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April 25, 2017
Visibility Sometimes Wandering and Sometimes Reassembled
On Being in Rain
first published on April 25, 2017
If we attend to things only in terms of their bearing on our own projects then our experience of them will be filtered through their compatibility or incompatibility with those aims. This essay is about the experience of rain in the northern latitudes and the work is built around a phenomenological description that relies on accounts of direct experience which are then considered through Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s conception of flesh. In thinking through the phenomenon in this way, the overlapping nature of interior and exterior “reality” (and thereby human and world) can be foregrounded and the notion of a dichotomy between these realms, undermined.
April 7, 2017
An Unintended Race
Miracle Rice and the Green Revolution
first published on April 7, 2017
Engineered for fast harvests and high yields through chemicals, miracle rice triggered a green revolution throughout Southeast Asia and one of the largest anthropogenic disturbances to the nitrogen cycle in the twentieth century. This article considers the green revolution as an event of more-than-human temporalities, an aleatory formation of vegetal, animal, chemical, and human coordinations that has become a world-changing conjuncture. I present the formation as an unintended race—that is, an interplay of differential speeds. I offer a countermodernist account of structural transformation, doing history otherwise, to challenge anthropocentric narratives of progress and call attention to contingent multispecies coordinations that drive modernity’s acceleration.
March 21, 2017
A Melancholic Reading of De-Extinction Projects
first published on March 21, 2017
This essay examines the relationship between human and nonhuman animals in the context of de-extinction projects. Following van Dooren and Rose’s (2015) suggestion that de-extinction projects are reluctant to engage with mourning work, I argue that these scientific endeavours can be understood as inherently melancholic. In reading them as such, I focus on the concepts of identification and ambivalence central to Freud’s theorisation of melancholia, and argue that looking at these key ideas in relation to de-extinction reveals the way that notions of human exceptionalism can be problematized by a psychoanalytic reading of these projects.
March 17, 2017
Mars Fiction and Experiments with Life on Earth
first published on March 17, 2017
This paper explores examples of Mars fiction of “terraforming”—of creating Earth-like environments in space—against the background of the Earth’s environmental degradation and restoration. Visions of Mars settlement offered an escape route for a threatened humanity and a blueprint for the eco-technological recreation of the Earth’s environment. This paper aims to outline the Anthropocene as an epoch that not only compromised the Earth but also essentially transformed the understanding of Earthly life to a minimalist principle of survival through infinite metabolic conversions. This understanding of immortality conjoined images of recreation and creation, of paradisiacal pasts and eco-technological futures.
March 11, 2017
Veganism, Normative Change, and Second Nature
first published on March 11, 2017
This paper draws on the account of second nature in Aristotle, Dewey and Hegel to examine the way in which norms become embodied. It discusses the implications of this for both the authority of norms and how they can be changed. Using the example of veganism it argues that changing norms requires more than just good reasons. The appreciation of the role of second nature in culture allows us to: firstly, better conceive the difficulty and resistance of individuals to changing norms because of the material resilience of norms, habits and customs in a culture. Secondly, it argues that the effective adoption of a new norm such as veganism or the behavioral change necessary to respond to climate change, requires not just more good reasons but the creation of material pathways in the culture in which those revised norms can be inhabited.
March 8, 2017
Art and Metabolic Force in Deep Time Environments
first published on March 8, 2017
Contemporary art practices which take into consideration both biological and geological perspectives on the environment offer an inspiring contribution to the growing geological awareness in the humanities. By drawing attention to the role of metabolic forces in evolution, including inorganic activity, artists enquire into the geological past and future of the earth and beyond. Their work suggests that in a time of environmental crisis, it is particularly important to design future metabolic networks for ourselves and non-human others aimed not only at waste reduction and energy efficiency, but also prioritizing multispecies alliances beyond the biological.
December 15, 2016
John Charle Ryan
That Seed Sets Time Ablaze
Vegetal Temporality in Judith Wright’s Botanical Poetics
first published on December 15, 2016
The time of vegetal life itself—denoted as plant-time in this article, following the work of Michael Marder—is essential to human-plant relations. Conceptualized as a multi-dimensional plexity, vegetal temporality embodies the endemic land-based seasons, rhythms, cycles, and timescales of flora in conjunction with human patterns. The contemporary poet Judith Wright invoked a time-space continuum throughout her writing as a means to convey the primordial character of Australian plants while resisting the imposition of a colonialist schema of time. Wright’s bold textualization of vegetal temporality embodies her commitment to fostering botanical ethics and locally-grounded activism on behalf of Aboriginal people and the Australian environment.
