which came out from the ground. So the woman tried, the neighbor tried, to remove it. And she and others in the neighborhood, in the community, only managed to move the stone so much, and no further because, you know in Beijing, as those of you who have been to beijing know, these passages the huatong, are very narrow.

[1:07:29] So the neighbor only managed to move the large boulder, to a certain extent, of the huatong, of the narrow passage, but couldn’t get it out any further. And it just happened that the boulder stopped in front of this woman’s house. So this woman was irate. And she was even, because she said every day when she comes with her bicycle, she had to carry the bicycle inside into her house, carry a bicycle out of her house, over the boulder.

[1:08:02] That was, of course, inconvenient. And furthermore, she said when she got very angry with the neighbour, the husband tried to calm her down and said you cannot blame the woman, you know, our neighbor. She did ask for permission. She did ask me, and I said there was no problem about her building an extension leaning against my external wall.

[1:08:26] And it’s not our intention to block the passage. [It] just happens that the boulders too large to be to be carried, to be carried out. And this irate woman then said, of course, this is your story, but I know that you fancy her anyway, because she’s prettier than I, and she should play the role of the jealous housewife, she says. You can see all these going through, all these emotions. And in the end she had a terrible complexion. She suffered from insomnia and all other ills.

[1:09:00] And so finally Hao Wanshan diagnosed that there was hua, that there was this heat in her liver, because liver is the seat of of heat you say. And Hao Wanshan, however resorted to the means or technique in Chinese philosophy, and which is in certain circumstances you do not describe medicinals nor do you do acupuncture. You use other means. What other means did Hao Wanshan, non-medical means, altogether, to cure, to treat this patient?

[1:09:44] He asked questions about where she lived. And bells began to ring in his mind. He said, ah, you probably lived in a place which was, once upon a time, occupied by a very high Manchu official who had a vast garden. And, of course, Chinese rich people, including, you know, scholar officials and so on officials, they import into the gardens boulders, rocks, which, from the aesthetic point of view, they think it improves the garden. Whether modern people think so, it’s another matter. But they did, right?

[1:10:30] So Hao Wanshan deduced that it must be that this important official, whose ancient residents these characters are now living nearby, introduced this great big boulder. So he deduced it must be a very beautiful piece of boulder, too. So he said, may I come along to your house to see what the boat is like? So he went along to the woman’s house. The woman showed him. Ah, he said, that’s right, it’s a beautiful boulder. You can’t get it out. It’s obstructing the way. The woman is angry. No amount of medicine, in form of acupuncture or decoction, would help such a person. Let me transform the landscape for her.

[1:11:19] So, this is participation. That’s a huge answer. He said, now look, he said, let’s get the young men in the neighborhood with strong arms. We will shift the stone in a way, as far as we can, and in a position from which you can appreciate it best of all, from your window, or from your door when you open the door each morning when you get out to work. And he’s got the young men to do that. Then he got the young man to scrub clean because it was covered with soil, and filth for many many decades, like a century, a century, if not more.

[1:12:00] Scrubbed it lovely and clean, a beautiful boulder. The grain of this rock becomes clear. And so then he suggested, now then, why don’t we buy some plants, lovely plants, and plant them with soil, around the border of the stone. And he says now, in a few months time, I’ll come again and see what the new landscape would be. Oh, he said, even before he could go and see the patient’s house himself, the patient’s burst in one day looking a totally changed person. This time, no more anger on her face, smiling, looking, complexion looking good, and the moment he walked into his consulting room he said, she said to him, they said, oh it’s looking beautiful now! He said, you have transformed the whole landscape. It’s beautiful! They said, you know, daifu, today at night, I don’t even close the door. I sit, you know, with the open door to admire the landscape as long as I can, before I go to bed. And it’s so soothing, and so lovely so nice.

[1:13:25] And so Hao Wanshan went along to see it. Indeed it looks very beautiful because the << palms? >> had gone. The plants were flowering. So, he had to produce a different landscape for her to enjoy, a pleasurable landscape. So he used no medicine. He cured the woman.

[1:13:40] So this kind of participation, such as it is, peculiar to Chinese medicine, I cannot see, you know, my doctor, my brother BioMedical doctor, coming around and prescribing things like that to me.

[1:13:58] The most they might say, oh well, your job is very stressful. Change your job. Well telling people to change that job is easier said than done. I mean, where would you get your a new livelihood just changing your job?

[1:14:10] So this neither here nor there. But that’s a limit to the extent they will ask, they will use non-medical intervention, to solve your problem. But this one, actually, designed a landscape for the patient, and participation.

[1:14:29] So that’s why, I think, it’s very a lovely story to tell. “And it’s a very nice story to tell./

[1:14:34] So, these are the four P’s of Dhinese medicine.

0210617 SSFS8 LEE Kee Kok – Philosophy of Chinese Medicine 2

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2021/06/16 Keekok Lee | Philosophy of Chinese Medicine 1

The philosophy of science underlying Classical Chinese Medicine, in this lecture by Keekok Lee, provides insights into ways in which systems change may be approached, in a process ontology in contrast to the thing ontology underlying Western BioMedicine. This online web video lecture is a complement (and update) to two prior books:

Highlights from the transcript from the Youtube recording are provided below, in the interest of scholarship.

20210616 SSFS8 LEE Kee Kok – Philosophy of Chinese Medicine 1 | Global University for Sustanability

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[0:40] Now, what I’m going to talk about basically is, as [Kho] Tong Yi has introduced me, from this vantage point of a philosopher trained in the analytical school of philosophy, but who has taken an interest, first of all in the philosophy of biology, then in the philosophy of genetics, in the philosophy in ecological studies, etc.

[1:10] And so, with that background, I then turned my attention, naturally, to the philosophy of of medicine.

[1:20] Now, for the purpose of, I mean, as you know, the subject is immensely complex and immensely large, so to narrow down somewhat, what I propose to do in these two days exploration with you, is first is really to concentrate on the philosophical framework in which the medicine is embedded.

[1:48] And having excavated the philosophical framework some of the major concepts in which the philosophy in which the medicine is embedded, then I will, later on, probably tomorrow, in the second exploration to talk about the methodological implications of such a body of philosophical medicine.

[2:24] So, basically, that’s the rough outline of what I’m going to do.

[2:30] Now, first of all, too, let me, as a philosopher it’s in my DNA to start everything off by defining my terms.

[2:40] So, I better get it off my chest before I say anything else.

[2:45] And now, how do I use the term Chinese medicine in these two explorations I hope to do with you, to share with you?

[2:58] First of all I am simply referring to that system of medicine which is, in the sense you can say, is by large indigenous to china and the chinese culture and civilization, as far as I know that is.

[3:19] Obviously, I don’t know everything about this subject, because as subject is very vast and very complicated and very large, and historically it has lasted I think probably more than 2,000 years.

[3:32] So, obviously there’ll be large gaps in my own knowledge.


[5:33] Now, the next big point I want to draw your attention to, is that in my understanding of philosophy, and its implications for other disciplines and domains of intellectual activity, it is this, I am what may be called a practical philosopher.

[5:54] I don’t know whether other people have ever called themselves a practical philosopher. I know that some people have called themselves an applied philosopher, but I’ve not an applied philosopher. I am, I think, a practical philosopher, in the sense I take an activity such as medicine or such as ecology or whatever it is that one is looking on, and then as a philosopher having been trained in analytical school or philosophy, I then use certain methods of understanding the subject.

[6:32] So I use a set of methodological tools if you like, upon the first order activity with which I am commenting on, so in that sense then I call myself a a practical philosopher and not an applied philosopher.


[7:56] Now, I would like to introduce it by, as I say, relating it to a general philosophical framework, so that philosophical framework will then lead me into talking about certain major texts in Chinese philosophy, in order to show in what way Chinese medicine is embedded in such a larger philosophical context.

[8:26] So now then the characterization, in a nutshell that I would give, if you press me at this moment in time, is to say that I would characterize chinese philosopher medicine as “yi dao yi”.

[8:46] Now the first yi is the yi of the YiJing.

[8:52] Dao is the dao of Laozi.

[8:59] And yi, the third syllable, as they were, the third character of the “yi dao yi” is medicine.

[9:10] So in other words, yi dao yi, which the chinese call << ko yi?> bai, themselves call it bai, is therefore embedded in the central philosophical concepts of the heating, of of the DaoDeJing or Laozi.

[9:33] And the ancient chinese have, I suppose if you like, combine these ideas into a systematic whole, if you like, so that in the end you’ll have a system of medicine which we today call chinese medicine and which they themselves call yi dao yi.


Take Aristotelian science, which is medieval western science. Because, to remind you audience very quickly, first of all, in the western tradition you have the ancient Greek philosophers.


[13:17] Now then, if you want to understand Aristotelians, Aristotle, science, particularly science of biology, you’ve got to understand Aristotle’s four main causes. The four main causes are being: material, formal, efficient and final.

[13:40] Now take a statue. Say we have a statue. of … Alexander the Great perhaps, riding on his horse Bucephalus.

[13:56] Now, the material course is quite clear. It’s probably made of bronze or stone or whatever fancy material people might like to make a statue of.

[14:07] The efficient cause are the sculptors themselves, or a sculptor who done it.

[14:11] Then, the formal cause is, he must carry in his head and blueprint, if not actually on a bit of paper in front of him, he carries in his head, of what Alexander he thinks might look like, what his horses might look like, what someone riding our horse might look like, the posture of the horse, and so on. So that is the of formal cause.

[14:36] And then the final cause is the reason why he’s sculpturing it, why he was doing the sculpture. And it could be because his society, of which he’s a part, has commissioned him to do it, because his community likes the idea of Alexander the Great being a cultural hero. And to celebrate a cultural hero, you’ve got to put up a statue in your town square or plaza or something.

[15:01] So, you have four main causes, right?

[15:05] Now, come after the enlightenment, come modern western science, and modern western philosophy, to back up the modern science, Aristotle’s four causes were pared down to two. We got rid of two of them. The two of them which were not acceptable — they were considered to be metaphysical in the abusive sense of the word metaphysics — because they intervened a philosophy called positivism.

[15:36] And positivism does not like metaphysics in the abusive sense, because they equate it with unintelligibility, with absurdity, with nonsense.

[15:46] So what are the two causes that they found metaphysical and therefore offensive and acts from aristotle’s schema of explanation? And that is: the final cause, and the formal cause, they say no good, we don’t want to investigate into people’s thoughts you know, subjective stuff, not objective. Modern science, you must remember is very objective and quantitative, so no, no, no good.

[16:15] So formal causes, axed. Final cause, also. We don’t care, you know, natural phenomena has no final cause anyway.

[16:28] So, what we are left with is the material cause, and the efficient cause. So, that is how we understand modern science, how we understand natural phenomena today following this kind of philosophical framework.

[16;50] Now, so that is so to give you just one example ,…

[16:58] Now, in Aristotelian science, particularly during the medieval period of european science and philosophy and history, how do you explain the law of accelerating, or of acceleration? If you would throw a stone on the top of the tower of Pisa, let us say you’ll find that the object falls faster and faster, as it reaches the ground.

[17:24] Now, an Aristotelian physicist then explains this in this way. You see every object has its own natural home.


[18:07] Now then, so a stone is a heavy object, so if you throw a stone from the Tower of Pisa, let us imagine, that heavy object falls to the ground, because the home is the ground. So Aristotelian physicists tend to interpret the speed of acceleration in the following manner. They say: imagine yourself, you’ve been a long way visiting, as a tourist going around the world, and you’re now finally at the end of your trip, and you’re coming home to see your family, your loved ones. So as you got out of the plane your heart thumps, you walk a bit faster ….


[19:20] So finally, when we get out of the taxi in front of our home, and the door opens, that is when we get really the most excited. And so that is why you walk faster and faster. You run faster and faster as you reach home. So it’s the same with the stone. The ground is its home. So it’s joyful, and as it is because it’s joyous, and a joyful thing to do, it goes faster and faster so that is how Aristotelian medieval physics explain itself.

[19:58] Now, to a modern physicist,. that is a piece of nonsense, because a natural phenomena has no feelings. It has no thought. Nothing like that. It’s all objective quantitative science that we are doing.

[20:15] So therefore, we don’t need the formal cause. We don’t need the final cause.

[20:22] All that we need is the material cause. So the material cause, in this case, is the stone, right? And it has certain characteristics, as I say. It’s heavy. It has a certain mass. It has a certain density, etc. etc. If the stone is not of that character, then, but it’s more like a feather, then it wouldn’t fall faster and faster as it reaches the ground, right?

[20:53] And the efficient cause, the efficient cause has nothing to do with mental characteristics which the investigator have. It is to do with what we will say you know the the atmospheric pressure, the signs of friction. All these things are signs of aerodynamics.

[21:17] All these factors will then, you know, influence or impact upon the way that the stone falls to the ground, or a feather floats in the air, or whatever it is we are trying to explain. So, that is it.

[21:34] Now then, so this is modern science, and modern, embedded in modern philosophy.

[21:41] Now if you look at Chinese medicine which is the science — as at least I claim it is a science — if you look at it, it has nothing to do, you know, with our understanding of modern physics or modern biomedicine. So how would we understand what the chinese themselves call yi dao yi. So to understand yi dao yi, I have very quickly then to tell you what the basic philosophical texts are in which the medicine derives itself from.

[22:24] So the yi of the YiJing, let’s start with that now. For the English speakers maybe I should also call it the I Ching.


[23:10] I prefer to talk of the I Ching, for the simple reason that, in the history of of the YiJing as a text in chinese understanding, there are various versions of it because, come the Zhou, from the Han dynasty, the Han people, the Han scholars, added a part to it called the Ten Wings, or whatever it’s called, and then it became it came to be called the ZhouYi, right?

[23:41] So I’m not talking about the ZhouYi, because the ZhouYi has a modern part to it.

[23:45] For my purpose, the Han yi is already too recent. You’re going to go back to the really old parts of the YiJing. So that’s, I think, the oldest part of the YiJing, you know. It’s the YiJing, not the ZhouYi.

[24:01] That’s why I call it the YiJing.

[24:05] Now, if you ask me how I get the YiJing, again, you know, I don’t want to go into a long history about the history, the historiography, because we are not here to talk about historiography, but i’ll simply say that Chinese scholars themselves, probably, would put it somewhere during the warring states period which will mean that it is, at least, as a mature text, as a mature text, you know, something like, over 2000 years ago. So let’s be as vague as that, so no need to be more precise.

[24:49] Now, I’ll come back to this point in a minute, but let’s move on a little. So what is peculiar about the YiJing, now? To those of us who already know something about the YiJing, the teaching is commonly understood as a divination text. Now, it’s very strange to think that a divination text could possibly have anything to do with a thing called Chinese medicine, which I claim to be a science. So, a mystery about that.

[25:27] So let me quickly explain away some of the puzzling features of this, of this plan.

[25:35] Now, although it began as a divination text — filled out it was — it began its life as a divination text, I think Chinese scholars are, on the whole, convinced that very soon it was not simply a mere divination text in the normal understanding of the term, because officials and scholars worked upon the text to turn it into a set of as a set of diagnostic and predictive tools if you like, and prognostic tools, diagnostic and prognostic.

