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Class Notes 9/28

EVD's picture

We started class by disussing some of the posts people made since the last class on A Field Guide to Getting Lost.

In response to...SandraG: "Getting found once you are in this position seems to be the harder action to complete"...a few classmates decided that you can delve into any subject and get lost but the hard part is making sense of it all and finding yourself afterward. Though Solnit says that it is most difficult to lose yourself, perhaps in intellectual studies it is harder to find yourself after exposure to a lot of information.

In response to ...veritatemdilexi: "who dictates 'lost'?" the group suggested that it is not always clear when you lose yourself or how to really decide if you are "lost"

In response to...FatCatRex: "changing of agency around place, that we are a part of place and it is a part of us, could really set us free to be lost .... if we assume geography is in control, then bring on the terra incognita" We discussed how attachment to places can be important and if "place" dictates where you are then you can get lost more easily and therefore be "free" by "handing agency over the to the place" -adalke

Then we started discussing “deep ecology”:

-the book seems to begin as a personal memoir and then give historical evidence and finally Naess begins explaining his "program" in general...begins less broad and more personal and then becomes more broad and general

- perhaps Naess is trying to write this book from the point of view of nature rather than a human's point of view so that his book avoids being human-centric (which is something he warns against) this possible?? the class consensus seemed to be that it is not possible

Next everyone gave a "bulletpoint" for the book..something that was an overarching idea:

- the book couples religion, philosophy and ecology

- can we distinguish a common platform? what are the fundamental features of deep ecology?

- we must consider the primary and secondary properties of nature (they can be distinguished but one is not necessarily "better" than the other)

- we need to act on the world being damaged but realize that progress is not always positive

- how do we find joy in a world of fact?...By finding joy in activities that have purpose

- "reality is all possibilities"

- the process of humanity is "place-corrosive"…we don't think of nature as a place but really we should consider our immediate place (in the moment) as most important

- p. 140 "abstract knowledge is not sufficient" and we should lead complex lives, not complicated lives...we should not just lead intellectual lives but perform actions in our lives that cause change

- p.222- rules are important and form our principles...rules should govern our actions and we should not obey any rules that are not our principles

- p. 140- "neophilia" is bad…someone in the class suggested that maybe the environmentalism movement is part of this neophilia intellectual neophilia acceptable? someone suggests that you don't necessarily have to be obsessed with "newness" to appreciate intellectual progress. Someone suggested that it is good to try new things but if a new thing does not fit with your principles then you should discard it

- overpopulation of humans

- fulfillment is individual

- consider all views but seek a total view

- humans have inherent value just as nature has inherent value...something can have value without being of benefit to humans

Next we discussed some of the specific components of the book…

-          Most environmental work is human-centric so can we have a perspective of ecology that is correct and not human-centric?

-          He starts the book talking about HIS “place” and his own work, how he lives only satisfying his “vital needs”

-          He next moves to more broader subjects like the deep ecology movement and the methodologies and systems of this movement (and finally gives his philosophical reasons for this movement)…essentially moves from his self outwards

-          Is Naess forcing his opinions on you? Perhaps Naess just wants to be inspirational and does not expect to make others follow him necessarily since he is so ambitious in his beliefs…About half of the class found him too demanding

-          How is this book like a memoir? Is it located in his life?...Since he did live following his own principles then in a way he is just telling his own story of how he lives

-          How does ecology connect with Buddhism? Mindfulness in Buddhism means always living in the moment (concentrating on one’s current “place”) but Buddhists also value detachment (rather than attachment to a place)...Is this a contradiction? Someone offered a solution- that you don’t have to be “attached” to a place to be a part of it

-each person can have his or her own ecosophy because it is based on our own points of view…this makes Naess’s writing abstract in a sense and therefore it is not demanding us to do anything but merely explaining his point of view

What would the Naess say to the other authors???

Naess to Shields: Naess would say the ideas are too human-centric and that there is an unknown world and unexplored territory yet to be discovered…but Naess would agree that you can’t “claim truth”

Naess to Bechdel: Would he appreciate her self-realization? He would think her story is too human-centric but would still appreciate the biographical aspect of her book because he clearly is interested in biographies of others (like the people he mentions in his book) and he would realize that he might be able to learn from her story because there isn’t one philosophy or teaching that is applicable to everything so everything has value…diversity has value

Naess to Solnit: He would agree with her notions of starting over in new places, taking risks and disconnecting from reality…however, they both value “place attachment” and a commitment to “home” (but are still willing to explore the unknown)




maht91's picture

At the beginning of the

At the beginning of the class, we also discussed the conversation that Prof. Anne started with her reply and comments on our papers. She invited us to engage in the conversation by reading each other papers and commenting on them.

