Session 8

Friday, June 4

10:30–12:00 (Helsinki, EEST, UTC +3), Congress Room 2

Chair: Marcello Ruta

CANCELLED: Daniela Matysová (Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic)

Ethical Demand of the Beautiful World

The paper focuses on the problem of an aesthetic appreciation of Nature on the base of Emmanuel Levinas´ philosophy. I am not concerned with any particular environmental phenomenon but I am going to explore a general question of whether or not our aesthetic experience necessarily presupposes the ethical (as the fundament of ecological) attitude toward the world.

Although Levinas himself is mostly occupied by the problems of philosophical ethics, we can find a few comments posing the “beauty of the world” as the source of our non-utilitarian and respectful listening to the primordial meaning of the world through which our life is touched by its proper sense. According to Levinas, thanks to the beautiful we encounter the sense of the world which is equaled with its essential character of humanity and goodness. Thanks to the other people we can be radically affected (i.e. without any possibility to avoid) by the ethical demand of Nature, living beings, or ordinary things that call for justice in our treating them.

The reason behind is that Levinas asserts that our primary nature is egoistic and violent: to be able to survive, in our everyday ordinary acting and thinking we have to manage the things, beings, and environment through our powers. Most often unconsciously, we suppress the alterity, the enigma, and meaning independent of our aims and needs. If the other is the first one who is able to put our natural attitude in question and wake up our ethical, “contra-natural” sensibility – he is also able to show us the intrinsic enigmatic and beautiful layer of the world forever evading our grasp and reduction to the set of usable tools. Because we always learn what the world is through the speech of the other who always speaks about the world from an irrevocably different perspective from ours.

Other people shake our naive and egoistic possessing the world: thanks to them we realize the world is not there exclusively for us but has divine – and according to Levinas aesthetic – dimension. It is the place we share and which we are obliged to safe for the ethical respect to others who lived and worked before us, who live and suffer alongside us and have the right to safely live here after us.

Corinna Casi (University of Helsinki, Finland)

Decolonizing Environmental Ethics: Rebalancing the Values Distribution of Nature

In a more and more populated world, where the living space is shrinking constantly, non-human species are suffering even to a greater extend. They are threatened by extinction, habitat loss, increasing pollution, climate change, etc. In this view the colonization space on the earth is a fact as well as the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic made more evident the importance of vital and livable space. In this perspective, the importance of values, which are connected to our priorities, is even more evident.

This paper addresses the need of shedding light on the importance of non-economic values of nature, in respect of its economic aspect, in order to decolonialize the value distribution humans appropriated to nature.

The paper introduces the topic of the values of nature then to focus on few types of values that are relevant to develop a framework of non-economic values of nature for my doctoral research.

One of the scope of this paper is to suggest that non-economic types of values of nature –such as the aesthetics, ecological, moral values etc. –can play a role in guiding environmental decision-making and environmental policies as Inayatullah (1998, p. 820) and Slaughter (2002, 14) have suggested concerning ecological values.

The analysis of the values of nature will help to introduce another important topic concerning the decolonization of environmental ethics.

As a matter of fact, the novelty of the article is represented by unveiling the colonial perspective of the philosophical field of environmental ethics, with the special focus on the colonial nature of value distribution –when talking about value of nature. The article shows that the uneven significance and relevance of different values of nature, referring to the higher importance of the economic aspect vis-à-vis with the devaluation of non-economic aspects of nature, is a sign of the colonial attitude undermining part of environmental ethics.

In this perspective, I claim that decolonizing environmental ethics means rebalancing the different values of nature, allowing the non-economic aspects to offer their due and therefore to show their potential.

The attention of non-economic value of nature can also reflect the acceptance of our responsibilities toward other humans (such as minority groups and Indigenous people for instance) and other non-human species belonging to the present and future generation inhabiting the planet earth.

Tereza Špinková (Masaryk University in Brno, Czech Republic):

Can We Give Them a Voice?

The sixth mass extinction is one of drastic human-induced environmental changes currently underway. Elisabeth Kolbert, author of the 2014 non-fiction book The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, estimates that flora and fauna loss by the end of our century will be between 20 and 50 percent of all living species on Earth. The apocalyptic visuality of these catastrophic and word-ending perspectives leads (according to for example Bruno Latour, Naomi Klein, Donna Haraway or Rosi Braidotti) to our incapacitation and nihilism. What can art, situated somewhere between poetic, abstract and political expression, bring in order for us to better understand the present situation and imagine the future? Contemporary theorist T. J. Demos asks: “How can we cultivate futures of justice and multispecies flourishing?” In this presentation, I would like to focus on the question how art, created by us human beings, can help us find a sustainable way to cohabitate with other non-human creatures on this planet.

The human relationship with animals has transformed throughout history, which has been manifested in art accordingly. For a long period of time, animals were perceived as inferior and unintelligent. By the end of the 20th century, artists started following the changing relationship between humans and nature, including animals. In the last two decades, they have often built on the current theories that criticize the anthropocentric worldview and propose trending away from the old modernist thinking that separates nature from culture. This trend has manifested itself in audiovisual art quite significantly, which is the reason why I chose to focus on it in my presentation. It also sets the time frame of this paper: audiovisual media has become increasingly common in the 21st century, mainly due to the increased availability of technologies and the development of Web 2.0.

My presentation should outline (through the specific artwork by for example Neozoon, Maja Smrekar, Pierre Huyghe or Dominik Gajarský) the possible answers to the following question: How does audiovisual art react to the line of thought formulated by current philosophy and sociology that criticizes the anthropocentric worldview? This topic is also intertwined with ethical and (necro)political issues and raises further questions, such as: what is our position towards these ‘mute creatures,’ can we give them a voice? Do we have a right to do so and, if so, under what conditions?