[26:17] A set of tools, analytical tools, which can then be used to explain various domains of phenomena. Of course, one domain of phenomena the Chinese people were very interested in, was in the art of ruling. So as you can say, then it is used in political discourse.

[24:40] Another area is is in medicine, because we need help to know how to diagnose and prognosticate, you know, the trajectory of an illness etc., etc.

[26:53] So, it is in this context, then, that I say that it is a set of diagnostic tools, analytical and diagnostic tools, to understand phenomena, medical phenomena, as well as enable us to prognosticate.

[27:15] Now, why is the YiJing so helpful? To understand that, you’ll have to say, in that sense too, I’ll have to break in at this at this moment in time, a point made implicitly by the DaoDeJing, by Laozi, because Laozi, the texts go out, didn’t actually use the term yinyang, as far as I know. But you can never, you would never, understand the text itself, without having the concept of yinyang, so when all is said and done, the YiJing and the DaoDeJing are really talking about the basic metaphysics of Chinese thinking, Chinese culture, and Chinese civilization, and that is yinyang.

[28:14] And because we are talking about yinyang, now, and I would be emphasizing this you are really talking about, you know, wholism in what sense then is this committed to wholism and therefore never to reductionism as a methodological postulate.

[28:44] So, now let’s just go back to the YiJing. The YiJing, as we all know has got the bagua. The bagua is normally translated as the eight trigrams, right? And if you have eight trigrams, if you were to do a quick permutation of the eight trigrams, I think mathematically — I am no good at maths, but I trust other people’s calculations — the permutation will turn out to be 64 hexagrams. So you have eight trigrams and 64 hexagrams.

[24:29] Now, if you look at a trigram, a trigram is, what in Chinese, what in English I would say have three components parts. That’s why it’s called tri, it is three parts. And in Chinese terminology, they’re called the three yao [lines]. So one yao, two yao, three yao.

[29:52] Now, a yao is — consists of — two possible types of constructions. One is what may be called an unbroken line. The unbroken line stands for yang, and the broken line stands for yin,. So that is why yinyang.

[30:21] So now, I think at this stage I may have to go into a diagram.



[31:26] If you concentrate on this, this is one yao [line], two yao, three yao, Usually we start from the bottom, but it doesn’t matter for my purpose where we start from. So this unbroken [line] is a yang yao. This broken one [line] is the ying yao. So it forms, later on we shall see, it forms the whole, right?

[31:49] So, that is, simplistically, what it is when the Chinese talk of yinyang. They’re actually, I think, talking about yin qi and yang qi.

[32:09] Now, how do we understand yin qi and yang qi? And this takes us into the cosmology and therefore the philosophy of Chinese medicine, behind Chinese medicine. Noow to understand this let me go further, further down.

[32:31] Now, this is the famous iconic figure, right? I don’t need to say any more about this.


[32:37] But if you look at this picture you will find that …

[32:45] Oh, let me go to this one first.


[32:47] You will find that this one is really an attempt to show people about the yin qi and the yang qi.

[32:57] So, start with winter. Now winter is the time where the yang qi stays in the water, according to the Chinese cosmologists, goes into the ocean. Now there’s some empirical evidence for this.

[33:12] I believe, according to oceanographers, actually water retains heat much more than the surface area of earth.

[33:26] So, in that sense, it’s quite correct to say that, you know, the yang qi stays in water, whereas on the surface it evaporates, it vanishes once winter has come.

[33:40] Now if you look at this gua, what you say, it stands for winter.

[33:57] This trigram stands for winter, and so you can see just as winter ends the yang chi starts to rise. So I say ascending spring establishes.

[34:13] So, this is spring and then the yang qi floats up to this gua, which stands for summer so you can see that this gua [trigram] that stands for summer has two yang yao [unbroken lines]. This gua [trigram] which stands for winter has two yin yao [broken lines], so it expresses the difference between the two. And then in the autumn the yang qi starts to descend.

[34:43] In other words you lose the yang qi and the ying qi starts to rise. and then the yang qi sinks and finally sinks back into winter.

[34:53] So it is, in other words then, I would like to draw your attention, to some ears it might sound, it might just feel very strange, that I will refer to Laws of Nature in Chinese science and Chinese cosmology for the simple reason, because normally when people talk about Laws of Nature, they have Newton’s laws of nature in mind, which are quantitative laws, objective quantitative laws.

[35:26] But yet I don’t see why I shouldn’t borrow this use, the same concept about the laws of nature. But this time, in writing, I would put them in an italicized mode. So but when speaking, I will just qualify by saying, bear in mind that I’m talking about Chinese Laws of Nature, which are not quantitative, at all, although I think they are objective but they are not quantitative, whereas the Western laws of nature are quantitative.

[36:00] Right, so I’ll keep on using the Chinese Laws of Nature. Now, the Chinese Laws of Nature basically, some people say, are two. But I think that actually they can be reduced even to one. So whether you’re talking about one or two, it doesn’t matter, because the concept is the same. Now take one of the Chinese Laws of Nature which are commonly called the zhou ye xie lu which translated roughly, would be the daily, the days sequence of, the daily sequence of night following, following day, and day giving way to night again, you know.

[35:58] And if you’re talking about this si shi jie lv, then you are talking about the four seasons in the annual cycle

[37:12] Spring followed, is followed by summer. Summer is followed by autumn. Autumn is followed by winter and then the cycle really could uh continues a deux with spring, blah blah blah blah blah.

[37:30] Now that is why, in the end, there is also another law, which the Chinese seem to have a law of nature which is called zhou er fu shi, which I would translate as cyclic reversion. And this is precisely what I have just said.

[37:52] So when winter arrives, you can expect next year spring will occur, and spring will be followed by summer, summer will be followed by autumn, autumn will be followed by winter. So it’s cyclic reversion, the cycle starts all over again. And that is why it is sustainable. It is sustainable because it’s cyclic reversion, right?

[38:22] It’s the same with daylight, as opposed to night time. The daily sequence starts up all over again. So that is why I think … I’ll mind you …. Before I go on, let me just quickly add the thought which has just occurred to me now in this cyclic reversion.

[38:48] One is not saying that the next winter, which comes, is going to be identical to the last winter, which has just passed. It’s not to say that because there are differences in winter, differences in summer, every year, especially if we live in this island called the UK, which I do.

[39:09] You can begin to see some winters, you know, coming dreadfully cold with frozen ground, thick ice and so on, and another winter that is very mild. So it doesn’t mean that that they are identical. There are tremendous differences, one winter from another winter, but nevertheless there’s continuity as well as change.

[39:35] And so that is why, at this point, you’ve got to go back to the Yijing, because what is the meaning of yi in the Yijing? The term yi in the Yijing means change. Originally, in fact, the Yijing is based on observation of the weather. The weather changes, so the ancient Chinese thinkers build a metaphysics, a cosmology, from their observation of what they see about natural, of natural, phenomena. So the ancient Chinese, after one minute the sun is out, the weather is fine. Another minute, the sun goes behind clouds, it’s no longer fine but dark and gloomy.

[40:28] So when the sun shines and the sky is full of light, well, you call it yang. This is because of the sunlight. The light comes from the sun so it’s yang, taiyang, which means sun. And then yin is the shadow. So where the sun hides behind the cloud or the clouds gets in front of the sun then it’s yin. It’s not fine.


[41:05] .. from before I said I’m constantly amused why it is that the ancient Britons never tumbled to the Eastern concept of change. Because in Britain the weather is even more changeable than it is in a continental climate like China. But yet, for some odd reason, the ancient Chinese tumbled to it, and the ancient Britons didn’t. So, that’s my joke.

[41:32] Right. So if you have so the yi of the Yijing means change. But bear this in mind Chinese thought is what I call dyadic. In other words, it’s the polar contrast between yin and yang, do not conflict and oppose each other. That is western dualistic thought, the Chinese do not have that. The Chinese have dyadism. So with dyadism, the polar contrast of yin and yang of change, with that, the notion of change, therefore also implies the notion of constancy.

[42:21] So, in spite of change there is also constancy. So it’s this very complex relationship between polar contrasts, the Chinese philosophers, and therefore Chinese medicine, I think, are after. That behind yang is therefore yin. Behind yin is yang. And the two do not clash and conflict following Aristotle’s. Why is it in the west that polar contrasts are treated as [diagonally opposing] diametrically opposing, and conflicting?

[43:02] I think we have to go back to our Aristotle. My famous example is Aristotle’s principle of excluded middle. Aristotle’s principle of exclusive middle, put simplistically, simply runs like this:

[43:16] P, or not-P. Either P is true, or not-P is true.

[43:29] So when you have this, you have conflict. Because… Let’s take a religious example.

[43:37] If I believe in an Abrahamic god, but your god is not Abrahamic, right, so either I’m right or you are right, but both of us cannot be right, because the principal of excluded middle permits only one of the two sides to be correct. So naturally, especially if I am an important economic military power, Ii would say my version of Abrahamic, of religion, is correct. You not out there, you know, no good, you are wrong, and therefore I impose my view on you in the name of truth and validity. And so that’s how you can get really oppositional, a very, very, conflicting and, diametrically opposed answers, that people take.

[44:39] But it’s chinese philosophy, because it doesn’t believe in the dualistic conflicts of that, and the principle of excluded middle, as shown by these trigrams.


[44:45] If you go back to … the trigram. The eight trigrams, the bagua, you can see that there are eight positions, not two. Now , this is the qian gua [south, top of page]. This this is the kun gua [north, bottom of page]. This [qian gua] is the fully yang. This [kun gua] is the fully yin, right? But there are two extremes. But in between, you have a variety of permutations which, in fact, incorporate the yinyang components polar contrast, in somewhat different ways, in each of the two things.

[45:29] So that is why it’s a subject which I can’t talk to you about in great detail, today. That’s why I think that ancient Chinese philosophy are logic — I mean Chinese philosophy has no formal logic, that is quite correct — but having said that, it had an implicit logic. And the implicit logic isn’t the ancient value logic that we take for granted.

[45:56] And don’t talk about the hexagram, right, over 64 values, I can’t cope, I could barely cope. So it is actually an anticipation, of what today, we call fuzzy logic.

[46:13] If you look at logic textbooks today, since the 20th century the latter part of the 20th century, there’s such a thing called fuzzy logic. And fuzzy logic is, in fact, also both sets of logic, a dualistic logic of qian and kun, and couldn’t exist in computer, and in computer logic technology, because the qian, yang gua, is the three yao, is simply represented by one. And the kun qua, the three yin yao represented by zero. So computer technologies one and zero, so it’s really you know these two extremes that you’re using.

[47:01] But fuzzy logic also today uses the rest of these, as may be represented by the other members of the trigram now.


[47:22] So you see how it is that, therefore necessarily, you have to understand yinyang in terms of this, by now very very familiar iconic symbol of the yinyang. I don’t need to go into it in great detail, but just to point out why it is that they form a whole, because the whole of chinese philosophy, cosmology, and therefore of all its activities, including medicine, is a wholistic one.

[47:59] Now another way of putting the point is to say that in chinese philosophy and cosmology, which underpins Chinese medicine, is what, in Sinological discourse, is commonly called correlative thinking.

[48:20] Qian ren xiang yin or qian ren he yi.

[48:38] Qian ren xiang yin I think is found more in medical texts. And and qian ren he yi is found more in other contexts. But I prefer therefore to use qian ren xiang ying which Sinologists translate as co-relative thinking.

[48:59] But that is according to me. I don’t buy the data translation because I think the translation makes it sound like a piece of epistemology, whereas I think it’s a piece of metaphysics. It’s a piece of ontology and that is why I translate it as the macrocosm and the microcosm.

[49:26] There’s a macrocosm out there, in this universe, and there’s a microcosm. But what happens in the macrocosm is in the microcosm, reflected or resides also in the microcosm. So that is why you say, if greater nature of that macrocosm has yin and yang, so in us, the microcosm we must also have yin yang because of qian ren xiang ying.

[50:00] So I call this — this is a mouthful — macro micro cosmic wholism. Macro micro cosmic wholism.

[50:16] Call it what you like. But to grasp what I’m saying, for the moment, for the sake of understanding, what I said you’ve got to work with my understanding that it’s a piece of ontology. It is piece of metaphysics and not correlative thinking. Correlative thinking, I think, don’t capture the the spirits and the essence of of the subject.


[51:20] So you can see yinyang is at the top, and the yinyang is presiding over this via qian ren xiang ying macro micro cosmic wholism

[51:35] Now then, as you can see to understand this, I’m afraid we have now got to mention — only mention because I have no time to go into it in detail — a very important concept and that is wuxing, which is can be translated as five transformational phases.

[51:59] There are other interpreter ways of transliterating it, but I think that comes nearest to it. It’s is a phase. It’s not about entities, although the chinese like to use the words: wood, fire, earth, water, metal, water. But it’s not.

[52:18] It is actually, wood stands for the qi, for rising yang qi because in spring plants as organisms start to grow. And so you use wood to stand for the rising yang qi of spring. Fire, you just use to stand for the even greater amount increasing amount of yang qi of summer.

[52:57] And then you come to metal where the yang qi begins to abate, and the yin qi begins to increase, at the expense of the yang chi in the autumn. And you use water as I said before to stand for the maximum amount the amount of yin qi, come the winter.

[53:28] Now these relationships that you see in the outer diagram here, this is sometimes called, they call it, nourishment, mutual nourishment cycle. Other people call it the another thing but it doesn’t matter.

[53:46] You can say that one promotes the other, right? Now the funny thing is, I can’t explain in detail, because we have no time, but the funny thing is there’s only four seasons as represented by metal, water, wood, and fire. But wuxing has got five phases in it. So where does the fifth phase come from? Now the rich Chinese put in earth because earth is a kind of equilibrating process, if you like. And so, it pulls, you know, the the lot together, in my understanding, that is. Other people may do a different account of the function of, you know, the role of earth played in wuxing.

[54:40] So now then, if you then go back, and these are the antagonistic relationships, so as can be shown by these arrows, so again there’s no time to talk about the details of wuxing, and you’ll probably need at least five hours to sort it out. So we have no time.

[55:00] So having drawn your attention very quickly into it, we now go back to how we understand qian ren xiang ying as, that is, macro microcosmic wholism.

[55:17] When that is imposed upon the macrocosmic map is imposed on the microscopic map, that is so this is an attempt to present the imposition of the one upon the other. So you can see that the liver has been assigned, you know, it’s the wood phase. And then fire is the heart phase. Water is the kidney phase. And metal is the lung phase.


[57:26] Now just to say a quick word. Why is earth necessary? if you look at the spleen, the spleen and the stomach form a zhang fu, right? Now if you think of it, the Chinese are very practical people as some as the westerners like to tell us. We are always thinking of eating. It’s always thinking of food, primarily because if you do not eat you, do not survive.


