Ethnoontology: Ways of world-building across cultures

Ludwig, David; Weiskopf, Daniel A.


This article outlines a program of ethnoontology that brings together empirical research in the ethnosciences with ontological debates in philosophy. First, we survey empirical evidence from heterogeneous cultural contexts and disciplines. Second, we propose a model of cross-cultural relations between ontologies beyond a simple divide between universalist and relativist models. Third, we argue for an integrative model of ontology building that synthesizes insights from different fields such as biological taxonomy, cognitive science, cultural anthropology, and political ecology. We conclude by arguing that a program of ethnoontology provides philosophers both with insights about traditional issues such as debates about natural kinds and with novel strategies for connecting philosophy with pressing global issues such as the conservation of local environments and the self-determination of Indigenous communities.