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Interesting book title....  RSS feed

 
John Weiland
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Location: RRV of da Nort
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Just ordered the following book and was wondering if others had heard of it, of the author, or had read it. Seemed like a good topic for many Permies here and for a glimpse, you may be able to shuffle through a bit of the Table of Contents at Amazon.com or other similar vendor:

"The Denial of Nature: Environmental philosophy in the era of global capitalism (Ontological Explorations)"
by Arne Johan Vetlesen (c 2015)

https://www.amazon.com/dp/0415724740/ref=rdr_ext_tmb
 
John Weiland
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What goes around comes around.....a cursory review of Arne Vetlesen's "The Denial of Nature: Environmental Philosophy in the Era of Global Capitalism".

Philosophy is not exactly my forte, but in examining the evolution in philosophies over time it seems some interesting observations can be made.  Arne Johan Vetlesen's "The Denial of Nature: Environmental Philosophy in the Era of Global Capitalism" was published in 2015 as a critical review of recent select treatise on environmental philosophy with the greatest focus directed at the writers Theresa Brennen, Max Horkheimer, Theodor Adorno, Juergen Habermas, Paul Taylor, J Baird Callicott, Holmes Rolston III, Hans Jonas and Guenther Anders.  The writer Freya Matthews is given special consideration here for re-energizing the concept of 'panpsychism' in her ecophilosophy, which embodies the notion that all things animate and inanimate have something akin to consciousness and/or possessing a mind.  Important here is the inclination toward 'mind' (versus 'body') within a contemplative tradition in which mind harbors the cognitive (versus affective - emotional) functions and is the seat for rational thought.  Vetlesen reminds the reader in sufficiently clear fashion that the origins of this "divide and catalog" approach to the world go well back to the Greeks and provided the model upon with Decartes and like thinkers deepened the divisions through their own arguments.

For the above reasons alone, I feel Vetlesen's book to be a useful addition to the shelf.  He additionally outlines, fortunately, both sociological (Marx) and psychological (Freud, Klein, Searles) arguments used by the various authors listed on which their varying models of human motivation and behavior (as pertains to environmental destruction and decline) are based.  As I agree that these subconscious factors are at play in a way larger than we would like to think, it was satisfying (partially) to see this angle as one that drew Vetlesen to these authors and their works.  Nevertheless, I feel that the authors examined by Vetlesen regrettably used somewhat out-dated paradigms of human motivation and feel that the arguments could have been better made by their grounding in 'attachment theory', the model of psychological development put forward by the late John Bowlby, expanding on those of his predecessors, and yet deliberately incorporating evolutionary theory. In particular, as Vetlesen touches on a pervasive sense of 'loss' in terms of environmental degradation and species decline, Bowlby's second ("Separation: Anxiety and Anger") and third ("Loss: Sadness and Depression") volumes of his seminal "Attachment and Loss" trilogy are relevant.

What alerted me to Vetlesen's book initially was reference to one of my favorite ecophilosophers, Paul Shepard.  Shepard also investigated the roots of mankind's propensity toward destroying his own environment and sought answers in the way the mind develops either a benevolent or hostile disposition towards his/her environs, drawing on models of psychological development from Erikson, Searles, Piaget, as well as those inferred from aboriginal/indigenous cultures.  That Shepard's "Nature and Madness" was curiously both a compelling motivation as well as side-bar to Vetlesen's book is indicated in the acknowledgements within the text, where he thanks a student from one of his classes for alerting him to Shepard's work.

Interestingly, a major point made by Vetlesen is the degree to which technology in general, and digital technology specifically, is decreasing the experiential interaction between humans and the natural world.  In his conclusion to the book, he draws on recent writings by Australia's Freya Matthews for her reviving the notion, within philosophical discourse, of 'panpsychism' offering that it may provide one of the best paradigms on which to re-focus the general "environmental movement".  While I agree in principle with this notion, and sense that Matthews and the late Shepard would have found much common ground in their views, it seemed peculiar that Vetlesen would choose a concept that imbues all things with a "mind" versus a "mind + soul" ["Panpsychism is the view that all things have a mind or a mind-like quality. The word itself was coined by the Italian philosopher Francesco Patrizi in the sixteenth century….” - http://www.iep.utm.edu/panpsych/ ] And musing on this, I began to wonder if Vetlesen was aware of a validation of his own thesis --- that to become immersed in something is naturally to become less aware of entities outside of that realm.  Philosophy seeming to be more inclined towards matters of the mind, it may seem logical to settle on panpsychism as a concept for guiding a new environmentalism.  Yet what seems lacking to me in this is the 'affective'…..the "felt"…nature of experience.  This is what first drew me to Shepard when he opened his chapter "The Domesticators" with the line "Of half the time since the beginning of the momentous revolution by which agriculture and village life began to reshape the condition of human existence we know almost nothing of the *felt experience*" (Shepard's emphasis).  It may nevertheless be telling that Vetlesen gives nod to Matthews [I'm intrigued by her book title "For Love of Matter: A Contemporary Panpsychism" which mixes the affective (Love) with the cognitive (Panpsychism)] and some the American environmentalists as having some of the more useful concepts to offer as they both likely were drawing not only on fundamental psychology, but further on the environmental/cosmological relationships characterizing the native peoples of their respective countries. So for me, it seemed to be a book that was broadly revealing of the different trajectories of ecological thinking, with encouraging cross-fertilization from the field of psychology, but as well suggesting the possible pitfalls of becoming too cerebral in the exercise.

Where I feel the book and these musings interfaces with permaculture in general and Permies.com specifically is in the latter providing a reservoir and archive of "experiential wisdom", a notion toward which Vetlesen seemed to be leaning.  As compared to many forums and chat venues, Permies.com members share their direct experiences with their particular corner of the natural world in seeking a path with a reduced footprint. Whereas digital media can become a vortex into which much disappears, it nevertheless can be expedient in connecting….and validating…. these different *direct experiences* (can't emphasize this enough) as a means of keeping, and hopefully expanding, that reservoir of knowledge and wisdom.
  
 
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