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181. Environmental Philosophy: Volume > 15 > Issue: 1
Christina M. Gschwandtner Can We Learn to Hear Ethical Calls? In Honor of Scott Cameron
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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.
182. Environmental Philosophy: Volume > 15 > Issue: 1
David Utsler Is Nature Natural? And Other Linguistic Conundrums: Scott Cameron’s Hermeneutic Defense of the Concept of Nature
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One of Scott Cameron’s most recent contributions to environmental hermeneutics (a field in which he was a founding scholar) was to defend the concept of nature against those who would argue that it should be abandoned in order to stave off the ecological destruction. Rather than jettison nature as an outdated and unhelpful construct, Cameron argued for its redemption based on Gadamer’s hermeneutical insights into language. In this article, I will look at Cameron’s arguments against Steven Vogel as well as particular points made against nature as a concept recently articulated by Slavoj Žižek and Timothy Morton. I will follow these arguments through, demonstrating that while the arguments can be accepted and are, indeed, accurate, the conclusion that the concept of nature be abandoned need not and should not be conceded. Finally, I will return to Cameron’s hermeneutic defense of a concept of nature and expand further on his insights and arguments. With Cameron, I conclude that the concept of nature can be redeemed. Extending Cameron’s line of reasoning, I argue that this aim is accomplished by refiguring the concept of nature with the insights offered by philosophical hermeneutics.
183. Environmental Philosophy: Volume > 15 > Issue: 1
Sean J. McGrath In Defense of the Human Difference
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Against the prevalent trend in eco-criticism which is to deny the human difference, I summon a set of untimely tropes from metaphysics in the interest of advancing an ecological humanism: the difference in kind between human consciousness and animal sensibility; the uniquely human capacity for moral discernment; and the human being’s peculiar freedom from the material conditions of existence. While I agree with eco-critics who argue that anthropocenic nature is not only finite, but sick: sickened by our abuse and neglect, I disagree that this abuse is simply a result of insisting on the human difference (“anthropocentrism”), nor is species egalitarianism the way forward. On the contrary, the eco-collapse, referred to as the sixth great extinction event, is the consequence of a general disavowal of the human’s special call to take responsibility for the relation between the human and the non-human, and only a re-awakening of this responsibility can restore health to anthropocenic nature. The non-human cannot effect this restoration, for that is not its vocation. A difference in vocation is not necessarily a difference in moral worth, and so the human difference does not justify denying the “intrinsic value” of the non-human. Humanity is uniquely responsible both for the mess we are in and for cleaning it up.
184. Environmental Philosophy: Volume > 15 > Issue: 2
Ben Mylius Three Types of Anthropocentrism
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This paper develops a language for distinguishing more rigorously between various senses of the term ‘anthropocentrism.’ Specifically, it differentiates between:1. Perceptual anthropocentrism (which characterizes paradigms informed by sense-data from human sensory organs);2. Descriptive anthropocentrism (which characterizes paradigms that begin from, center upon, or are ordered around Homo sapiens / ‘the human’)3. Normative anthropocentrism (which characterizes paradigms that constrain inquiry in a way that somehow privileges Homo sapiens / ‘the human’ [passive normative anthropocentrism]; and which characterizes paradigms that make assumptions or assertions about the superiority of Homo sapiens, its capacities, the primacy of its values, its position in the universe, and/or make prescriptions based on these assertions and assumptions [active normative anthropocentrism]).
185. Environmental Philosophy: Volume > 15 > Issue: 2
Roger Paden The Ethical Function of Landscape Architecture
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This essay presents a theory of aesthetics for landscape gardening based on Karsten Harries’s theory of the ethical function of architecture. It begins with an attempt to understand Horace Walpole’s praise of William Kent’s contribution to the development of “the modern taste in gardening,” according to which Kent was largely responsible for achieving the progressive revolution in landscape architecture that produced the picturesque style of English landscape gardening. After examining Harries’s theory, the essay discusses whether landscape architecture can produce works of art and examines several historically-important garden styles to argue that it can. Finally, it discusses problems inherent in Modern and Postmodern landscape architecture.
186. Environmental Philosophy: Volume > 15 > Issue: 2
Byron Williston A Tapestry of Concealments: Barkskins as Anthropocene Fiction
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The Good Anthropocene is a position taken up by a diverse collection of writers, social scientists, and philosophers. Their claim is that the Anthropocene should be embraced as a more or less positive development in the history of our species. This paper pushes back against the narrative of the Good Anthropocene. But rather than confront its advocates directly, I will come at the contest obliquely. I present a Heideggerian interpretation of Annie Proulx’s Barkskins, a multi-generational novel centered on the deforestation of North America. From a Heideggerian perspective, we notice that the present historical epoch has involved a threefold concealment: of the burgeoning catastrophe of climate change, of the co-optation of conservationism by capitalism, and of the ethnocide of the continent’s indigenous inhabitants.
