We have been told that we are living in the Anthropocene, a geological era shaped by humans rather than by nature. In Enlivenment, German philosopher Andreas Weber presents an alternative understanding of our relationship with nature, arguing not that humans control nature but that humans and nature exist in a commons of mutual transformation. There is no nature–human dualism, he contends, because the fundamental dimension of existence is shared in what he calls "aliveness." All subjectivity is intersubjectivity. Self is self-through-other. Seeing all beings in a common household of matter, desire, and imagination, an economy of metabolic and economic transformation, is “enlivenment.” This perspective allows us to move beyond Enlightenment-style thinking that strips material reality of any subjectivity.
To take this step, Weber argues, we need to supplant the concept of techné with the concept of poiesis as the element that brings forth reality. In a world not divided into things and ideas, culture and nature, reality arises from the creation of relationships and continuous fertile transformations; any thinking in terms of relationships comes about as a poetics. The self is always a function of the whole; the whole is equally a function of the individual. Only this integrated freedom allows humanity to reconcile with the natural world.
This first English edition of Enlivenment has been expanded and updated from the German edition.
Don't care about ecology? You think you don't, but you might all the same. Don't read ecology books? This book is for you.
Ecology books can be confusing information dumps that are out of date by the time they hit you. Slapping you upside the head to make you feel bad. Grabbing you by the lapels while yelling disturbing facts. Handwringing in agony about “What are we going to do?” This book has none of that. Being Ecological doesn't preach to the eco-choir. It's for you—even, Timothy Morton explains, if you're not in the choir, even if you have no idea what choirs are. You might already be ecological.
After establishing the approach of the book (no facts allowed!), Morton draws on Kant and Heidegger to help us understand living in an age of mass extinction caused by global warming. He considers the object of ecological awareness and ecological thinking: the biosphere and its interconnections. He discusses what sorts of actions count as ecological—starting a revolution? going to the garden center to smell the plants? And finally, in “Not a Grand Tour of Ecological Thought,” he explores a variety of current styles of being ecological—a range of overlapping orientations rather than preformatted self-labeling.
Caught up in the us-versus-them (or you-versus-everything else) urgency of ecological crisis, Morton suggests, it's easy to forget that you are a symbiotic being entangled with other symbiotic beings. Isn't that being ecological?