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Thinking Nature

An Essay in Negative Ecology

Sean J. McGrath

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Makes a compelling case for a new Anthropocenic humanism where humans have a special responsibility for nature

Thinking Nature tracks the history of the concept of nature from the Hebrew Bible, through Renaissance philosophy and science, to Dark Ecology. Critical of the post-humanist trend in contemporary eco-criticism, Sean McGrath makes a compelling case for a new anthropocenic humanism – a humanism that is not at the expense of nature, and a naturalism that is not at the expense of the human.

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1. Religion is not only the problem, but the solution
2. Nature is a symbol, but of what?
3.The theology of disenchantment
4. Eco-anxiety
5. Dark ecology
6. The human difference
7. What’s really wrong with Heidegger
8. Negative ecology
9. The road not taken
10. Contemplative politics
11. Anthropocenic nature

About the Author

Sean J. McGrath is Full Professor of Philosophy at Memorial University of Newfoundland and a Member of the College of the Royal Society of Canada. McGrath is a specialist in the philosophy of religion and the history of philosophy. He has published and lectured widely in German idealism, phenomenology, ecology, theology and psychoanalysis.


A genuinely new contribution …McGrath avoids the real pitfalls into which so much contemporary discourse about the environment fall. Either humans are entirely unexceptional, mere objects in the universe alongside other objects, or they are so distinct as to be utterly unnatural and separate from the rest of nature or Creation. Escaping this false choice, McGrath argues for the recovery of a sense of humans as natural, alongside other natural beings, but possessing a unique responsibility and vocation.

- Brian Treanor, Loyola Marymount University

Sean McGrath brilliantly deploys the resources of apophatic wisdom in response to the acute ecological challenge of our time. He taps the distinct eco-anxiety of contemporary culture while endorsing a radical contemplative attunement to the call of deep nature. A passionate, timely and audacious book.

- Richard Kearney, Boston College

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