The Six Extinctions
Visualizing Planetary Ecological Crisis Today
first published on December 15, 2016
This article examines the visualization strategies informing public understandings of planetary scale ecological crisis. Working with scientific visualizations as well as the Suicide Narcissus art exhibition, it interrogates the inherent problems in conveying extinction as a process and future potential. This essay ultimately considers the psychosocial tensions inherent in contemplating collective death.
December 6, 2016
Endling, the Power of the Last in an Extinction-Prone World
first published on December 6, 2016
In April 1996, two men working at a convalescent center wrote a letter to the journal Nature proposing that a new word be adopted to designate a person who is the last in the lineage: endling. This had come up because of patients who were dying and thought of themselves as the last of their family line. The word was not picked up in medical circles. But, in 2001, when the National Museum of Australia (NMA) opened its doors, it featured a gallery called Tangled Destinies and endling reappeared. On the wall facing a case with a thylacine specimen was written: Endling (n.) The last surviving individual of a species of animal or plant. Since that appearance, the word endling has slowly seeped into popular culture, appearing in symphonic music, performance art, science fiction stories, comics, and other art works. This paper examines the cultural power of the concept of endling as the last of a species and the history of its mobilization in a world facing extinction around every corner.
November 8, 2016
David Maggs, John Robinson
Recalibrating the Anthropocene
Sustainability in an Imaginary World
first published on November 8, 2016
Geologically speaking, the Anthropocene marks the end of the Holocene period, a time of great planetary stability. Conceptually speaking, the Anthropocene marks the end of the Modernist period, a time of great epistemic stability. As scientific framings of sustainability strain under anthropocenic realities, reconceptualizing sustainability may be necessary. By positioning human/nature relations beyond Modernist dichotomies underpinning scientific discourse, the implications of the Anthropocene shift from methodological to ontological, dislodging sustainability from its traditional scientific foundations. To this, we propose new stability through four interlinked approaches to sustainability’s complex challenges, offering a framework for thought and action beyond Modernist framings of sustainability and opening essential roles to often-marginalized interpretive social sciences and humanities.
October 4, 2016
The Virtue of Burden and Limits of Gelassenheit: The Complex Case for Heideggerian Environmental Ethics
first published on October 4, 2016
Since the 1980s, numerous scholars have applied the thought of Heidegger to environmental ethics—in particular, his critique of modern technology and his concept of ‘releasement.’ In this paper, I argue that these are an insufficient foundation for environmental ethics because they overlook a violence and destructiveness that is inextricable from our finite existence. Despite this critique, I claim that Heidegger’s analyses of violence in the 1930s and guilt in Being and Time can address some of these insufficiencies. To further develop the ethical potential of his philosophy, I bring it into dialogue with environmental virtue ethics.
The Sublime Anthropocene
first published on October 4, 2016
In the Anthropocene, humanity has been forced to a self-critical reflection on its place in the natural order. A neglected tool for understanding this is the sublime. Sublime experience opens us up to encounters with ‘formless’ nature at the same time as we recognize the inevitability of imprinting our purposes on nature. In other words, it is constituted by just the sort of self-critical stance towards our place in nature that I identify as the hallmark of the Anthropocene ‘collision’ between human and earth histories.
September 30, 2016
Jonathan Beever, Nicolae Morar
Bioethics and the Challenge of the Ecological Individual
first published on September 30, 2016
Questions of individuality are traditionally predicated upon recognizing discrete entities whose behavior can be measured and whose value and agency can be meaningfully ascribed. We consider a series of challenges to the metaphysical concept of individuality as the ground of the self. We argue that an ecological conception of individuality renders ascriptions of autonomy to selves highly improbable. We find conceptual resources in the work of environmental philosopher Arne Naess, whose distinction between shallow and deep responses helps us rethink the notion of individuality and, thus, assess whether the conceptual and normative coherence of human autonomy could, at least partially, be salvaged.