Then we went on to talking about Rebecca Solnit and A Field Guide to Getting Lost. We discussed that Solnit wanted us to get lost, but most people don't want or don't enjoy the experience of getting lost. One classmate suggested that the task of finding yourself is harder than losing yourself. I agree with it because you can engage in a conversation and get lost intellectually for instance, but finding your way out and making sense of what just happened is the harder task. I also think that the experience of finding yourself is the more rewarding experience since it is the experience when you discover your interests and improve your thinking skills. Two students focused on the idea of getting lost intellectually, and how it is rewarding and satisfying to be lost intellectually because the outcome outweighs the experience of getting lost. One student suggested that if a person is physically focused, it is easier to get lost metaphorically.

We next moved on to talk about believing and disbelieving what Naess said in his book The Ecology of Wisdom. We discussed how it included transition from essay to essay and from talking about personal stories to broader ideas. The fun part is when we all got to share our favorite idea from the essays and summarizing them as bullet points. EVD summarized our bullet points above.

We then posed the question: What is Deep Ecology? We compared deep (Every human being has the right to blossom) versus shallow (Looking only at a human level). One student said that it is hard to write a book about nature especially that Naess is a human. Others said that people might feel resistant to Naess's book because he is telling people what to think. I think that each one of us can interpret the book differently, we could just read what Naess said, think about it, but the final decision belongs to us. We might, of course, be affected by what Naess says, but the final say is ours and we dictate how to live our lives. Prof. Anne proposed the question, is Naess trying to tell us how to live? In response to that, one student said that we don't have to agree with what Naess is saying, but we have to be aware of our actions, and try to lesson them if they negatively affect nature.

A discussion topic that Prof. Anne proposed concerns the structure of the book as a whole and where does Naess locate himself. One student said that in the beginning pages, Naess describes his life, where he lived, and where he hunted. The idea of satisfying vital needs was brought up suggesting that we only need to satisfy our vital needs and there is no need to go further. In response to that, one student said, don't we all like living with more than our vital needs met! This is true of most people, which perhaps does not agree with Naess's ideas all the way.

The next discussion topic that was proposed was the places in the new world. We discussed how Naess started with his real experiences in the real world. He started with a personal movement of self, to principles of a larger movement.

Again, the idea that Naess is only sharing his personal opinion came up again. One student said that we don't have to abide by what Naess is saying, he is simply sharing his opinion about the life he lived, and that does not necessarily mean that we have to live our lives that way he lived his.

We also discussed the relationship between ecology and Buddhism and how detached and connected the two are. Professor Anne said that there is no permanent self. A student suggested that an observer can change the situation. Also, the idea that removing ourselves from the world is a fantasy was an interesting issue.

Finally, we went on to comparing Naess to the previous writers we talked about beginning of the semester. First, Bechdel vs. Naess vs. Shields, of the three, Shields is the one who is recycling ideas from other people. Bechdel vs. Naess, Bechdel was not big enough, or not abstract enough compared to Naess. Naess took it to the next level, to a larger and broader movement of principles. As for Solnit vs. Naess, both of them value place attachment.

From our class discussion, I think that we can treat Shields and Naess the same in the sense that we don't need to accept what they are saying as truth. We don't need to accept what Naess is saying about the steps we need to take to rescue the earth if those steps don't agree with our goals and ways of living. On a similar note, we don't need to accept what Shields is saying about ignoring the boundaries and copyrights. Shields just gave us his opinions and his ideas about the way he sees things, I don't need to reject what he said, but read it and consider it. We can read and get lost with the ideas that we are reading; those of Shields and/or Naess, it is okay to get lost, as Solnit wants us to, because in the end, the reward is when we find ourselves and learn. Both Bechdel and Naess shared their stories with the audience, how life was for them, and invited the reader into their minds and life experiences, perhaps, the reader can connect somehow with what they are reading.


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