20210616_3255_SS8_LeeKeekok_PhilChineseMedicine1.png (again)

[59:09] So we must always bear in mind that, what is in the macrocosm, is always is a microcosm in us. Now just to give you one example of all of this. Now as you can see, in the summer, then the li gua [south, at top of page], has two yang yao in it. That means it has got a lot of heat in it. Whereas the kan gua [north, bottom of page] that will be standing for winter and the north, therefore has got two yin yao [broken lines] in it with only one yang yao [unbroken line]. So obviously, the yin yao is on the ascendant and the young dao is a bit subdued.

[1:00:00] So as a result, imagine yourself to be a physician ….

[1:00:15] Imagine that you have been asked to see a patient and you take the mai [meridian], …

[1:00:30] Now in the winter because the macrocosm out there has … maximum amount of yin qi in it, so your mai should not have a predominance of yang qi in it, so to speak.


[1:01:21] This man is storing up trouble, if I don’t do something to intervene. He’s got too much yang qi in him, for the season in the year, because this is winter. He shouldn’t have so much, it should be more a reflection of the macrocosm out there, in his microcosm. But unfortunately it isn’t, it seems to be the other way around.

[1:01:51] So the physician then prognosticates that unless he intervenes, gives a medication to lower the yang qi in the microcosm of the patient, in the summer, come the summer, when the yang qi is at its maximum with two yang yao in the gua, something definitely is going to happen to him. He probably would have a heart attack or something, and he will be dead in no time.

[1:02:10] So okay, this is a a true story which I think I’ve got from Liu Lihong … , and he said that in fact this was a real patient. … The patient was very stubborn. He didn’t believe in in Chinese medicine anyway. He was a top, I think, a top CCP cadre at the time and he didn’t believe in all this. His daughter did, but he didn’t. And so the physician then wrote out a prescription with heat reducing, yang qi reducing, medicinals in it. The daughter persuaded him to take it, the father to take it. The father refused. The daughter couldn’t do anything.

[1:03:13] It was reported promptly the next summer, the coming summer, the father died of a bad heart attack, or something to do with the heart, because he was overwhelmed by yang qi. He was already full too much of yang qi in him in the winter. Come this summer, where the macrocosm has yang qi as maximum, this added up together would do him no good.



[1:04:15] I would then end up by talking about Chinese medicine as ecosystem thinking or ecosystem science, right. So very quickly, I would say look at this system, I put up here. That’s the host, which may be called ecosystem 1. There’s the agent, ecosystem 2. And there is the environment, ecosystem 3.

[1:04:50] Now imagine that the host, since we are living still in the pandemic of Covid 19, ecosystem 1, let us say, is that naughty virus, the difficult virus called SARS-COV-2 sitting there. And the agent, that’s ecosystem 2, is the poor victim who is harboring the thing, and which may either be asymptomatic, or symptomatic, if you are unlucky. It might be symptomatic but whatever it is. Imagine the symptomatic case rather than asymptomatic case, the agent carrying the SARS-COV-2 virus. That person is living in environment, in the outer environment called ecosystem 3.

[1:05:48] Imagine that person, unfortunately, to be a front line, public, worker in the public building, either as a health care worker or as a security officer. I believe that they’re very exposed. Or as a nurse, someone working in a care home, or whatever. You are in the front line because you see a lot of people who are victims of SARS-COV-2, right. So your environment is not very good. So your macrocosm is not helpful. But if you have a concentric circle, then the one affects the other. so ultimately whether you are going to get it or not depends on the interaction between all these ecosystems.

[1:06:54] And so, in other words, then unlike modern Western BioMedicine the causal relationship is what I call a monogenic causal relationship — that is the cause here, there’s the effect here, one cause one effect — this kind of medicine, which is yidaoyi type of medicine, we are talking about ecosystem nesting. One ecosystem within, embedded within another ecosystem, which in turn is embedded in yet another ecosystem.

20210616_4720_SS8_LeeKeekok_PhilChineseMedicine1.png (again)

[1:07:38] So you’re talking of a multi-factorial causal framework and a multi-factorial causal framework, if you recall the yinyang, the wuxing diagram up here, that are very complicated relationships between all these things.

20210616_6430_SS8_LeeKeekok_PhilChineseMedicine1.png return

[1:08:00] So, one way, very quickly of understanding ecosystem thinking, and therefore also of wuxing, is to say that ecosystem thinking that wuxing is really talking about an ecosystem and the relationship between the components of an ecosystem.

[1:08:29] Because in ecosystem thinking you have what I call both negative feedback loops and positive feedback loops. So you’re talking about positive feedback loops and negative feedback loops.

[1:08:45] Now, negative feedback loops are easier to understand than positive feedback loops. The standard example of a negative feedback loop is to use your air conditioning system, right? You set the temperature on your machine at x. Now, if the outside temperature is higher than x, then your machine will start releasing cold air until the set temperature is reached.

[1:09:23] So, it always brings you back to the starting point, in other words. So that is a negative feedback system in our body. The famous example would, of course be, how we control the heat inside our body in the wind, when it’s very cold outside. Our body, our physiology, is primed or evolved in such a way, as an organism — we are evolved with an ecosystem with a system, physiological system, in such a way — that it gets very cold, our pores close up.

[1:10:00] When our pores caught up, less heat, is less out of our body, so we retain the heat and we maintain homeostasis. And when it’s very hot, our pores open up to let out the yang qi, so to speak, and then we cool ourselves down by the sweat.

[1:10:18] So, that is a negative feedback system;

[1:10:24] A positive feedback system is when several factors act together in a synergistic manner, so that — let’s put it this way.

[1:10:40] If you are talking of a simple-minded causal relationship, if I have three things contributing, three variables contributing, to the effect simple-mindedly, I can work out what the effect of this first variable is, what the effect of the second variable is, and what the effect of the third variable is. Then I add them all up, and I say that is the causal outcome. That is totality of effect. If I have three variables each contributing to the outcome.

[1:11:24] Now, under multifactorial ecosystemic relationship, it’s not like that at all. If I’ve got three factors one contributing, the second also contributing, the thirds contributing, but they act synergistically — that is they act together, they are not separate things they act together — my three fingers are therefore together — and when these are three [fingers] together, then you’ll find that in a synergistic outcome that effect is greater — that the first outcome where you are measuring this separately from that [finger], from that [finger], and just adding up the three effects. So that is why it’s very powerful.

[1:12:15] So with synergistic effects, you can flip very quickly, from one system to another system. So that is why some people think that, why is it that suddenly we flip so quickly?

[1:12:27] We don’t actually flip very simply. It looks as if we flip, the system flips, simply, because you’re using the wrong causal model. But if you have the right causal model, you can explain how it flips. And you can predict, even. So anyway, that is ecosystem thinking.

[1:12:46] Now I have two diagrams, two figures, here in terms of ecosystem nesting, using concentric circles.



— end paste for digression —

David Ing’s note: In Keekok Lee’s 2018 book, is Figure 4.1 with 10 concentric circles.

Figure 4.1: Ecosystem-nesting in terms of concentric circle

  • 1 Cell;
  • 2 Tissue;
  • 3 Organ-system, such as the Spleen-stomach/㝮㛳 organ-system;
  • 4 All visceral organ-systems (Wuzang-liufu/ӄ㜿ޝ㞁);
  • 5 Entire material parts and total functioning of the person including emotions;
  • 6 Qi in yuzhou (Macrocosm) as well as the Jingmai via the Jingluo network of the person-body (Microcosm);
  • 7 Immediate external environment, in which a person lives (air, water, food, shelter, climate….);
  • 8 Social/cultural environment (tribes/ethnic groups/polity);
  • 9 Larger physical/social environment, in which a person lives (plants/animals/rivers);
  • 10 Cosmological environment, in which a person lives (Sun/Moon/Earth….).

In this 2021 presentation, the 10 concentric circles are different.


  1. Tissue
  2. Organ-system, such as the Spleen-stomach organ system (㝮㛳 piwei)
  3. All visceral organ-systems (Wuzang-liufu/ӄ㜿ޝ㞁)
  4. Entire material parts and total functioning of the person including emotions
  5. Qi in yuzhou (Macrocosm) as well as the Jingmai via the Jingluo network of the person-body (Microcosm);
  6. Immediate external environment, in which a person lives (air, water, food, shelter, climate….);
  7. Social/cultural environment (tribes/ethnic groups/polity);
  8. Larger physical/social environment, in which a person lives (plants/animals/rivers);
  9. The Cosmological environment, in which a person lives (Sun/Moon/Earth … our Solar System, as shown in the Laws of Nature, such as zhouye jielu, sishi jielu, zhou or fu shi which together focus on Timespace rather than Spacetime)
  10. Process-ontology cum Think-ontology

— resume paste —

[1:13:06] Now, just concentric circles. I have said it. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight. Unfortunately, I didn’t do my diagram very well, because I’ve got to skip that and look at this.


[1:13:27] How biomedicine may be interpreting that circle, that nesting of circles. So circle 1, which is the innermost circle, I would put it down, that they put in DNA, RNA, i.e molecular genetics.

[1:13:52] The next circle is 2. That is 2. They might put genes there so these are genetic sequences. These are the whole genes.


[1:15:11] So the body, the human body, the physical body, is then made out of 1 to 6, in my understanding.

[1:15:20] So the body’s immediate external environment, which is 8, I put down as 8 here, that’s 8. And I just simply put down, we need air to breathe, containing oxygen to survive. We need you know wholesome water to drink, pure water to drink, pure, or purish at least, water to drink, in order to survive. We also need food, nutritious food, to survive.

[1:15:52] So that’s the body’s immediate external environment, what we introduce into our system.

[1:15:58] Now, and then embodied in that, that body, is then in 9, which is understood in biomedical terms — this is knowing there, that the body is machine, not organism.

[1:16:18] So I said it performs an ontological volte-face, because up to the 16th 17th century, even , let’s say 16th century, body is always organism. But now there’s a sudden change in Western philosophy. Body is no longer organism. Body is machine. Now, machine is an artifact. We humans create machines. I know that other animals create, we may not call machines, but they certainly create artifacts. Ants create nests. Bees create beehives. So, they are artifacts. But they are animal artefacts, not human artifacts.

[1:17:13] But we human have a peculiar kind of consciousness which enables us to design things called machines. As the chinese say ren shi wan bu zhi ling, that means we human beings have got a very peculiar, a very peculiar kind of consciousness.

[1:17:39] Our consciousness, unlike other animal consciousness — mammalian consciousness, they too are very clever — but we go one level beyond. And what is that level beyond? That level beyond is that we are capable of having abstract thoughts. Animals, as far as we know, do not have what we call abstract thoughts. We can actually commit our abstract thoughts to a bit of paper, in terms of symbols, when we do maths. An algorithm, you know, that sort of thing. We can have writing, commit our thoughts to writing etc, etc.

[1:18:20] So because we have this peculiar uh type of consciousness that is why the Chinese cosmology called that man is wanwu zhi ling, that it means that it has the most evolved — not advanced, advanced is not right — the evolved kind of consciousness.

[1:18:47] Now, when the Chinese say say ren shi wan bu zhi ling, do not mistake what the ancient Chinese are saying to be an anthropocentrist.

[1:19:00] Anthropocentrism in the west is understood differently. Anthropocentrism in the west has a built-in hierarchy of superiority of inferiority to it. So we humans, according to western anthropocentrism, we are the superior to everybody else.

[1:19:24] And as a result, we look down on animals. The west looks down on animals, they’re not as good as us. They are inferior beasts, they are called, right? And so whereas the Chinese has no built-in inferiority and superiority, it just simply means we are different. We share a lot of things in common with them. For instance, a lion, a cheetah is very smart indeed. We do share things in common with a cheetah, but nevertheless we have a type of consciousness which is also different from that of the cheetah or the lion or or whatever other animal that you care to think of. So every animal has its own peculiar kind of consciousness, but we humans are pretty peculiar, and so in that sense, we are wan wu zhi ling, because we can do abstract thinking. We can have language which is a form of abstraction. Different types of languages mathematical languages the languages we speak in terms of our mother tongues that sort of languages etc etc.

[1:20:49] And we can do metaphysics. We can do philosophy. Et cetera, et cetera.

[1:20:55] So now then, because western thought is based on the body as machine, not an organism, a machine is an artifact. And an artifact is a thing.

[1:21:11] So, ever since Julien Offray de La Mettrie, when he wrote man, L’homme machine, that book which he published I think in the 16th century, you know, it has shifted to thing ontology. No longer an organismic ontology, as Aristotle did, but a thing ontology. A thing ontology as artifacts, thing.

[1:21:44] So a thing occupies space, you see what I mean. And that is why I say it focuses primarily on space. Newtonian science and Newtonian cosmology. Now, of course, I know after Newton came Einstein several centuries late, and Einstein actually added the temporal dimension, so it is space time today. But actually the space time even of Einsteinian relativity physics is very different from what I called a time space in Chinese cosmology.

[1:22:30] Because if you go back to this chart.


20210616_3255_SS8_LeeKeekok_PhilChineseMedicine1.png (again)

[1:22:44] You’re talking of the sun up there, in the summer. The sun up there, in the summer, at its height of yang qi, maximum yang qi, is actually casting its rays down on earth.

[1:23:03] But the relationship for the Chinese is not so much the emphasis on space, of what is happening on earth, but of the relationship of the seasons of time, because summer winter autumn spring or whatever is actually referring to time, the passage of time. So its emphasis is on time rather than on space. And of course, it has to shine on the earth. The earth is space. So that is that is why I put the difference as time space. Because time …. It’s a focus more on time than space, whereas in this system, the western system, the emphasis is more on space rather than than time, because you’re talking about thing ontology. So anyway so that is why I say that, you know, it focuses primarily on space.

20210616_7325_SS8_LeeKeekok_PhilChineseMedicine1.png (again)

[1:24:05] Now if you look at this nesting of ecosystems, under Chinese medicine, we don’t talk about the 1, 2 and the 3 under the BM system here.

[1:24:26] The 1 for chinese medicine is a tissue. That’s the lowest level of reductionism, if you like. I don’t think it’s good to tolerate, but the lowest level of understanding is the tissue.

[1:24:41] Then after this tissue, you have an organ system. The Chinese do not understand every organ individually. It passes up, as the zangfu. So you if you were talking about the spleen, then you’re talking the spleen-stomach organ system, the piwei system.

[1:25:04] And all these systems constitute the wuzang-liufu. And so we are talking about entire material parts, and total functioning of the person.

[1:25:21] And the person includes the emotions.


[1:25:38] Now [CCM] 4, when you are talking about the human person, which possesses all these things, you are really talking about a human person with emotions.

[1:25:53] Whereas the body down here [BM 7], you’re talking about has no emotions. You’re not concerned with emotions. So that is why BM has great difficulty about the placebo effect and considered it is so anathema versus chinese — well it’s part of natural, of phenomena, if we are humans we have emotions.

