Anthropology is a philosophical inquiry into the conditions and possibilities of life in the one world we all inhabit. That this world is indeed one is a core principle of the discipline. By exploring the relation between the particular life and life-as-a-whole, I show how the latter can be understood as a correspondence in which lives are not added together but carry on alongside one another. Life itself, then, is not the summation but the correspondence of its particulars. Comparing ideas of the self and the soul, founded respectively in regimes of naturalism and animism, I show how correspondence proceeds through a process of interstitial differentiation, in which agency is inside action rather than in front of it. This calls for a “turn” that is not ontological but ontogenetic, leading us to conceive of the one world as neither a universe nor a fractiverse but as a pluriverse.
Bibliographical noteI first presented a preliminary sketch for this paper at the conference The Human Condition: Reinventing Philosophical Anthropology at the Institute of Advanced Studies, University of Aarhus, in June 2015. The first written version was presented as a seminar at the Department of Anthropology, McGill University, the following October. Since then the paper has continued to evolve, with presentations to the Creation of Reality Group conference at the University of Edinburgh in December 2015, as the J. J. Bachofen Lecture at the University of Basel in March 2016, and a month later as the 2016 inaugural lecture for the Anthropology Programme at the Catholic University of Chile, Santiago. In September 2016 I presented a version of the paper under the title “An Ecology of Life” at the Centre for Contemporary Culture of Barcelona, as part of the 2nd International Conference of the Network of Iberoamerican Anthropologists (AIBR), and again in October 2016 at the School of Humanistic Studies of the University of Bologna. I have thoroughly revised the paper for each occasion. I would like to thank the European Research Council for the award of an Advanced Grant (323677-KFI, 2013-18) that released me from other obligations to work on the paper, and the audience on every occasion of its presentation for much tremendously helpful feedback, without which it would never have progressed in the way it has. For any remaining shortcomings, which I am sure are many, I accept full responsibility.