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Philosophy, Literature, Culture
Editor: Michael Marder
The goal of the Critical Plant Studies is to initiate an interdisciplinary dialogue, whereby philosophy and literature would learn from each other to think about, imagine, and describe, vegetal life with critical awareness, conceptual rigor, and ethical sensitivity. Literary works featuring plant imagery may be analyzed with reference to philosophical frameworks, while philosophical discussions of the meanings of vegetal life may be enriched and supported with the tools of literary criticism. Another dialogic dimension of the series entails a sustained engagement between Western and non-Western philosophies and religious traditions, representative of the human attitudes to plants. This “cross-pollination” of different fields of knowledge and experience will become possible thanks to the fundamental role plants play in human life, regardless of their backgrounding or neglect.
Ethically stated, the aim of the book series is to encourage an incremental shift of cultural attitudes from a purely instrumental to a respectful approach to vegetal beings. This is particularly important at the current time of the global environmental crisis, when massive de-forestation, seed patenting, and profit-driven agriculture threaten the very future of life on the planet. Not only will works included in the series shed light on the being of plants, but they will also assist us in critically thinking through the crucial issues and challenges of the contemporary world. Bioethics and genetic engineering, of which plants were the first examples; the role of spirituality and holism in the techno-scientific age; the reliance of our imagination and creativity on elements of the “natural” world; global food shortages and sustainable agricultural practices; the roots of our thinking and writing in other-than-human, vegetal processes, such as growth and decay, germination and branching out, fecundation and fruition—books included in Critical Plant Studies will, in one way or another, touch upon these and related themes central to the philosophy, literature, and culture of the twenty-first century.
Thus, we are looking to publish a mix of specialized manuscripts and introductory texts on the theory, literary criticism, and religious or aesthetic appreciation of plant life. Each title in the series will combine at least two of the disciplines listed above, with preference given to cutting-edge methodologies in comparative literature, comparative philosophy, comparative religious studies, etc., and trans-disciplinary approaches. Analyses of plant-related writings and artworks from any historical period and geographical area will be welcome.

The series has published an average of 0,5 volumes per year since 2013.
Author: Michael Marder

Abstract

The goal of this article is to outline a triangular nexus between life, death, and attention. Not only does the act of attending animate or enliven consciousness in the passage from inactional and indeterminate potentiality to the actional determination of a noema but it also coincides with intentionality, itself the form of life proper to consciousness. Upon outlining the “enlivening” element in attention and the overlap between attention and psychic life as such, I will discuss its deadening aspects understood both in terms of the petrifaction resulting from a fixed, attentive, captivated gaze and, more positively, in terms of the potentiality of the inactional mode, in which consciousness lies dormant.

In: Research in Phenomenology
In: Why Look at Plants?
Author: Michael Marder

Abstract

This essay imagines the shape a phenomenology of betrayal would assume at the limits of phenomenology. With Caravaggio’s 1602 painting Cattura di Cristo for an aesthetic backdrop, I consider the paradoxical structure of betrayal with its interwoven strands of a surplus disclosure and a breach of trust. I go on to elaborate the relation of this complex term, at once positive and negative, to time, conceptuality, and truth. Ultimately, I am interested in how betrayal as a limit of phenomenology, where the coherence of intentionality and its correlations or of intuition and its fulfillments break down, underwrites the very possibility of phenomenological endeavor.

In: Research in Phenomenology
Author: Michael Marder

Abstract

The goal of “Phenomenology of Distraction” is to explore the imbrication of attention and distraction within existential spatiality and temporality. First, I juxtapose the Heideggerian dispersion of concern (which includes, among other things, the attentive comportment) in everyday life, conceived as a way to get distracted from one’s impending mortality, to Fernando Pessoa’s embracing of the inauthentic, superficial, and restless existence, where attention necessarily reverts into distraction. Second, I consider the philosophical confessions of St. Augustine and Jean-Jacques Rousseau as evidence for the proto-phenomenological temporal synthesis that hinges upon distraction and dispersion, despite the confessors’ best efforts to pay attention to their inner life and to concentrate it in the eternal present. The paper concludes with an assessment of the ethical effects of mutual distraction, outlining a model of “distracted intersubjectivity.”

In: Research in Phenomenology