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101. Environmental Philosophy: Volume > 3 > Issue: 1
Sean Williams Chiasmic Wildness
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Whether one’s attention lies with the big wilderness outside or the wild people and places that survive amidst our ecologically impoverished cities and towns, a thorough and rigorous reflection on wildness remains as a task for environmental philosophy. The political and literary movements concerned with the wilderness have sparked passion, insight, and moments of brilliance, but by and large leave us today at best confused, and at worst naïve, with respect to our thinking of wildness. The attempts at philosophical rigor from the ‘fields’ of so-called ‘environmental philosophy’ or ‘environmental ethics’ certainly bring one nofurther toward understanding the experiences of, say, 500 miles of tundra, or the power and push of a river, or the density of a rainforest, or a kiss. Keeping the illumination of direct experience in mind, this paper will attempt a phenomenology of wildness, using the work of 20th century French philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty. Merleau-Ponty’s philosophy of chiasm describes a perceptual relationship of intertwining, of intimacy and opacity, between Self and Other, in which the Other’s presence guides one’s own perceptions. Reflection around this chiasmic exchange may help us to understand the peculiar perceptual experience with what we call the wild, and perhaps to understand it as a sort of chiasmic wildness. This chiasmic wildness would not be incarcerated in wilderness areas or wild animals, but would exist in our embodied relationships with other people, animals, plants, and places. This paper is offered as an attempt at reflection, as what Martin Heidegger called a Holzweg: wandering down a path that may lead nowhere, but that must be followed beyond where one stands today.
102. Environmental Philosophy: Volume > 3 > Issue: 1
Stephen B. Scharper Liberation Theology’s Critique of the Developmentalist Worldview: Implications for Religious Environmental Engagement
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As the world’s religious communities become more involved in environmental concerns, the question arises as to whether their most significant contributions are in the realm of worldviews, doctrine, and cosmology, or rather in the realm of political and economic critique and an articulation of social justice concerns arising from ecological despoliation. After reviewing liberation theology’s early critique of economic developmentalism, as well as its more recent treatment of ecological concerns, this paper suggests that liberation theology is in fact positing a cosmological as well as political and economic critique of modernity, which proffers conduits of dialogue with other environmental approaches.
103. Environmental Philosophy: Volume > 3 > Issue: 1
Scott Cameron, Kenneth Maly, Ingrid Leman Stefanovic EDITORIAL PREFACE
104. Environmental Philosophy: Volume > 3 > Issue: 1
David Wood On the Way to Econstruction
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Environmentalism finds itself facing problems and aporiae which deconstruction helps us address. But equally, environmental concerns can embolden deconstruction to embrace a strategic materialism – the essential interruptibility of every idealization. Moreover, deconstruction’s critique of presence opens us to the strange temporalities of environmentalism: needing to act before we have proof, and for the benefit of future humans. The history of the earth is a singular sequence, ideographic – concrete, not rule governed, and not to be repeated. French ‘anti-humanism’ is not eco-fascism, but precisely adapted to our current situation, where the privilege of the human as a well-meaning but toxic terrestrial, is questioned. I argue for the renewed privilege of the human if the new human embodies a proper respect for otherness and for difference. Why not extend Derrida’s democracy-to-come to the (imaginary) parliament of the living? Derrida agreed that environmental destruction needed to be on any short list of the plagues of the new world order. Deconstruction as econstruction helps us address some of the complexities it throws up.
105. Environmental Philosophy: Volume > 3 > Issue: 1
Lawrence Cahoone Our Recent Rousseau: On Paul Shepard
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Paul Shepard, a Rousseau armed with modern evolutionary ecology, presents our most rational primitivism. In his work, ecology recapitulates mythology. His critique of civilization compares to 20th century critics of “alienation,” except for Shepard the break with “authentic” existence is not Modern industrialism but Neolithic agrarianism. His argument remains largely impractical. Yet his late work suggests a reasonable meliorism. He recognized that his “Techno-Cynegeticism” may find room in a postmodern society that is hostile to agro-industrial, but not to what Ernest Gellner called “Durkheimian” or pre-agrarian,social forms. Hope for the wild lies not in razing the modern “system” but in riddling it with restored wild lacunae. Or, paraphrasing Thoreau, the salvation of the world lies in the feral.