September 24, 2016
Towards an Ethic of Animal Difference
first published on September 24, 2016
Extending ethical considerability to animals consistently takes the form of imperialism: progressing outward from the core of human morality, it incorporates only those animals deemed relevantly similar to humans while rejecting or reforming those lifeforms which are not. I develop an ethic of animal treatment premised on the species difference of undomesticated animals, which has the potential to reunite not only animal and environmental ethics, but environmental and interhuman ethics: each species has evolutionarily specified patterns of behavior for the proper treatment of members of its own species and members of other species.
September 21, 2016
Biomimicry and the Materiality of Ecological Technology and Innovation
Toward a Natural Model of Nature
first published on September 21, 2016
In this paper, we reflect on the concept of nature that is presupposed in biomimetic approaches to technology and innovation. Because current practices of biomimicry presuppose a technological model of nature, it is questionable whether its claim of being a more ecosystem friendly approach to technology and innovation is justified. In order to maintain the potentiality of biomimicry as ecological innovation, we explore an alternative to this technological model of nature. To this end, we reflect on the materiality of natural systems and explore a natural model of nature, which is found in the responsive conativity of matter. This natural model of nature enables us to conceptualize biomimicry as conative responsiveness to the conativity of the biosphere.
April 27, 2016
On Becoming Human in Lingít Aaní
Encountering Levinas through Indigenous Inspirations
first published on April 27, 2016
Calls for taking up wisdom in its place risk re-inscribing coloniality at the level of signification if attempts to resituate intelligibility in the specificity of place are not enacted through a careful translation of experience between victims and perpetrators of colonial violence. At some level, decolonization ought to be conceived as a kind of translation. Emmanuel Levinas’ project to “translate” Judaism into Greek is one way of staging such decolonial translation by providing us an internal critique of coloniality while remaining receptive to indigenous inspirations that enrich eco-phenomenological ways of encountering place. In the final instance, however, this paper calls for encountering place through the indigenous languages that make place ethically legible.
April 6, 2016
Telling Stories in the Company of Buffalo
Wisdom, Fluency, and Rough Knowledge
first published on April 6, 2016
Beginning in story and memoir, an appeal is made for the practice of “paranoiesis,” a mode of knowing appropriate to dwelling in the company of other living kinds. Paranoiesis is particularly called for in responding to the twin legacies of ecocide and genocide at work in the extirpation of Buffalo across the high plains. Philosophical responses to this plight are called upon to cultivate “rough knowledge,” a mode of hearing the other’s speaking—both human and more-than-human—that eschews dialectical opposition and negative critique for the sake of dialogical fluency and torsion.
April 2, 2016
Some Questions for Ecological Aesthetics
first published on April 2, 2016
Ecology has become a popular conceptual model in numerous fields of inquiry and it seems especially appropriate for environmental philosophy. Apart from its literal employment in biology, ecology has served as a useful metaphor that captures the interdependence of factors in a field of research. At the same time as ecology is suggestive, it cannot be followed literally or blindly. This paper considers the appropriateness of the uses to which ecology has been put in some recent discussions of architectural and environmental aesthetics, and develops a critique of the differing ecological aesthetics of Jusuck Koh and Xiangzhan Cheng.
March 15, 2016
The Reversibilty of Landscapes
first published on March 15, 2016
Environmental philosophy has been burdened with perspectives that have failed to afford access to the actual experience of living in a landscape, and dualist and nondualist inquiries alike are plagued by anthropocentrisms that seem impossible to escape. This contribution explores how we can investigate the relation of humans and landscapes in ways that preserve what occurs there, and begin to open such experience to rigorous scrutiny. To this end, resources are drawn and synthesized from the thinking of Merleau-Ponty, Derrida, Georg Simmel, Heidegger, and the author’s anthropological field research about nature, scientific praxis, human identity, and anonymity.