187. Environmental Philosophy: Volume > 15 > Issue: 2
Mark Payne Poetry, Vegetality, Relief From Being
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In ancient Greek ecological thought, vegetality is the most basic ground of life. It is followed by animality and rationality as increasingly active, self-aware forms of life. An ontology of forms of life need not justify a hierarchy among actual living beings, but in practice it often does. This paper shows how the poetic representation of plants resists this slippage. Poetry offers human beings an ecstasis from their own animality so that they can apprehend their participation in the vegetality of living beings as a whole.
188. Environmental Philosophy: Volume > 15 > Issue: 2
Craig Frayne An Ecosemiotic Critique of Heidegger’s Concept of Enframing
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This essay presents ecosemiotics as an approach to interpreting Heidegger in environmental philosophy. Comparisons between Heidegger’s philosophy and ecosemiotics have often focused on the 1929–1930 lecture course where Heidegger discusses Jakob von Uexküll’s notion of Umwelt. These and other ecological interpretations reach an impasse with the sharp ontological boundary Heidegger places between Dasein and more-than-human lifeforms. This essay revisits the theme by focusing on a central concept from Heidegger’s later work: enframing [Gestell]. Enframing, it is argued, can be understood as a rupture between human (cultural) and natural signs, which is a consequence of technological modernity. Although this interpretation diverges from Heidegger’s philosophy, such critical readings may be necessary if Heidegger’s work is to speak to today’s technologies and ecological issues.
189. Environmental Philosophy: Volume > 15 > Issue: 2
Ronald Olufemi Badru Environmental Deficit and Contemporary Nigeria: Evolving an African Political Philosophy for a Sustainable Eco-Democracy
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Three groups of claims frame this article. First, the Nigerian State is largely enmeshed in environmental deficit, given the substantial oil pollution in the Niger-delta area, the problem of erosion in the Southeast, the filthy status of the Southwest, and the incessantly worrying perturbation of the ecological stability in the Northern part of Nigeria. Second, the political leadership in Nigeria for years has not really given genuine policy priority to, and, on this model, developed a credible framework that the citizenry could buy into to sustainably address the causes and the consequences of the environmental deficit. Third, given the foregoing, this work suggests a re-thinking/re-discussion of approach to the environmental deficit. Drawing on and integrating some relevant ideas, values, and virtues in African metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics, the article develops a framework, prescribing how the democratic leadership and the citizenry ought to act in sustainably addressing the environmental deficit. Beyond the philosophic foundations, the framework is also teleologically political: (i) it emphasizes that the moral legitimacy of democratic leadership in Nigeria partly derives from its commitment to the good of the built and the natural environment, and (ii) it also stresses that the citizenry could only be good moral agents, as eco-citizens, if they develop the virtues of environmental responsibility and responsiveness, by theoretically and practically supporting the good of the built and the natural environment. The research methods of critical analysis of empirical data and reflective argumentation are adopted to pursue the goals of the work.
190. Environmental Philosophy: Volume > 15 > Issue: 2
Joe Larios Bringing Levinas Down to Earth: A Jonasian Reading of the Face
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This paper adds to the critical work on the relationship between Hans Jonas and Emmanuel Levinas by arguing that the experience of the face of the other can be made compatible with Jonas’s understanding of metabolism thus allowing for an extension of who counts as an other to include all organic life forms. Although this extension will allow for a broadening of ethical patients on one side, we will see that a corresponding broadening of ethical agents on the other side will prove to be more difficult owing to the exceptionality of the human being that they both maintain and believe is expressed through the experience of responsibility.
191. Environmental Philosophy: Volume > 15 > Issue: 2
Valentina Gamberi, Lucia Zaietta An Anthropomorphic Dilemma: A Phenomenological Insight into the Human/Non-Human Symbiosis
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Can we really transcend our own human point of view in approaching the non-human? Rather than confining anthropomorphism in the field of the superstitious or identifying it with anthropocentrism, we propose a “weak” anthropomorphism. By adopting phenomenology as methodology, particularly Merleau-Ponty’s notions of corporeity and flesh, we suggest that anthropomorphism is the result of a shared bodily perception: first of all, we are-in-the-world. What we have is not a divide between the human and the non-human, but rather a blurred and fuzzy compound of human and non-human features, where the wild coincides with this symbiotic unit.
