Re-Enchanting Human Ecology: Identity and Difference, Process Metaphysics, and Emergence
Cheney, Thomas Manning
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Drawing from historical political thought and 20th century western philosophy, this dissertation advances a theory of secular enchantment of nature, humanity, and their relationship. Its underlying social and political goal is to inspire an ethic of ecological conservation and stewardship. Its philosophical goal is to lay a new ontological foundation for thinking and talking about the unique human place within the ecological world. Modern scientific inquiry and reasoned philosophical reflection can expose the facts and uncover the truths about the human relationship with nature. Such an endeavour is important, and forms the backbone of this dissertation. But it is not enough. The natural world is in crisis and the truth alone cannot save it. If it is to be deemed worth saving, nature must be restored as a fundamental site of meaning in human life. The great modernizing project has purged the supernatural from nature, and with it the grounds for meaning and ethical direction. Still, wielded properly, science and philosophy can reestablish the enchantment of nature. Using a wide variety of thinkers, this dissertation shows that rational inquiry can inspire a sense of wonder for ecological complexity, and for the special place humans occupy in the natural whole.