March 10, 2016
Donald S. Maier
Taking Nature Seriously in the Anthropocene
first published on March 10, 2016
Nature conservation in the Anthropocene predominantly supposes that human-caused changes have worsened nature’s condition, which warrants undertaking conservation projects that actively manage or manipulate nature to improve it in quality or quantity. This essay surveys, by category, reasons and arguments for pursuing these projects. It finds key reasons to be normatively unimportant and key arguments incomplete or invalid. Conservation on this basis does not take nature seriously because it acts “for no good reason.” Finally, by attending to underlying sources of this general failure, the essay suggests how a different view of the value of nature and its conservation may achieve a sounder footing.
March 9, 2016
Acknowledging the Place of Unrest
Tensions between Radical Reflection and the Flesh
first published on March 9, 2016
In recent years many eco-phenomenological philosophers have argued that a more positive analysis of one’s relationship with more-than-human nature can be achieved through taking up Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s ontology of the flesh. Taking such an ontology seriously seems to facilitate even the possibility of our being able to express “what the world means to say.” I argue, however, that we should be cautious about both taking up such an ontology and making such ontological claims because in doing so we fail to take sufficiently seriously the impact of sedimentation in both perception and reflection and thus violate the remit of radical reflection that is essential to Merleau-Ponty’s characterization of philosophy.
November 13, 2015
Truth, Beauty, and Climate Change
A Dialogue With Continental Philosophy about Living With Denial
first published on November 13, 2015
This paper accesses continental philosophy to explore an analogy between the destruction caused by lack of resistance to National Socialism and the destruction caused by climate change denial. Husserl, Levinas, et alia identified a spirit of abstraction and ideology as elements of a catastrophic cultural crisis. Just as human beings were denuded of personhood, the natural world is denuded of inherent meaning. Social communication degenerates into anti-rational propaganda. Together these undermine response to climate change. Invigorating a genuine desire for truth and appreciation of the non-utilitarian good of beauty may provide some resource for undoing denial.
November 10, 2015
From Beauty to Love
A Kantian Way to Environmental Moral Theory?
first published on November 10, 2015
In this paper, I set myself what many people would consider an unfeasible task: finding a Kantian way to an environmental moral theory. The paper is divided in four parts. In the first part I show why looking at Kant’s moral theory in order to build an environmental theory is like trying to get blood out of a stone. I then show how it should be, instead, possible to build an environmental theory by bridging Kant’s account of aesthetic value with love of nature. In the last two parts of the paper I deal with some possible criticisms and sketch the contours of the environmental stance born from Kant’s aesthetic treatment of nature.
November 4, 2015
Andrew J. Corsa
Henry David Thoreau
Greatness of Soul and Environmental Virtue
first published on November 4, 2015
I read Henry David Thoreau as an environmental virtue theorist. In this paper, I use Thoreau’s work as a tool to explore the relation between the virtue of greatness of soul and environmental virtues. Reflecting on connections between Thoreau’s texts and historical discussions of greatness of soul, or magnanimity, I offer a novel conception of magnanimity. I argue that (1) to become magnanimous, most individuals need to acquire the environmental virtue of simplicity; and (2) magnanimous individuals must possess the environmental virtue of benevolence in order to achieve their goals.
October 27, 2015
Michael Goldsby, W. John Koolage
Comments on Coincidence, Conspiracy, and Climate Change Denial
first published on October 27, 2015
Despite overwhelming evidence that climate change is real and represents a serious challenge for human flourishing, many still hold that climate change is not a credible threat—including a surprising number of broadcast meteorologists. In this article, we look at the logic that underwrites such an attitude, which typically appeals to a distrust of climate models, natural variability, or the presence of a conspiracy. Using a model selection framework, championed by Elliott Sober and Malcolm Forster, we will show that appeals to such lines of reasoning do not provide sufficient warrant to dismiss the predictions of climate models.
Change of Plans? An Environmental Pragmatist View on Reconsidering Long-term Goals
first published on October 27, 2015
Sustainable ecosystem management often requires setting goals despite uncertainty regarding the achievability and desirability of the intended state of affairs. Coming to doubt the achievability or desirability of a previously set goal might sometimes, but not always, require reconsidering that goal. There is, however, a need to strike a balance between responsiveness to new information and knowing when to retain goals despite doubts. By critically engaging with adaptive ecosystem management (AEM), as advocated by environmental pragmatist Bryan G. Norton, criteria for warranted reconsideration of long-term goals are investigated.
