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Anne Dalke's picture

"Speculative realism"

Liz just shared with me the current Chronicle Review (October 23, 2009) on "Confronting the Animal."

Like her, I see much overlap here w/ our conversations in the Evolving Systems group, along w/ some push back...Evidently (do you know anything about this trend, Bharath?) both the analytic and Continental traditions have begun questioning the "implicit anthropocentric bias that dominates philosophy," trying to "break apart the idea of the human subject as the center of things." This leads to one curious practice called "speculative realism," and to another called "speculative psychology," which is devoted to "ferreting out the specific psychic reality of earthworms," and of stone...

What really interests me in these nascent fields is their insistence that "we live in a huge nonhuman world": "Unique human adaptations might be understood as the outer skins of an onion; the inner layers represent a  much broader, deeper, and evolutionarily more ancient set of moral capacities shared by many social mammals...the vast majority of human moral behavior takes place 'below the radar" of consciousness...rational judgment and self-reflection actually play very small roles in social interactions."

So it's fun for me to think about how and where our discussions on Evolving Systems--which are looking so insistently @ what happens to the process of emergence when humans enter the picture--"rub up" against these new areas of inquiry. Are we attending to "human exceptionalism" just @ the time that the animal studies people are de-emphasizing its importance? Are we over-emphasizing its role in cultural evolution?

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