Project Details

Environmental Metaphysics

Brian G. Henning, 2017, Fellow Visitor

I am currently working on a book-length manuscript that defends an „environmental metaphysics“ based on Alfred North Whitehead‘s (1861-1947) „philosophy of organism.“ Extending my work in, The Ethics of Creativity: Beauty, Morality, and Nature in a Processive Cosmos, the basic premise of this new book is that the last four decades of debate in environmental ethics over the scope and nature of intrinsic value failed to achieve any significant progress because most participants refused to examine the metaphysical assumptions on which their axiology is based. Thus, I defend both the need for and then a specific version of environmental metaphysics that serves as the basis for a compelling environmental ethics. This work is novel in that the field of environmental metaphysics does not yet exist.

While at KLI in the summer of 2017, I propose to work on one chapter of this larger work. Specifically, I will examine the scientific and philosophical research concerning planetary-level homeostasis, also known as the Gaia hypothesis. This relates to and extends my earlier work examining the ontology of homeostasis in social insects (see „Of Termites and Men: On the Ontology of Collective Individuals“). My claim is (1) that Whitehead’s philosophy of organism is able to account for the forms of ontological individuality implied by planetary-level homeostasis in a way that modern and ancient substance-based metaphysics cannot and (2) that such an account leads to a more adequate environmental metaphysics and ethics.