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141. Environmental Philosophy: Volume > 9 > Issue: 1
Astrid Schrader The Time of Slime: Anthropocentrism in Harmful Algal Research
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Drawing on scientific accounts of Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) and their detection technologies, this paper asks what conceptions of time and species presences enable a mapping of the biological productivity of microorganisms onto economic productivity or the loss thereof and how certain modes of technoscientific detection of specific algae materialize such a conception of time, circumscribing what counts as harmfulness and to whom. Moving beyond the mere affirmation of the activity of nonhuman nature, I seek to demonstrate how an epistemological anthropocentrism in scientific knowledge production that opposes historically flexible and technologically enhanced human creativity to its atemporal object of study manifests itself as a political anthropocentrism that presupposes “our” time as the unalterable movement of Homo Economicus. Such a political conception of time is supported by a view of “life itself” as a teleological process toward ever increasing complexity, effacing the possibility of asking to whom the current ecological transformations matter.
142. Environmental Philosophy: Volume > 9 > Issue: 1
Robert Kirkman Transitory Places
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As a contribution to an experiential approach to environmental ethics, I seek to incorporate into the experience of place a sense of the passing of time across multiple scales. This may spur the recognition that places we are pleased to experience as stable backdrops for our projects may be transitory, in the short or long term, with important consequences for ethical deliberation. The occasion for this essay is a visit to the Karori Sanctuary in Wellington, New Zealand, the site of an ambitious restoration project set against the backdrop of ongoing biogeographic upheaval.
143. Environmental Philosophy: Volume > 9 > Issue: 1
Peter S. Alagona, John Sandlos, Yolanda F. Wiersma Past Imperfect: Using Historical Ecology and Baseline Data for Conservation and Restoration Projects in North America
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Conservation and restoration programs usually involve nostalgic claims about the past, along with calls to return to that past or recapture some aspect of it. Knowledge of history is essential for such programs, but the use of history is fraught with challenges. This essay examines the emergence, development, and use of the “ecological baseline” concept for three levels of biological organization. We argue that the baseline concept is problematic for establishing restoration targets. Yet historical knowledge—more broadly conceived to include both social and ecological processes—will remain essential for conservation and restoration.
144. Environmental Philosophy: Volume > 9 > Issue: 2
Nicholas Mowad The Natural World of Spirit: Hegel on the Value of Nature
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Hegel provides a previously unnoticed foundation for an environmental ethic according to which the environment is not a collection of mere objects to be exploited arbitrarily. Indeed, the environment is not even merely natural, but also an expression of culture. In identifying this relation between nature and culture, Hegel anticipates “bioregionalism,” though he would also be critical of this school of thought. I conclude that Hegel offers the foundations for an environmental ethic (though not a fully articulated theory) by showing how the natural environment is part of who we are, and so ought not to be treated arbitrarily.
145. Environmental Philosophy: Volume > 9 > Issue: 2
Joshua Mousie Global Environmental Justice and Postcolonial Critique
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In this article I examine contemporary accounts of global justice theory (which I designate as domestic and institutional) and how they are implemented in order to formulate notions of global environmental justice. I underscore how these accounts are limited in their ability to provide thick conceptions of environmental justice, mainly because they fail to provide promising alternative visions of global politics that can substantially combat the injustices and inequalities that are currently so popular in neoliberal environmental governance. I argue that perspectives and theoretical tools from postcolonial theory can, however, help us to begin rethinking what the phrase “environmental justice” should mean.
146. Environmental Philosophy: Volume > 9 > Issue: 2
Matthew C. Ally Ecologizing Sartre’s Ontology: Nature, Science, and Dialectics
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I argue that Sartre’s philosophy can be both broadened in its aspirations and deepened in its implications through dialogue with the life sciences. Section 1 introduces the philosophical terrain. Section 2 explores Sartre’s evolving understanding of nature and human relations with nature. Section 3 explores Sartre’s perspectives on scientific inquiry, natural history, and dialectical reason. Section 4 outlines recent developments in the life sciences that bear directly on Sartre’s quiet curiosity about a naturalistic dialectics. Section 5 suggests how these developments constitute progress toward an “ecologized” dialectical philosophy consistent with Sartre’s mature ontology of praxis and pertinent to addressing the burgeoning socioecological crisis.
147. Environmental Philosophy: Volume > 9 > Issue: 2
Keith Peterson Ecosystem Services, Nonhuman Agencies, and Diffuse Dependence
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This paper is a preliminary treatment of the categories of agency and dependence in the context of ecosystem services discourse. These categories are discussed in terms of critical categorial ontology in order to articulate adequately the nature of humankind’s dependence upon the nonhuman natural world, inadequately captured by ecosystem services discourse. Following Val Plumwood, this essay takes ecosystems services discourse as an example of one type of failure to discern various forms of agency as well as dependence, and it goes on to define diffuse dependence as the relation that corresponds to the form of agency expressed through ecosystem services.