[1:26:18] So in emotions, wrestling beliefs, depending on your belief, you believe that what you are swallowing is poison, it can have an effect on you. If you believe that what you are swallowing, just because it also has an infection. One is called the placebo effect. The other is called the nocebo effect, if you want to put it in modern tone. But we are essentially beings with emotions. So emotions are not taboo subject. Emotions are part of the individual person,

[1:26:51] So when the Chinese talk of shenti, it is not the body of BM here [BM 7]. It’s not this body you’re talking about. It is why I put it as a person-body [CCM 4]. It is the whole person where the body is. But today, I don’t have time to go into any great detail.

[1:27:15] So let’s look at qi [CCM 5]. Now this is the tianren-xiangying. So the qi in yuzhou — yuzhou is the universe — the macrocosm, as well as the jingmai, via the jingluo network of the person-body, which is a macrocosm.

[1:27:36] So when a Chinese physician ascertains << nuo? >> mai, he’s actually ascertaining this << nuo? >> mai jingluo yingyang profile in the person-body. That is what he’s doing. And when he ascertains that, the yinyang profile in your person-body, then he knows how to diagnose what’s wrong with you. And because he knows how to diagnose what is wrong, and he can also prescribe you with the medicinals to help you get over the hump that you are confronting, and which leads to your illness, right?

[1:28:12] So then [CCM] 6 is your immediate external environment, in which you live, << true? >>. Like BM, it recognizes air, water, food, shelter, climate, all these are important.

[1:28:28] But it [CCM 7] also specifically recognizes a social cultural environment in which the person-body, the person is embedded in. So you can talk of tribes, groups, ethnic groups, poverty or whatever.

[1:28:47] Then [CCM] 8, you have a larger physical and social environment in which the person lives, which includes the plants, the animals, the rivers, the air, around you, etc.

[1:28:57] And the biggest of all [CCM 9], the cosmological environment, in which the person lives. Then you have at least to talk about the heavenly bodies and their relationship to each other, at least within our own solar system.

[1:29:18] I know that there are plenty of solar systems today, out in the world, in this universe, but the ancient Chinese only knew about our own solar system, they didn’t know so many others. But minimally, you must at least know about your own solar system. So our solar system.

[1:29:38] So it it is then captured by the Chinese laws of nature such as the zhouye jielu, the sishi jielu, the zhou or fu shi which together, as I say, focus on Timespace rather than Spacetime.

[1:29:56] And standing behind all this, is then what I call Process Ontology cum Thing Ontology. In BM, as you can say the emphasis is on space. It focuses or highlights thing ontology. But because the Chinese way of looking is dyadic and so, process ontology can coexist with thing ontology, these polar contrast can coexist, as as a whole. like linjiang itself.

[1:30:40] So our physiological understanding — when we talk about physiology how a person functions — you’re talking about process. When you’re talking about whether a person is thin or fat, and you’re talking about the thing, the figure that you see as the person enters the room. But the Chinese thought the two are linked, because then particularly in chinese medicine, the two are linked.

[1:31:13] So you have process ontology and thing ontology. You cannot understand the thing without understanding the process behind this thing, and you cannot understand the process of course without the thing, right?

[1:31:32] So I think that more or less sums up what I really want to say.

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A second day of lecture follows, as 2021/06/17 Keekok Lee | Philosophy of Chinese Medicine 2

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2021/02/02 To Understand This Era, You Need to Think in Systems | Zeynep Tufekci with Ezra Klein | New York Times

In conversation, @zeynep with @ezraklein reveal authentic #SystemsThinking in (i) appreciating that “science” is constructed by human collectives, (ii) the west orients towards individual outcomes rather than population levels; and (iii) there’s an over-emphasis on problems of the moment, and not enough on the history that brought us to that point.

Here are some notable excerpts:

EZRA KLEIN: What does it mean to think in systems? What’s even the alternative?

ZEYNEP TUFEKCI: When I say systems thinking, I’m saying looking at the whole and its interactions as much as possible to understand both each part of it, but also how it all comes together.


EZRA KLEIN: The difficulty of thinking in systems is that you need to learn about systems. And in particular, you need to learn about many different systems. So how do you do that? You’re a sociologist. I follow your work on politics. It’s very good. That’s my system that I know pretty well. You’ve been way ahead on coronavirus. You’re very good at moving into new disciplines and understanding how those systems work. And I’m curious what your approach to that is. How do you learn about new systems when you identify one you need to understand?

ZEYNEP TUFEKCI: So I try not to move into completely new stuff, of course, because that’s how you get into epistemological trouble, where you try to think about things you don’t really understand well. And I did kind of move into pandemic writing, partly because there was an emergency. There needed to be more writing on certain aspects. And I was in a position with a platform to do so. So I ended up doing that.

And I don’t really have a formula, but one of the things I do, do is, I read a lot of things directly. I mean, I don’t just read newspaper articles or press releases about a paper. I go read the paper. And I have enough of a background to at least understand some of the statistics or methods, especially if it’s a field like epidemiology, which has a lot of relationship to sociology. And plus, it was something I taught a lot as part of teaching people sociology. I used to teach pandemics. I wasn’t completely unfamiliar with it.

And then I go out of my way to try to find experts in the field to keep asking questions, too. 


… there’s a principle called the “principle of embarrassment” when trying to understand the historical accuracy of stories, is that if a story is really embarrassing to the teller, you kind of think they might be telling the truth. Because otherwise, it’s the kind of thing that people don’t usually admit about themselves, or institutions.

So, when China was telling us after January 20th that it was spreading during the incubation period from people that didn’t have symptoms, that was actually making it look very bad because they had told us until then it wasn’t happening at all. And all of a sudden, they’re telling us something. And I thought, you know what? They’re telling us the truth. Because right now, they just really want to prevent the pandemic because they covered it up for too long. They kind of got caught. Now it’s going to spread to the world. And they’re going to get blamed for it. And now, they’re telling the truth.

So I had a completely different sense of what they said before January 20th when they lied and covered it up. And it was kind of not treated with the correct suspicion compared to what they said afterwards. Now the reason I’m telling you all this is, there’s these ways in which even if you don’t necessarily have direct evidence on the medical side, if you kind of understand how institutions and authoritarians work, there’s a way in which you get more information about their claims.


EZRA KLEIN: One of, I think, the more poisonous lines in this whole conversation is, we need to listen to the science. It is almost always said on things where the science cannot give you a full answer, where there are values that play differing equities, things that we don’t fully know.

But I think the idea of science operates on an undue level. There are things where the science really can tell us things, right? Do these vaccines work? The science has an answer. The science cannot tell us exactly how to structure who gets them first and who gets them next and which direction we go in. I have to think, though, there’s a difference between this idea of listen to the science, and then listen to the scientists.


EZRA KLEIN: You’ve done a lot of work on social media, on social media algorithms. How in the end did you feel about Twitter and Facebook’s decision to ban Donald Trump?

ZEYNEP TUFEKCI: Well, let me say that to give an answer would be starting the story very late. So that’s the problem, is, by the time we got to the point of needing to deplatform the President of the United States, it’s almost too late to be talking about it. So whether or not one thinks it’s justified or not, the real question is, how on Earth did we get here? And what role did our information ecology from Facebook to Fox News play in this to the past decades of everything from the financial crisis to the Iraq War?

So I almost feel like we’re focusing on the period at the end of a sentence, rather than trying to understand how we got to that point. 


EZRA KLEIN: All right, what is the best book, in your opinion, about systems thinking?

ZEYNEP TUFEKCI: One of my favorite books I think is “Normal Accidents” by Charles Perrow, which is living with high risk technologies. And it’s about sort of accidents like Three Mile Island. But it’s really a nice sort of example of how things interact with each other. There’s a lot of concepts there about how things interact with each other in complex systems. And it’s looking specifically at systems that have potential catastrophic outcomes, but you don’t have to apply it just to that. You can apply that kind of thinking to a lot of things. And in fact, ideally, you’d have a field called systems thinking and how you think about these big systems, but you don’t.


Zeynep Tufecki, “To Understand This Era, You Need to Think in Systems”, The Ezra Klein Show, Feb. 2, 2021, The New York Times at https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/02/opinion/ezra-klein-podcast-zeynep-tufecki.html

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2019/04/09 Art as a discipline of inquiry | Tim Ingold (web video)

In the question-answer period after the lecture, #TimIngold proposes art as a discipline of inquiry, rather than ethnography. This refers to his thinking On Human Correspondence.

Digest from question-answer session, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r5ztVBhbO8E&t=152s

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[75m26s question] I am curious to know what art, or how art, informs what you are doing here. We are standing on the art school. I have a bit of a worry that all of us just go on and interpret or over interpret what you just said.

[73m46s Tim Ingold] Okay, yes. I have been working on the interface between anthropology and art and all of that has been driven by a concern to treat art as a discipline of inquiry on a par with anthropology.

[74m05] That both concern with inquiring into the conditions and possibilities of human life in an environment, in a world, I think, and they can learn from one another on that level

[75m19s] In the history of of my own discipline of anthropology, unfortunately, an ethnographic approach has been predominant in which art is treated as the productions of people that we can then study and analyze.

[75m34s] So instead of thinking about anthropology AND art we’ve had we’ve had a massive anthropology OF art.

[74:39] Now, anthropology comes along says, just as well, you know here’s a kinship system, we can analyze that. Here’s the city of Richmond, we can analyze that. Oh here’s some art, let’s analyze it.

[74m49s] And that’s intensely boring. I mean it gets us it gets us nowhere.

[74m54] So I think that where we can we can come together is to think of of art as as a form of inquiry. And again it comes to the same thing I said in in answer to your question here, that our job is not to is not actually to interpret the art — to sort of set ourselves up on a pedestal as having some special expertise to explain to everybody else what it means.

[75m29s] That’s ridiculous, I think, and politically somewhat abhorrent.

[75m33s]But what our job is I think is — and I’ve used the word — is to correspond with it.

[75m37s] I’ve been developing this idea of correspondence, not in a sense of matching one thing to another, but in sense of answering to, co-responding in one, as in a conversation.

[75m47s] They’ve got two people are having a conversation and each is responding to the other. Or in a string quartet you got the violin and the cello and whatever and and and they’re all answering to one another. And that processes is carrying on.

[75m58s] So that it seems to me that that that art is, to my mind, a certain way of corresponding with the world, of answering to it. And we in turn answer to the art.

[75m11s] And I would like to think of anthropology my own discipline joining art in that way. And,. but to do that, we have to stop thinking of art as objects to be interpreted, and stop thinking of ourselves as master interpreters.

[76m30s] And, in other words, stop pretending to be artcritics. We can we can do without them I think. I don’t really see what they’re contributing.

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Ingold sees beyond science as an objective means of inquiry, seeing opportunities for transmitting wisdom based on more inclusive communications.

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[92m34s] For people who are engaged in research in one way or another, and then thinking about sharing their ideas in quite linear forms like papers — do you have — so varied and and and and mixing and about these gradients and and like things to do with like behaviors that happen in local social systems. Do you have any thoughts on — how is — what are some of the better ways to share ideas, and share what you what you find, in ways which are, yeah, less linear, I suppose.

[93m20s]it’s a big problem and, I think there’s something very seriously wrong with academic publishing at the moment, in that it’s become desiccated, really, and also driven — particularly in the sciences.

[93m26s] I mean there are these big publishers, Elsivier and so on, just making millions of pounds of profit on the back of all this stuff.

[93m41s] But the degree to which it’s appalling, the degree to which, are the writing of research reports has become standardized to a particular model, the extent to which, our own voices — the voices of the authors of these papers — have been eradicated

[94m08s] And I think, in the name of the objective dissemination of research findings.

[94m15s] And I think that this disconnect, between you, as a person who’s doing research, and what do you produce in the form of research output is very very damaging.

[94m282] And I think one of the reasons why we need to bring the arts in, is to try and introduce some sort of correction to that.

[94m38s] And somehow we need to get it across that, an author speaking personally on the basis of their considered experience is not somehow an inferior form of knowledge, to one that rules that out.

[95m00s] So, what I think what has happened, is that knowledge has become commodified within the the overall scope of of a global knowledge economy, and it’s the commodification of knowledge that has been created this this kind of situation.

[95m19s] And it and and you know young scholars are forced into it by the refs.

[95m24s] By all this kind of thing, when they supposed to publish — write and publish in certain kinds of ways — which I think are objectionable. That if we could just …

[95m34s] It can’t be right that there are two kinds of literature, that there’s one that’s sort of research literature and the other that’s called poetry.

[95m43s] You know and they’re not supposed to touch one another. And that can’t be right. And it must be the possible to find ways of communicating what we know, in ways that actually are infused with some sense of engagement of feeling with what we’re talking about.

[96m04s] And in that sense to create a more inclusive — actually more democratic — conversation. How we change that?

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Ingold, Tim. 2017. “On Human Correspondence.” Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 23 (1): 9–27. https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-9655.12541.

Ingold, Tim. 2019. “What on Earth Is the Ground?” Lecture presented at the Approaching Estate: Methodologies for practices of site and place, University Arts London, Central Saint Martins, April 9. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r5ztVBhbO8E.

Ingold, Tim. 2019. “What on Earth Is the Ground?” Lecture presented at the Approaching Estate: Methodologies for practices of site and place, University Arts London, Central Saint Martins, April 9. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r5ztVBhbO8E.
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2019/10/16 | “Bubbles, Golden Ages, and Tech Revolutions” | Carlota Perez

How might our society show value for the long term, over the short term? Could we think about taxation over time, asks @carlotaprzperez in an interview.

[35:00] Golden Ages are very clearly state-led. When you get a Golden Age, it’s because the state is shaping it. And that means taxing.

Finance has to be taxed properly.

We should have very high taxes for anything, any operation, anything that you earn within one day, with like the Fast Finance, and all of these things, 92% tax. That’s not unique. That happened in the 1950s. So, you get 92% tax for anything within one day, 80% tax for anything within one month, 50% to 60% tax for anything within one year, zero tax for 10 years.

So, you actually get finance to be interested in the long term, because without long term, we don’t have proper innovation.

Perez (2019), Exponential View

There’s some supporting information in a 2017 interview.

That is why now is the right historical moment for the government to come back on the scene, boldly, actively and wisely. In a turning point, government is not the problem: government is the solution.

This is what eventually happened from the 1940s. Government action and the Second World War led to mass production and mass consumption. Large numbers of people had access to relatively cheap products. Suburbanization made it profitable for firms to innovate for the family in the electric home with its insatiable hunger for new products. At the same time, the Cold War led to government investment in high tech. The reconstruction of Europe also stimulated economic growth and the demand for equipment and other goods.

Carlota Perez: post-war golden age

The welfare state enabled mass consumption. That’s one reason why high taxes were possible without resistance. The top rate was around 90% throughout the 50s. The money went out of tax-payers’ pockets, passed through the hands of government, and came back as solvent demand for consumer goods or procurement. Firms prospered because they were able to pursue an agreed common vision of what “the good society” looked like and what innovation was needed to make it happen. Everyone was going to have a home with cheap appliances. Credit was available that enabled people to buy houses and goods. It was an intelligent positive-sum game between government, business and society that led to the greatest economic boom in history.

