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Environmental Philosophy

Volume 2, Issue 2, Fall 2005

Joseph P. Lawrence
Pages 30-37

Beauty Beyond Appearance
Nature and the Transcendent

Environmental philosophers tend to be particularly wary of the language of “transcendence.” From Heidegger to contemporary feminism, we find the idea that the failure to respect nature is grounded in Platonism and Abrahamic religion. The denial of earth began, we are told, with the separation of the intelligible form from the actual thing, or, even worse, of the creator from the created. From this point of view what we need is a restored pantheistic sense, a new and revitalized paganism. I counter this assertion by a reading of Plato’s Phaedrus that shows that respect itself is grounded in the recognition of transcendence. With the Book of Job, I maintain that the voice of the transcendent God is what enables Job not only to see past his sufferings but for the first time to encounter the beauty of nature. Overcoming anthropocentrism requires a relationship to transcendence as such.