148. Environmental Philosophy: Volume > 9 > Issue: 2
Drew Leder Embodying Otherness: Shape-Shifting and the Natural World
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This paper explores the ability and desire of the embodied self to “shape-shift”—to experience from within the capacities of animals, or natural phenomena like trees and mountains. Shape-shifting is discussed insofar as it manifests in a broad range of cultural domains, including children’s play, mythico-religious iconography, spiritual practice, sports, the performing arts, and so on. This potential for shape-shifting is grounded not simply in our evolutionary history and biological kinships, but in the phenomenology of the lived-body. Our own powers are explored, expanded, and transformed through our communion with the non-human world.
149. Environmental Philosophy: Volume > 9 > Issue: 2
Andrew Reszitnyk Eyes Through Oil: Witnessing the Nonhuman Victims of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill
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This paper evaluates Jacques Derrida’s startling claim that “the relations between humans and animals must change . . . both in the sense of an ‘ontological’ necessity and of an ‘ethical’ duty,” through an assessment of the ethical appeal emitted by nonhuman witnesses of catastrophe. Drawing upon contemporary theories of ethics, photography, and animality, it analyzes Charley Riedel’s iconic 2010 photograph of a bird covered in oil in the Gulf of Mexico, arguing that attending to visual testaments to disaster is one way to begin to challenge an anthropocentrism that has rendered life outside “the human” unworthy of ethical and political consideration.
150. Environmental Philosophy: Volume > 9 > Issue: 2
Michael James Bennett Bergson’s Environmental Aesthetic
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This paper investigates the connection between Henri Bergson’s biological epistemology and his moral theory. Specifically, it examines the distinction between the morality of what Bergson calls “closed” and “open” societies in his late work Two Sources of Morality and Religion (1932). I argue that “open” morality provides the moral correlate of a non-instrumentalizing orientation toward nature. Here Bergson’s thought is disposed toward a very specific kind of environmental ethic, an aesthetic one. Bergson’s characterization of open morality, especially in the image of the mystic individual, indicates that through artistic consciousness open morality imitates the creative evolution of life.
151. Environmental Philosophy: Volume > 16 > Issue: 1
Annabelle Dufourcq Who/What is Bête? From an Uncanny Word to an Interanimal Ethics
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The deconstruction of stupidity [in French bêtise] plays a crucial role in Derrida’s The Beast and the Sovereign. Through the concept of stupidity/bêtise the violence of our relationship with others, as inseparable from our relation to animality comes into view. “Stupidity” is deeply political, but also directly connected to the trace and, thus, cannot be simply overcome. While Sartre claimed that there are no fools, but just wicked men, Derrida embraces an uncanny version of stupidity. In this paper, guided by Derrida’s reflections, we will examine the many paradoxes that undermine the pseudo-concept of stupidity, as well as several key moments of its history in Schelling’s, Nietzsche’s, Sartre’s, and Deleuze’s philosophies. Eventually our purpose will be to display the ethical statements which can be extrapolated from Derrida’s perspective: when the world is gone, how can we carry stupidity?
152. Environmental Philosophy: Volume > 16 > Issue: 1
Rebekah Sinclair And Say the Animal Resisted? Derrida, Biopolitics, and the Problem with Species
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My article does two things: 1) tracks Derrida’s claim that biopolitical and sovereign power use species taxonomies to performatively depoliticize and ignore the reciprocity of creaturely perspectives; and 2) argues Derrida makes possible a deconstruction of species, and demonstrates its necessity for better political futures. To do this, I follow Derrida’s criticism of autopsic logics and the circularity of metaphysics and zoology, and his affirmation of embodied singularity. Finally, I start and end with analyses of cetacean suicide: by privileging how others see themselves and us over our perspective of them, Derrida challenges what counts as political and who decides.
153. Environmental Philosophy: Volume > 16 > Issue: 1
Kelly Oliver On Sharing a World with Other Animals
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Challenging Heidegger’s thesis that animals are poor in world while humans are world-building, in The Beast and the Sovereign, Volume II, Jacques Derrida claims that each singular living being inhabits its own solitary world, its own desert island. There, he claims both, on the one hand, that animals share our world and may be world-building and, on the other, that we cannot be certain that human beings share a world or are world-building (at least not in Heidegger’s sense as set apart from animals). In this article, I trace the ethical implications of Derrida’s seemingly contradictory claims that we both share a world, and that each singular being, like an island, is a world unto itself.