October 16, 2015
Literature as Plant Writing
first published on October 16, 2015
This article develops the notion of plant writing or phytographia, the roots of which go back to the early modern concept of signatura rerum, as well as, more recently, to Walter Benjamin’s idea of a “language of things” and to Jacques Derrida’s arche-writing. Phytographia designates the encounter between the plants’ inscription in the world and the traces of that imprint left in literary works, mediated by the artistic perspective of the author. The final section of the essay turns to the so-called “jungle novel,” set in the Amazonian rainforest, as an instantiation of phytographia.
May 27, 2015
Zoo Animals as Specimens, Zoo Animals as Friends
The Life and Death of Marius the Giraffe
first published on May 27, 2015
The international protest surrounding the Copenhagen Zoo’s recent decision to kill a healthy giraffe in the name of population management reveals a deep moral tension between contemporary zoological display practices—which induce zoo-goers to view certain animals as individuals, quasi-persons, or friends—and the traditional objectives of zoos, which ask us only to view animals as specimens. I argue that these zoological display practices give rise to moral obligations on the part of zoos to their visitors, and thus ground indirect duties on behalf of zoos to their animals. I conclude that zoos might take on interspecies friendship as a new zoological objective.
May 15, 2015
The Role of Poetic Image in Gaston Bachelard’s Contribution to Architecture
The Enquiry into an Educational Approach in Architecture
first published on May 15, 2015
This paper addresses Gaston Bachelard’s phenomenology of imagination. In his book The Poetics of Space, Bachelard stresses two major elements that are significant in the creation of real images: imagination and memory. Throughout The Poetics of Space, he speaks explicitly of houses of memory and dreams and homes of childhood. However Bachelard does not speak directly of architecture, his contribution to architecture needs to be analyzed and interpreted precisely. This objective is accomplished by arguing for two basic concepts in Bachelard’s thought: the development of the concept of meaning, and recourse to the function of inhabiting. Further, the knowledge gaps in the link between inhabitation and architecture are addressed through a proposal to implicate the phenomenology of imagination in architectural education.
April 30, 2015
The Sense of Seeds, or Seminal Events
first published on April 30, 2015
In this text, I suggest that we approach the theme of “the event” through vegetal processes, concepts, and metaphors. Mediated through plant life, the event unfolds along three axes: 1) that of excrescence, or the out-growth, which is how plants appear in the world; 2) that of expectation, or the out-look, waiting for germination and ultimately for fruition; and 3) that of the exception, or the out-take, which extracts the seed from the closed circuit of potentiality and actuality, committing it to chance. The nascent model I propose sheds light on our animalist prejudices hidden in ostensibly abstract thought and offers a fresh starting point for postmetaphysical ontology.
March 4, 2015
Nature, Disorder, and Tragedy
Towards an Evolutionary Aesthetic
first published on March 4, 2015
This paper outlines a normative/philosophical theory of evolutionary aesthetics, one that differs substantially from existing explanatory/psychological theories, such as Dutton’s. This evolutionary theory is based on Carlson’s scientific cognitivism, but differs in that it is based on evolutionary rather than ecological theory. After offering a short account of Carlson’s theory, I distinguish it from a normative evolutionary aesthetics. I then explore an historically important normative/philosophical theory of the aesthetics of nature that is consistent with Darwin’s theory of natural selection; namely, the theory of the picturesque. Finally, after summarizing Nietzsche’s early theory of tragedy, I discuss how some of his ideas might be incorporated into an evolutionary aesthetics.
January 30, 2015
Donald S. Maier, Jeffrey A. Lockwood
Conservation as Picking up Trash in Nature
first published on January 30, 2015
This essay explores a previously unexplored suggestion for combining consideration of aesthetics with considerations of vice and virtue to justify, not merely claims about nature’s beauty or its preservation, but landscape-transforming conservation projects. Its discussion is not univocal. On the one hand, it suggests that vices associated with humans assisting a creature’s journey to a new landscape make that organism’s presence on that landscape ugly. According to this suggestion, the creature may be regarded as trash, which would be virtuous to remove. On the other hand, it worries that the argument ultimately traces this circle: It is wrong to fail to remove the creature because this failure would be blameworthy; and failure to remove would be blameworthy because wrong.
