30 Oct 2021 02:15 - 17 Jun 2023 08:29
Open in Logseq
    • The belief or stance that various things not normally thought of as agent-like are alive in some sense, perhaps contain an animating spirit. Animism used to be the human default; and while modernism and science have done their best to eliminate it, it just won't go away that easily.
    • I was out hunting together with two Yukaghirs, an elderly and a younger hunter, and they had succeeded in killing a brown bear. While the elderly hunter was poking out its eyes with his knife and croaking like a raven as custom prescribes, the younger one, who was standing a few meters away, shouted to the bear: “Grandfather, don’t be fooled, it is a man, Vasili Afanasivich, who killed you and is now blinding you!” At first the elderly hunter doing the butchering stood stock-still as if he were in shock, but then he looked at his younger partner and they both began laughing ecstatically as if the whole ritual were a big joke. Then the elderly hunter said to the younger one, “Stop fooling around and go make a platform for the grandfather’s bones.” However, he sounded by no means disturbed. Quite the opposite, in fact: he was still laughing while giving the order. The only really disturbed person was me, who saw the episode as posing a serious threat to my entire research agenda, which was to take animism seriously. The hunter’s joke suggested that underlying the Yukaghir animistic cosmology was a force of laughter, of ironic distance, of making fun of the spirits. How could I take the spirits seriously as an anthropologist when the Yukaghirs themselves did not?
    • Earlier writings

      • My dissertation had a chapter on animacy and its application to computing (see Agency at the Media Lab) The work was based on a set of animist-related ideas:
        • that animism is built into our everyday cognitive models via metaphor;
        • that these metaphors are implicitly built into the ideas, languages and tools we use to build computational systems;
        • that we ought to understand this better and start to use animist ideas explicitly.
    • Random refs

      • Yates, Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition
        • Drained of its animism, with the laws of inertia and gravity substituted for the psychic life of nature as the principle of movement, understood objectively instead of subjectively, Bruno's universe would turn into something like the mechanical universe of Isaac Newton, marvellously moving forever under its own laws placed in it by a God who is not a magician but a mechanic and a mathematician. (p451)
        • Moreover, the mechanistic world view established by the seventeenth-century revolution has been in its turn superseded by the amazing latest developments of scientific knowledge. It may be illuminating to view the scientific revolution as in two phases, the first phase consisting of an animistic universe operated by magic, the second phase of a mathematical universe operated by mechanics. An enquiry into both phases, and their interactions, may be a more fruitful line of historical approach to the problems raised by the science of today than the fine which concentrates only on the seventeenth-century triumph. Is not all science a gnosis, an insight into the nature of the All, which proceeds by successive revelations ? (p452)
        • Hence, may it not be supposed, when mechanics and mathematics took over from animism and magic, it was this internalisation, this intimate connection of the mens with the world, which had to be avoided at all costs. And hence, it may be suggested, through the necessity for this strong reaction, the mistake arose of allowing the problem of mind to fall so completely out of step and so far behind the problem of matter in the external world and how it works. Thus, from the point of view of the history of the problem of mind and of why it has become such a problem through the neglect of it at the beginning of the modern period, "Hermes Trismegistus" and his history is important. (p455)