Ontology, epistemology, anthropology, politics and science Recent blog posts

Ontology, epistemology, anthropology, politics and science

Ontology, epistemology, anthropology, politics and science

Very strongly recommending the attached paper/talk on ontology, anthropology, epistemology, science and politics - studying and engaging the other and oneself


An easier summary can be accessed at





Pages 7-8


Anthropology becomes comparative metaphysics even as metaphysics becomes comparative ethnography.


And the anthropologist turns into an ontological negotiator or diplomat.


To quote the position paper of the recent AAA symposium on the politics of the ontological turn, which I co-signed with Martin Holbraad and Morten Pedersen:


The anthropology of ontology is anthropology as ontology; not the comparison of ontologies, but comparison as ontology.’6


Here I think it would be fitting to cite Patrice Maniglier, the philosopher who, after having remarked that the expression ‘comparative metaphysics’ should be interpreted as tautological, proceeded to the exciting suggestion that anthropology is bound to occupy in the present century the same role as model science and epistemic paradigm that physics played during the Modern period.


Anthropology would be thus in a position to furnish the new metaphysics of the ‘Anthropocene’, the epoch when humanity became a molecular multiplicity and a physically molar agent and this is one of the reasons I have less misgivings than some of my colleagues about the appropriateness of the term ‘Anthropocene’ to designate the new deep-historical epoch we have entered.




page 13



Marilyn Strathen once defined as anthropology’s problem as that of ‘how to create an awareness of different social worlds when all at one‘s disposal is terms which belong to one‘s own.’


page 8

As in the famous Wagnerian one-liner: ‘Every understanding of another culture is an experiment with one’s own’. Or, as Maniglier himself put it in another occasion, ‘anthropology is the formal ontology of ourselves as variants’.  This should at least begin to assuage the qualms about the necessary presupposition of a ‘meta-ontological

level underlying the notion of ontological alterity.


 page 13

I draw from this constitutive paradox a fundamental principle of what could be called the discipline epistemological ethics:.


always leave a way out for the people you are describing’



‘always leave a way out for the people you are describing’
Posted by Alon Serper on 16 July 2015 12:20:18

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