October 14, 2014
Bryan E. Bannon
Resisting the Domination of Nature
Regarding Time as an Ethical Concept
first published on October 14, 2014
This essay uses Foucault’s views on time and ethics in order to reconceptualize the domination of nature in terms of the imposition of an inflexible order upon a place rather than in the more conventional sense in environmental studies of reducing nature to a use object for humanity. I then propose a means of resisting that domination by examining how friendship might be employed as an ethical ideal in our relationship to nature.
October 7, 2014
An Ecological Turn in American Indian Environmental Ethics
first published on October 7, 2014
In this paper I argue that, instead of standing as an exemplar of contemporary environmentalism, North American Indian voices on the environment offer insights concerning ecological relationships that can be brought to bear on theories of environmental value and the politics of environmentalism. I argue that environmentally orthodox representations of Native views are further complicated by the metaphysics of local ecological knowledge. I then argue that moral ecologism, a normative view focused on interdependence throughout the living world and evidenced by contemporary American Indian voices, can help align traditional environmentalism with the contemporary scientific understanding of ecological relationships.
October 1, 2014
Heidegger and the Art of Technology
A Response to Eric Katz
first published on October 1, 2014
This article critiques Eric Katz’s claim that technology and artifacts are intrinsically anthropocentric, and thus essentially aimed at controlling and dominating nature. Drawing on Martin Heidegger’s philosophy of technology, I argue Katz’s position is founded on a narrow ‘means-end’ concept of technology. Building on Heidegger’s work, I propose rethinking technology through the broader ancient Greek concept of techne. I then claim the concept of techne enables us to develop an understanding of technology that is not intrinsically anthropocentric and dominating. Finally, I argue an analysis of art provides a model for this non-anthropocentric concept of technology.
September 12, 2014
Aldo Leopold and the Ecological Imaginary
The Balance, the Pyramid, and the Round River
first published on September 12, 2014
Aldo Leopold accorded great significance to the images he used to describe both the land and humankind’s relation to it. Focusing on three key images of Leopold’s “ecological imaginary”—the balance, the pyramid, and the round river—this article argues that the most profound of these is the round river. Contrasting this image with James Lovelock’s portrayal of the earth as Gaia, it further argues that Leopold’s round river can be interpreted as a contemporary, ecological reworking of the primordial, Homeric experience of Being, according to which the foundation of the world is a round river, Oceanus.
September 10, 2014
Andrew Tyler Johnson
Is Organic Life “Existential”?
Reflections on the Biophenomenologies of Hans Jonas and Early Heidegger
first published on September 10, 2014
In this paper I outline Hans Jonas’s thesis of the “existential” character of biological life and compare it with statements made by the early Heidegger concerning the essential enworldedness of all living beings. I then critically examine this thesis in the light of Heidegger’s own later refutation of his views and consequent reversal of his former position on life. I argue that while both thinkers are correct to attribute a radical openness to organic life as such, Heidegger is correct is restricting the existential dimension to specifically human life given certain logical constraints built into the concept of existence itself.
Reconnecting with Nature in the Age of Technology
The Heidegger and Radical Environmentalism Debate Revisited
first published on September 10, 2014
The relation between Martin Heidegger and radical environmentalism has been subject of discussion for several years now. On the one hand, Heidegger is portrayed as a forerunner of the deep ecology movement, providing an alternative for the technological age we live in. On the other, commentators contend that the basic thrust of Heidegger’s thought cannot be found in such an ecological ethos. In this article, this debate is revisited in order to answer the question whether it is possible to conceive human dwelling on earth in a way which is consistent with the technological world we live in and heralds another beginning at the same time. Our point of departure in this article is not the work of Heidegger but the affordance theory of James Gibson, which will prove to be highly compatible with the radical environmentalist concept of nature as well as Heidegger’s concept of the challenging of nature.
