Environmental Crisis and Ecophenomenological Praxis

Booth, R ORCID: 0000-0001-7089-8301
(2018) Environmental Crisis and Ecophenomenological Praxis. PhD thesis, University of Liverpool.

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It is a relatively uncontroversial observation that huge advances in our scientific understanding of the ‘issues’ constitutive of our environmental crisis haven’t brought about the requisite attitudinal and behavioural changes to disrupt them at root. In this thesis, I pursue the suspicion that this problem may be traced back, in part, to the violence already implicit in the limited, objectivistic, and often dualistic models that natural scientists offer of those ‘issues’ and the more-than-human world more broadly. Since tackling the behavioural and attitudinal violence of our crisis situation also requires tackling the conceptual violence implicit in the basic terms of debate, I argue, then a specifically Merleau-Pontian ecophenomenology is uniquely well-equipped to attend to the task in hand. I begin by exploring the benefits of using phenomenological tools to disrupt the scientific naturalist stronghold on ontological and epistemological matters where the more-than-human world is concerned. Scientific naturalism’s problems appear to derive from its inability to fully acknowledge the intentional salience of the scientist’s situated embodiment to the phenomena she encounters and only subsequently carves up according to certain (meta-)theoretical assumptions and exclusionary apparatuses. By establishing a keener focus on the epistemic primacy of one’s phenomenological opening, I argue, a Merleau-Pontian ecophenomenology (suitably informed by ecofeminist and new materialist insights) promotes attention to a richer range of ontologically real phenomena than might be otherwise admitted. Moreover, whilst such an ecophenomenology needn’t be entirely hostile to important scientific insights about ‘environmental issues’, it may also foster a heightened kind of critical self-reflexivity about the problematic commitments and sedimented assumptions which underwrite them. Thus, by engaging with the environmental crisis ecophenomenologically, I argue, we may begin to disrupt the colonial violence which underpins it. I then defend Merleau-Pontian ecophenomenology against various iterations of the charge of ‘correlationism’, which holds that, insofar as they retain an ‘introverted’ focus on situated experience, ecophenomenologists themselves effectively subsume the more-than-human world into a problematically violent anthropocentric or androcentric purview. Since Merleau-Pontian ecophenomenologists deny the basic ontological presuppositions which underpin the charge, however, I argue that it is misdirected. Moreover, by acknowledging the indissoluble tension between one’s immanence and the more transcendental claims one might wish to make about the more-than-human world, Merleau-Pontian ecophenomenologists may establish a more fruitful praxis of critical self-reflexivity than their less phenomenologically-inclined peers. Over the final two chapters, I substantiate this claim with reference to how Merleau-Ponty’s later ontological turn (which aims to mitigate this tension) proves a retrograde one in terms of the onto-epistemological humility which is most valuable about the ecophenomenological project.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: Permanent email: boothr83@gmail.com
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of the Arts
Depositing User: Symplectic Admin
Date Deposited: 09 Aug 2018 14:09
Last Modified: 19 Jan 2023 01:32
DOI: 10.17638/03022591
  • Hailwood, Simon
  • Jobling, Jan
URI: https://livrepository.liverpool.ac.uk/id/eprint/3022591