On the Cunning Intelligence of Mêtis: Alternative ways of Knowing & Being
with Dr Amber Jacobs
Mêtis refers to a particular kind of intelligence in ancient Greece: a philosophical system that was marginalized by Platonic distrust with anything elusive, deceptive, or shifting. Mêtis is a radically anti-teleological non linear way of knowing and being in the world. In ancient Greek philosophy metis was attributed to non-humans: the branching fungal colonies of mycelium, the wily cunning of the fox, the undulating movement of the octopus, the snake’s shedding of its skin. It’s about camouflage, trickery, things which turn into other things as soon as you touch them. Because of the Enlightenment, with its insistence on ‘rational’ ways of knowing, it’s really hard for us to even grasp the movement of mêtis as a kind of meaning that is not interested in arriving at a definitive truth, and a form of action that never had a goal in the first place. It’s not about direction, progress, telos, identity, or argument – all the things that structure our routine ways of being today. Mêtis is the essence of spontaneity and the infinite play between the seen and unseen and is an intelligence that can only exist in the present moment. Myth, fairy tale and dream are closer to this form of intelligence. Just as you think you’ve got them in your hand, they turn into or suggest something else. This session will offer an exploration of mêtis as a way of thinking and being via a discussion of certain Greek myths and fairy tales and how we might draw on this cunning intelligent way of being in the world to think beyond the crumbling dominant structures of our contemporary world.
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Dr Amber Jacobs is currently the head of department of Psychosocial Studies at Birkbeck college, University of London. Her academic work, teaching and publications are in the area of myth, literature, and visual culture with a particular interest in theories of the unconscious and the processes by which meanings are transmitted across generations, especially those meanings relating to constructions of gender, sexuality, and power. She also writes fiction and makes paintings and is currently working on an audiovisual project on re telling myths and fairytales for contemporary times in the form of a YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCSO1x0AVbC5xhmb_5EAmQAg/featured
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