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


David Ing blogs at coevolving.com , photoblogs at daviding.com , and microblogs at http://ingbrief.wordpress.com . A profile appears at , and an independent description is on .

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