July 9, 2021•619 words
Yesterday two important things happened in my life. I got my first COVID vaccine, and I had a talk with my to-be supervisor about my bachelor's thesis in philosophy.
The shot was nothing to write home about, so I'll spare you the details. Suffice it to say that I was surprised by how not-unpleasant it was (I dislike needles quite strongly), and by how much my arm hurts a day later. The whole ordeal was organized super-efficiently. Or at least, I hope that it was, because the process had the charm of a paperclip factory. It gave me flashbacks to my university exams: the same gargantuan hall, the same lines of people, the same unceremonious treatment. At least the people were very friendly!
Regarding my thesis talk, that went a little differently than expected. I had in mind to write about ad-blocking and attention. Online adverts mess with our attention, and attention is important in our lives (this is the tricky part), so therefore ad-blocking is a good thing to do, right? Well, we ended up spending an hour talking about my previous idea, which was to write about our current ecological predicament (to put it mildly) and how it relates to our attitudes towards nature. I had originally discarded the idea because I have no background in any kind of philosophy related to nature, environment or climate. So I figured that the process would be too painful, and simply not realistic. Well, my teacher seemed interested, and we spent a lot of time trying to specify my intuitions on this topic. He was very open and inviting, which was great, because I feel quite unsure about myself in this area due to my lack of background. But I have to say that my motivation for this topic is through the roof. I feel the urgency of our environmental problems more strongly than any other problem, and to be able to work on that would be incredibly fulfilling. Although I was excited for the ad-blocking stuff too, it didn't fill me with purpose in the same way.
In any case, I got a whole bunch of pointers for where to look for inspiration and starting points, and he even suggested a full-blown topic: A critique of utilitarianism in our relationship with nature. I'm far from the first one to put this topic on the agenda; plenty of thinkers – Heidegger, Horkheimer and Adorno, and (probably) Hannah Arendt – have talked about the way in which modern Western society has come to see nature as a resource to be exploited. Yet these attempts don't seem to have stopped humanity from exploiting the earth far past its limits regardless. So I want to look at these critiques in the light of today's problems, to see where they succeed and where they fall short. Perhaps a new critique is in order?
Right now I'm sitting in the back yard, in the sun but out of the sun (my head doesn't like it), with some nice music on. I just read Aldo Leopold's article The Land Ethic, which is considered the first work in environmental ethics and which is officially my first read work for my thesis (if I decide to go with this topic, that is). I still have roughly a year to finish it, so I think I'll manage. I'm feeling slightly anxious about somehow not being productive enough, not doing enough, being too passive and lazy, just going where the wind takes me. I have these days. Tomorrow might be very different. But I do also enjoy these days at home, doing a bunch of things and nothing huge or capital-I Important. I think it's okay to have these days.