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Environmental Philosophy

Volume 15
Environmental Hermeneutics: In Memory of W. S. K. “Scott” Cameron

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articles
1. Environmental Philosophy: Volume > 15 > Issue: 2
Roger Paden The Ethical Function of Landscape Architecture
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This essay presents a theory of aesthetics for landscape gardening based on Karsten Harries’s theory of the ethical function of architecture. It begins with an attempt to understand Horace Walpole’s praise of William Kent’s contribution to the development of “the modern taste in gardening,” according to which Kent was largely responsible for achieving the progressive revolution in landscape architecture that produced the picturesque style of English landscape gardening. After examining Harries’s theory, the essay discusses whether landscape architecture can produce works of art and examines several historically-important garden styles to argue that it can. Finally, it discusses problems inherent in Modern and Postmodern landscape architecture.
2. Environmental Philosophy: Volume > 15 > Issue: 2
Ben Mylius Three Types of Anthropocentrism
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This paper develops a language for distinguishing more rigorously between various senses of the term ‘anthropocentrism.’ Specifically, it differentiates between:1. Perceptual anthropocentrism (which characterizes paradigms informed by sense-data from human sensory organs);2. Descriptive anthropocentrism (which characterizes paradigms that begin from, center upon, or are ordered around Homo sapiens / ‘the human’)3. Normative anthropocentrism (which characterizes paradigms that constrain inquiry in a way that somehow privileges Homo sapiens / ‘the human’ [passive normative anthropocentrism]; and which characterizes paradigms that make assumptions or assertions about the superiority of Homo sapiens, its capacities, the primacy of its values, its position in the universe, and/or make prescriptions based on these assertions and assumptions [active normative anthropocentrism]).
3. Environmental Philosophy: Volume > 15 > Issue: 2
Ronald Olufemi Badru Environmental Deficit and Contemporary Nigeria: Evolving an African Political Philosophy for a Sustainable Eco-Democracy
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Three groups of claims frame this article. First, the Nigerian State is largely enmeshed in environmental deficit, given the substantial oil pollution in the Niger-delta area, the problem of erosion in the Southeast, the filthy status of the Southwest, and the incessantly worrying perturbation of the ecological stability in the Northern part of Nigeria. Second, the political leadership in Nigeria for years has not really given genuine policy priority to, and, on this model, developed a credible framework that the citizenry could buy into to sustainably address the causes and the consequences of the environmental deficit. Third, given the foregoing, this work suggests a re-thinking/re-discussion of approach to the environmental deficit. Drawing on and integrating some relevant ideas, values, and virtues in African metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics, the article develops a framework, prescribing how the democratic leadership and the citizenry ought to act in sustainably addressing the environmental deficit. Beyond the philosophic foundations, the framework is also teleologically political: (i) it emphasizes that the moral legitimacy of democratic leadership in Nigeria partly derives from its commitment to the good of the built and the natural environment, and (ii) it also stresses that the citizenry could only be good moral agents, as eco-citizens, if they develop the virtues of environmental responsibility and responsiveness, by theoretically and practically supporting the good of the built and the natural environment. The research methods of critical analysis of empirical data and reflective argumentation are adopted to pursue the goals of the work.
4. Environmental Philosophy: Volume > 15 > Issue: 2
Craig Frayne An Ecosemiotic Critique of Heidegger’s Concept of Enframing
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This essay presents ecosemiotics as an approach to interpreting Heidegger in environmental philosophy. Comparisons between Heidegger’s philosophy and ecosemiotics have often focused on the 1929–1930 lecture course where Heidegger discusses Jakob von Uexküll’s notion of Umwelt. These and other ecological interpretations reach an impasse with the sharp ontological boundary Heidegger places between Dasein and more-than-human lifeforms. This essay revisits the theme by focusing on a central concept from Heidegger’s later work: enframing [Gestell]. Enframing, it is argued, can be understood as a rupture between human (cultural) and natural signs, which is a consequence of technological modernity. Although this interpretation diverges from Heidegger’s philosophy, such critical readings may be necessary if Heidegger’s work is to speak to today’s technologies and ecological issues.
5. Environmental Philosophy: Volume > 15 > Issue: 2
Byron Williston A Tapestry of Concealments: Barkskins as Anthropocene Fiction
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The Good Anthropocene is a position taken up by a diverse collection of writers, social scientists, and philosophers. Their claim is that the Anthropocene should be embraced as a more or less positive development in the history of our species. This paper pushes back against the narrative of the Good Anthropocene. But rather than confront its advocates directly, I will come at the contest obliquely. I present a Heideggerian interpretation of Annie Proulx’s Barkskins, a multi-generational novel centered on the deforestation of North America. From a Heideggerian perspective, we notice that the present historical epoch has involved a threefold concealment: of the burgeoning catastrophe of climate change, of the co-optation of conservationism by capitalism, and of the ethnocide of the continent’s indigenous inhabitants.
