Philosophy, History, and the Environment

There’s another fascinating philosophical interview at 3:AM Magazine, this time with NYU’s Dale Jamieson. Once again there is an abundance of interesting material. Two passages stood out.

The first is on the history of philosophy:

Even our own discipline has become dehistoricised. We think of history as another specialization, like philosophy of language, rather than as something that informs everything we do and think. Even those who specialize in the history of philosophy often ignore the political and cultural context, and the natural world in which their philosophers were philosophizing. This has consequences both trivial and important. If you systematically read the last fifty years of the major journals in our discipline you would be amazed at the amount of redundancy. Most of this is unacknowledged because most of us know so little about the history of our discipline and even the subfields in which we work. We know the “great men” and a handful of heavily cited papers in our specialization. When there is a historical frame around a paper it’s often a caricature that has become canonical. If we don’t have historical consciousness we can’t really understand problems in all their dimensions, and if we can’t understand problems than we can’t find solutions.

The other concerns environmental philosophy and why philosophers should be taken seriously in discussions about the environment:

Sometimes I say philosophers should be at the table because they’re the only people who know that they’re not going to walk away with big money to support their research or to fund their crackpot solutions. Philosophers are smart, analytical, and skeptical. For these reasons they are relatively unbiased. Moreover, many environmental questions are in a deep way philosophical, despite our penchant for treating them as if they were only technological, economic, or whatever. Environmental problems provoke challenges about what kind of world we want, how important we think it is if something is brought about by human action or by brute nature, what we think of the value of human life compared to that of other living things. The list could obviously go on. Environmental philosophy just is philosophy full stop. It only sprung up as distinct subfield because mainstream philosophy was ignoring some of the most important philosophical challenges of our time.

Lots to discuss.

The whole interview is here.


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