Title: The Inner Life of the Planet: Earth System Science in Moral Time
Abstract: This talk stages a dialectic between natural science and moral knowledge by taking seriously the charge that Earth System Science and its allied disciplines such as Geology, Paleontology, Planetary Science and Astrophysics make moral considerations inconceivable within their respective domains of knowledge. Not restricted to the views of scientists, the view is often raised by environmental humanists under the charge that thinking about the planet involves a necessary alienation of our moral categories from applying to the matter at hand. I do not believe that such is the case, however. The charge rests on some confusion about what moral knowledge is and involves. I pursue my objection through thinking about how moral time relates to planetary time and our geological moment and consider the dialectical and paradoxical possibility that the planet has, for us, an inner life. It is found in what Kierkegaard called the moment of “appropriation” that coincides with facing one’s own facticity, mortality, and dramatically ironic responsibility as a human being. This inner life is not sentimental, anthropomorphic, or delusional. On the contrary, it leaves us as the de-centered, finite, extinction-bound beings that we are with a moral conscience.