Return to Nature?

Return to Nature?: An Ecological Counterhistory

Fred Dallmayr
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 216
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  • Book Info
    Return to Nature?
    Book Description:

    Sustainability has become a compelling topic of domestic and international debate as the world searches for effective solutions to accumulating ecological problems. In Return to Nature? An Ecological Counterhistory, Fred Dallmayr demonstrates how nature has been marginalized, colonized, and abused in the modern era. Although nature was regarded as a matrix that encompassed all beings in premodern and classical thought, modern Western thinkers tend to disregard this original unity, essentially exiling nature from human life. By means of a philosophical counterhistory leading from Spinoza to Dewey and beyond, the book traces successive efforts to correct this tendency. Grounding his writing in a holistic relationism that reconnects humanity with ecology, Dallmayr pleads for the reintroduction of nature into contemporary philosophical discussion and sociopolitical practice.

    Return to Nature? unites learning, intelligence, sensibility, and moral passion to offer a multifaceted history of philosophy with regard to our place in the natural world. Dallmayr's visionary writings provide an informed foundation for environmental policy and represent an impassioned call to reclaim nature in our everyday lives.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-3434-5
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Preface
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. Introduction: Letting Nature Back In
    (pp. 1-10)

    One of the urgent issues in our time—perhaps the most urgent—is human survival in the world, in the midst of a nature whose resources are relentlessly exploited and perhaps eventually depleted. During the last hundred years, the issue has been steadily gaining momentum, largely due to the processes of globalization and global industrialization and the incredible advances in technology and engineering. However, the roots of the problem reach much further back, at least as far back as the onset of Western modernity and its attendant separation of “man” and nature. This separation was introduced and thematized by numerous...

  5. 1 Nature and Divine Substance: Spinoza
    (pp. 11-32)

    Among modern philosophers, no one has honored nature more than Baruch (or Benedict) Spinoza by linking and even fusing nature with the divine. To be sure, his famous formula “deus sive natura” (God or else nature) can easily be misunderstood. The formula does not propose a crude “naturalism,” which would reduce nature to physical processes analyzed by science; rather, the opposite is the case: physical processes are integrated as mere emblems into an all-embracing divine order. To this extent, the formula is indicative of Spinoza’s position as a whole: his location at the cusp between traditional speculative metaphysics and modern...

  6. 2 Nature and Spirit: Schelling
    (pp. 33-52)

    “The character of the entire modern epoch,” Schelling wrote in 1797, “is idealist and its dominant tenor is to turn inward. The ideal world surges mightily into the limelight, but is still held back by nature’s retreat into mystery. The secrets of the latter, however, cannot be truly grasped until nature’s mystery is plumbed and expressed.”¹ These lines were penned in the midst of Enlightenment optimism and at the height of German idealist philosophy as inaugurated by Immanuel Kant and continued by his successors, notably Fichte and Hegel. Schelling was by no means unimpressed by the upsurge of enlightened idealism;...

  7. 3 Nature and Sentiment: Romanticism
    (pp. 53-76)

    “Weseekthe absolute everywhere and only everfind[finite] things.” This statement was penned by Friedrich von Hardenberg, known as Novalis, in 1797 in hisMiscellaneous Observations.¹ In terse language, the statement pinpointed in uncannily lucid form the central tenet of an intellectual trend emerging at that time, called the “Romantic movement.” As one will note, the phrase does not in any way reject the notion of the “absolute” so prominent in German idealist philosophy, from Fichte to Schelling and Hegel. Rather, it foregrounds an aspect that was deemphasized by idealism (though foreshadowed in Kant’s stipulation of the limits...

  8. 4 Nature and Experience: Dewey
    (pp. 77-96)

    Notwithstanding Romanticism’s captivating and elevating élan, its turn toward “transcendentalism” and individual self-assertion exacted a price: the price of the tendential alienation from the pressing social and political concerns of the time. This alienation was all the more grievous given the steady transformation of America from an agrarian to an industrial and urbanized society, a transformation carrying in its wake a pronounced social stratification tearing at the very fabric of an ostensibly “democratic” country. To be sure, there is no denying that New England transcendentalists were often involved in social experimentation—witness the attempts at communal living at Brook Farm...

  9. 5 Nature and Life-World: Merleau-Ponty
    (pp. 97-116)

    While pragmatism was beginning to ebb in America, an intellectual movement arose in Continental Europe that in many ways resembled—but also reformulated—its basic motivations and themes: the movement of phenomenology and existentialism. What chiefly linked pragmatism with its European counterpart was the disillusionment with traditional philosophical systems and the pretense of abstract theory coupled with a turn to human practice and (what Dewey called) “experience.” Initially, it is true, the traditional privilege granted totheoria(in the Greek sense of “oversight”) persisted in the accent of early transcendental phenomenology on the visual perception of phenomena from the vantage...

  10. 6 Nature and Being: Heidegger
    (pp. 117-140)

    Among twentieth-century phenomenologists, Merleau-Ponty was not the only one to build a bridge from philosophical reflection to the life-world and ultimately to nature. His endeavor was ably seconded by some of his German contemporaries, especially Max Scheler (1874–1928) and Martin Heidegger (1889–1976). Like the French thinker, both Scheler and Heidegger started out as students of the founder of modern phenomenology: Edmund Husserl; and both moved from an initial transcendental idealism to a more sustained engagement with worldly situatedness, temporality, and human finitude. This was evident in Scheler’s elaboration of a phenomenological anthropology; it was even clearer in Heidegger’s...

  11. 7 Nature and the Way: Asian Thought
    (pp. 141-154)

    In the opening chapter, reference was made to a certain “counterhistory” accompanying the more official or dominant history of Western thought. Subsequent chapters explored prominent stages of this alternative trajectory—stages that, in different ways, sought to recuperate the intrinsic integrity of nature and to heal the widening gulf between nature and reason. With the relentless advance of modern science and technology, the need for such a recuperation became steadily more urgent. As it happens, in promoting the process of globalization and intercivilizational encounters, modern culture also brings into view helpful allies in the search for recuperation: namely, Asian thought,...

  12. Appendix A Ecological Crisis and Human Renewal: A Tribute to Thomas Berry
    (pp. 155-170)
  13. Appendix B The Return of Philosophical Anthropology: Some Personal Reflections
    (pp. 171-178)
  14. Notes
    (pp. 179-206)
  15. Index
    (pp. 207-214)