154. Environmental Philosophy: Volume > 16 > Issue: 1
Kalpana Seshadri Hyperbole and Ellipses: Derrida and Agamben on Sovereignty and Life
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The essay argues for a nuanced understanding of the notorious dissonance between Derrida and Agamben despite their shared interest in troubling the metaphysical separation between human and animal. I argue that a close scrutiny of their differing strategies towards the matrix of framing issues (such as sovereignty and violence) is salient for keeping the ontological question of species difference open. I suggest that the dissonance between the two thinkers is best understood in relation to systemic and rhetorical effects—namely, the encompassing figure of the circle that structures sovereignty, and the rhetoric of hyperbole that disfigures the circle into an ellipse and the line. This ironic interplay appears through their mutually dissonant readings of the localization of life (human and animal) and the situation of power and violence in relation to sovereignty.
155. Environmental Philosophy: Volume > 16 > Issue: 1
Geoffrey Bennington Beastly Sovereignty: Three Unequal Footnotes to Derrida
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This article examines three textual moments that might plausibly have found their way into Derrida’s late Beast and Sovereign seminars, but that Derrida appears to avoid or overlook. Aristotle’s discussion in the Politics of the “One Best Man” scenario is placed in the context of his earlier characterizations of the naturally apolitical man as akin either to a beast or to a god; Bataille’s late descriptions of sovereignty as a kind of self-perverting hyperbolic structure are juxtaposed with some of Derrida’s own formulations about sovereign autoimmunity; Heidegger’s discussion, in a seminar nominally about Hölderlin, of a striking formula from Sophocles (hupsipolis apolis) is shown to capture something of the “outlaw” status of the sovereign as Derrida describes it.
156. Environmental Philosophy: Volume > 16 > Issue: 1
John Llewelyn Singularisability, Plurality, and Community
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The chief aim of this essay is to draw attention to how in Derrida’s last seminars the hyphenation “life-death” serves as a key to understanding the force of the hyphenation in the expression “animal-human” and how the work of sharing which it stands for there differs from the exclusively separative work for which we might employ the oblique stroke or slash, as in “animal/human” and “life/death.” If we wonder whether and how the hyphen and the oblique stroke share each other’s company, it might occur to us that a name for this relation of sharing could be John Duns Scotus’s distinctio formalis understood in the light of his haecceitas respelled as ecce-itas by Gerald Manley Hopkins.
157. Environmental Philosophy: Volume > 16 > Issue: 1
Apple Igrek Prosthetic Figures: The Wolf, the Marionette, the Specter
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There are two concepts of sovereignty in Derrida’s work: the classical form that posits itself as absolute mastery, whether by means of surveillance, technology, or “truth”; and the more paradoxical, subversive form inspired by Nietzsche and Bataille that simultaneously inhabits and exceeds the control mechanisms imposed upon it. One of the questions that I will pursue throughout this essay is whether such a distinction is valid. As there is something immeasurable apropos of Derrida’s second concept, I will contend that any distinction between it and the first concept is not only “undecidable” but ultimately impossible to make.
158. Environmental Philosophy: Volume > 16 > Issue: 1
David Baumeister The Human/Animal Logic of Sovereignty: Derrida on Robinson Crusoe
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This essay offers an analysis of Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe read in concert with Derrida’s treatment of the novel in the second volume of The Beast and the Sovereign. Drawing from Derrida while developing insights of my own, I assemble the elements of a unique account and critique of the logic of human sovereignty. Focusing on a crucial moment in both the novel and in Derrida’s reading of it, I argue the thesis that human sovereignty rests upon a logically prior mastery of both non-human animals and subordinated human beings—a relation of mastery I call the human/animal logic of sovereignty.
159. Environmental Philosophy: Volume > 16 > Issue: 1
Cary Wolfe Neither Beast nor Sovereign: Wallace Stevens’s Birds
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This essay combines deconstruction (chiefly the later work of Jacques Derrida) and systems theory (both social and biological systems theory) to rethink the question of ecological poetics in the work of Wallace Stevens, and in particular some of his most important poems that focus on birds and bird song. Ecocriticism has typically approached literature in general and poetry in particular in terms of its representation of nature. This essay argues for a non-representationalist ecopoetics that derives from replacing the concept of “nature” with the systems theory concept of “environment” (a term that applies equally to human and non-human forms of life). This theoretical shift allows us, in turn, to better understand the relationship of poetry and poetics to the “worlds” in which humans and non-humans live (to borrow the term that stretches from Jakob von Uexküll to Heidegger and then to Derrida).
160. 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.