Perez (2017) Forbes.com


Carola Perez, “From A Casino Economy To A New Golden Age: Carlota Pérez At Drucker Forum 2017”, Forbes, Nov. 25, 2017 at https://www.forbes.com/sites/stevedenning/2017/11/25/from-a-casino-economy-to-a-new-golden-age-carlota-perez-at-drucker-forum-2017

Carlota Perez, “Bubbles, Golden Ages, and Tech Revolutions”, Exponential View with Aseem Azhar, October 19, 2019 at https://hbr.org/podcast/2019/10/bubbles-golden-ages-and-tech-revolutions

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2020/07/13 “Making Growing Thinking” |Tim Ingold (web video)

For the @ArchFoundation, #TimIngold distinguishes outcome-oriented making from process-oriented growing, revisiting #MartinHeidegger “Building Dwelling Thinking”.

Organisms are made; artefacts grow. The distinction seems obvious, until you stop to ask what assumptions it contains, about the inside and outside of things and the surface between them, and about form and substance. Tim Ingold argues that instead of putting thought at the start of making, and the made object at the end, with growth in between, we should put both thinking and making inside a process of growth which yields not a proliferation of ends but perpetual beginning. Tim is a social anthropologist, currently Chair of Social Anthropology at the University of Aberdeen.

Tim Ingold, 100 Day Studio: Day 67, July 13, 2020
Architecture Foundation (UK), 100 Day Studio, Tim Ingold “Making Growing Thinking”

While the best way to appreciate this content is to listen the the 49-minute web video, here is an excerpt of some pertinent ideas.

[05:59] However, when Marx tells us not what really distinguishes the human artifact from anything found in nature is that it begins with a thought in the mind of the maker, he’s translated this distinction between inside and outside into a quite different ontological register.

[06:26] Because, for now, the surface of the artifact no longer marks a physical division between a medium like air, on the one hand, and a substance like earth, on the other, but a metaphysical distant division between the domains of mind and matter.

[06:45] So no longer an interface between solid substance and gaseous medium, the surface of the artifact comes to stand for the very surface of the material world, as it confronts the creative human mind.

[07:00] And when we speak of objects of human manufacture as material culture, as analysts often do, this is exactly what is implied. It’s as though the cultural products of the human imagination wrapped themselves around materials of nature, impressing them with their forms and …meanings.

[07:24] So on the inside is stuff, on the outside this talk.

[07:28] Now, obviously, words like making and growing can have ever so many shades of trying to come up with exact definitions or to legislate on their use. These are very rich polysemic words.

[07:46] For example, one can make a bed, make love, make hay, and make fire. And each entails a different sense of making. And likewise, one can grow a beard, grow potatoes, grow weary. And again growing means something different, in each case. So you can’t say come up with it a clear-cut definition. I’ve determined there’s no point in trying.

[08:10]But I do want the highlight a contrast between the focus on outcome, and a focus on process.

[08:21] So, making, generally in invites the kind of question: what are you making?

[08:26] Imagine you come up with some somebody engaged in some project, some work going on. You say “what are you making”, and they’ll answer by saying in terms of what they’re helping to end up with.

[08:40] I’m making a basket. I’m making it making a house. Whatever it is.

[08:44] But growing invites a different kind of question. It’s more like what is going on here? So it’s about the becoming of things, the ontogenesis, rather than about end product.

[09:00] And that distinction between a focus on product and a focus on process, with making on the one end and growing on the other, is exactly parallel to the one that Martin Heidegger drew in his very famous essay “Building Dwelling Thinking”, of which I, of course, modeled the title for this talk.

[09:20] So making and building are pretty much the same sort of thing. But then also growing and dwelling are pretty much the same sort of thing. So, what building was to dwelling for Heidegger, is what growing making is to growing for me.

[09:38] Now, in his essay, Heidegger argued: rather than dwelling going on within building, we should think of building as going on within and conditional upon a process of dwelling.

[09:53]That is, he turned the conventional order of building and dwelling back-to-front.

[10:00] We don’t dwell in buildings. We build, because we dwell in the world.

[10:09] And that’s exactly what I wanted to do with these terms, making and growing. And in doing so I want to show that we’ll have to think quite differently about thinking itself.

[10:23] So the question: which comes first making or growing?

[10:27] Now for Marxists, we’ve seen and indeed almost a century later, from one note, every artifact begins with an ideal form, a conception, which is imposed from without upon a material substrate.

[10:45] So, you start with the idea, and end with the object. And in between the start and end points, stuff happens. Materials are mixed, shaped and transformed. There’s a sort of …becoming. But it’s a growth that is bracketed between the two ends of making. Between the initial idea, and the final form. They have the idea, here a final form there, the growing is happening in between those two the beginning and the end. And we can call that growing in making.

[11:24] And that indeed might be how it looks, from the outside.

[11:28] But if we join with the makers in their work, it begins to look very different.

Those unfamiliar with Heidegger (1971) might look into that. Otherwise, this lecture builds on ideas previously reviewed in Ingold (2000) and Ingold (2013).


Heidegger, Martin. 1971. “Building Dwelling Thinking.” In Poetry, Language, Thought, edited by Albert Hofstadter, 143–59. New York: Harper & Row. Search on Google Scholar.

Ingold, Tim. 2000. “Making Things, Growing Plants, Raising Animals and Bringing up Children.” In The Perception of the Environment: Essays on Livelihood, Dwelling and Skill, 77–88. Routledge. http://doi.org/10.4324/9780203466025.

Ingold, Tim. 2013. “Making, Growing, Learning: Two Lectures Presented at UFMG, Belo Horizonte, October 2011.” Educação Em Revista 29 (3): 301–23. https://doi.org/10.1590/S0102-46982013000300013.

Ingold, Tim. 2020. “Making Growing Thinking”.” 100 Day Studio. Architecture Foundation. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FptmjWzj6Vw

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2020/04/09 “Can Ecological Economics Shape a Shock-Resistant Planet” | Herman Daly (web video)

Sustain What, April 9, 2020

In web conference, #HermanDaly says #EcologicalEconomics used to get attacked from the right, now it’s from the left. Panel @revkin @jon_d_erickson @ktkish @sophiesanniti #TimCrowshaw #KatieHorner livestreamed #sustainwhat . Most #EcologicalEconomists used to come to study from economics, now most come from other disciplines.

Can Ecological Economics Shape a Shock-Resistant Planet | April 9, 2020

[62:24 Herman Daly] Ecological economics is used to being criticized from the right from … the neoclassical growth-istic economists, right-wing criticism. We’re not so used to getting criticized from the left, but that’s been coming from some neo-marxist folks recently, and they don’t like the idea of markets.

[62:48] They don’t like the idea of prices. And so, at that point, I say well wait a minute, I’m all in favor of more social justice, of greater equality in the distribution of income, but when you when you go all the way to central planning, as opposed to Marxist, then I sort of recoil, and say, wait a minute, let’s look at history.

[63:16] You know what happened with the war, communism efforts of the early Soviet Union, they had to back off from the abolition of markets. What happened to the collectivization of agriculture? That was a big failure. And how are you going to handle the huge information problems of central planning?

[63:38] So I would say markets are necessary, although certainly not sufficient. We need a whole lot of planning, to keep markets as good servants rather than bad masters.

[63:53] I wonder how how you react to what I think of as a kind of ecological economic principle of … raising the price for the sake of resources, basic resources,for the sake of inducing efficiency and capturing the rent — the resource rent — and redistributing that for the sake of equity.

[64:22] Does that make sense? Many people, I think, don’t buy that. And so I’d be interested in hearing your views.


Sustain What: An intergenerational conversation as Herman Daly and Jon Erickson meet emerging scholars in Ecological Economics | April 9, 2020 at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jeAU4xbiZcY

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2018/11/19 Niall Ferguson | “Networks and Power” |Long Now (web video + audio)

Niall Ferguson at The Long Now Foundation

Complementing the idea of a @longnow , @nfergus provokes the challenge of a #shortthen as the online social media platforms distract the larger perspectives on history.

{Stewart Brand, 5:50] The conceit of long now foundation is that we’re sort of in the midst of a 20,000 years story of civilization dating back to the first towns and agriculture and dating forward to what remains to be seen and what remains to be done.

[06:05] And in consequence we’re sort of in love with historians who are all about killing the long story, in ever new ways.

06:14 And the civilization story is basically a story of argument. Swarms of arguments.

[06:25] And these arguments get played out and firms often of power. There’s an argument about economic power, arguments about political power, arguments about military power.

[06:37] And from time to time arguments about the whole mode that power gets played out in. And that’s what we hear about tonight from historian Niall Ferguson. [….]

[Niall Ferguson 07:34] I’ll be talking quite a bit about what’s in my most recent book, The Square and the Tower, but I’ll also be trying to go a little further than I did in that book, thinking about what we need to do if we are to manage what has been created in the extraordinary giant online social networks made in Northern California, in our time.

[08:06] The Long Now, I guess, is an attempt to situate the present. And I have always admired what Stuart and his colleagues have done in helping us to understand our position in a continuum of human history over thousands of years.

[08:30] But the corollary of the long now is the short then. And the short then is a phrase that hit me as I was hurtling up 280 this evening.

[08:45] What I want to convey to you is how near the past is and how relevant it is to the problems that we confront today, and that some of the things that we know about events 500 years ago can illuminate our long now

Niall Ferguson at The Long Now Foundation (Part 1)
Niall Ferguson at The Long Now Foundation (Part 2)

Source: Niall Ferguson, “Networks and Power”, Long Now, November 19, 2018 at http://longnow.org/seminars/02018/nov/19/networks-and-power/

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2018/10/09 Dan Stokols, |Social Ecology, Systems Thinking, & Psychology | How to Save the World (web video + audio)

Social ecology and environmental psychology described @dstokols @Social_Ecology , interviewed by @katiepatrick . References #WilliamsJames on attention. Book on Social Ecology in the Digital Age released in 2018.

[01:02 Katie Patrick] Can you explain what social ecology is, and also what environmental psychology is, and how they’re different and how they fit together.

[01:11 Dan Stokols] Well, social ecology grew out of the field of ecology which started in biology back in the 1800s and it’s basically looking at the interrelationships between organisms and their environments — their living environments, other species as well as abiotic features of the environment, climate topography, and that kind of thing.

[01:29]And those biological principles were applied to human communities in the early 1900’s. And that field became known as human ecology. But it was almost a literal translation of Darwinian assumptions about how different kinds of organisms adapt to their environments, only applied to human communities.

[01:46] So, the economic system was seen as the engine of adaptation, and social ecology has provided a broader view based not just on biological principles and economic principles, but also law, ethics, sociological views, how people react to their physical environments, architecture.

[02:05] So it’s a really a transdisciplinary view of how people interact with their everyday large scale and smaller scale environments.

[02:13] And now environmental psychology is a part of that. It looks more at individuals and small groups, they perceive the environment, how they learn to behave in certain ways toward the environment, how they’re influenced by communication and persuasive efforts to get them to change their behavior, how they’re affected by exposure to nature natural environment.

[02:32] So it’s very much at the kind of personal and small group level. Social ecology extends from that individual level all the way up to the global sphere.

[02:41] So how is global climate change affecting the quality of our natural environment? How is it affecting public health? Those kinds of issues.

An ecological perspective relates to attention.

[35:52 Dan Stokol] There’s research suggesting that ocean shorelines and seascapes are particularly restorative to people they help people kind of recover their attentional energy.

[36:00] William James, a famous psychologist in the late 1800s, posited this difference between voluntary attention and involuntary attention.

[36:09] So, voluntary attention is where you rivet your attention on some tasks. You’re studying for an exam, you don’t want to be distracted, you’re screening out distractions, and you engage in that kind of behavior long enough, you start to get mentally fatigued. Your attention gets fragmented you get tired mentally.

[36:24] What James suggested is, if you can give people opportunities to engage in spontaneous attention — put them in an environment where their attention is drawn to whatever is interesting to them — And the more you have that opportunity for spontaneous attention, the more you can recharge your batteries and resume more of a focused attention

[36:41] So, what nature does, according to Steve and Rachel Kaplan — they’ve developed this theory they call it attention restoration theory of nature — when you put people in natural settings, it gives them a lot of these opportunities to be fascinated by the waves of the ocean, or the sound of birds, when you go on a nature hike. It allows you to get away from your usual routines. If you’re living in the city core or if you’re engaging and very mentally taxing work throughout the week, it gives you a break from that. So that’s one of the ways in which nature seems to work in terms of restoring our attentional faculties. But there are also several studies suggesting that it has direct physiological benefits. It calms us down. It’s associated with better physical health outcome,s as well as psychological.

Social Ecology in the Digital Age: Solving Complex Problems in a Globalized World (2018)

Source: Dan Stokols, “Social Ecology, Systems Thinking, & Psychology” | October 9, 2018 | How to Save the World Podcast, web video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K0OX2eqA8XE ; MP3 audio at https://podtail.com/en/podcast/how-to-save-the-world-1/social-ecology-systems-thinking-psychology-with-pr/

Social Ecology in the Digital Age: Solving Complex Problems in a Globalized World (2018), at https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/book/9780128141885 and https://www.elsevier.com/books/social-ecology-in-the-digital-age/stokols/978-0-12-803113-1

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2019/04/01 Philip Sheldrake | Interpersonal data, identity, and relationships | Self-Sovereign Identity Meetup (web video)

Concerns on #personaldata should be reframed as interpersonal, says @sheldrake , less the nodes and more the edge connections. “I want to take back control” superficial, @hartzog says control doesn’t scale. Agency is about negotiation in the world, more rhizomatic than Newtonian.

[25:07] Personal data ends up being node-centric. This is where we get personal data vaults from, and data wallets. It’s like the data’s got to be at the node.

[25:12] Actually, interpersonal data describes the relationship between people. It sits between us. It’s on the edge that connects the nodes.

[25:23] Personal data is very much about control, control, control. If there’s one thing that’s mentioned almost as as frequently as data markets, and data as property it’s: “I want to take back control”. But control does not scale.

[25:41] If you want to understand that a little bit more clearly, Woody Hartzog — there’s a great YouTube video to explain how, when you think about the real time huge quantities of data, 4 billion connected people are kicking off, this isn’t about control. That just doesn’t scale

[25:58] This is about agency. This is more about the negotiation in the world. This is more natural. This is more how the world works, than how we might think in Newtonian ways it might.

[26:08] And unlike the tree-like nature of personal data — which informs our sciences and the way we structure our databases — and it’s all very neat, and then this is two subcategories of a category — it doesn’t work like that. Data is just … I guess if you want to think about it … I think about the data flowing on a coral reef or in a rainforest or just in human culture without bringing digital in it. And you can see it’s not tree-like.

[26:33] It’s it’s what might be called a rhizomatic, which is a different kind of root structure which is … well, chaotic! Right. This is nature that we’re grappling with here.

[26:45] So, let’s not try and constrain it. Let’s not be Newtonian about it.

