- A Resurgence of American Philosophical Naturalism
I am honored, grateful, and of course very pleased to be the guest editor of the articles whose topic is ecstatic naturalism published here in this issue of The American Journal of Theology & Philosophy. Robert Corrington’s ecstatic naturalism has for the better part of several decades been an evolving perspective and indeed carries forward a tradition of philosophical naturalism dating back to they heyday of American naturalisms found within the mid to late twentieth century. To this day Corrington’s ecstatic naturalist perspective has taken the form of ten books and over one hundred articles. (His eleventh book, Deep Pantheism: Toward a New Transcendentalism, will be published by Lexington Books in early 2016.) Such scholarship is no small feat, and Corrington’s students, friends, and colleagues are “ecstatic” to see many developing their own versions of naturalism inspired by him.
That brings me to the papers inspired by ecstatic naturalism in this volume. Each one of the papers has principal themes from ecstatic naturalism at its core—so for example, the sublime understood by way of Corrington’s retrieval of German romanticist aesthetics, discussed in the paper by Guy Woodward; “sacred folds” as they are discussed in the paper by Jea Sophia Oh; the influence of Peirce upon ecstatic naturalism discussed in the paper of Nicholas Guardiano; and the categorizations of naturalisms as they are rendered in the paper of Demian Wheeler. Yet each paper, also, spreads its wings so as to present a unique ecstatic naturalist thesis, diverging to some degree from Corrington’s version of ecstatic naturalism. This makes the papers both exciting and fresh.
In “Ecstatic Naturalism and Transcendentalist Aesthetics on the Creativity of Nature,” Nicholas Guardiano argues that both ecstatic naturalism and classical American philosophy are places where one may encounter stimulating concepts that emphasize nature’s creativity. Specifically, Guardiano makes use of Charles Peirce’s evolutionary cosmology to make this point. He compares the cosmogonic stage of a Peircean “Platonic World” in which there are innumerable aesthetic potentialities to Corrington’s virtual realm of natura naturans with its preformal potencies. He then goes on to argue that a form of “transcendentalist aesthetics” might be derived if we further examine creativity as it found in the philosophies of Peirce and Corrington, especially by seeing how New England transcendentalism was important for both and their [End Page 53] understanding of creativity. Guardiano’s paper was awarded the first annual Emerson Prize at the Fifth International Congress on Ecstatic Naturalism, a five hundred dollar award that will be given each year in honor of promising scholarship in ecstatic naturalism.
Jea Sophia Oh’s outstanding paper, “A Lament of Frankenstein, Nature De-natured,” identifies the potency of the seed, a form of life whose potential is taken to be sacred. This form of potential, claims Oh, is present throughout the natural world—or better, “within it,” and thus is an immanentized form of transcendence. This is important as Oh connects Corrington’s notion that there is no supernatural to the notion that the sacred is to be found within all things: from the smallest of seeds, to the entire plant, to the entire life cycle. Oh ends her paper by fleshing out how this notion of sacred potential might be used to examine the genetic manipulation of foods and their natural potential. She demonstrates how ideas from ecstatic naturalism might be practically employed.
In his paper, “American Sublime,” Guy Woodward writes of “poetic philosophizing” and how Wallace Stevens’s “The American Sublime” is an ecstatic-naturalist text. He focuses on how Corrington understands the sublime as influenced by Schopenhauer’s concepts of genius and Will. In short, for the ecstatic naturalist, as for Schopenhauer, genius is the highest expression of Will, and it is the artist who brings it to perfection within great works of art, which Woodward considers Stevens’s “American Sublime” to be.
Finally, Demian Wheeler, in “Is a Process Form of Ecstatic Naturalism Possible? A Reading of Donald Crosby,” does a remarkable job in bringing into closer dialogue process metaphysics and Corrington’s ecstatic naturalism. This is interesting because Demian does not necessarily draw upon Whitehead...