106. Environmental Philosophy: Volume > 3 > Issue: 2
John R. White Ecological Value Cognition and the American Capitalist Ethos
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In this paper, I investigate what I call “ecological value cognition,” a term designating a cognitive process by which one understands: (1) a value or set of values which pertain to the environment, (2) that such values are morally relevant, and (3) that these values may invite or even require virtues, attitudes or actions with respect to them and the entities which bear them. I seek, in this paper, to elucidate the nature of ecological value cognition and suggest specific challenges that the American capitalist ethos poses for understanding these values and therefore for developing a sound environmental ethics and policy.
107. Environmental Philosophy: Volume > 3 > Issue: 2
Ingrid Leman Stefanovic EDITORIAL PREFACE
108. Environmental Philosophy: Volume > 3 > Issue: 2
Adam Briggle, Robert Frodeman, Scott F. Aikin Commentary on Democratic “Deliberation, Public Reason, and Environmental Politics”
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Editors’ Note: We decided that a commentary to the original Aikin essay from the perspective of humanities policy would be beneficial. We then invited Scott Aikin to respond to this commentary. What follows is (a) the Briggle/Frodeman commentary and (b) the Aikin response. We present the discussion in its entirety in the conviction that this transparency will help the reader to critically assess the viability of these arguments and to draw his/her own conclusion as to the efficacy of such reasoning for environmental philosophy as such.
109. Environmental Philosophy: Volume > 3 > Issue: 2
Joan Maloof The Thing Itself, under Asphalt
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Where is the disconnect between what we consider beautiful, and how we actually shape our surroundings? Is there something about humans coming together as civilizations that results in the destruction of beauty and biodiversity? This essay examines the world through the history of forests – and it raises more questions than it answers – but the questions are of vital importance.
110. Environmental Philosophy: Volume > 3 > Issue: 2
111. Environmental Philosophy: Volume > 3 > Issue: 2
William Edelglass Moral Pluralism, Skillful Means, and Environmental Ethics
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J. Baird Callicott claims that moral pluralism leads to relativism, skepticism, and the undermining of moral obligations. Buddhist ethics provides a counterexample to Callicott; it is a robust tradition of moral pluralism. Focusing on one of the most significant texts in Buddhist ethics, Śāntideva’s Bodhicaryāvatāra, I show how it draws on a multiplicity of moral principles determined by context and skillful means (upāya kauśalya). In contrast to Callicott’s description of pluralism as detrimental to moral life, I suggest that South Asian Buddhist traditions provide a model of moral reasoning that is both robust and flexible, a model appropriate for the many kinds of moral obligations that arise in the context of environmental ethics.
112. Environmental Philosophy: Volume > 3 > Issue: 2
Christian Diehm Ethics and Natural History: Levinas and Other-Than-Human Animals
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This essay questions the place of other-than-human animals in Levinas’s thought. After detailing how animals and animality figure in Levinas’s work, it is claimed that his ethical exclusion of animals is due to a conception of animals as wholly accountable for in terms of species-being, wholly within “naturalhistory.” It is then suggested that Levinas’s position is ill-founded, and at odds with his claims about the importance of suffering and the vulnerable body in the encounter with the other. The essay concludes by arguing that speaking of other-than-human animal “faces” is not necessarily an unduly anthropocentricextension of thinking-of-the-other.
113. Environmental Philosophy: Volume > 3 > Issue: 2
W.S.K. Cameron Wilderness in the City: Not Such a Long Drive After All
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Over the last few years, the concept of “wilderness” has come under attack by environmentalists deeply committed to sustaining the natural world. Their criticisms are pointed and undeniably strong; moreover as I will argue, very similar critiques could be made of its putative counter-concept, “the city.” Yet in both cases, we need not simply reject the concepts themselves as incoherent; our challenge is rather to develop resources rich enough to show that and why they must stand in a constructive tension. I will close by outlining the possibility and productivity of this development through hermeneutic reflections inspired by the work of Hans-Georg Gadamer.
114. Environmental Philosophy: Volume > 3 > Issue: 2
Scott F. Aikin Democratic Deliberation, Public Reason, and Environmental Politics
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The activity of democratic deliberation is governed by the norm of public reason – namely, that reasons justifying public policy must both be pursuant of shared goods and be shareable by all reasonable discussants. Environmental policies based on controversial theories of value, as a consequence, are in danger of breaking the rule that would legitimate their enforcement.
