Inuit and Scientific Philosophies about Planning, Prediction, and Uncertainty

Peter Bates


This paper explores Inuit philosophies about the future, long-term planning, and prediction and investigates the ways that these contrast with Western ideas. By describing how Inuit deal with the inherent uncertainty of the Arctic environment, and how this leads to distinct attitudes towards managing the future and its potential risks, the argument is made that these philosophies are a highly effective method of knowing the Arctic environment. However, the strengths of this approach may at times be obscured by a current desire to show that Inuit predict and plan in the same way as do Western scientists. In fact, such attempts can delegitimize Inuit ways of knowing the future, by effectively setting Western science as a benchmark by which Inuit knowledge is judged, thus reducing the likelihood of effective collaboration between Inuit and Western researchers in environmental management.

  • Peter Bates, Anthropology Department, University of Aberdeen, Edward Wright Building Aberdeen, Scotland AB24 3QY

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