July 11, 2014
first published on July 11, 2014
Do cinematic representations of the natural world only put us in further remove from nature? A phenomenological approach shows that nature screened can produce a richer understanding of human–nature relations as these unfold in visual contact. If vision accesses the world in a unique relationship of sight, in which our contact with the world is defined by vision prior to any other interaction, the cinema offers a special setting for a phenomenology that seeks to draw-out the significance of human relations with the world of nature that come before utility or action. A detailed analysis of the opening sequence of Terrence Malick’s The New World (2005) demonstrates how the act of viewing positions the viewer in relation to what she sees. This position, prior to action and with the impossibility to act is seen here as an ethical position, a position of responsibility in the Levinasian sense. Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenology of vision is put here to use alongside the hermeneutic phenomenology of Heidegger and the existential responsibility of Levinas, while subverting Levinas’ anthropocentrism and rejecting Heidegger’s limiting view of technology. The approach taken in this essay, of bringing phenomenology into productive and reflexive interaction with ecology and with film is dubbed an “eco-film-phenomenology.”
May 2, 2014
For a Phytocentrism to Come
first published on May 2, 2014
The present essay formulates a phytocentric alternative to the biocentric and zoocentric critiques of anthropocentrism. Treating phuton—the Greek for “plant,” also meaning “growing being”—as a concrete entry point into the world of phusis (nature), I situate the intersecting trajectories and (cross- species, cross-kingdoms) communities of growth at the center of environmental theory and praxis. I explore the potential of phytocentrism for the “greening” of human consciousness brought back to its vegetal roots, as well as for tackling issues related, among others, to the use of biotechnologies and dietary ethics.
April 30, 2014
Why I Talk to My Dog
Husserl and the Extension of Intersubjectivity
first published on April 30, 2014
It is a common experience that we talk to some animals, especially those with which we share our human lives, such as dogs or cats. From this communication, should one conclude that these animals participate in intersubjectivity? Though Husserl’s phenomenology has a “Cartesian” tendency, in his late reflections on the variations of “normal” consciousness and the “normal” body, he suggests that there are degrees of subjectivity, following a more “Leibnizian” path. Scheler, Merleau-Ponty, and Levinas have also developed this thesis of a “sympathy” with animals beyond the limits of the human species.
Hans Rainer Sepp
Worldly-Being Out of World
Animality in Kafka’s The Metamorphosis
first published on April 30, 2014
Is there an anthropological difference within the basic style by which human beings exist ‘in’ world? The central problem of Gregor Samsa’s metamorphosis and the specific status of his animality can be focused by this question. Perhaps this difference manifests itself only when the human being has become estranged from any normal relation to world: when it has been changed into a shape of subjectivity that no longer shares the common net of a world of sense, and remains only an ‘animal.’ The moment is tragic in that the attempt to live an alternative style of worldly being results in the ‘animalyzed’ subject’s condemnation to death.
April 11, 2014
The Fallacy of Human Animality
first published on April 11, 2014
In this article I reconsider the question of anthropological difference. I demonstrate that at least three motives prevent us from facing up to the originality of human behavior: science, morals, and also philosophy want us to believe that this question is a thing of the past. I come back to these three motives so as to criticize them and to reveal their flimsiness. And I try to show that one may advocate, in a naturalistic way and without metaphysics, the idea that there remains something that is “proper to humankind.”
April 1, 2014
Exodus and Exile
first published on April 1, 2014
This article aims at accounting for the difference between human and animal from a tension between two movements: an archi-movement which defines the way of being of the world and is life itself, and an archi-event of separation of the world from itself that affects life and is the source of living beings. Animal can be characterized by the fact that, in spite of being separated from the archi-life movement, the power of this movement prevails on the archi-event. This means that the animal can be defined by an intimacy with the world, to such an extent that his movements are deeply inscribed in the world. Animal relates with the world by drifting and gliding within it: its existence is exodus. On the contrary, the human relationship with the world is dominated by a separation from rather than a drift within it, to such an extent that the human’s distinguishing feature is the fact that it has no place in the world and is, in this sense, characterized by an exile from this world.
March 21, 2014
Yogi Hale Hendlin
From Terra Nullius to Terra Communis
Reconsidering Wild Land in an Era of Conservation and Indigenous Rights
first published on March 21, 2014
This article argues that understanding “wild” land as terra nullius (“land belonging to no one”) emerged during historical colonialism, entered international law, and became entrenched in national constitutions and cultural mores around the world. This has perpetuated an unsustainable and unjust human relationship to land no longer tenable in the post-Lockean era of land scarcity and ecological degradation. Environmental conservation, by valuing wild lands, challenges the terra nullius assumption of the vulnerability of unused lands to encroachment, while indigenous groups reasserting their rights to communal territories likewise contest individual property rights. South American case studies illustrate routinized terra nullius prejudices.
