W. Alton Jones Professor of Philosophy, Professor of European Studies, Professor of Art
Phil 3611.01 - Environmental Philosophy - T/R 2:35-3:50
Man’s’ place in Nature has been discussed since the beginning of human history. We are ourselves natural beings: we eat, drink and breathe to stay alive, and we are also mortal, vulnerable and sexual beings. But as well as our human nature, there is Nature without, Nature outside. Nature sustains (natural resources) and threatens (natural disasters). The explosive growth of technology has lead to a sharpening of these tensions. Pollution, world hunger, global warming, nuclear waste and other hazards threaten to turn the earth from a paradise into a hell – the “late great planet earth”. Major ethical and broader philosophical problems are raised by this crisis: animal rights, sustainable development, species preservation, biodiversity and so on. We think of Nature as ‘out there’, but the shape of this ‘out there’ is determined by our images and theories of Nature, shaped throughout history by religion, art, myth and philosophical reflection. Contemporary radical movements – including ecofeminism, land ethic, deep ecology and Occupy - have sought to reshape these images. This course will provide a basis for critical reflection on these vital questions. We will
combine philosophical readings with a discussion of literary and religious texts, movies, and art works.
We are arguably at a unique point in the history of the planet, the Anthropocene, presiding over the Sixth Extinction. There will be a special section on Climate Change, the greatest challenge our species has yet faced.
Phil 9000.02 - Later Heidegger - Wed 3:10-5:30
In his magnum opus, Being and Time (1926) Heidegger argues that Western philosophy since the Greeks is marked by the forgetfulness of (the question of) Being. To re-open this question, he suggests, we need to rethink the relation between Being and human temporality. In his later work he gives a more prominent role to language (“Language is the house of Being”), but the question of time never goes away. (In 1962 he wrote the essay “Time and Being”.) In the mid 30s (Contributions to Philosophy) he attempts an experimental engagement with his time in which philosophy would performatively enact transformative change, not merely write about it.
In our own age, with the announcement of the Anthropocene (in which human time goes geological), the relation between fundamental questions (such as the meaning of Being), time, and human history, has taken on an unprecedented material urgency. This course will address this urgency by bringing together in a critical way key texts from Heidegger’s later writings, after first touching base with Being and Time, showing how they cast light on the challenges of our present condition.
My current research is centered on the ways in which climate change gives new significance and urgency to traditional ethical, political and metaphysical issues. If '"we cannot go on like this", revolution is no longer a matter of social justice, but of ecological necessity. Truth is no longer a postmodern plaything but a matter of life and death. If we have entered a new geological age – the Anthropocene – with the future of the planet on our backs, what is it now to be human? I am completing books on Reinhabiting the Earth, and Deep Time, (both with Fordham University Press) the latter an expansion of the Thinking Out Loud lectures I am giving in Sydney in April/May 2015. I am also working on a longer term writing projectThings at the Edge of the World, elaborating the ways in which various Things are not merely part of the furniture of the world, but open up worlds of their own., a fractal ontology. After Giving Voice to Other Beings (2009), I am organizing a conference on EcoDeconstruction: Derrida and Environmental Ethics (Spring 2015) which will result in an edited volume, also with Fordham. On the teaching front my persistent effort is to 'rewrite Heidegger's Being and Time' in the light of the shifts in Heidegger's own thinking, the new materialism, and other contemporary concerns such as sexual difference, non-human animals, and the earth. I am also trying to address a number of these same issues as an earth/conceptual artist in myHeliotrope, Chronopod, and Wordscape projects, the IntraTerrestrials: Landing Sites series and the development of Yellow Bird Art Farm. Reflection on how Art is more than a thing of the past, but still helps us think, and rethink, is an ongoing focus. I run Thinking Out of the (lunch)Box series of public talks/conversations at the Downtown Public Library.
Interviews and Other Links
My most recent interview The End of Progress is with Zan Boag, New Philosophy#6, Fall 2014. For details on the Lunchbox program, see Thinking out of the Box. For my ART links: see the Chronopod Cycle and MNAC Artist Registry website. For interviews relating to these and other matters, check out the following additional interviews: Art for the Imagination, Contretemps Interview: The Art of Time, A Day in the Life of [Photo Interview].
"Conversation with Wendell Berry"
David Wood's "The Lure of the Writer’s Cabin" recently appeared in the NYT November Opinionator.
John Llewelyn's response to The Lure of the Writer's Cabin, can be found here.
Books in Progress:
ReInhabiting the Earth
Things at the Edge of the World
19th and 20th Century Continental, Time, Environmental, Philosophy of Nature
Kierkegaard and Levinas: Ethics, Politics, Religion (ed. with Aaron Simmons) (Indiana, 2008)
Time After Time (Indiana University Press, 2007)
The Step Back: Ethics and Politics after Deconstruction (SUNY Press, 2005)
Read the Introduction.
Truth: A Reader (ed. with José Medina) (Blackwell, 2005)
Thinking After Heidegger (Polity Press, June 2002)
The Deconstruction of Time (second edition, Northwestern, 2001)
On Derrida, Heidegger and Spirit (ed. and intro.) (Northwestern, 1993)
Derrida: A Critical Reader (ed. and intro.) (Blackwell, 1992)
"Responsibility in an Age of Climate Change," The Sydney Lectures: Thinking Out Loud (2015)
"A Poetics of Time", Cosmological and Psychological Time, ed. Michael Roubach, Springer (forthcoming 2014)
"If a Cat Could Talk," London: Aeon, July 2013
"Humanimality: The Silence of the Animal", PhiloSophia, 3, #2, 2013
"Is Art Dead? Can Art Save the Earth?" Environmental Aesthetics. Crossing Divides and Breaking Ground, ed. Martin Drenthen and Jozef Keulartz, Fordham, 2013.
"My Place in the Sun", in Interpreting Nature: The Emerging Field of Environmental Hermeneutics, eds. Forrest Clingerman et al., New York: Fordham University Press (in press 2013)
"Continental Philosophy: Back to the Future", Southern Journal of Philosophy, 50, # 2, 2012
"The Truth About Animals", Environmental Philosophy, 9, # 2, 2012
"Toxicity and Transcendence: Two Faces of the Human", Angelaki 16, no.4, 2011
Moments of Intense Presence: A Conversation with David Wood (Journal for Cultural and Religious Theory, 2008)
Philosophy: The Antioxidant of Higher Education