|Thinkers like Slavoj Žižek, Tim Morton, and many others have heralded the end of our ideological constructions of nature, charging that popular “ecology” or the “natural” is just the latest opiate of the masses. Attempting to think the problem of Nature after Nature, I take note of Žižek’s refusal of any starry- eyed nostalgia for an unsullied nature that, left to its own devices, will take care of us and save us from ourselves. He derides this as a reactionary fantasy that obscures our capacity to understand and respond collectively to the ongoing ecological catastrophe. “Humanity has nowhere to retreat to: not only is there no ‘big Other’ (self-contained symbolic order as the ultimate guarantee of Meaning); there is also no Nature qua balanced order of self-reproduction whose homeostasis is disturbed, nudged off its course, by unbalanced human interventions”. Nature is neither the foundational source of our meaning (natural law, human nature, etc.) nor a wholesome and beneficent womb of human life (so long as it is not tampered with by the evils of technology, industrialization, urban living, etc., it is our loving and caretaking mother). How then are we to characterize Nature after Nature beyond the flattening of positivism, the hyper-inflation of romanticism, New Age projection, and the persistent error that nature is not only something other than us but also something that opposes culture?
Wirth begins with a case study of the human relationship with bears, paying close attention to the moment at which we encounter bears. What is the space of this encounter? My talk is divided into two parts: the first is a meditation on Faulkner’s novella «The Bear» and the second is a meditation on Gary Snyder’s retrieval of the Athabascan tale, «The Woman Who Married a Bear».
Dr. Jason M. Wirth is professor of philosophy at Seattle University, and works and teaches in the areas of Continental Philosophy, Buddhist Philosophy, Aesthetics, and Africana Philosophy. His recent books include The Conspiracy of Life: Meditations on Schelling and His Time (SUNY, 2003), a translation of the third draft of The Ages of the World (SUNY, 2000), the edited volume Schelling Now (Indiana, 2004), Schelling’s Practice of the Wild (SUNY, 2015), the co-edited volume (with Bret Davis and Brian Schroeder), Japanese and Continental Philosophy: Conversations with the Kyoto School (Indiana, 2011), and The Barbarian Principle: Merleau-Ponty, Schelling, and the Question of Nature (SUNY, 2013). He is the associate editor and book review editor of the journal, Comparative and Continental Philosophy (and its attendant book series, published by Northwestern University Press). He has a forthcoming monograph on Milan Kundera (Commiserating with Devastated Things, Fordham, 2015) and is completing a manuscript called Zen and Zarathustra as well as a study of the cinema of Terrence Malick. He is a co-director of three philosophical societies: The Comparative and Continental Philosophy Circle (CCPC), The Pacific Association for the Continental Tradition (PACT), and the North American Schelling Society (NASS). He is an ordained Soto Zen priest and director of the EcoSangha, a Zen practice group in Seattle.