EGENIS seminar: "Climate Trauma and the Virtue of Cooperation", Rachel Elliott (Visiting researcher, University of Exeter)

Egenis seminar series

An Egenis, the Centre for the Study of Life Sciences seminar
Date28 November 2022
Time15:30 to 17:00
PlaceHybrid

Climate change is expected to increase the incidence of trauma and mental illness through several different mechanisms. Trauma can in part be understood as a modulation in subjective temporality, which could be described as a limit on the openness of what Husserl calls protention, a phenomenon otherwise described by Winnicott in Fear of Breakdown as a search in the future for what happened in the past. Without a robustly open protentional temporal structure, we become less able to react to indeterminate stimuli in new ways. The raised incidence of trauma associated with the environmental crisis combined with the future-altering nature of traumatic consciousness creates an array of problems for the possibility of marshalling a collective response to climate change. In this talk, I would like to focus on the impact of trauma on virtue ethical approaches to the climate change crisis.

Virtue ethics arguably stands out compared to other normative ethical theories in its attention to the genetic or developmental side of ethical agency: it asks how we become the sorts of people capable of perceiving and acting ethically (doing the right thing at the right time in the right way, as Aristotle put it). Environmental virtue ethicists like Byron Williston portray the virtues not a fixed list of universally valuable character traits such as bravery, generosity, and honesty, but as context-dependent behavioral dispositions which strike or restore what John Dewey might describe as an equilibrium in the relation between organism and environment. Williston has put forward a list of the virtues which he thinks would strike such a balance in the context of climate change, and one of them is the virtue of cooperation. This seminar will therefore explore the connections between the subjective temporality of trauma and the virtue of cooperation in connection with the climate change crisis.  

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