In the Anthropocene, humanity has been forced to a self-critical reflection on its place in the natural order. A neglected tool for understanding this is the sublime. Sublime experience opens us up to encounters with ‘formless’ nature at the same time as we recognize the inevitability of imprinting our purposes on nature. In other words, it is constituted by just the sort of self-critical stance towards our place in nature that I identify as the hallmark of the Anthropocene ‘collision’ between (...) human and earth histories. (shrink)
To self-forgive is to foreswear specific self-directed negative attitudes, attitudes that result from an agent’s recognition of his own moral failing. What does this foreswearing process involve? When is it justified? And what is the relation between self-forgiveness and interpersonal forgiveness? I will make two arguments in an attempt to answer these questions. First, self-forgiveness essentially involves a process of shaming whose ultimate goal is restoration of the wrongdoer’s goodness. Second, if a wrongdoer is to merit the forgiveness of his (...) victim(s), he is morally ’required’ not merely ’permitted to’ forgive himself first. (shrink)
Some philosophers – notably Bernard Williams, Martha Nussbaum and Ruth Barcan Marcus – argue that agents in moral dilemmas are blameworthy whatever they do. I begin by uncovering the connection these philosophers are presupposing between the agent’s judgement of wrongdoing and her tendency to self-blame. Next, I argue that while dilemmatic choosers cannot help but see themselves as wrongdoers, they both can and should divorce this judgement from an ascription of self-blame. As I argue, dilemmatic choosers are morally sui generis (...) in that their actions result in a diminishment of their personal integrity with no corresponding failure of character. It is this that makes them non-blameworthy wrongdoers. This way of seeing the problem should provide dilemmatic choosers with a novel conception of their own moral psychology, one that allows them to view their actions in a manner that is given neither to moral insensitivity nor to pathological self-accusation. (shrink)
In a recent letter to Canada's national newspaper, The Globe and Mail, British columnist and climate change gadfly George Monbiot pleaded with Canada to clean up its greenhouse gas emissions act. The letter appeared just a week before the Copenhagen climate conference. In it, Monbiot alleged that Canada's newly acquired status as oil superpower threatens to ?brutalize? the country, as it has other oil-rich countries (Monbiot, G. 2009. Please, Canada, clean up your act, The Globe and Mail, November 30, A15). (...) In this paper, I want to expand on Monbiot's bleak assessment of the Canadian national psyche. It has been pointed out that climate change is forcing us to rethink philosophical ethics. Some, like Dale Jamieson, believe that virtue theory is best equipped to meet the challenge of understanding the moral dimensions of this phenomenon. I think this is basically right, but that climate change is also forcing us to reassess our capacity for moral progress. The two challenges are linked. In what follows, I will first (Section 1) motivate the appeal to virtue ethics as a new way of understanding the ethics of climate change. Next (Section 2), I offer a virtue ethical account of moral progress. With the latter in place, we can (Section 3) uncover the real nature of Canada's moral failing on climate change: it is an impediment to the moral progress of our species. (shrink)
Locke’s critique of enthusiastic religion is an attempt to undermine a form of supernaturalist belief. In this paper, I argue for a novel interpretation of that critique. By opening up a middle path between the views of John Passmore and Michael Ayers, I show that Locke is accusing the enthusiast of being a self-deceived believer. First, I demonstrate the manner in which a theory of self-deception squares with Locke’s intellectualist epistemology. Second, I argue that Locke thinks he can show that (...) the enthusiasts’ most cherished beliefs are in fact contrary to manifest evidence. In “matters of ultimate concern” to us---i.e., our religious beliefs---the critique is thus meant tobuttress Locke’s commitment to a naturalistic ethics of belief. (shrink)
The Anthropocene, as we encounter it now, is the age in which we can no longer avoid postnaturalism, that is, a view of the ‘environment’ as largely ‘built.’ This means that we exist in a highly technologically mediated relationship to the rest of the earth system. But because the Anthropocene has barely emerged this time is best thought of as a transition phase between two epochs, i.e., it is ‘the end-Holocene.’ The end-Holocene is essentially a period of ecological crisis, the (...) most salient manifestation of which is anthropogenic climate change. Given our political inertia, some have suggested that we should we respond to the climate crisis through technological manipulation of the global climate: geoengineering. The proposal raises many questions. The one I am interested in here is whether or not geoengineering represents an objectionable species-level narcissism. Will deployment of these technologies effectively cut us off from contact with anything non-human? This is what I’m calling ‘the question concerning geoengineering.’ I show how Heidegger’s philosophy of technology, especially his concept of ‘enframing,’ can help us think about the issue with the seriousness it demands. (shrink)
For Descartes, the passions are the key to the good life. But he is also wary of the extent to which they may lead us astray. As I argue, there is reason to be skeptical that Descartes himself provides a satisfying resolution of this tension in the Passions of the Soul. The problem concerns our ability to interpret and work through intra-subjective passional conflicts. Descartes seems almost obsessed with the problem of such conflicts in this text. What he needs to (...) provide, however, is a kind of moral therapy by which we can adjudicatethem. This is tantamount to providing a theory of representation for the passions, and it would be similar to the belief therapy that he provides for determining the representational content of other perception types, notably sensations and appetites. But I argue that he does not discharge this philosophical obligation, and indeed he cannot do so given his own understanding of the uniquely ambiguous representational character of the passions. (shrink)
Canadian Environmental Philosophy is the first collection of essays to take up theoretical and practical issues in environmental philosophy today, from a Canadian perspective. The essays cover various subjects, including ecological nationalism, the legacy of Grey Owl, the meaning of “outside” to Canadians, the paradigm shift from mechanism to ecology in our understanding of nature, the meaning and significance of the Anthropocene, the challenges of biodiversity protection in Canada, the conservation status of crossbred species in the age of climate change, (...) and the moral status of ecosystems. This wide range of topics is as diverse and challenging as the Canadian landscape itself. Given the extent of humanity's current impact on the biosphere – especially evident with anthropogenic climate change and the ongoing mass extinction – it has never been more urgent for us to confront these environmental challenges as Canadian citizens and citizens of the world. Canadian Environmental Philosophy galvanizes this conversation from the perspective of this place. (shrink)
The Good Anthropocene is a position taken up by a diverse collection of writers, social scientists, and philosophers. Their claim is that the Anthropocene should be embraced as a more or less positive development in the history of our species. This paper pushes back against the narrative of the Good Anthropocene. But rather than confront its advocates directly, I will come at the contest obliquely. I present a Heideggerian interpretation of Annie Proulx’s Barkskins, a multi-generational novel centered on the deforestation (...) of North America. From a Heideggerian perspective, we notice that the present historical epoch has involved a threefold concealment: of the burgeoning catastrophe of climate change, of the co-optation of conservationism by capitalism, and of the ethnocide of the continent’s indigenous inhabitants. (shrink)
Designed for second- and third-year university and college courses on environmental ethics or philosophy and the environment, Environmental Ethics for Canadians 2e is a comprehensive introduction to the core ethical questions shaping contemporary environmental debates.
The recent Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change suggested that continuing inaction on climate change presents a significant threat to social stability. This book examines the reasons for the inaction highlighted by the IPCC and suggests the normative bases for overcoming it.