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The Sphinx at the Crossroads: Transcendentalism Meets the Anthropocene

journal contribution
posted on 2022-05-20, 00:00 authored by Laura Dassow Walls
“*Think we must*.” So urges Donna Haraway in her recent book titled *Staying with the Trouble* (2016). But what is it that we must think, and what is “the trouble” we must stay with rather than run from, the trouble that must activate us to think anew? Haraway’s target is “those old saws of Western philosophy and political economics” that insist on human exceptionalism, centering the autonomous human actor while sending the natural environment to the background. