Uwe Voigt

Having studied philosophy, psychology and Catholic theology at the Otto-Friedrich-University in Bamberg, Germany and for one year at Innsbruck University, Austria, Uwe Voigt received his PhD in Bamberg with a dissertation on the concept of history in John Amos Comenius. At the same institution, he did his “Habilitation” (second major thesis) on information terminology in the light of Aristotle’s concept of the soul. Uwe Voigt now holds a chair of analytic philosophy and philosophy of science at Augsburg University, Germany. From this position, he has contributed to an academic partnership with the Memorial University of Newfoundland for more than a decade, becoming an Adjunct Professor there.

Contemplating classical topics of philosophy with methods from philosophical analysis and phenomenology, Uwe Voigt investigates the intersections between philosophy of mind, especially panpsychism, and environmental philosophy, viewing environmental aesthetics as a place where the crossroads meet.

For more information (in German) and a bibliography, link here.

Barry Stephenson

Barry Stephenson’s teaching and research includes the study of ritual, religion and the arts, and religion in modernity. He received his Ph.D. in Religious Studies from the University of Calgary, in 2005. He resides in St. John’s, in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, where he is Associate Professor of Religious Studies in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador (MUN, for short).

A former co-chair of the Ritual Studies Group of the American Academy of Religion, Professor Stephenson was for several years co-editor of Oxford University Press’s Ritual Studies Series. He currently co-directs the After Church Atlas research project, with colleague Dr. Nicholas Lynch. He is author of Excursions in Ritual Studies, Ritual: a very short introduction, Performing the Reformation: Public Ritual in the City of Luther, and Veneration and Revolt: Hermann Hesse and Swabian Pietism. With colleagues Sean McGrath and Kyla Bruff (MUN) he founded and runs the not-for-profit For a New Earth, an environmental action group aiming to raise ecological awareness and activism in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Joachim Rathmann

Joachim Rathmann teaches and conducts research on human-environment relations at Julius-Maximilians-Universität of Würzburg, where he works at the chair of Geography and Regional Science in the Institute of Geography and Geology. He is an adjunct professor at the School of Science and the Environment at Memorial University in Newfoundland. His research includes the study of cultural ecosystem services, human-environment relations, philosophy of nature and landscape theory (landscape aesthetics, therapeutic landscapes, environmental-economic landscape assessment.

Tanehisa Otabe

Tanehisa Otabe is professor of aesthetics at the University of Tokyo. His areas of interest cover eighteenth century German aesthetics as well as intercultural aesthetics. His publications in German include: Ästhetische Subjektivität. Romantik und Moderne (Würzburg 2005) and Kulturelle Identität und Selbstbild. Aufklärung und Moderne in Japan und Deutschland (Berlin 2011). He edited the special issue “The Unconscious” of The Journal of Aesthetics and Phenomenology, vol. 6, issue 2 (2019).

Humboldt Research Fellow (1999–2000, 2005), Philipp Franz von Siebold Award (2007), a board member of the International Schelling-Society (2010– ), President of the Japanese Society for Aesthetics (2013–16), President of the Japanese Schelling-Society (2016–20), Assistant Secretary General of the International Association for Aesthetics (2016–2019) and Member of the Japan Academy (2022– ).

Jason Wirth

Dr. Jason M. Wirth is professor and chair of philosophy at Seattle University and works and teaches in the areas of Continental Philosophy, Buddhist Philosophy, Aesthetics (especially film, painting, poetry, and the novel), and Environmental Philosophy. His recent books include Nietzsche and Other Buddhas: Philosophy after Comparative Philosophy (Indiana 2019), Mountains, Rivers, and the Great Earth: Reading Gary Snyder and Dōgen in an Age of Ecological Crisis (SUNY 2017), a monograph on Milan Kundera (Commiserating with Devastated Things, Fordham 2015), Schelling’s Practice of the Wild (SUNY 2015), and the co-edited volume (with Bret Davis and Brian Schroeder), Japanese and Continental Philosophy: Conversations with the Kyoto School (Indiana 2011). He is the associate editor and book review editor of the journal, Comparative and Continental Philosophy. He is currently completing a manuscript on the cinema of Terrence Malick as well as a work of ecological philosophy called Turtle Island Anarchy.