March 12, 2014
Joint Attention and Anthropological Difference
first published on March 12, 2014
According to Michael Tomasello’s evolutionary anthropological approach, joint attention is one of the essential keys to understanding the difference between human and animal. The present paper discusses a recent phenomenological account of the anthropological difference inspired by Tomasello’s conception. A criticism of this account is put forward, while an alternative view is also introduced that stresses the impact of differential rearing experiences on the socio-cognitive development of human and non-human animals.
March 6, 2014
Tres Bête: Evolutionary Continuity and Human Animality
first published on March 6, 2014
As a way of extending Jacques Derrida’s urging that philosophers think about the findings of recent scientific animal studies, this essay asserts that such attention to ethology, primatology, evolutionary biology, and neuroscience makes it necessary to accept a biological continuum between humans and other animals. Countering Heidegger’s claims of abyssal difference and Derrida’s apparent agreement, this discussion examines work by Terrence Deacon and Philip Lieberman on the evolution of human speech, studies in animal communication, genetics, and biosemiotics to demonstrate our kinship with other animals, but also our distinctive abilities. Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s Nature lectures provide a theoretical understanding of this strange kinship and an early philosophical engagement with science that anticipated Derrida’s notion of its relevance. Final attention to Derrida’s claims that it would be trop bête to speak of biological continuism reveals the possibility that he intended to undermine such a position and open the way for philosophy to consider primatology and evolutionary genetics.
March 1, 2014
Is a World without Animals Possible?
first published on March 1, 2014
Husserl’s phenomenology entails the absolute thesis that there could not be a world without a subject. My intention in this paper is to show that the consistent development of a phenomenological approach can establish that such a transcendental subject must be defined as a fundamental open intersubjectivity and more radically as interanimality. I intend to demonstrate that anthropomorphism cannot be a serious threat and that Einfühlung [empathy] is a valid method for studying animality. In this regard, I will contrast a Husserlian-inspired and a Merleau-Pontian approach with Heidegger’s reflections on animals. This method will allow me to study the intertwinement between humans and other animals. On the one hand I will show that we necessarily find animality within us, in the latent multiplicity of a body which is built through introjections and projections. On the other hand I will wonder if it is possible to decenter ourselves into other living beings so as to sense what they think and to build a world with them. It will then appear, through a reflection on Merleau-Ponty’s The Visible and the Invisible as well as on recent ethological studies, that openness to the other and to indeterminacy is an essential characteristic of animals in general.
February 26, 2014
The Time of Animal Voices
first published on February 26, 2014
Phenomenology’s attention to the theme of animality has focused not on animal life in general but rather on the animal dimension of the human and its contested relation with humanity as such. Phenomenology thereby reproduces Agamben’s “anthropological machine” by which humanity is constructed through the “inclusive exclusion” of its animality. The alternative to this “inclusive exclusion” is not a return to kinship or commonality but rather an intensification of the constitutive paradox of our own inner animality, understood in terms of the anonymous, corporeal subject of perception that lives a different temporality than that of first-person consciousness. Consequently, non-human others speak through our own voices and gaze out through our own eyes. We first consider the proximity of Merleau-Ponty’s early work with that of Max Scheler, who paradigmatically reduces human animality to bare life. Merleau-Ponty differentiates himself from Scheler, in The Structure of Behavior, by insisting that life cannot be integrated into spirit without remainder. Merleau-Ponty’s later work thinks this remainder as the ineliminable gap and delay in the auto-affection of the body and as a chiasmic exchange that anticipates Deleuze and Guattari’s concept of “becoming animal.” This remainder of life within consciousness is the immemorial past of one’s own animality. It follows that our “inner animality” is neither singular nor plural but a kind of pack that speaks through the voice that I take to be mine. Furthermore, in the exchange of looks between myself and a non-human other, the crossing of glances occurs at an animal level that withdraws from my own reflective consciousness.
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