The Beginning and End of Nature

When people talk about the end of nature, what exactly is this nature that has ended? It’s not like the whole universe imploded. Earth is still spinning. Nature isn’t the universe, and it’s not a planet. It’s nature. Nature is an idea, a word, a symbol, which is not to say that it is merelyContinue reading “The Beginning and End of Nature”

The Problem with Descartes: It’s Not Dualism

Some people, a lot of people, treat René Descartes as a sort of bogeyman of modern philosophy. Somehow, in the first half of the seventeenth century, Descartes sundered the seamless fabric of Being into two factions, mind and body, a thinking thing and an extended thing, res cogitans and res extensa. With that dualism setContinue reading “The Problem with Descartes: It’s Not Dualism”

Bacteria and Natural Agency

The latest issue of the Journal of the American Philosophical Association has an article about agency and cognition in bacteria, “Natural Agency: The Case of Bacterial Cognition,” by Fermín C. Fulda. It’s part of a steady stream of research across the humanities and sciences indicating that nonhuman life forms are smarter than most modern philosophersContinue reading “Bacteria and Natural Agency”

Ptolemy’s Revenge II: The Balls of Serres

Meillassoux suggests that Kant’s Copernican revolution was not actually Copernican at all.  Kant (and so many post-Kantians) improperly inverted Copernicus, returning to a pre-Copernican anthropocentrism (see “Ptolemy’s Revenge” in After Finitude).  Kant is obviously anthropocentric, but is that really an inversion of the Copernican turn?  Or…might we be able to speak about the birth ofContinue reading “Ptolemy’s Revenge II: The Balls of Serres”

Socrates and Place

Socrates can’t learn from place.  He’s too anthropocentric.  I always think of Plato’s Phaedrus (230d), where Socrates says this: You see, I am fond of learning. Now the country places and the trees won’t teach me anything, and the people in the city do. He is fond of learning (philomathes), but country places (chorai) andContinue reading “Socrates and Place”

Objects: Between Whitehead and Heidegger

One of the exciting things happening in object-oriented philosophy is a synthesis of Whiteheadian and Heideggerian insights, namely, 1) Whitehead’s pan-experientialist concept of feeling or prehension, which deals a severe blow to human exceptionalism, and 2) Heidegger’s concept of the retreat or withdrawal (Entzug) of things. It’s a mutually beneficial synthesis: Whitehead helps avoid theContinue reading “Objects: Between Whitehead and Heidegger”

APE: Actor-Partnership Ethics

Carolyn Merchant gives a good summary of the problems with anthropocentric and non-anthropocentric ethics in Reinventing Eden: the Fate of Nature in Western Culture (Routledge, 2003).  She proposes a “new ethic of human partnership with nature” in which humanity and nature are “considered as active agents.” Self-interested, or egocentric ethics (what is good for the individualContinue reading “APE: Actor-Partnership Ethics”

Multicentrism

A lot of teaching and writing in environmental ethics adopts a geometrical image: the center.  The field of environmental ethics began with numerous and varied critiques of anthropocentric values and practices. Here’s how the story often goes: to center on the human is to marginalize the non-human, and developing an ethic that accounts for the moral considerabilityContinue reading “Multicentrism”