The Human Eros: Eco-Ontology and the Aesthetics of Existence

The Human Eros: Eco-Ontology and the Aesthetics of Existence

The Human Eros: Eco-Ontology and the Aesthetics of Existence

The Human Eros: Eco-Ontology and the Aesthetics of Existence

Synopsis

The Human Eros explores themes in classical American philosophy, primarily the thought of John Dewey, but also that of Ralph Waldo Emerson, George Santayana, and Native American traditions. Alexander's primary claim is that human beings have an inherent need to experience meaning and value, a "Human Eros." Our
various cultures are symbolic environments or "spiritual ecologies" within which the Human Eros seeks to thrive. This is how we inhabit the earth.

Encircling and sustaining our cultural existence is nature, yet Western philosophy has not provided adequate conceptual models for thinking ecologically. Alexander introduces the idea of "eco-ontology" to explore ways in which this might be done, beginning with the primacy of Nature over Being but also including the recognition of possibility and potentiality as inherent aspects of existence. He argues for the centrality of Dewey's thought to an effective ecological philosophy. Both "pragmatism" and "naturalism," he shows, need to be contextualized within an emergentist, relational, nonreductive view of nature and an aesthetic, imaginative, nonreductive view of intelligence.

Excerpt

The essays gathered here, spanning over two decades, represent my own attempts to explore what may be called an “aesthetics of human existence” in terms of an ecological, humanistic naturalism. They include extensions of my earlier interpretation of the philosophy of John Dewey as well as studies of the thought of Ralph Waldo Emerson and George Santayana. I have also tried to establish connections with Asian philosophy, especially Buddhism, and with Native American wisdom traditions. the overall trajectory of these writings is to contextualize the ideas of “pragmatism” and “naturalism,” as popularly understood, within a broader and deeper philosophy of experience. This, too, is a loaded term. “Experience,” in the Deweyan sense used here, is our shared cultural inhabitation of the world. Art and the aesthetic, instead of being pushed

1. I hope to make clear what these terms connote, but I caution that any word ending in “-ism,” while sounding intellectual, is usually an excuse for unreflective, vague generalizations that mislead critical reflection.

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