Philosophy Speakers Series - Theodore Toadvine (University of Oregon)
"The Fundamental Paradox of a Phenomenology of Nature"
I argue that the fundamentally ambiguous relationship of humans and nature—that we inescapably count ourselves simultaneously as enclosed within an all-encompassing natural environment and as alienated or distinct from it—is not a mere confusion or linguistic equivocation but has its roots in our experience of nature. This Janus-faced experience of nature is founded on the constitutive slippage of reflection’s relation to itself, the lack of coincidence between the I that reflects and the self on which it reflects. This slippage reveals an excess or remainder of reflection, precisely what conditions reflection while avoiding thematization by reflection. This remainder, I argue, is the natural element within reflection that can only appear to it indirectly, as a resistance or withdrawal. Our experiences of the autonomy and aloofness of nature, in the encounter with wildness for example, or as revealed in certain works of art, are founded on this experience of the withdrawal of the grounds of reflection that both condition and elude it. Nature’s immemorial aspect, by which it reveals itself as a withdrawal that cannot be strictly presented, is therefore also the constitutive limit of any phenomenology of nature.