115. Environmental Philosophy: Volume > 3 > Issue: 2
Alan Drengson, Tim Quick Gestalts, Refrains, and Philosophical Pluralism: A Response to Toadvine
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This paper is a response to Ted Toadvine’s article “Gestalts and Refrains: On the Musical Structure of Nature,” in Environmental Philosophy 2.2 (2005). We propose a more generous interpretation of Naess’s gestalt ontology, one that we believe mitigates Toadvine’s criticisms. Gestalt ontology and refrain ontology offer two different yet compatible ontologies for environmental philosophers searching for viable alternatives to scientific reductionism. Encouraging many ontologies also encourages a rich philosophical pluralism.
116. Environmental Philosophy: Volume > 4 > Issue: 1/2
Galen A. Johnson Forest and Philosophy: Toward an Aesthetics of Wood
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This paper initiates a phenomenological study of the aesthetics of forest and wood in three main phases. First, we consider the modalities of wood’s sensuousness and argue against the formalist tradition that restricts aesthetic appreciation to visual forms. Second, we examine the structural, eidetic features of hand-made wooden objects in the “second life” of trees. Third, we engage in reflections on the communities gathered by the first and second lives of trees. These themes outline an aesthetics of the beautiful, the given, and the gathering. We take philosophical inspiration from Merleau-Ponty throughout, and in the end, also Thoreau.
117. Environmental Philosophy: Volume > 4 > Issue: 1/2
Brook Muller Continuity of Singularities: Urban Architectures, Ecology and the Aesthetics of Restorative Orders
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Environmental designers employ ordering systems as a means of achieving spatial clarity and richness of organization while contending with the complexities that characterize design endeavors. This paper considers aesthetic potentialities when built and natural orders are considered together, specifically when an architectural investigation and ecological restoration are articulated as one integrated problem. After considering a range of approaches to the ordering the built and natural, I look to Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari’s notion of ‘continuity of singularities’ as intimating an ‘aesthetics of the indeterminate’ that encourages a desired nuance, openness to the unforeseen and respect for the (ecologically) particular.
118. Environmental Philosophy: Volume > 4 > Issue: 1/2
Max Oelschlaeger Ecological Restoration, Aldo Leopold, and Beauty: An Evolutionary Tale
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While the conceptual depths of Aldo Leopold’s land ethic have been limned by environmental ethicists, the relevance of his philosophy to ecologicalrestoration—an applied environmental science—is less well known. I interpret some of his contributions to ecological restoration by framing his work within an expanded evolutionary frame. I especially emphasize the importance of natural beauty to his thinking. Recontextualized as a manifestation of emergent evolutionary complexity, the beauty of nature is fundamental not only to strong ecological restoration, but to reframing our own self-conceptualizations—that is, the human place in the larger order of nature.
119. Environmental Philosophy: Volume > 4 > Issue: 1/2
James Jackson Griffith Applying Systemic Thinking for Teaching Disturbed-Land Reclamation In Brazil
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This paper discusses the suitability of using systemic thinking for teaching environmental rehabilitation to undergraduate students at Federal Universityof Viçosa. This is a predominantly agricultural sciences-based institution located in southeast Brazil. Student receptivity is discussed given concurrent campus paradigms of positivism, Marxism, and individualistic utilitarianism. Student projects using causal-loop diagrams to model degradation and land reclamation are presented. Eight archetypes common to systemic thinking are explained in reclamation contexts. Limitations of systemic thinking are discussed, including theoretical modeling problems and practical teaching considerations.
120. Environmental Philosophy: Volume > 4 > Issue: 1/2
James Hatley Sensing Environmentalism Anew: Gestate Witness of a More-than-Human World in Merleau-Ponty
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Merleau-Ponty advances a notion of witness in The Visible and the Invisible, which could be termed “gestate.” Gestate witness involves an acknowledgement through one's own body of how another living entity is born into its own body. This notion of witness is helpful in answering Anthony Weston's challenge that a sufficiently positive notion of environmentalism and so of environmental responsibility be developed, one that takes seriously how we come into contact with a more-than-human animate world. The work of biologist Tarn Ream with Trillium ovatum serves as a case study in the aesthetic, ethical and ontological significance of gestate witness.