Philosophies of Nature [A]

Professor Joshua Schuster

In this class, we will look at some key texts in the philosophy of nature with the intention of rethinking some of the most significant dualist and non-dualist claims for the nature of beings. We will begin with Latour’s early manifesto as our initial guide. We will read Aristotle’s Physics and Lucretius’ De Rerum Natura as key turning points in the early philosophy of nature. Next we will shift to some central Enlightenment texts that revisit the notion of a generic nature: Spinoza’s Ethics, Kant’s third critique, and Schelling’s philosophy of nature. We will subsequently look at how Darwin shifts away from organic metaphors to an empirical, agentially-distributed, open-ended model of evolution, which will provide the foundation for the concept of ecology.
In the latter half of this class, we will look at more recent attempts to reclaim a broader philosophy of nature within the purview of ecology that is not reducible to a reductionist philosophy of science and method. After reading Merleau-Ponty’s lecture course notes on the concept of nature, we will read some of Latour’s recent work, including his newest An Inquiry into Modes of Existence. Finally we will look at some recent work in philosophy that proposes a speculative ecology that comes from the lives of things as advocated by Timothy Morton and other speculative realists. We will also try our hand at proposing some new key terms/concepts/figures for a nature to come.

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