Reflections from my forthcoming dissertation, Arboreality: Revisioning Trees in the Western Paradigm.Read More
Video of my Ph.D. dissertation defense presentation. Filmed on Feb. 28, 2019.Read More
How do our relationships with non-humans affirm our humanity?
A talk as part of the Philosophy, Cosmology, and Consciousness (PCC) Forum series.Read More
As a study of trees in the Western paradigm, this dissertation enters into the conversation with thinkers in plant studies or critical plant studies. Plant studies draws comparison to animal and multispecies studies and engages thinkers across diverse disciplines. Key voices in this nascent field are Matthew Hall, Michael Marder, Luce Irigaray, and Monica Gagliano among others.Read More
Trees are pervasive phenomena. Our arboreal neighbors are both larger and older than humans with a dramatically different expression of livingness. Trees are intertwined with imaginative, mythological, social, and economic systems across cultures and throughout history.Read More
Video: Plants have been addressed by philosophers since the beginnings of philosophical history. In present times, new approaches to plants, or more accurately, new vegetal approaches to philosophy, are beginning to emerge in the literature. Spurred by new scientific discoveries of plant capacity and intelligence, thinkers in the Western lineage are revisiting conceptions of plants, which in turn is causing a revisioning of our conceptions of ourselves. How can thinking with plants help us respond to environmental crisis? This talk will review recent literature in plant philosophy and propose a participatory model for relating to our vegetal neighbors.Read More
Trees are pervasive phenomena. They exist in our imaginations, grace long tracts of the forested landscape worldwide, and emerge as obvious and surreptitious partners throughout our lives. In the United States alone, the ratio of trees to people is above 200 trees per person. Trees are beings which are both older and larger than humans, yet their prolific generativity has been used and overused throughout human history. Humans often view trees as nothing more than a resource for board-feet of lumber or as unwanted guests on valuable land. This stems from a paradigm in which only humans inhabit the realm of living beings with both plants and animals as merely mechanisms at our disposal. As this paradigm has reached its extreme ends, the entire planet has been ushered into a time of ecological crisis characterized by a shifting climate, ocean rise and acidification, and deforestation. This crisis is not only environmental, but is deeply intertwined with a crisis of both social justice and spirituality. A widespread paradigm shift is necessary to reimagine a sustainable world.Read More
Consciousness was thrust upon the Western psyche with its first use in the late 17th century. Since that time, the word has continued to circulate among philosophical and lay writings, yet often with more ambiguity than clarity. Consciousness in contemporary meaning goes far beyond the common definitions of perception, reflection, awareness, or an awareness of being aware. The multiple and complex meanings encoded in evolutionary and emancipatory philosophers’ use of the term deserves further study. This comprehensive exam will focus on definitions of consciousness in philosophical history during the 20th and the 21st centuries with an eye towards an ecological understanding of the contemporary term.Read More
It’s dangerous to be a woman with ideas. Women have never been seriously considered as part of the Western philosophical lineage, which is wrapped up with suppression of feminine power, and have too often been forcibly removed from intellectual circles.Read More
love the covers of books. The feel of their softness, or smoothness, or rough paper under my fingertips. The way the cover promises all that’s within. The cover of the book I’m holding is a shiny plastic veneer over the proclaimed title, the letters subtly raised, catching my hand as it grazes the surface. The pages of the book also have their own feel under the glide of my hands, soft, yet barely reminiscent of the pulp where they originated.Read More
I enjoy being the type of almost-30- year old woman who climbs trees. On a gently sunny Sunday, I stopped by a beautiful little park overlooking the bay. I sat for a time on the verdant grass where I could best see the buildings and structures that make up the peninsula and the misty marine layer covering the bay. In the distance, Mt. Diablo rose like a mirage on the eastern horizon. Eventually, I decided to climb a tree.Read More
Worldwide, deforestation has the potential to cause unforeseen changes especially in light of climate change. This has lead me to question where all of the trees we continually cut down go and how they show up in our lives. In the modern West, we are constantly surrounded by trees and wood products in our daily lives, yet we rarely consider them as such. Many wood or wood-based products are concealed by a veneer of plastic or within the folds of fabric. My own mediations on my home as a middle-class American living in a wood-framed condo illustrate the shift in consciousness that I propose around the forests of our homes.Read More
To take a broad sweep, the Inkling’s project revolved around the relation and tension between rationality and imagination. The Inkling’s were reacting against the hyper-rationality in England in their time, as exemplified through World War I and II, and taking cues from the Romantics to argue for the value of imagination. However, the argument was never for imagination instead of rationality, but the inter-relational dance between both rational faculties and imaginative faculties as two avenues in pursuit of truth. Of the four primary Inkling members, Owen Barfield provided the most developed theoretical treatment of the truth giving potentialities of imagination.Read More
It matters what matters we use to think other matters with; it matters what stories we tell to tell other stories with; it matters what knots knot knots, what thoughts think thoughts, what ties tie ties. It matters what stories make worlds, what worlds make stories. ~Donna Haraway
Paradigms are illusory. Just as fish likely do not recognize the water that sustains them and we swim through the air unthinking about its properties, paradigms, the underlying currents of our cultural thoughts, are the often unseen and unthought movers of our world. Although humans rarely consider paradigms, they structure our lives and inform our decisions from the day-to-day to the life changing. In the Western world, our current mindset, stemming from Enlightenment thinking, is leading to the destruction and desolation of our natural world, the disconnection and dehumanization of people treated unjustly, and diminishing our sense of the sacred. By engaging with paradigm level thinking, we can shift dominating Western patterns and move toward a life-fulfilling worldview.
