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Environmental Philosophy

Volume 15, Issue 1, Spring 2018
Environmental Hermeneutics: In Memory of W. S. K. “Scott” Cameron

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1. 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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2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. Environmental Philosophy: Volume > 15 > Issue: 1
Steven Vogel Doing without Nature: On Interpretation and Practice
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Sorry that he is no longer here to read it, I consider in this paper Scott Cameron’s discussion of my views questioning the value of the concept of “nature” for environmental philosophy. Scott had suggested, based on arguments from hermeneutics, that although we never have access to a nature independent of our interpretations of it, still the existence of such a nature is necessarily presupposed by all such interpretations. I claim in response that if we replace the (idealist) notion of interpretation by the (materialist) one of practice, that presupposition is no longer necessary: the independence required is built into the notion of practice itself, and need not be seen as a characteristic of the world “outside” of us.
8. Environmental Philosophy: Volume > 15 > Issue: 1
Sean J. McGrath In Defense of the Human Difference
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Against the prevalent trend in eco-criticism which is to deny the human difference, I summon a set of untimely tropes from metaphysics in the interest of advancing an ecological humanism: the difference in kind between human consciousness and animal sensibility; the uniquely human capacity for moral discernment; and the human being’s peculiar freedom from the material conditions of existence. While I agree with eco-critics who argue that anthropocenic nature is not only finite, but sick: sickened by our abuse and neglect, I disagree that this abuse is simply a result of insisting on the human difference (“anthropocentrism”), nor is species egalitarianism the way forward. On the contrary, the eco-collapse, referred to as the sixth great extinction event, is the consequence of a general disavowal of the human’s special call to take responsibility for the relation between the human and the non-human, and only a re-awakening of this responsibility can restore health to anthropocenic nature. The non-human cannot effect this restoration, for that is not its vocation. A difference in vocation is not necessarily a difference in moral worth, and so the human difference does not justify denying the “intrinsic value” of the non-human. Humanity is uniquely responsible both for the mess we are in and for cleaning it up.
book reviews
9. Environmental Philosophy: Volume > 15 > Issue: 1
Abigail Klassen Eric T. Freyfogle. A Good That Transcends: How US Culture Undermines Environmental Reform
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10. Environmental Philosophy: Volume > 15 > Issue: 1
Dan Liu Wayne Gabardi. The Next Social Contract: Animals, the Anthropocene, and Biopolitics
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