Source: Philip Sheldrake, “Interpersonal data, identity, and relationships — in pursuit of collective minds” | April 1, 2019 | SSI (Self Sovereign Identity) Meetup, at https://ssimeetup.org/interpersonal-data-identity-relationships-pursuit-collective-minds-philip-sheldrake-webinar-24/ , web video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RXkcswvYn2I

Philip Sheldrake, “Webinar on Identity, Interpersonal Data and Collective Minds for SSI Meetup” | April 5, 2019 at https://www.philipsheldrake.com/2019/04/webinar-on-identity-interpersonal-data-and-collective-minds-for-ssi-meetup/

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2017/11/29 Tim Ingold | “The Art of Paying Attention” | The Art of Research Conference (web video)

Doing science should be wayfinding (pathfinding), says #TimIngold , gaining grounding in the art of paying attention, towards research as the pursuit of truth. Truth is more than objective facts, where science and art are embraced with materials, so that we can see the quality inside the natural world as it forms, rather than as the artifacts after it’s dead.

Tim Ingold, The Art of Research Conference, 2017/11/29

[42:00] So this it is the fundamental problem with science, that it is founded on a dilemma, that it tells us that we are parts of the world, and yet it can only have the knowledge it has by saying that as scientists, we stand outside the world.

[42:23] So we need to be able to show how knowledge can grow from the inside of being, from the crucible of our participatory and observational of involvement with the world around us, that is, within the give-and-take of life.

[42:37] And of course that takes us right back to the issue of data, from which I began. And it takes us also to the idea of research which is a central topic for this conference.

[42:53] Research again is one of those words that has become used and abused to the point that no one any longer knows exactly what it means.

[43:01] Or, it’s lost its grounding. And I want to insist that research is, and must be, the pursuit of truth. If we live …. If we lose that — if we say “oh truth, that’s too hot to handle, I don’t know what truth is” — then we we lose any grounding for research as a legitimate and ethical activity.

[43:23] Now, of course, there are all sorts of ways of defining truth, but here is mine: Truth, I argue, is the unison of imagination and experience in a world to which we are alive and that is alive to us.

[43:45] That means that truth depends on our full and unqualified participation in the world, from which it follows to, that truth is absolutely not the same as objectivity These are very different things.

[44:01] And I think at the moment we are in grave danger of conflating truth and objectivity because of the current panic about post-truth. Nobody wants post truth but most of the people, most of the commentators, who are warning us of the dangers of a post truth era, in which sort of anything goes, in which using the data one can invent any kind of story, is that they’re assuming that truth means pure and simple objective fact.

[44:37] it was a pure and simple objective fact that there were more people at Obama’s inauguration than a Trump’s. Okay. And it was post truth to pretend otherwise but if that is all we mean by truth — how many people were at the inauguration, was it this number or that number — then that is a very very reduced a very impoverished sense of what truth is. And I think it’s a real challenge — and this is a challenge for art as much as anything — to insist upon what truth means, beyond the mere facts of objectivity. […]

[45:14] At the end of the 19th century, the chemist Friedrich August Kekulé …

[45:48] … He said to the to the aspiring scientist: Note every footprint, every bent twig, every fallen leaf, and there you will see where next to place your feet. So. An then he called this way of doing science — and, so, you’re going walking very delicately through through the woods, and noting every twig, every every fallen leaf, and then deciding, yes, that’s the next place to put your feet — he called that pathfinding. And he thought of science as a pathfinding — or I would call it wayfaring. And the thing is, that the path finder corresponds with things in their formation rather than being informed by what is already precipitated out.

[46:34] The pathfinder doesn’t just collect, but accepts, what the world has to offer because he is paying acute attention to everything. And I think it’s here rather than [rather than] in arrogating to itself the authority to represent a given reality, it is here that science can join with art as a way of knowing in being. That is that in practice the hands and minds of scientists, just like the hands and minds of artists, absorb into their ways of working a perceptual acuity attuned to the materials that have captured their attention.

[47:18] And so as these materials vary, so does experience. And what that suggests is that in practice scientists are differentiated by their actual experience of working with stuff. That a glaciologist, really having spent so much time with ice, really appreciates — and in a tactile haptic way — the qualities of ice. It’s almost looking at ice with icy eyes and … and a botanist, or a mycologist, as my dad was, would … look at fungi with … eyes that already have a sort of fungal quality inside them. And that was the science that I grew up with as the son of a mycologist.

[48:02] In my childhood, in which we were — I and like my peers were — felt a sort of wonder in the beauty of the natural world. It was a it was a science founded in care, in attentiveness, and in gratitude, for what we owe the world, for our existence

[48:27] What concerns me now is that science, as it is presented to schoolchildren today, has turned Wonder and gratitude into commodities. They no longer guide its practices. They no longer guide the practices of science. but are used … to advertise its results, so that more and more science has listed art in order to promote its hard sell. To offer images that beautify its results, that soften its impact, and mask often its collusions with corporations whose only interest in research is that it should drive innovation. Because in a neoliberal economy of knowledge, only what is new, sells.

Source: Tim Ingold, “”The Art of Paying Attention” | The Art of Research VI Conference: Catalyses, Interventions, Transformations | November 29, 2017, Espoo, Finland at http://artofresearch2017.aalto.fi/programme.html . Video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Mytf4ZSqQs

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2019/01/31 Mariana Mazzucato, “The value of everything: rediscovering purpose in the economy”, Blavatnik School of Government (web video)

We should be more vigourous, says @MazzucatoM , in debating differences between value extraction and value creation, and between profits and rents.

Mariana Mazzucato, “The Value of Everything: Rediscovering Purpose in the Economy“, Blavatnik School of Government

[20:55] What I tried to do in the book was to bring these problems back to some fundamental debates that occurred in economics, which weren’t just lost over time, but kind of moved over thinking “oh that’s just kind of old style”, you know, “it’s just the classical economist who talked about value”.

[21:15] ” Now let’s actually just kind of confront more interesting questions” But literally the word “value” kind of went missing from economics departments. You don’t have textbooks as we used to have, even in the mainstream economics tradition, that even had that word kind of “value”. What is value, and then big debates about that.

[21:34] What I argue is that when we kind of allowed this concept of value to leave economics departments, and simply to go to business schools where the word is everywhere — think of it — shareholder value, shared value, Michael Porter’s very important work “value chains”. When that concept left economics departments and went to business schools, it — I don’t know how many business school people are here — it kind of became more flakey and fuzzy.

[22:02] And let me just say that in a kind of facetious way, but also in the process, made it less contested, less debated, within sort of the heart of economic reasoning and economic debates, and in the process made it much easier to extract value in the name of value creation because, what is valued?

[22:21] Right. So when you’re taught to Micro 101 and you’re taught you know things around the production function and marginal productivity and marginal utility, you’re not told “this is one particular theory of value and then we’ll learn other ones”. It’s just taught as Micro 101.

[22:37] So, when it’s not contested, it becomes much harder to do things which, in the past, were done like debating: well, what’s the difference between profits and rents? What is the difference between value extraction and value creation ? What happens when we reward value extraction over value creation?

[22:54] Do we get value destruction? But even just really simply, what is the difference between profits and rents?

[23:01] And I thought it was very interesting — and going back into the literature, it’s also to be reminded that Plato himself — smart guy — kind of often said in different ways, that story tellers ruled the world.

[23:11] And what I want to argue is that many of those four problems, that I talked about in the beginning, have in some ways been — how do you say — nurtured by the fact that the stories that are being told about where wealth creation comes from and where value creation comes from has been — if you want, captured — because it is not again in the active discourse of how we think about the economy

Source: Mariana Mazzucato | “The value of everything: rediscovering purpose in the economy” | January 31, 2019 |Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford, at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lCLSvojyJoI

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2016/11/07 David Gelenter, “Consciousness, Computers, and the Tides of Mind”, Econtalk (MP3 audio)

The most destructive analogy in the last 100 years, says @DavidGelernter with @econtalker : “Post-Turing thinkers decided that brains were organic computers, that computation was a perfect model of what minds do, that minds can be built out of software, and that mind relates to brain as software relates to computer”. Interview states position that consciousness won’t be found in a computer.

The cited source is visible on a page on Google Books:

In his famous 1950 paper about artificial intelligence, Alan Turing mentions consciousness, in passing, as a phenomenon associated with minds, in some ways mysterious. But he treats it as irrelevant. If you define the purpose of mind as rational thought, then consciousness certainly seems irrelevant. And for Turing, rational thought was indeed the purpose of mind.

Turing’s favorite word in this connection is “intelligence”: he saw the goal of technology not as an artificial mind (with all its unnecessary emotions, reminiscences, fascinating sensations, and upsetting nightmares), but as artificial intelligence, which is why the field has the name it does.

In no sense did this focus reflect narrowness or lack of imagination on Turing’s part. Few more imaginative men have ever lived. But he needed digital computers for practical purposes. Post-Turing thinkers decided that brains were organic computers, that computation was a perfect model of what minds do, that minds can be built out of software, and that mind relates to brain as software relates to computer—the most important, most influential and (intellectually) most destructive analogy in the last hundred years (the last hundred at least). [emphasis added]

Turing writes in his 1950 paper that, with time and thought, one might well be able to build a digital computer that could “enjoy” strawberries and cream. But, he adds, don’t hold your breadth. Such a project would be “idiotic’—so why should science bother? In practical terms, he has a point.

To understand the mind, we must go over the ground beyond logic as carefully as we study logic and reasoning. That’s not to say that rational thought does not underlie man’s greatest intellectual achievements. Cynthia Ozick reminds us, furthermore, of a rational person’s surprise at “how feeling could be so improbably distant from knowing” (Foreign Bodies). It’s much easier to feel something is right than to prove it. And when you do try to prove it, you might easily discover that despite your perfectly decided, rock-solid feeling of certainty, your feelings are total nonsense.

We have taken this particular walk, from the front door to the far end of Rationality Park, every day for the last two thousand years. Why not go a little farther this time, and venture beyond the merely rational?

David Gelernter, The Tides of Mind (2016), Chapter 5

The idea is further explored in the interview.

42:44 Russ Roberts:  [….] So, you are a skeptic about the ability of artificial intelligence to eventually mimic or emulate a brain. So, talk about why. And then why you feel that that analogy is so destructive: because it is extremely popular and accepted by many, many people. Not by me, but by many people, smarter than I am, actually. So, what’s wrong with that analogy, and why is it destructive?

David Gelernter: Well, I think you have to be careful in saying what exactly the analogy is.

On the one hand, I think AI (Artificial Intelligence) has enormous potential in terms of imitating or faking it, when it comes to intelligence. I think we’ll be able to build software that certainly gives you the impression of solving problems in a human-like or in an intelligent way. I think there’s a tremendous amount to be done that we haven’t done yet.

On the other hand, if by emulating the mind you mean achieving consciousness–having feelings, awareness–I think as a matter of fact that computers will never achieve that.

Any program, any software that you deal with, any robot that you deal with will always be a zombie in the sense that–in the Hollywood and philosophers’ sense of zombie–zombie a very powerful word in philosophy. In the sense that it’s behavior might be very impressive–I mean, you might give it a typical mathematics problem to solve or read it something from a newspaper and ask it to comment or give it all sorts of tests you think of, and it might pass with flying colors. You might walk away saying, ‘This guy is smarter than my best friend,’ and, you know, ‘I look forward to chatting with him again.’ But when you open up the robot’s head, there’s nothing in there. There’s nothing inside. There’s no consciousness.


“David Gelernter on Consciousness, Computers, and the Tides of Mind” | Russ Roberts | Nov. 7, 2016 | Econtalk at http://www.econtalk.org/david-gelernter-on-consciousness-computers-and-the-tides-of-mind , MP3 audio downloadable at http://files.libertyfund.org/econtalk/y2016/Gelernterconsciousness.mp3

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2018/04/23 Kishore Mahbubani, “Has the West Lost It? Can Asia Save It?”

Before judging democratic systems over authoritarian, examine the functioning of governments through its diplomats, where plutocracy has an alternative in meritocracy, says @mahbubani_k @longnow @asiasocietysfx.

Singaporean diplomat and scholar Kishore Mahbubani 

[1:19:30] … when people compare the American government with the Chinese government, they say: “This is a comparison between a democratic system and an authoritarian system”. And a democratic system is, of course, better than an authoritarian system. And I agree. A democratic system is better than an authoritarian system.

[1:29:55] But if you go … if you dig one level down, and you look at the functioning of the government, and how it makes its decisions and you analyze it, you may see that the democratic system may be performing as a plutocratic system serving the interests of the people of the tiny elite and leaving the … creating a situation where I think half of your [American] population hasn’t seen an increase in its median income for forty years. That’s what plutocracy is.

[1:20:30] The Chinese system is a meritocracy. The Chinese Communist Party, by the way, has got one of the most amazing meritocratic selection systems. [….] When I had a research assistant in Columbia University a few weeks ago she told me — and she was obviously one of the brightest students — she said she was very disappointed when she left high school, because you say when you graduate from high school in China, the top student — one student — is selected to join the Communist Party. And you want to be that one student selected to join the Communist Party. And then, in the first year in university, she says, five students are selected to join the Communist Party. Again, the top students. So, can you imagine the system which tries to select the best brains to run the country

[1:21:35] Now, the Chinese Communist Party is not perfect. It has a lot of flaws. It is making a lot of mistakes. But in terms of harvesting the brain power of China, it has done an amazing job. And I tell the story — and I was in diplomacy for thirty three years.

[1:21:55] When I started my career in 1971, if you had asked me: “Do you want to talk to an American diplomat or Chinese diplomat?”, I would say of course I’ll talk to the American diplomat. This graduate of Princeton, Yale, Harvard. Brilliant. Reads the New Yorker every week. Knows what’s going on the world. A Chinese diplomat 1971 would walk around with the Mao’s Little Red Book in his pocket. And when I talk to him, he’ll produce Mao’s Red Book and read to me Mao’s Read Book. Why should I waste my time. That’s Chinese 1971.

[1:22:30] You fast-forward to 2018, and you asked me to fly to a capital somewhere, and you say: “You want to talk to the American ambassador or the Chinese ambassador?” The likelihood is: that the Chinese ambassador would speak the language of the country; would have been posted there several times; would have a very nuanced and sophisticated view of the country. And the American ambassador would be one was demoralized, knowing that his budget is being cut; knowing his chances of becoming an ambassador in the top capital is practically zero, because they are political appointees. So you have a demoralized deployed American diplomatic service and an incredibly dynamic Chinese foreign service. That’s what the big change that has happened since 1971, and that’s a result of a meritocracy. And I can tell you, you’ll be quite amazed how good some of these Chinese diplomats are today.

Kishore Mahbubani, “Has the West Lost It? Can Asia Save It?”, Longnow Foundation and the Asian Society Northern California, April 23, 2018, MP3 audio at http://podcast.longnow.org/salt/redirect/salt-020180423-mahbubani-podcast.mp3

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2008/12/15 Simon Winchester, “The Man Who Loved China” (web video)

The story of #JosephNeedham by @simonwwriter, about the scholar behind the 27-volume Science and Civilisation in China starting in 1954 and continuing after his death in 1995. Arriving in China in 1942, Needham discovered gunpowder, printing and the magnetic compass had been invented in China centuries before the West. In this presentation, some audience questions were taken, and Simon Winchester provided more colour commentary.