192. Environmental Philosophy: Volume > 15 > Issue: 2
Brian Seitz Grids of Power: Toward a Phenomenology of Fuel
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The word “power” tends toward divergent formations, and this paper is prompted by the intersection of two of them. The first form taken up here is power as control, while the second form is material power as fuel. The typical modern configuration of the first form implies an understanding of the second form as subordinate. But what I argue here is that insofar as fuel is a condition of the possibility of being human, the identity of the human being has always been embedded in an assemblage consisting of fuel-subject/intersubject.
193. Environmental Philosophy: Volume > 17 > Issue: 2
Rudy Kahsar A Heideggerian Analysis of Renewable Energy and The Electric Grid: Converting Nature to Standing Reserve
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Renewable energy technology is often seen as a positive expression of technology, meeting energy needs with minimal environmental impact. But, by integrating nature (e.g., wind and sunlight) with the ordering of the electric grid, renewables silently convert that nature into what Martin Heidegger referred to as standing reserve—resources of the technological commodity chain to be ordered, controlled, converted, and consumed on demand. However, it may be possible to mitigate the downsides of this process through a transition to more decentralized, local sources of renewable energy operations and management that maintain awareness of the ways in which energy is generated and distributed.
194. Environmental Philosophy: Volume > 17 > Issue: 2
Thomas H. Bretz Animating the Inanimate—A Deconstructive-Phenomenological Account of Animism
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This paper investigates the plausibility of one aspect of animism, namely the experience of other-than-human (including so-called inanimate) beings as exhibiting a kind of inaccessible interiority. I do so by developing a parallel between Husserl’s account of our experience of other conscious beings and our experience of non-conscious as well as so-called inanimate beings. I establish this parallel based on Derrida’s insistence on the irreducibility of context. This allows me to show how the structure of presence qua absence characteristic of our experience of conscious others emerges in our experience of non-conscious beings as well.
195. Environmental Philosophy: Volume > 17 > Issue: 2
Lucy Schultz Climate Change and the Historicity of Nature in Hegel, Nishida, and Watsuji
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While the existence of nature distinct from human influence becomes evermore suspect, within the natural sciences, human beings are increasingly understood in naturalistic terms. The collision of the human and natural, both within conceptual discourse and the reality of climate change may be considered a “great event” in the Hegelian sense, that reveals a dialectic immanent within the nature/culture distinction. Nishida’s notion of “historical nature,” Watsuji’s unique conception of climate, and the traditional satoyama landscapes of Japan offer timely ways of understanding the sublation of the distinction between nature and culture that render the nature/spirit hierarchy found in Hegel obsolete.
196. Environmental Philosophy: Volume > 17 > Issue: 2
Matthew Hall How Plants Live: Individuality, Activity, and Self
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The recent proliferation of human-plant (or plant-human) studies are informed by understandings of how plants live. Philosopher Michael Marder has developed a philosophy of plant ontology, founded on notions of modular independence, radical openness and ontological indifference. This paper critiques, and ultimately rejects, Marder’s key concepts, using a swathe of empirical evidence and theory from the plant sciences and evolutionary ecology. It posits a number of positive statements about these aspects of plant being that better align with the scientific evidence base. The implications for plant ethics are also briefly explored.
197. Environmental Philosophy: Volume > 17 > Issue: 2
Brian Hisao Onishi The Uncanny Wonder of Being Edible to Ticks
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In this paper I argue that an encounter with a tick can produce both fear and wonder. I make a distinction between the legitimate danger of tick borne-diseases and the non-danger of our entanglement with the nature revealed by the tick’s bite in order to highlight the goodness of the tick and the possibilities for post-human existences beyond narratives of conquest and control. Ultimately, I argue that wonder is a helpful mechanism for thinking through the goodness of the tick by allowing an ungrounding of our assumptions about climate change, hospitality, and the danger of non-human agencies.
198. Environmental Philosophy: Volume > 17 > Issue: 2
O’neil Van Horn A Phenomenology of the Ground: Or, Notes on the Fallacy of Un-Earth-ing Philosophy
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In light of the already-here disasters of the Anthropocene, what might it mean to define “ground” phenomenologically? That is, if one is to get beyond the ‘merely rational’ and enter into the ‘dustier’ matters of ecological philosophizing, how might one phenomenologically consider the ground? This article will dwell on the nature of the earth-ground—or, soil—as a rematerialized grounding principle for phenomenology in this age of climate crisis. Contending with Heidegger, among others, this poietic article limns possibilities for a ‘grounded’ phenomenology.
199. Environmental Philosophy: Volume > 11 > Issue: 2
Vincent Blok Reconnecting with Nature in the Age of Technology: The Heidegger and Radical Environmentalism Debate Revisited
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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.
200. Environmental Philosophy: Volume > 11 > Issue: 2
Ilan Safit Nature Screened: An Eco-Film-Phenomenology
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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.”