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Apprehending the World Through Relational Structures

NOMIS Project 2022

— 2025

Typically, research in human cognition assumes that human beings categorize and model the world in terms of objects. Classical Western logic and philosophical and empirical conceptions of the world and the self to a large extent employ object-centered categorization framework. By contrast, many important strands in the Chinese classical system of knowledge about human cognition and behavior assume that relations, and not objects, are primarily given to human experience. This assumption gave rise to sophisticated functional models of processes in the world, sozium and human mind. Chinese premodern sources on epistemology, religious cultivation practices, theories of image, and concept formation thus contain a wealth of information about how the world can be perceived and represented in terms of relations.

Through analytical study of these materials the present research project, Apprehending the World Through Relational Structures: Historical Evidence and Contemporary Approaches, aims to yield insights into the ways of understanding the world and ourselves that are informed by relational approaches. These insights will be interpreted and systematized in a way that will enable them to be entered into a productive conversation with current studies on human cognition. The project’s goal is not only to better explain differences in understanding the world that emerged across cultural and historical contexts. By connecting paradigms of historically and areally oriented studies of culture with current empirical research on human nature and cognition, the project seeks to contribute to the exploration of universal potentials of human apprehension of the world.

The project is being led by Polina Lukicheva at the University of Zurich (Switzerland).


NOMIS Researcher(s)