Simon Winchester, “The Man Who Loved China”, Talks at Google, Dec. 15, 2008 at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xqvi7AxqfcM

Simon Winchester: "The Man Who Loved China" | Talks at Google
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2019/04/09 Larysa Essex, “Linux Unhatched Learning Circles at Toronto Public Library” (web video)

Talk at @gtalug on Let’s Learn Tech Online @torontolibrary with @p2pu @CiscoNetAcad@TorontoESS. Linux Unhatched online course conducted in groups of 8 to 12, meetings twice per week in person. Non-technical facilitator encourages peers to work out understanding together. Found 80% of attendees didn’t otherwise have tools for technical learning, computers are provided through the public library.

Larysa Essex, “Linux Unhatched Learning Circles at Toronto Public Library”, Greater Toronto Area Linux Users Group, April 19, 2019 at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lvZ3gCzrXak

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2018/03/13 Tara Vancil, “Imagine This: A Web Without Servers” (web video)

Sharing content on the web, as shown by @taravancil, can be easier not having to deal with a server.  @BeakerBrowser is a read-write Bittorrent-inspired peer-to-peer technology where complexity of blockchain isn’t required.

Imagine This: A Web Without Servers – Tara Vancil – JSConf EU 2018

Beaker Browser is compatible not only with the DAT protocol, but also the HTTP with which we’ve become accustomed on the World Wide Web.

Source:  Tara Vancil, “Imagine This: A Web Without Servers“, March 13, 2018, JSConf EU at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rJ_WvfF3FN8

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2013/07/27 Beau Lebens “Taking WordPress to the Front End with O2” (web video)

The WordPress O2 plugin with P2-Breathe theme results in a Facebook-like or Twitter-like streaming interface.  The idea was first presented in 2013, evolving from the P2 theme in 2009 (originally launched as Prologue in 2008) when hosted on wordpress.com.

“Beau Lebens: Taking WordPress to the Front End with O2” | Wordcamp San Francisco 2013 at https://wordpress.tv/2013/08/08/beau-lebens-taking-wordpress-to-the-front-end-with-o2/ .

In 2015, o2 became available as a open source plugin installable on self-hosted WordPress blogs.  See “o2 is Now Available on Github | Sarah Gooding | June 15, 2015 | WP Tavern at https://wptavern.com/o2-is-now-available-on-github .

O2 is a refinement of a communications tool used internally by Automattic.  See “How P2 Changed Automattic” | Matt Mullenweg | May 5, 2009 at https://ma.tt/2009/05/how-p2-changed-automattic/ .

The central site for O2 is at https://geto2.com/ .



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2016/09/10 Tim Ingold, “The Sustainability of Everything” (web video)

Talk at the Centre for Human Ecology, Glasgow, announced at http://www.che.ac.uk/tim-ingold-talks-about-the-sustainability-of-everything-10th-sept-2016/

Video posted at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ncLv9Gk7XrI and https://vimeo.com/182572764

This digest was created by editing the text transcript generated by Youtube. View the video yourself for a more authentic reproduction. Lapses, grammatical errors, and typing mistakes may not have been corrected. The digest has been made available for purposes of scholarship, posted by David Ing.

[00m39s] This talk actually began life as the conversation I had a few months ago with Claudia Zeiske, who’s the director of Deveron Arts which is a us a local arts based organization in the town of Huntly in Aberdeenshiare, and she was planning an event to celebrate the planting of new woodland, and whe wanted me to talk about the principles of sustainability as they bear on friendship and peace, on grassroots democracy, on art, ecology, and culture.

[01m15s] “You mean you want me to talk about the sustainability of everything”, I said.  Well, it seemed to be a pretty impossible thing to do but the more I thought about it the more it seemed to me that sustainability is either of everything, or it is nothing.  Because it can’t be of some things and not others.  It can’t be a sustainability that has boundaries of inclusion and exclusion.  So that we will say we’ll sustained some things but it doesn’t matter if we throw away the others.

[01m46s]  So the questions it it left me with are three-fold.

[01m53s] First is in what kind of a world has a place for us and for everything else hboth now and for future generations?

[02m05s] Then secondly what does it mean for such a world to carry on, because I think that’s what sustainability is about carrying on?

[02m12s] And thirdly of course how can we make it happen?

[02m16s] And to answer these questions I think we have to take a closer look at the meanings of our two keywords, that is, sustainability and everything,  And I’m afraid being an academic and I’m obsessed with the meanings of words — all academics are — but I happen to think, actually, the words a terribly important.  Then it is important to be clear about their meanings because we can’t have sensible debate about things like sustainability unless we have some clarity on what we’re talking about.  [….]

[02m56s]  I want to start with everything.  This is one of those words we use all the time but often don’t think about very much what it means.


<< A huge section is omitted here, as the content is rather consistent with earlier Tim Ingold talks and publications >>

[31m17s] So much for everything.  We’ve got an idea about what everything is.

[31m21s] It’s a movement.  It’s uncountable.  It’s made up of folds.  And it is carrying on through time.

[31m40s] But then the question is, if if you agree that everything is a correspondence of parts, in that sense, then what’s the meaning of sustainability?  What does it mean to talk about sustainability?

[31m46s] If we imagine a world like that — that the trouble at the moment is that — most of the rhetoric about sustainability is numerical.  It’s done in terms of data accounting and statistics, and this numerical calculation calculus of sustainability tends to treat entire tracks of the earth’s surface and the resources they harbor as standing reserves for the continuing benefit of a globally distributed humanity, much as one might administer a trust fund for future generations.

[32m32s] So to protect the Earth — in a way within the numerical rhetoric of the sustainability — is to protect the Earth in rather the same way that the company protects its profits, and that’s not a question of personal care based on familiarity and experience, but of bookkeeping and rational management that is balancing recruitment and loss in renewables, as one might balance monetary income and expenditure.

[33m04s]  Of people thinking — about well — you know the way we hold the earth as a trust fund for future generations, and therefore we’ve got to make sure that we don’t take out faster than we put back, or that we don’t take stuff out faster than it’s capable of renewing itself.

[33m23s] So thinking in terms is of these quantitative terms of management.

[33m26s]  But it seems to me that, if we say that the world is something that is fundamentally Lucretian, if we say the world is fundamentally given in movement, then sustainability is actually about carrying on.

[33m42s] It’s about keeping things going, not about maintaining some sort of numerical steady state, or making sure that you’ve got a balance of accounts in your books.

[33m52s]  It’s about about allowing the movement that generates things, that is life, to carry on.

[34m02s]  So, it’s somehow about lasting, about making things last.

[34m10s] But again, when we talk about making things last, this is not in the sense of a preservation of form, as we tend to do in the museum.

[34m18s]  In the museum you might be a museum curator, and you’ve got these objects to look after, and the thing you’re most concerned about is it they should maintain their form for as long as  possible.  They shouldn’t change.  They shouldn’t decay,  They shouldn’t decompose.

[34m35s] But that’s not what lasting means, here.   We need to think of lasting in terms  perhaps, in the sense of the life cycle.

[34m44s]  So, if you ask for example, “how long does a person last?”, you wouldn’t say well how long did they seem to stay exactly the same and will have they changed.  You would say, for example, well, how long have they live?  When were they born?  Whether they die.  Okay, they lived for 80 years, 90 years, 55 years, whatever it is.  That’s how long they lasted, and we’re thinking of lasting there in terms of the life cycle of a person, not in terms of the preservation of their particular form.

[35m17s] We don’t put people in museums in the way we put objects in museums.

[35m20s]  So, if sustainability is really about carrying on, then there’s no real — not really — any opposition between preservation and change.

[35m35s] I may may give you another example which I like very much.  It comes from a study by an anthropologist called John Knight, who worked with foresters in a mountainous region of Japan, and was looking at their traditional practices of forestry and then what had happened to them in in recent decades.

[35m55s] The traditional practice was this — that the forester would plant, and grow,  and look after the trees for generations.  Something like 30 years went from the conifers, so you planted the tree, you attended, you looked after it to make sure things well with it.  And once a suitable period had elapsed you would cut it down.  And then having cut it down, you would use those trees to make timbers for your house.  And then, so, during the first 30 years of the growth of the tree, you’re looking after the tree.  In the next 30 years the tree has become a house timber and it’s looking after you.  You and your family living inside the house.  And they call this the second life of trees.

[36m41s]  So, the first life is when the tree is growing in the ground, and when and you’re looking after it.

[36m47s]  The second life is when the tree is in your house and it’s looking after you.

[36m52s]  That also lasts about 30 years during which time you’ve planted a new set of trees.  They’ll be harvested and they’ll replace the old timbers as they begin to go rotten.

[37m01s]  Perhaps, by that stage — and so that way — you gotta a perfect interlocking of tree lasting and human lasting — that is, tree life cycles, and human life cycles — that are kind of in phase with one another,  and carrying on indefinitely through time.

[37m17s] That was all fine, until the conservationists came along and said you can’t cut those trees!  These trees are part of nature!  We need to preserve nature! So they denied the trees the possibility of their second life.  They just stood there getting older and older in the ground, until they eventually drew out, as conifers do, sort of died down.  They died on their legs, and died in their roots, and became dead trees standing in the ground.

[37m47s]  And the foresters didn’t have the raw materials to build and restore their houses.  So what happens now is we have ancient trees and concrete houses, in the name of preservation, and thinking of sustainability in terms of the preservation of form, rather than the continuation of life cycles.

[38m12s]  So, that’s what I mean, in terms of, that if we compare a way of thinking of the world, which the Japanese foresters had.   Something that is in movement, that is continually evolving over time, or whether we think of the world as some sort of steady state.

[38m30s]  So, what that example reveals, I think, is a difference in ways of thinking about the future.  And, of course, that’s precisely what sustainability is about.  How do we how do we think of the future?  And one way which — in this case one would associate with the conservationists — is in terms of projection; and the other way is in terms of anticipation.

[39m01s]  One way to think about the future is, as in many of climate change scenarios, what will the world — we try to think — what will the world be like in 2050 or 2102?  Trying to project the future.  Project what we do want.  What we don’t want and try and take steps that will produce the kind of future we want.  That is thinking about the future in terms of projection.

[39m25s] Thinking about the future in terms of anticipation — as again John Ruskin put it — is not about predicting the future, but about knowing the ways things are going.  Being able to be sensitive enough to one surroundings to see.  To have a sense of the ways in which things are going, and then perhaps enter into those ways and modify them.   Bend them this way and that, to suit your purposes but not to project or impose an anticipated or — sorry — a projected future state imagined in the present

[40m01s]  And so, again, I would want to say — it would have to be sustainability of everything — sustainability has to be about anticipation, not about projection, in terms of that distinction.

[40m152] Now, I just wanted to finish with a few words about what the implications of this notion of the sustainability of everything would be, on:  firstly for science and art; secondly for democracy and citizenship;  and thirdly for peace and friendship.

[40m35s] And, so far as science being a big issues that I can only just touch on, then ….  But so far as science and art is concerned — and it’s a  personal thing for me, because I started off very much — I actually started off as a natural scientist — and before moving into anthropology — and so I started off in a primary science-based approach.  And now find myself talking mostly to artists and in many ways feeling deeply uneasy about the present state of of the scientific project

[41m08s]  And what strikes me is that … in many ways in science — and particularly the science of ecology — has lost its original sense of environmental sustainability — environmental responsibility — and that art — environmental art in particular — has taken on that responsibility that science is lost.  In other words, that is,  if you think who it was — that who are the people — who are really arguing for some form of environmental sustainability, it’s not the scientists but the artists.

[41m53s]  And this is something that’s happened, I think, over the last two or three decades.  And I’ve been rather curious as to understand, what exactly has happened to science?

[42m09s] And I do feel — worry — that, been particularly fueled by the digital revolution — sciences –well, it’s very hard to generalize about science, it’s a big thing and so messy and full of so many different approaches, but — mainstream science is, anyway that — the mainstream science that has the big funding, seems to have turned into some immense data processing exercise, in which living beings, including us human beings, have more or less disappeared.

[42m46s] That it often seems that the global science, in collusion with the multinational corporations that it more and more serves, treats the rest of the world — and in including the vast majority of its increasing the impoverished and apparently disposable human population as standing reserves of data to feed the insatiable demands of the knowledge economy.

[43m10s] So, I feel in many ways, that  science has reneged on its original environmental sensibility, and has left art in some senses to pick up the pieces.

[43m33s] The implications for democracy and citizenship are, I think, that we do have to find a different way of thinking about what these are.  That we have we have to realize that sustainable citizenship is not some sort of a priority entitlement, as though you’re a citizen of your country or the world, simply by virtue of the fact that you were born in a particular place and then just got it along with your passport and birth certificate and everything else.  But it’s something that you actually have to work at.  And that this work involves a process of what I want to call commoning.

[44m13s]  And, by commoning, I don’t mean working back to find, or what is it that all human beings have in common?  Or what was this human nature?  Maybe we can use what we all have in common as a baseline on which to build a democracy.

[44m27s]  It is rather to suppose that, actually, we’re all different and that each of us speaks with our own particular voice, and we are different because we are part of this life process because it’s that process that the generates difference.

[44m46s] But, at the same time, we are committed to getting along together.  And getting along together means not looking back to see what we have in common, but looking forward to see how, through a stretch of imagination, I can begin to see how my experience can join with and respond to yours, so that we can, so to speak, get along together,

[45m10s] And, that’s a different sense of democracy.  It’s not thinking of democracy in terms of the identity of interests. It’s thinking of democracy in terms of the the differentiation and commoning of life trajectories.

[45m26s]  So, I think, what we need then, is a politics of difference rather than the politics of identity.  Not trying to gang together on the basis of common interests but to recognize difference, celebrate it, and show how, because we are different, we can actually work together.

[45m52s] Because in the end, similarity divides us like beans in a sack, but difference is what brings us together.

[46m00s] And the implications for peace and friendship, well, we have to go back to the etymology of the word harmony.   I mentioned earlier that for Greeks — for the ancient Greeks who developed the term harmony — one of the epitome of harmony was the rope with its twist in opposite directions which hold it together.  And recognize that harmony includes tension and agonism,  as well as resolution and — sorry — as well as and resolution and conviviality.

[46m35s]  But it’s the tension of differentiation, as for example, the knots of the tree that hold things together.  So we actually need tension.  We need agonism.  We need, what we might sometimes called conflict, in order to create a world in which we can carry on together.  The top-down enforcing of common interests, or the trying to pretend that we’re all the same,  is not going to produce a coherent, and form, of sustainability.

[47m12s]  That’s what I have to say.  Thank you very much

<< long commentary from audience member >>

[50m47s] I think, well, this is a question about hope and … a question what we can do. Because it won’t help anybody to be fatalistic, and it won’t help anybody to lose hope.  So,  the risks of of a global catastrophe, whatever form it takes, whether it’s a nuclear holocaust or or a climatic and total disaster, or the extermination of the bee population and the food crisis — whatever it is.  We have to recognize that —  I suppose that these possibilities are there and another thing could happen.  There could be a ….  Yellowstone might blow up. There could be a cold era, which has got nothing whatever to do with us, but could nevertheless render the earth uninhabitable,  and that could happen anytime.

