Adam Frank

Project Title: Living Attentively Amidst Biodiversity Loss:‌ An Exploration of Description and Normativity in Vinciane Despret’s Philosophical Ethology

In response to the climate crisis’ acceleration of biodiversity loss, a growing number of conservation groups are emerging across Scotland to protect species from decline. These groups often apply generalised ethical frameworks to instruct volunteers and the public in ways of acting that conform to environmental protection goals. While these frameworks are vital for accelerating decision-making, their prescriptive nature can represent non-humans as passive entities, separate from human experience; i.e., such representation can overlook the agency of non-humans, and how their agency can coalesce with human interests.

Responding to this, my project will explore these ethical frameworks from a broader yet complementary philosophical perspective—that of a more-than-human activity of collaborative world-making. This will involve combining research by contemporary philosopher Vinciane Despret on descriptive approaches to animals that respect their interests and capacities, with the work of 17th-century philosopher Baruch Spinoza, whose ethics offers an experimental approach to living that situates humans as part of nature. I will then translate this work into live conservation contexts in Dundee through collaborations with conservation groups, from guided philosophical walks to pathway prompts, to assess what a more-than-human approach to environmental ethics can offer for strengthening individual and collective relationships with non-human worlds.

Awarded: Carnegie PhD Scholarship

Field: Philosophy

University: University of Dundee

Latest News