Everyday environmental ethics as comedy & story: A collage

Ethics and the Environment 8 (2):80-105 (2003)
Abstract
: In Section I, I provide a brief historical sketch of tragedy and its relationship to Socratic philosophy and comedy. II focuses on one aspect of tragedy, namely, its view that morality transcends natural limitations. This understanding of morality is with us still. III presents the central concerns of the world religions as evidence of a widespread feeling of alienation from the sacred and the wild, and contrasts world religions with indigenous spirituality. IV moves us away from the understanding of philosophy as argument and counterargument and toward an ecosystemic, or wild, conception of philosophy as story in the mode of comedy. V offers a Buddhist understanding of tragic alienation that sees it as expressive of something deeply problematic about humans. This something is actualized throughout Western culture but seems to exist only as a potentiality in indigenous cultures. This is reason enough to take indigenous cultures and comedy seriously. VI brings us back to earth with a sketch of comedy in the lives of dear friends. VII sketches some of the attributes of functional communities that give support to comedy. I also point out a number of features of indigenous so-called worldviews that would greatly enhance the ability of comedy to displace tragedy in the West. VIII portrays picaresque comedy as exemplifying the lessons of comedy taught by wilderness. Examples from indigenous cultures of Africa and Gary Snyder's The Practice of the Wild underscore the importance of picaresque strategies and understandings of comedy. A look at Tom Birch's enigmatic statement, "wilderness treats us like human beings," setting it alongside some lines from Thoreau's Walden, rounds out my discussion of comedy. IX poses a challenge: Can we survive "The News" that pours in upon us from tragic seats of power?
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