London Lectures

Zoetology: A New Name for an Old Way of Thinking

Roger Ames (University of Hawaiʻi) presents his talk “Zoetology:” A New Name for an Old Way of Thinking.

The London Lectures 2021-2: Expanding Horizons

Roger Ames (University of Hawaiʻi)

The classical Greeks give us a concept of substance that guarantees a permanent and unchanging subject as the substratum for the human experience. This “sub-stance” necessarily persists through change. This substratum or essence includes its purpose for being, and is defining of the “what-it-means-to-be-a-thing-of-this-kind” of any particular thing in setting a closed, exclusive boundary and the strict identity necessary for it to be this, and not that. In the Yijing or Book of Changes we find a vocabulary that makes explicit cosmological assumptions that are a stark alternative to this substance ontology, and provides the interpretive context for the Confucian canons by locating them within a holistic, organic, and ecological worldview. To provide a meaningful contrast with this fundamental assumption of on or “being” we might borrow the Greek notion of zoe or “life” and create the neologism “zoe-tology” as “the art of living.” This cosmology begins from “living” (sheng 生) itself as the motive force behind change, and gives us a world of boundless “becomings:” not “things” that are, but “events” that are happening, a contrast between an ontological conception of human “beings” and a process conception of what I will call human “becomings.”