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Elemental imagination

deconstructive phenomenology and the sense of environmental ethics

Sam Mickey

pp. 159-175

Many researchers and activists have shown that the global ecological crisis is largely due to anthropocentric attitudes, whereby humans have acted as if they have a privileged position that legitimates efforts to control the natural environment for human gain. Although many non-anthropocentric theories and practices have been proposed to counteract anthropocentrism, all of these centrisms have problems, as they presuppose a false dichotomy between humans and the rest of the world. This dichotomy can be overcome through participation in imagination, particularly insofar as imagination is shown to be an elemental force and not merely a faculty of human thinking or perceiving. Such an elemental imagination is conveyed through deconstructive phenomenology, which is a phenomenology exposed to and responsible for what shows itself in all its complexity and alterity. There are many prominent theorists who practice deconstructive phenomenology, of which this chapter draws on three: Jean-Luc Nancy, who expresses a philosophy of the sense of the world, John Sallis, who develops a monstrous account of the force of imagination, and David Wood, who coined the phrase deconstructive phenomenology. Irreducible to the dichotomy between anthropocentric and non-anthropocentric, participation in the elemental force of imagination can be better described as anthropocosmic, an adjective that marks the relations interconnecting humans with elemental nature. An anthropocosmic sense of environmental ethics promotes responsible actions that are determined not by referring to any exclusive or determinate center, but by imagining possibilities and deliberating about the risks and opportunities facing a diverse plurality of shifting and indeterminate centers.

Publication details

DOI: 10.1007/978-1-4614-9619-9_10

Full citation:

Mickey, S. (2014)., Elemental imagination: deconstructive phenomenology and the sense of environmental ethics, in F. Castrillón (ed.), Ecopsychology, phenomenology, and the environment, Dordrecht, Springer, pp. 159-175.

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