[52m00s]  What we do in those circumstances?  In a way, it’s not a question of just shutting our minds out and saying, we don’t want to think about it.  It doesn’t help.  I think we’ve got to — how to put it  — we’ve got to be hopeful, and we’ve got to be hopeful for ….  Because otherwise, it’s not fair on our children.  It’s not fair on our children to tell them, every day, actually the world that were passing on to you is going to blow up and you’re going to be dead or going to have a miserable life.

[52m50s]  Surely it’s our responsibility to to our next generations to invest as much hope in them as we can.

<< response from audience member >>

[54m03s] The thing is, you see, that there are parts of the world — we don’t often realize this but — some of the most polluted, and now, because of pollution, uninhabitable parts of the planet, are in the far north.  I think the most polluted part of the planet is the Kola Peninsula, which used to be inhabited by by Saami people and some others.   Most of it is now uninhabitable, because of the extraction of heavy metals and nuclear weapons testing, mostly during the 1950s.  And, it’s going to take thousands of years before that environment — which looks like an unspoiled wilderness actually, it’s impossible to live there — it is going to take the thousands of years before that is inhabitable again.

[55m05s]  So, for that people who … for whom that was their homeland, this catastrophe that you’re worrying about has already happened.  And in a sense they’re living in the aftermath of it.  And across the world, a lot of people are living in in those sorts of circumstances.  Think of Bhopal.   Think of some of these industrial disasters that have already killed large numbers of people, quite apart from Nagasaki and Hiroshima which was with throughout conflict.

[55m44s] So in a way …. What what strikes me is that the really intractable problem is:  how one can deal with those parts of the earth which have already been rendered, and uninhabitable, for a very large, very long periods of time.  After all,  there’s a records of weapons testing in the Pacific Islands in the1950s, when nobody really understood just how harmful radiation was.

<< audience responses off mic >>

[57m30s]  Yes, because that way, you’ve got a system that can, in principle carry on as long as you like.

<< audience responses off mic about sustainability>>

[58m40s]  It actually depends on how you do it, …

[58m45s]  The way it is mostly done is by — for example in clear felling — you clear fell an area and plow it up and then plant not a lot.  And the results are usually disastrous because for the trees to thrive, they’re usually different species of the growing together, and they depend on one another. So …
[59m08s] So, if you destroy all that, and mono crop with a particular variety of trees, it’s not going to work.   But what these Japanese foresters are doing traditionally was much less drastic.   Individual trees, here and there, they would know the ones that are ready, they would cut those in a mixed forest and and replant.  You’re not destroying.  You’re not plowing anything up.   They’re not destroying the fungal vegetation.  You’re not destroying the species diversity.  In that situation,  you can replant and it’s okay.   It’s not by clear felling and mono cropping and at a pace that doesn’t work.  So, it depends how you do it.

<< audience off mic concern on sustainability, going back to original >>

[61m01s]  What you said is right, and a lot of the problem is lighting other engineering type systems thinking, where the systems are supposed to be somehow closed, and tight, and therefore predictable, when when actually they’re not.

[61m15s]  But, take the case of — I know a bit about it  — climate change in the north, where we know that they’re there are huge changes taking place, for example, in Greenland.  The ice is melting.  New areas of land being exposed, and so on,  and and this is forcing people who live there to make, or fairly radical,  adjustments to their livelihoods of fishing and hunting and and so on.

[61m44s] But, so far as they’re concerned, they’re not particularly concerned about the whole climate change thing, because their view is that there never has been such a thing as a stable climate.

[61m54s]  If they look back through their own oral traditions and so on, there have been periods of warming,  periods of cooling, there was a little ice age, there was one here after the little ice age.

[62m02s]  And the critical thing was that people had the flexibility, and the experience and knowledge, to be able to respond to whatever was happening with their environment.  And they would do that simply by using a good deal of common sense and knowing knowing the place well.

[62m26s]  But they never supposed that there was some sort of steady initial state, from which things had diverged.  So the notion of change climate doesn’t make sense, if you’d never thought that it was stable to begin with.  But the key thing is this ability to respond and to have that ability to respond.  Then people have to know … not only do people have to know their environment well, but they also have to be allowed to use that knowledge rather than being told that all that’s just their folk wisdom and what you really need to bring in is the scientific experts who will tell you what to do.  That’s the problem, or that they’ll send the experts who will say to the local people “you can’t hunt there” when people know that you can.

[63m11s] So, it’s that ability to care for and respond to one’s own environment that you know really well, that we have to respect.  And that’s why I just get so fed up with big science because …. and this cult of expertise.

[63m36s]  There’s nothing wrong with experts, so long as they don’t reckon or suppose that there’s some kind of global experts have come in and tell everybody else what to do.  And, they usually get it wrong.

<< audience off mic on threads and knots, we’re good at making them, moderate them >>

[65m51s] There’s some truth in that.   But the catch in what you’re saying is the we, as the who actually we are.   Because …. And that’s where the politics comes.   Because knots that some of us are creating are then making life impossible for other people.  So … actually causing other people to be excluded.

[66m29s] The classic example of that is in wildlife conservation, in so many areas of the world, where people have been pushed off their land, which they used to live on, in order to make way for conservation of gorillas or elephants or whatever it might be.

[66m51s]  And so, you might think that the conservationists are creating knots of their own, yes.  But those are knots that are also creating boundaries and the  that the distinction want to make there.   A knot itself doesn’t have boundaries.  If you think of a knot as this tangle of threads, and they’re going off this way and that way, it’s not wrapped up in itself.

[67m25s]  The problem comes when one person’s line is another person’s cut. So, when in Namibia, the military, the South African military constructed roads to take its military hardware from A to B through the Kalahari Desert they cut through the parts of local hunter gatherers.  And if they came out onto the road, they were in danger of getting shot at.  So, that one very powerful actor’s highway is another’s less powerful barrier that is very dangerous to cross.

[68m12s]  And I think that’s actually where the problem comes.  Maybe not in the knotting itself, but in the way in which one person’s line, can be another person’s line of life, can be another person’s wall of death.  I mean literally sometimes.

<< audience off mic, inaudible >>

[68m40s]  Andm even if we did, who would be able to who could get up, and tell the rest of the world this is what you’re supposed to do?   This is a real problem.

<< audience off mic, our paths, culture, relating the world, how to benefit the whole world? >>

[69m55s]  Well, I think that we we need to learn from others.  My own sort of little local protest — and because I work in the university and I’m an academic and an academic anthropologist — I get annoyed by the way in which even in my own discipline, which has a fairly good record on the whole, but still wants to collect material on other people in order ultimately to analyze them and to turn them into objects of knowledge.

[70m39s]  Whereas the important thing, I think — although maybe that’s all right up to a point — what we need to do is to actually learn from what people are telling us, and and see how what we can learn from them might help to form our thinking.

[70m57s]  That’s in … in this world, basically we need all the help we can get  And, therefore we need to be prepared to listen to and learn from anybody.   It doesn’t mean we have to agree with them, and in fact, they might be awful people and have terrible ideas, but but at least we need to engage with — as much as possible — to get some sort of sense about where to go next.

[71m22s]  And to do that I think we need a different attitude within the academy itself.  So this is actually in some sense of a problem for the university.  There’s something that’s exercising, quite at the moment, because where we are.

[71m39s] But the thing is that we have had universities, and they’re at the moment … I think … have reached a crisis point because across the world universities are being taken over by corporations as basically research institutes for generating profit.  And that is manifestly unsustainable.

[72m00s]  Universities will either disappear — or at least disappear in any sense that we recognize them —  and therefore we have to have another ….  We have to be clear about what the alternative is, what a university should be.

[72m13]  And, I think in in a world where we can no longer claim,  as the academy used to claim, that as academics and scientists researchers we can deliver a superior account, or an authoritative account, of the way the world works.   Like we know and we can tell everybody else.

[72m33s]  In the post-colonial, world that’s no longer the case.  But it seems to me that the university is a place where ideas matter and where people with different ideas can meet and talk in safety and in an ecumenical spirit.   And we need to we need institutions where that can happen.  And for me the university is that institution.

[72m57s] So, part of the answer to your question, I think, is how we reform the universities, or, if we can’t reform them how do we build an alternative university system in its place.

<< audience off mic, religions with nations, natural philosophy, Tao, physics >>

[74m10s] I hope there is hope in science, and what you say is true.  I have no problem with individual scientists.  Any … most any of the scientists I know, they’re wonderful people, and thoughtful people, and considerate and caring people.  The problem is almost entirely with the institutionalization of science.  It’s almost as though …  There’s the scientists i talk to, and say “of course I agree with everything you say but how am I going to get my papers published, and how am I going to get my job, unless i do what is expected?   Published in this kind of way.  Collect my data in that kind of way.  Do this experiment.  I know it’s wrong.  I know it’s unethical.  I know it know that it’s all fabrication”.  But that’s where they find themselves.

[75m07s] I mean, actually the reason why I jumped ship from science, was because I found the whole institutionalized, institutional machine so constricting, and so rigid, and so opposed, actually, to real thinking, that I thought this is not the place for me to work in.

[75m28s] So, there is perhaps an increasing disjunction between between institutionalized mainstream science and what many scientists themselves are doing and thinking.  And, I find that scientists I talk to are themselves deeply concerned about that — they at least they find it a source of a very considerable frustration and and often talk to me is that they’re envious.  They say, if only we could have the freedom that you have in anthropology to think in ways that are different from required patterns.

[76m18s]  And in … just a case in point of that, in biology, there is this tradition of Gothean science that goes back to the ideas of Goethe and how one should study plants.  I really getting to know them very deeply, and the way in which that is treated by mainstream science is is is utterly appalling.

[76m46s] I mean that it blows apart the myth that science is an open system of knowledge.  And there have been other traditions where in mainstream science has virtually come to book burning, and saying we won’t allow any of this nonsense.  So, we have is curious situation in which science, in principle is a very open-ended enterprise, but where because of the way it’s been taken up —  perhaps because of the way it’s been tied to the ambitions of the state — it’s become very rigid in its structures, I think.  But there’s hope.  Yeah, there’s always hope.

<< audience last question, coming from the art world, shifting this conversation into the mainstream >>

[78m33s]  I don’t know, but, perhaps,  strategically we shouldn’t even be trying to get into the mainstream. I sometimes wonder so I think about my own discipline of anthropology, which is sort of, by most accounts, a bit marginal and/or regarded as a bit way out compared with the mainstream subject.  And people sometimes say you know if only anthropology had the clout, the power, the numbers, the funding, the popular appeal of some discipline like psychology ….  I believe there are more psychologist in psychology than there are practitioners of any other disciplines.  Enormous.

[79m15s]  And then you think, would you really want anthropology to become like that?  What would you actually want this subject to become mainstream?  And I think,  probably not,  because it would become normalized. It would lose its critical edge.   So, maybe I just don’t know how to answer it, but maybe that’s the wrong ambition, to say “I want to be mainstream”, and that the right ambition is to think “I want to change the world” and leave it at that, and not worry about whether you’re on the margins or on the mainstream.   And then see, once the world’s changed, where it’s landed up.

[80m06s]  But, I appreciate the difficulty and and and know that people are compromised on both sides of the art/science fence.  That I am struck by the extent to which this really, some really good, challenging interrogating work that’s going on in the environmental arts,  however you want to categorize them.  Much more now than 30 years ago.

[80m36s] And I’m struck, at the same time, by how the sort of ecology that was really strong in the 1950s, 60s, 70s,  which was field ecology mostly, with people working very closely with certain landscapes, environments, animals ….  how that has become sidelined in current bioscience.  That the two things seem to be somehow … Well, they’ve happened at the same time and they seem to be somehow connected.

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2016/09/07 “One World Anthropology | Tim Ingold | AIBR

Plenary presentation by Tim Ingold, at the 2nd @AIBR_ International Conference of Anthropology.
Plenaria Tim Ingold 1, AIBR Antropólogos Iberoamericanos en Red

The 2nd AIBR International Conference of Anthropology brings together anthropologists from different parts of the world under the theme “Identity: Bridges, Thresholds, and Barriers.”


[6:58] So what is the relation between the life of the soul and soul life, or to put it in more general terms, between the particular life and life itself. Is it a relation of part to whole? Now, I have nothing against the idea of life as a whole, so long as we do not think of this whole as a totality. Holism is one thing. Totalization is quite another, and it is vital to acknowledge the distinction. Totality to my ear at least implies addition and completion, but life itself is never complete, nor, as I have tried to show, can we approach it by any process of summation, whether addititive, additive or multiplicative. It is not a completion but the continual origination. Life as one elder from among the women she Cree of northern Canada told the ethnographer Colin Scott life is continuous birth. It is the generative potential of a world in becoming a world that is forever worlding.

[8:20] So is the particular life a part of life as a whole. Is the life of the soul apart of soul life? And, again. I have nothing against the idea of lives as parts but then we should think of these parts too, as ways of carrying on like the voices of a composition. And the analogy I have in mind is that of polyphonic music in which every voice, for every instrument, carries on along its own melodic line. In music the relation between parts and whole is not summative, it is neither additive nor multiplicative, but contrapuntal. Think of the tenor part in the chorus or the cello part in the symphony and I want to think of the life of every particular soul.

[9:19] Likewise, as a line of counterpoint, that even as it issues forth, is continually attentive and responsive to each and every other. Souls as we might say are answerable to one another, a condition that carries entailment of both responsiveness and responsibility. Precisely because souls go along together and because their continual regeneration is nourished and impelled by the memory of their association the composition formed by their contrapuntal movement cannot be decomposed without causing grief if not destruction to the lives of its parts.



[29:02] And I think it is to the oneworldness of this whole that anthropology must remain committed.

[29:11] As I stated at the outset the world is a conversation, it is not the object of our conversation. In this conversation lies ontogenesis, the becoming of being. And it is high time to restore ontogenesis to life. We will then see that every particular life is both an open-ended exploration of the possibilities of being that are one world affords, and a contribution to it its ongoing formation, that is to its worlding.

[29:49] It is in a sense a never-ending quest for an answer to the problem of what being human, or what living in this world actually means. But every answer is a response, and not a solution. Responding to the question, we respond to one another, that is, we correspond. And in this we do not so much look out from a position as long for one that is forever beyond our grasp

[30:22] Life is a question to which there is no answer but in this one world of ours we are all tasked with looking for it, and it is in the search that all life is lived. And it is just as well that there is no final solution for that indeed would put an end to us all.

Plenaria Tim Ingold 1 | September 2016 | AIBR Antropólogos Iberoamericanos en Red at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3TbG2Lo_9fk

Plenaria Tim Ingold 2 | September 2016 | AIBR Antropólogos Iberoamericanos en Red at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fn9DfiAteFQ

2nd AIBR International Conference on Anthropology program is at http://2016.aibr.org/en/programaen/search .

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