Environmental Philosophy

Volume 15, Issue 1, Spring 2018

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

Christina M. Gschwandtner
Pages 21-42

Can We Learn to Hear Ethical Calls? In Honor of Scott Cameron

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.