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The Noetics of Nature

Environmental Philosophy and the Holy Beauty of the Visible

Bruce V. Foltz, Professor of Philosophy at Eckerd College and Founding President of the International Association for Environmental Philosophy, is the co-editor of Toward an Ecology of Transfiguration: Orthodox Christian Perspectives on Environment, Natu

Publication Year: 2013

Contemplative or “noetic” knowledge has traditionally been seen as the highest mode of understanding, a view that persists both in many non-Western cultures and in Eastern Christianity, where “theoria physike,” or the illumined understanding of creation that follows the purification of the heart, is seen to provide deeper insights into nature than the discursive rationality modernity has used to dominate and conquer it. Working from texts in Eastern Orthodox philosophy and theology not widely known in the West, as well as a variety of sources including mystics such as the Sufi Ibn ‘Arabi, poets such as Basho, Traherne, Blake, Hölderlin, and Hopkins, and nature writers such as Muir, Thoreau, and Dillard, The Noetics of Nature challenges both the primacy of the natural sciences in environmental thought and the conventional view, first advanced by Lynn White, Jr., that Christian theology is somehow responsible for the environmental crisis. Instead, Foltz concludes that the ancient Christian view of creation as iconic—its “holy beauty” manifesting the divine energies and constituting a primal mode of divine revelation—offers the best prospect for the radical reversal that is needed in our relation to the natural environment.

Published by: Fordham University Press

Series: Groundworks: Ecological Issues in Philosophy and Theology

Title Page, About the Series, Copyright

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xvii

In a breezy, lightly forested, unassuming neighborhood in Istanbul, less than a hundred yards uphill from the powerful currents of the Golden Horn and its great ships passing by, not far from the site where the once invincible walls of ancient Constantinople were finally breached after eleven hundred years, can be found a place called the Phanar, or “Lighthouse,” originally a significant region of the city, but...

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pp. xviii-xxii

In a book commending the iconographic power of the visible to lead beyond discursivity, it might appear unseemly for its author to begin by working backward from the splendid cover photograph, which speaks eloquently for itself. But if images (and the sheer visibility of creation) can direct us beyond our thoughts, this same element can also bring us back enriched to thinking, and to gratitude as well—...

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IntroductionThe Noetics of Nature

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pp. 1-22

I want to introduce an account of immanence and transcendence— and of the possibility of balancing the demands due to both, of being faithful to both the visible and the invisible. At the same time, it will need to trace a largely hidden dialectic—taking place in art and philosophy and theology, as well as in the deepest currents of overt ...

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1 Whence the Depth of Deep Ecology?

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pp. 23-41

Despite their pretensions to depth, dreams are affairs of the surface. Which surface? The dreaming consciousness enjoys a constant motion, but always a lateral rather than a vertical movement, one that never arrives at its own denouement since the advent of finality is inevitably the moment the dreamer awakes—to the deeper breathing ...

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2 Nature’s Other Side

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pp. 42-54

The idea of a universe that is self-subsistent—standing entirely on its own, fully operational and intelligible, independent from anything outside itself—is both odd and modern. In the course of human experience, it is an extraordinary concept, defying the shared wisdom of virtually all peoples, almost everywhere outside of Western Europe and its sphere of influence. And even within this orbit it is ...

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3 Layers of Nature in Thomas Traherne and John Muir

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pp. 55-75

No Western philosopher has provided a richer context for addressing environmental issues than Martin Heidegger. According to Heidegger, the ancient (and perhaps future) experience of nature as physis or “self-emergence,” as the site of “the arrival of the gods” and thus as “divinely beautiful,” has been supplanted in modernity...

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4 Sailing to Byzantium

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pp. 76-87

Constantinople. Constantinopolis. Nova Roma: “the polis founded by Constantine as the New Rome.” First established as the Greek colony of Byzantium, it had been settled by residents of ancient Megara, faraway city on the Isthmus of Corinth, the narrow landbridge between Attica and the Peloponnese. Spanning both Europe...

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5 The Resurrection of Nature

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pp. 88-112

For nearly three decades, environmental philosophy has been caught upon the horns of a dilemma, bound by the antinomic tension between anthropocentrism and deep ecology. From the beginning in the early seventies, it was clear to many that the “shallow” roots of humanism and environmental anthropocentrism were inadequate....

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6 The Iconic Earth

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pp. 113-157

An elder was once asked, “What is a compassionate heart?” He replied:
“It is a heart on fi re for the whole of creation, for humanity, for the birds, for the animals, for demons and for all that exists. At the recollection and at the sight of them such a person’s eyes overfl ow with tears owing to the vehemence of the compassion which grips ...

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7 Seeing Nature

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pp. 158-174

It was Heidegger who fi rst made “the earth” a possible topic for serious philosophical inquiry. His former student, Hans-Georg Gadamer, vividly describes the philosophical “sensation” that was generated by the “new and startling” concept of “earth,” as it was introduced in several 1936 presentations of what was to later become “The Origin of the Work of Art.”3 Yet Heidegger was by no means the first ...

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8 Seeing God in All Things

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pp. 175-186

Why wish to see God in all things? Or what amounts to the same question, why wish to see all things in God? Aren’t things in themselves— just the pine and just the bamboo—fine enough, without needing to serve as vehicles for a seemingly extraneous agenda, windows for some monotone view of the divine? But what does it mean ...

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9 The Glory of God Hidden in Creation

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pp. 187-202

Every field has its canonical works, texts exerting such great infl uence that their conclusions are accepted rather uncritically. And as already noted, one of the few indisputably canonical texts in environmental thought—comparable in infl uence perhaps only to Also Leopold’s “The Land Ethic”—is surely the seminal article by the...

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10 Between Heaven and Earth

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pp. 203-214

The evidence now seems overwhelming. Not only is the climate warming, but human activities have been an important cause of this process, perhaps even the principal cause. Meanwhile, global warming has replaced pollution, and even species depletion, as the preeminent symbol of environmental degradation. The ruthless...

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11 Nature and Other Modern Idolatries

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pp. 215-231

A curious paradox with far-reaching implications. William Blake— poet, engraver, and great precursor of the Romantic view of nature— celebrated “the world of vegetation and generation,” calling modern humanity both “to see a World in a Grain of Sand And a Heaven in a Wild Flower” and to take up arms against the “dark Satanic mills”...

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12 Traces of Divine Fragrance,Droplets of Divine Love

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pp. 232-246

In discussing beauty, which is extraordinary, I want to begin from everyday, ordinary experience, to suggest that ordinariness itself is a constraint we heedlessly impose upon the extraordinary. I want to begin with the small owl unexpectedly encountered, bathing in a pool of water after a rain, whose beauty illumines the remainder of the ...


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pp. 247-278

Index of Terms in Greek,German, and Latin

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pp. 279-282

Index of Names and Places

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pp. 283-296

Other Works in the Series

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pp. 297-298

E-ISBN-13: 9780823254682
Print-ISBN-13: 9780823254644

Page Count: 288
Publication Year: 2013

Edition: Cloth
Series Title: Groundworks: Ecological Issues in Philosophy and Theology