New Insights into Nature
Forty-Sixth Annual International Jean Gebser Society Conference
In conjunction with Seattle University Philosophy Department
7-9 OCTOBER 2016
For Jean Gebser, philosophy is rooted in a structure of consciousness that has dominated the west for the past two and a half thousand years. It is an expression of what he terms the ‘mental-rational ontology’, which according to him has been shifting into its deficient phase or ‘fragmentation’ for the past five hundred years.
What are the implications for philosophy’s future? Alfred North Whitehead said, “It is the business of the future to be dangerous”. Part of the current philosophical task is our ability to see our own place in history, be aware of the nature of our perspective. Are we imprisoned by the invisible measures of the Western mental-rational perspective? Or can we give categories a radical new flexibility? Do we have the ability to think in another dimension about ourselves beyond the realm of logos?
The 46th International Jean Gebser Society conference looked at this question with regard to the ever-shifting perception of philosophy’s first examination: nature.
The conference explored the following questions:
- Is nature understood today as more a symptom of something else we haven’t yet discovered? Or has it become a mere abstraction? A construction?
- Does our current understanding of nature ask too much of us?
- How do our perceptions of nature affect the politics of existence?
- What happens when we integrate the social with the natural, how does this complicate the conventions of nature?
“New Insights into Nature” intended to evoke and widen the dialogue on the urgency of the subject of nature. Rather than generalizing, romanticizing or poeticizing– it proceeded as Gebser suggested, by being open to lived experience and abandoning our inherited views of reality. He proposed a method of verification and verition to ware. By this he meant to cultivate “care, patience, trust, creativity, receptivity, and listening” as a way of gaining new insight– or in the language of Trinh T Min Ha, an insight that is actually physically located in site. Papers from all disciplines, and all forms of media, that can offer genuine in site were encouraged.
Day one — Friday, 7th October
Presentation of hand-drawn map of Seattle with key landmarks relative to conference theme, Donna Schill, MFA