- May 8, 2019
- 7:00 pm
California Institute of Integral Studies
1453 Mission Street
San Francisco, CA 94103
The language of crisis is everywhere: democratic, financial, social, cultural, technological, and of course ecological. The world has always known its traumas, but arguably the crises of our time reflect more than the normal ups and downs of history. We find ourselves rather in an age of meta-crisis, one in which many of our basic assumptions and ways of being are revealed to be fundamentally at odds with reality itself.
Nowhere is this more evident than in looking at the issue of ecological devastation on a planetary scale. Human domination of the terrestrial world has become so inescapable that many insist we have left the Holocene and entered a new geological epoch known as the Anthropocene. This new and current geological age is viewed as the period during which human activity has been the dominant influence on climate and the environment.
To many it may seem absurd to suggest that the humanities-let alone philosophy-could have anything to say about such an intractably material situation as the contemporary ecological crisis. Surely only science can save us now? Yet, it can be argued that this crisis is not only a technical and scientific crisis, but also a crisis of human collective activity, or politics, and so our best response to this crisis depends crucially upon human commitment and imagination.
The paradox of the current Anthropocene age is this: human agency is now responsible for fundamentally transforming the biogeochemistry of the earth, while at the same time, we seem incapable of altering the shape of our collective activities. We are tragically responsible, and we can't seem to do anything about it.
Might this paradox seem intractable only because basic ontological, ethical, and aesthetic assumptions have gone unquestioned? If so, doesn't this cry out for a philosophical response?
In this talk, philosophy professor Jacob Sherman discusses the role that philosophy might play both in diagnosing deeper causes of our contemporary crisis, and in helping to empower our search for new ways of imagining the human being as a mutually enhancing member of the Earth community.
Jacob Sherman is Associate Professor and Chair of Philosophy and Religion at CIIS and Chair of the program in Philosophy, Cosmology, and Consciousness at CIIS. He received his PhD in philosophical theology from the University of Cambridge. He taught previously at King's College London and from 2014-17 held a visiting appointment as University Lecturer in Philosophy of Religion at the University of Cambridge.
By training a philosopher, theologian, and religious studies scholar, he is the author of Partakers of the Divine: Contemplation and the Practice of Philosophy, and editor, with Jorge Ferrer, of The Participatory Turn: Spirituality, Mysticism, Religious Studies. The author of over two dozen articles, essays, and reviews, his writings have appeared in publications such as The Journal of the American Academy of Religion, Modern Theology, and the International Journal of Philosophy and Theology. He is currently working on a new manuscript entitled The Book of Nature: Philosophy, Theology, and the Ecological Imagination.