7-9 JULY 2017
AT PURLEY CHASE CENTRE, MANCETTER,
WARWICKSHIRE CV9 2RQ
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Deep philosophy, deep ecology
Philosophy in the west – especially in its English-speaking part – has been considered an isolated and private venture, with little influence upon the way in which societies conduct themselves: like Earth itself in the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, its description hovers between "harmless" and "mostly harmless". But is this really the case? Can we trace today's ecological crisis to the philosophy (or philosophies) adopted consciously or unconsciously in recent centuries? Perhaps the errors embedded within it are now revealed as very far from harmless – in fact a flawed philosophy may be the most toxic thing known to humankind.
Deep ecology – the view that solutions to the ecological crisis are to be found in a radical revision of humankind's understanding of itself, the world in which it lives, and their mutual relation – has much to be commended. Deep ecologists argue that superficial changes in patterns of consumption while we retain an underlying view that we are set apart as the active and rational rulers and consumers of an irrational and passive world of materiality will not solve our ecological crisis.
But if we are to reject an inadequate philosophical worldview how are we to find a better and more truthful one? Can we find a philosophy from which a truly wide-ranging justice can emerge? Perhaps we must wipe the philosophical slate clean and start again from the very beginning, or perhaps we may find in neglected philosophies from our past the key to the righting of relations between ourselves and the rest of reality. This is a challenge we cannot ignore without the gravest consequences to ourselves and our fellow companions on Earth. But although the task is great, the rewards of success are also great: it may be that a philosophy which addresses the needs of deep ecology will also contribute to the solution of other more purely human problems which now press upon us.
We normally run from Friday evening to Sunday afternoon - this year will hope that we will have a pre-conference day on the Friday (with accommodation and a meal available from Thursday evening) in order to run morning and afternoon round tables, for those wishing to attend. We will confirm this in March.
Abstracts should be no more than 300 words and should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org at the latest by Friday, 7 April 2017. Acceptance of these will be confirmed as quickly as possible.
Papers should be around 2500-3000 words or 20 minutes’ presentation (we usually allow a further 15-20 minutes for a question and answer session after each presentation).
Bookings should be received by us not later than Saturday, 29 April 2017.
Accommodation: The conference will take place at Purley Chase Centre, Mancetter, near Atherstone in Warwickshire, which is comfortable and well appointed. Residential prices are for full board for the weekend (from Friday supper to Sunday tea) and are £130 (single ensuite), £120 (shared twin ensuite) and £100 (dormitory); non-residential price to include all meals except breakfasts is £40. Participants are encouraged to attend for the whole weekend and there are no reductions for partial attendance. There is limited ensuite accommodation available and a few delegates may be asked to share. If you are a student or on a low income and cannot afford these charges, please contact the Treasurer in confidence (email@example.com) to apply for a bursary.
Conference fee: This charge is £40 and is payable with your booking. It is non-refundable in the event of cancellation. There are no concessions for this charge and it is applicable to all delegates. Accommodation fees are payable by the end of May.
For further details phone 01373 228195 (or +44 1373 228195 from outside the UK) or write to 6 Fairways, Dilton Marsh, Westbury, Wiltshire, BA13 3RU, UK or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Booking forms are available from the Conference Secretary at the above address or phone number or download here: Conference 17 - Booking Form
The conference will be opened formally on the evening of Friday 7th, with a keynote address:
It is said by many that the modern worldview profoundly misunderstands nature – that we have "unsouled" it and deny it intelligence – and thus have given ourselves the right to tyrannize it. It is clear that this misunderstanding needs addressing urgently: but is there an even more profound misunderstanding which requires a radical revisioning of our own nature? Can humankind play its part in the outworking of the whole if we do not know what kind of creatures we are? Perhaps the Delphic exhortation "know thyself" is the beginning of true ecology, and the key to our just relationship to Nature and all her creatures.
Tim Addey is Chairman of The Prometheus Trust and the author of several books on the Platonic tradition.
On Saturday evening the twelfth annual Thomas Taylor lecture will be given by Professor Kevin Corrigan:
Graveyard, incubator or something much stranger?
Blind World or Multiworlds versus Deep Ecology and Neoplatonism
Deep ecology (after Arne Naess—1973) suggests that we need to rethink and to repurpose, right down to our supposed roots, all of our environmental systems on the basis of values and methods that truly preserve the ecological and cultural diversity of natural systems. Yet, at the same time, we live in a profoundly paradoxical world, full of competing narratives. Instead of a living, breathing, purposeful universe, we appear to inhabit a gigantic intergalactic graveyard, shaped by colliding black holes whose gravitational waves reach us—meaninglessly [to us, though not for quantum physicists]—1.5 billion years after their collision, a graveyard ruled by chance, randomness and the spontaneous, mechanical events that have apparently given rise to our own planetary emergence. In the process of our development, we seem to have lost touch with our broader animality, for at one point we wanted to be angels, but more recently we have forsaken both angels and other animals. Despite deep ecology, enticing tales of Gaia and all the paraphernalia of our legal and police systems that do hold people accountable, we seem to be caught in the maws of necessity and indeterminacy. We can prove the mathematical formulae that govern black holes but we can never be sure that our equations actually represent anything at all.
The aim of this talk is not to tell scientists or philosophers how to do science and philosophy, but to trace certain connections that have been virtually lost between the ancient and modern worlds and to build a bridge between two forms of practice and thought that can sometimes seem light-years apart: contemporary science (specifically, ecology and environmental philosophy) and Neoplatonism, specifically the thought of Plotinus ((204/5-270 CE), Porphyry (c. 232-305 CE), Iamblichus (c. 240-326 CE), Proclus (412-85 CE) and others.
Why are these connections important? They are important for two major reasons: First, because they remain hidden parts of our history. “Neoplatonism” has had a profound effect, largely unknown, upon the development of human civilization: it preserves the closest links between East and West; it helped to produce a troubled but genuine convivencia among Christians, Jews and Muslims from the 7th well into the 14th Centuries; and it also led to the development of Western Science through the work of Robert Grosseteste, Nicholas of Cusa, Giordano Bruno, Copernicus, Kepler and Newton, among others. But, second, these connections are also important because they provide what some modern science lacks, namely, ways of looking at the world or worlds not as shards of blind necessity, but rather as diverse living ecosystems with their own layers of possibility that have to be recognized for their own sakes and not just from one standard or system of rationality. I shall argue here, therefore, that Neoplatonism (and the Platonic-Pythagorean tradition of which it is a marker) has much in common with deep ecology and that we need to rediscover some of its fundamental thinking on the interconnected implications of matter, bodies, souls, minds and the One, if our species is to survive even into the second 50 years of the present century.
Professor Corrigan gained his PhD in Classics and Philosophy in 1980 at Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia (under A H Armstrong), and is currently working at Emory University as the Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of Interdisciplinary Humanities in the Department of Middle Eastern and South Asian Studies. He has recently published a series of articles on late Antiquity and completed two collaborative books on Plotinus: Treatises 30-33 for Les Belles Lettres, to appear from Vrin, Paris, 2017-2018, and On the Voluntary and on the Free Will of the One, to appear from Parmenides Press, 2017.