6. Environmental Philosophy: Volume > 15 > Issue: 2
Mark Payne Poetry, Vegetality, Relief From Being
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In ancient Greek ecological thought, vegetality is the most basic ground of life. It is followed by animality and rationality as increasingly active, self-aware forms of life. An ontology of forms of life need not justify a hierarchy among actual living beings, but in practice it often does. This paper shows how the poetic representation of plants resists this slippage. Poetry offers human beings an ecstasis from their own animality so that they can apprehend their participation in the vegetality of living beings as a whole.
7. Environmental Philosophy: Volume > 15 > Issue: 2
Valentina Gamberi, Lucia Zaietta An Anthropomorphic Dilemma: A Phenomenological Insight into the Human/Non-Human Symbiosis
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Can we really transcend our own human point of view in approaching the non-human? Rather than confining anthropomorphism in the field of the superstitious or identifying it with anthropocentrism, we propose a “weak” anthropomorphism. By adopting phenomenology as methodology, particularly Merleau-Ponty’s notions of corporeity and flesh, we suggest that anthropomorphism is the result of a shared bodily perception: first of all, we are-in-the-world. What we have is not a divide between the human and the non-human, but rather a blurred and fuzzy compound of human and non-human features, where the wild coincides with this symbiotic unit.
8. Environmental Philosophy: Volume > 15 > Issue: 2
Joe Larios Bringing Levinas Down to Earth: A Jonasian Reading of the Face
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This paper adds to the critical work on the relationship between Hans Jonas and Emmanuel Levinas by arguing that the experience of the face of the other can be made compatible with Jonas’s understanding of metabolism thus allowing for an extension of who counts as an other to include all organic life forms. Although this extension will allow for a broadening of ethical patients on one side, we will see that a corresponding broadening of ethical agents on the other side will prove to be more difficult owing to the exceptionality of the human being that they both maintain and believe is expressed through the experience of responsibility.
9. Environmental Philosophy: Volume > 15 > Issue: 2
Brian Seitz Grids of Power: Toward a Phenomenology of Fuel
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The word “power” tends toward divergent formations, and this paper is prompted by the intersection of two of them. The first form taken up here is power as control, while the second form is material power as fuel. The typical modern configuration of the first form implies an understanding of the second form as subordinate. But what I argue here is that insofar as fuel is a condition of the possibility of being human, the identity of the human being has always been embedded in an assemblage consisting of fuel-subject/intersubject.
book reviews
10. Environmental Philosophy: Volume > 15 > Issue: 2
Thomas Bretz Gerard Kuperus and Marjolein Oele, eds. Ontologies of Nature: Continental Perspectives and Environmental Reorientations
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11. Environmental Philosophy: Volume > 15 > Issue: 2
Amanda Parris Peter Mancall. Nature and Culture in the Early Modern Atlantic
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12. Environmental Philosophy: Volume > 15 > Issue: 2
Jennifer Schell Kathleen Dean Moore. Piano Tide: A Novel
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13. Environmental Philosophy: Volume > 15 > Issue: 2
Clint Wilson III Laura Ephraim. Who Speaks for Nature? On the Politics of Science
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14. Environmental Philosophy: Volume > 15 > Issue: 2
Nathaniel Wolloch Svetozar Y. Minkov and Bernhardt L. Trout, eds. Mastery of Nature: Promises and Prospects
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articles
15. Environmental Philosophy: Volume > 15 > Issue: 1
Brian Treanor Editor's Introduction: Environmental Hermeneutics: In Memory of W. S. K. “Scott” Cameron
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16. Environmental Philosophy: Volume > 15 > Issue: 1
Chandler D. Rogers Beyond Biosecurity
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As boundaries between domesticity and the undomesticated increasingly blur for cohabitants of Vancouver Island, home to North America’s densest cougar population, predatorial problems become more and more pressing. Rosemary-Claire Collard responds on a pragmatic plane, arguing that the encounter between human and cougar is only ever destructive, that contact results in death and almost always for the cougar. Advocating for vigilance in policing boundaries separating cougar from civilization, therefore, she looks to Foucault’s analysis of modern biopower in the first volume of his History of Sexuality for support in favor of a more contemporary notion of biosecurity. In response to Collard’s arguments, concerned with ethical conclusions drawn on the basis of her policy-based proposal, I challenge the prohibition she places on encounter. In the first section, “Becoming Killable,” I address her use of Donna Haraway’s phraseology, and in the second section, “Biological Dangers,” I scrutinize her reading of Foucault, arguing that the appeals she makes distort the mode of argumentation at work for each thinker. The final section, “Facing Cougar, Facing Death,” advocates further ethical possibilities generated on the basis of Foucault’s correlation between overcoming the fear of death and resisting abuses of power with respect to others. My contention is that our transgressing boundaries constructed to separate humanity from the inhumane curtails tendencies toward the marginalization and subjugation of those animal others whose very existence brings us face to face with the fact of our own mortality.
