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5/20 – Bruce Matthews on Schelling, the Anthropocene, and the Annihilation of Nature @ Brooklyn Public Philosophers

May 20, 2015 @ 7:00 am - 8:30 pm

| Free

According to many geologists, we have lately entered a new epoch, characterized by the mass extinctions and sweeping ecological changes caused by human behavior. The name they have proposed for this epoch is the anthropocene. What can philosophy contribute to understanding life in the anthropocene, and how can life in the anthropocene influence how we do philosophy?

On Wednesday 5/20 at 7:00 P.M., Bruce Matthews (Duke University) joins BKPP to discuss these questions, and how the work of the 19th century German philosopher F.W.J. Schelling can help answer them. It’s the last talk of BKPP’s second year (!), so get your public philosophy while the getting’s good. Here’s a bit more about the talk, in Dr. Matthews’ words:

“Schelling in the Anthropocene: Thinking Beyond the Annihilation of Nature”

The Anthropocene is the name proposed by scientists for the new geological age we now find ourselves in. It is literally an ‘age of humanity’ in which we have become the most significant shaper of the world (as the sun was in the Holocene).

In 1804, the German philosopher F.W.J. Schelling wrote of the future ‘annihilation of nature’ that would occur if we continued to value nature only for its economic worth. This prediction was grounded in his broader critique of modernity’s obsession with control and clarity, succinctly expressed in Descartes’ self-certain “I think, therefore I am.” Certainty and control, however, come at a high cost: making Nature a domain irreducibly detached and separate from our consciousness, with no inherent value beyond its instrumental value to our needs.

Thinking beyond the annihilation of nature is the attempt to think beyond this destructive frame of modernity. The question is: How might we use the rich resources of Schelling’s works – on art, on myth, on nature and religion – as a source and foil for creating a new way of understanding nature, ourselves and our relation to nature, so that we can move beyond, and thus hopefully stop or mitigate the radical changes we are causing to our world?

The very possible annihilation of nature we now face – annihilation not in the sense of the end all life, but referring to the nonetheless world-changing extinctions at hand – this possible annihilation creates a space for philosophical reflection that can no longer indulge in the luxury of more scholastic speculations, but must instead work to think creatively within the horizon of such a future.

As usual, we meet in the Info Commons Lab at the central branch of the Brooklyn Public Library (10 Grand Army Plaza).

Tell your friends/students/teachers/strangers! Bring a date! Bring your parents! Bring your kids! See you there, I hope!


May 20, 2015
7:00 am - 8:30 pm
Event Category:


Brooklyn Public Library, Info Commons Lab
10 Grand Army Plaza
Brooklyn, NY 11238 United States


Brooklyn Public Philosophers