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The homological cosmos: ontology, epistemology, and ethics in Yi Jing prediction

Matthews, WE; (2016) The homological cosmos: ontology, epistemology, and ethics in Yi Jing prediction. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access

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This thesis investigates cosmological theories among practitioners of Yi Jing-based prediction in Hangzhou, China. The principle focus is upon analogical reasoning as manifest in predictive practice, ontological assumptions, epistemology, and ethics, from the perspective of specialists. These aspects of cosmology are explored through a combination of ethnographic data and textual analysis, adopting a position informed by the anthropology of cosmology, ontology, and divination and related debates in the cognitive sciences and Sinology. From the perspective of predictors, Yi Jing prediction operates via the reduction of situations presented by clients to cosmic laws, from which highly specific predictions can be derived. Yi Jing hexagrams are metaphorically substituted for clients’ situations, which are then metonymically incorporated into an understanding of the cosmos as particular configurations of qi. This argument is contextualised in relation to the role of analogy in the Yi Jing itself. The ontological assumptions of predictors are rooted in resemblances between phenomena based on shared intrinsic qualities, rather than in analogical similarities between distinct ontological types. This mode of identification, which I term ‘homologism’, directly informs epistemological assumptions based on hexagrams’ ‘resemblance’ to natural phenomena. This is discussed in relation to broader conceptions of ‘science’, ‘religion’, and ‘superstition’, along with salient epistemological categories employed by predictors. Emphasis on the accuracy of prediction and its identification with ‘science’ are characteristic of predictors’ ethical discourse, grounded in a homology between cosmos and society but complicated by considerations of ethical practice. Finally, the distinction between analogy and homology is applied to the development of Chinese ‘correlative thought’, which is revealed to encompass three distinct types. Implications of the thesis are discussed for the anthropology of cosmology, ontology, and divination, and the study of Chinese cosmology, with particular focus on issues of scale and purpose.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: The homological cosmos: ontology, epistemology, and ethics in Yi Jing prediction
Event: UCL
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Keywords: Divination, Yi Jing, Chinese cosmology, ontology, epistemology, ethics, homology, cosmology, cognitive anthropology
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1530839
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