The Project

The aim of this project in the history of philosophy, environmental ethics, religious studies, and aesthetics is to critically compare the European and Asian traditions of the aesthetics of nature in order to gain a better understanding of the conceptual underpinnings of our current environmental crisis. Climate change, wilderness depletion, and ecological ruin are symptomatic of transformations in human attitudes to nature. These changing attitudes to nature are not only scientific, they are also aesthetic, expressive of transformed assumptions concerning beauty, order, and the human’s place in nature. While the two aesthetic traditions to be compared in this project may initially seem opposed, with the European tradition emphasizing form and permanence and the Asian tradition emphasizing impermanence and “emptiness” (a translation of the Buddhist term, Sūnyatā), the reality is more complex. The European tradition deteriorated in the 19th century. The late Romantic subjectification and marginalization of European aesthetics coincided with the exploitation and management of nature without regard for its aesthetic or moral value. Meanwhile, in the Asian tradition, aesthetic form was never assumed to be purely objective, intelligible and enduring, but was always viewed in relation to the emptiness from which it was inseparable. Both the Western and Asian traditions of environmental aesthetics have now given way to more modern, utilitarian approaches to development and preservation. This project aims to explore the potential for comparative environmental aesthetics to offer a deeper understanding of the legacies of both the European and Asian traditions and a more sustainable global attitude towards nature.

The project is organised around three main research objectives. (O1) To what degree is environmental crisis a consequence of aesthetic marginalisation? (O2) Is aesthetic marginalisation the inevitable outcome of the traditional European aesthetics of form? (O3) What can environmental ethics learn from a critical re-appraisal of European aesthetics in the light of the Japanese aesthetics of emptiness?

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Joachim Rathmann will be leading our discussion on the theme:

“Timefullness: The Geological Sublime in an Age of Environmental Crises.”

Monday the 30th of October at 5:30 pm Eastern Time.

Sean McGrath

Sean McGrath lives in St. John’s, Newfoundland, with his wife and son, where he is a Full Professor of Philosophy at Memorial University and a member of the College of the Royal Society of Canada. A self-described environmentalist, although with a more conservative than leftist leaning, McGrath and his family spend their summers in an off-grid cabin they built on a hill overlooking Conception Bay North. He is also the founder of a Non-Profit Organization in Newfoundland called For a New Earth , which galvanizes local political will around ecological issues in the province.

He is the author of many books, including The Early Heidegger and Medieval PhilosophyHeidegger: A (Very) Critical Introduction, The Dark Ground of Spirit: Schelling and the Unconscious (Routledge), and the recently published Thinking Nature: An Essay in Negative EcologyMcGrath also serves as the co-chair of the North American Schelling Society (which he founded with Jason Wirth in 2011) and the editor of two academic journals: Kabiri: The Official Journal of the North American Schelling Society, and Analecta Hermeneutica: The Official Journal of the International Institute for Hermeneutics.

Cupids Retreat

The inaugural meeting of the WGEA is to be held in Cupids, in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. Cupids, founded in 1612 by the English, is one of the oldest European settlements in “the New World.” The purpose of the inaugural in-person meeting is to create the team spirit and establish the collegial relations necessary for long-term collaborative research across three continents. The location of Cupids has been chosen because of its proximity to Memorial University as well as its cultural-historical significance and for the obvious natural beauty of the environment of Conception Bay North. We shall make use of the Cupids Legacy centre for our meetings.(https://cupidslegacycentre.ca/).

The program will consist of three days of a gentle cycle of meetings, meals, and excursions. For the meetings, members will prepare a brief presentation of research interests and to say something about what they hope to contribute and to gain from the project. If you have something substantial you would like to share with us, a position paper or outline for research, please feel free to do so. We shall take 45 minutes for each presentation.

For the excursions, we shall be walking the hiking trails around Cupids, picking berries and mushrooms, and hiking the hill to the Hermitage, my off-grid home. There we shall prepare mid-day meals and continue informal discussions. Evening meals will be catered in Cupids.

Date: August 23-26, 2023