Our world is in crisis, and its systems no longer work for life but for the fulfillment of a few at the very top of the socioeconomic scale. We are at a point where the environmental, social, and spiritual have been trampled into such disarray that we are in a crisis of planetary scale. Just a brief glimpse of the symptoms include climate change, species extinction, fresh water scarcity, policy brutality, economic inequality, fundamentalism, and widespread disconnection from other people and the earth. At the root of this systemic issue is the Western paradigm characterized by capitalism, patriarchy, colonialism, and mechanistic thinking. This paradigm has disenchanted the world by dissociating the mind from the body and placing conscious mind solely in the human, typically of the white and male variety. Unfortunately, it has been exported around the world from its beginnings in Enlightenment Europe. In order to move towards a thriving and just world, humanity must seek to move beyond Westernism into a new paradigm while bringing forward all of the benefits history has provided.
Environmental scientist and systems thinker Donella Meadows examined physical and cultural systems for places to intervene when the system is not functioning as we’d like. She calls these places leverage points, and claims, “leverage points are points of power.”1 Meadows lists twelve leverage points, and the two most effective intervention points address paradigms. After addressing such pieces as buffers, delays, feedback loops, rules, and goals among others, her top two leverage points are, “2. The mindset or paradigm out of which the system — its goals, structure, rules, delays, parameters — arises” and “1. The power to transcend paradigms.” Paradigms are critical to systems because all else hinges on their functioning. As the underlying, often unconscious explanation of how the world works, the paradigm is infused within all other aspects of a system. Meadows calls paradigms, “the sources of systems” and claims they are, “the shared idea in the mind of society, the great big unstated assumptions — unstated because unnecessary to state; everyone already knows them — constitute society’s paradigm, or deepest set beliefs about how the world works.”2 Paradigms exist in a space that is not often broached. They are not necessarily unconscious, but rarely become the topic of conversation because they are so entrenched within our minds and day-to-day lives. They stem from our cosmologies and cultural mythologies about who we are, why we’re here, and what we should be doing. This is why Meadows has identified paradigms as the two most effective ways to make change in a system.
At the top of her list, Meadow’s most important insight for making change is the power to transcend paradigms. This is critical, and she elegantly describes this place behind places by advising to, “keep oneself unattached in the arena of paradigms, to stay flexible, to realize that NO paradigm is “true,” that every one, including the one that sweetly shapes your own worldview, is a tremendously limited understanding of an immense and amazing universe that is far beyond human comprehension. It is to “get” at a gut level the paradigm that there are paradigms, and to see that that itself is a paradigm, and to regard that whole realization as devastatingly funny.”3 This space behind the paradigm is exactly what has been denied by the Western worldview. It is the enchanted, magical space between worlds which exists beyond the human realm of consciousness and embodiment. Meadows sees this space as humorous because it is absurd to our rational sensibilities and yet its irrationality has no bearing on its existence. She claims, “It is in this space of mastery over paradigms that people throw off addictions, live in constant joy, bring down empires, found religions, get locked up or ‘disappeared’ or shot, and have impacts that last for millennia.”4 It is in the space beyond paradigms that we can imagine the new world of a thriving and just culture. If no paradigm is truly correct, we are free to remake our paradigms as we see fit for the good of the world community. We are no longer bound by the restrictions of the existing paradigm, and we can fashion our own truths about the way the world works. It is only from this place of knowing deeply a new truth that we can begin to question the existing Western paradigm and recognize our compatriots to build into positions of power.
When we find ways to operate in the place beyond paradigms, a space is opened for new paradigms to emerge and proliferate beyond the bounds of our restrictive and oppressive system. We are operating on multiple levels of paradigms and our conscious creation of emerging worldviews with the intention of worldwide cultural paradigm shift may be one of the few things to generate the will to implement concrete changes in our habits and lifeways to mitigate extreme destruction in our world. Paradigm shift holds the possibility to bring us toward a thriving world.
1 Donella Meadows, “Leverage Points: Toward a Sustainable World,” in Global Environmental Politics: From Person to Planet, ed. Simon Nicholson and Paul Wapner, (Boulder, CO: Paradigm Publishers, 2015), 255.
2 Ibid., 256.
3 Ibid., 267.
4 Ibid., 267.
Integral ecology is an emerging paradigm in ecological theory and practice, with multiple and varied integral approaches to ecology having been proposed in recent decades. A common aim of integral ecologies is to cross boundaries between disciplines (humanities, social sciences, and biophysical sciences) in efforts to develop comprehensive understandings of and responses to the intertwining of nature, culture, and consciousness in ecological issues. This article presents an exploration of the different approaches that have been taken in articulating an integral ecology. Along with a historical overview of the notion of integral ecology, we present an exposition of some of the philosophical and religious visions that are shared by the diversity of integral ecologies.Read More