Rethinking Environmental Responsibility: Heidegger, Profound Boredom, and the Alterity of Nature

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Ross, Andrew Peter
Heidegger , Environmental Philosophy , Nature , Boredom
Beginning with an overview of the appropriation of Heidegger’s thought to environmental philosophy, I proceed to identify two themes as holding a prominent place within the current literature: Heidegger’s conception of primordial nature or physis as well as the notion of “poetic dwelling”. Drawing on both of these themes, I argue that a prominent implication of Heidegger’s thought for environmental philosophy concerns the conservation of the natural world’s “natural otherness”—its differences from and indifference to humanity. However, within the current discussion concerning the conservation of nature’s otherness little is said concerning nature itself. The question arises as to whether or not non-human natural beings compel us to protect and conserve their differences. How does nature “call” us to protect its otherness? Following this, Chapter Two seeks to establish the relevance of Heidegger’s theory of moods for answering the question at hand. In particular, I illustrate the potential of moods by comparing the occurrence of an “equipmental breakdown” with the mood of “anxiety” (Angst). While the former experience exposes Dasein to nature’s “ownness”—its Being outside of the worldhood—its potential insight is easily re-subsumed into the world of work and projects. In contrast, the experience of anxiety avoids such a shortcoming while simultaneously disclosing Dasein as responsible for what it makes of its existence. These features, or so I argue, demonstrate the relevance of moods in answering the question of this project. Having established the relevance of moods I return, in Chapter Three, to the question posed at the outset of this thesis. Specifically, I investigate the nature of nature’s call by exploring the phenomenology of “profound boredom” as Heidegger presents it in The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics: World, Finitude, Solitude. Significantly, profound boredom discloses nature in a distinctly primordial manner, while simultaneously revealing Dasein to be responsible for its own there-being. In light of this disclosure, I argue that within the experience of profound boredom primordial nature can be interpreted as calling Dasein towards responsibility, not by demand or challenge, but through its ambiguous indifference towards Dasein and its choices.
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