In praise of the everyday: Trust and the art of social living in an Amazonian community

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45 Citations (Scopus)


The article states the high evaluation that an Amazonian people, the Piaroa, place upon the artful skills of everyday existence. It is argued that their emphasis upon the creativity of daily practice is forthcoming from a powerful and egalitarian social philosophy. The difficulties of translating such a philosophy, where the human self is contextualised within a wider cosmic setting, are raised. The aim of translation would be to enable us to engage in dialogue with the Piaroa about common concerns (upon the relation of the individual to the collectivity, for instance, or upon the idea of freedom, or the question of the relation of customs to rational decision making). These are a people who overtly shun the idea of a social rule, yet strongly value sociality, their own customs, and the mutuality of the ties of community. At the some time they demonstrate even more forcefully an 'obstinate individualism'. A major puzzle to be discussed is the notion that personal autonomy is understood as a social capacity, and a cultural one as well: the volitional 1, the social relation, and the cultural artifice are an associated set of values. The centrality of the notions of reflective reason and personal trust to this particular egalitarian ethics will be discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)293-316
Number of pages24
Publication statusPublished - 2003


  • Amazonia
  • generative cultures
  • egalitarian ethics
  • aesthetics
  • cosmology


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