17. Environmental Philosophy: Volume > 15 > Issue: 1
Christina M. Gschwandtner Can We Learn to Hear Ethical Calls? In Honor of Scott Cameron
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This article tries to grapple with the difficulty of hearing the call of the other and recognizing it as a call that obligates us to ethical response, especially when such a “call” is not issued by a human other but by other species or environmental precarity more broadly. I briefly review how ethical responsibility is articulated by Emmanuel Lévinas and then consider some of the ways in which his philosophy has been applied to environmental questions. I suggest that while some calls might be obvious and obligate by the blatant need almost impossible to ignore, in many cases a hermeneutic context and predisposition is required in order to “hear” a call and understand it as ethically obligating. I conclude with one example of how it might be possible to inculcate such dispositions that would attune us to more careful hearing and might cause us to recognize ethical obligation.
18. Environmental Philosophy: Volume > 15 > Issue: 1
Jonathan Maskit Urban Mobility—Urban Discovery: A Phenomenological Aesthetics for Urban Environments
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In this paper I investigate how different modes of urban transportation shape our experience of the urban environment. My goal is to argue that how we move through a space is not merely a question of convenience or efficiency. Rather, our transportation technologies can fundamentally shift how we experience where we are. I propose a framework for considering mobility from the standpoint of phenomenological everyday aesthetics considering the social, somatic, temporal-epistemic, and affective characteristics of experience. I then suggest a typology of different forms of urban mobility distinguishing between private and public forms of transportation as well as between faster and slower modes. I next suggest a trio of factors—speed, ability to survey one’s surroundings, and ease of interruption—that play into how we experience an urban environment while discovering it by means of mobility. By applying the framework of experience and the trio of factors to the typology of transportation modes I show how each of them can foster or hinder an aesthetic experience of the urban environment. I conclude by reflecting on some further issues for investigation including the role of power in urban space, questions concerning mobility and difference (class, race, dis/ability, etc.), the place of technological mediation in urban mobility, and the role of spatial planning.
19. Environmental Philosophy: Volume > 15 > Issue: 1
Brook Muller Blue Architectures (The City and the Wild in Concentrate)
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It is more than a coincidence that in his two essays, “Wilderness and the City: Not such a Long Drive After All” and “Can Cities Be Both Natural and Successful? Reflections Grounding Two Apparently Oxymoronic Aspirations,” Scott Cameron looks to water as a basis for evaluating the city in relationship to the wild and in imagining new possibilities for urban nature. In an attempt to complement and enrich Cameron’s thinking, this essay focuses on emerging, decentralized and ecologically responsive approaches to water and wastewater systems in architectural projects in dense urban environments. Such an emphasis on “blue architectures” allows for a reframing of the city/nature relationship in terms of degrees of concentration—of water, organisms, and pollutants—as a precursor to considerations of distances involved (“not such a long drive”). To concentrate on localized hydrologic conditions is to support the integrity of broader scale ecological systems and to reconnect urban dwellers to processes that bear directly on the wild.
20. Environmental Philosophy: Volume > 15 > Issue: 1
David Utsler Is Nature Natural? And Other Linguistic Conundrums: Scott Cameron’s Hermeneutic Defense of the Concept of Nature
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One of Scott Cameron’s most recent contributions to environmental hermeneutics (a field in which he was a founding scholar) was to defend the concept of nature against those who would argue that it should be abandoned in order to stave off the ecological destruction. Rather than jettison nature as an outdated and unhelpful construct, Cameron argued for its redemption based on Gadamer’s hermeneutical insights into language. In this article, I will look at Cameron’s arguments against Steven Vogel as well as particular points made against nature as a concept recently articulated by Slavoj Žižek and Timothy Morton. I will follow these arguments through, demonstrating that while the arguments can be accepted and are, indeed, accurate, the conclusion that the concept of nature be abandoned need not and should not be conceded. Finally, I will return to Cameron’s hermeneutic defense of a concept of nature and expand further on his insights and arguments. With Cameron, I conclude that the concept of nature can be redeemed. Extending Cameron’s line of reasoning, I argue that this aim is accomplished by refiguring the concept of nature with the insights offered by philosophical hermeneutics.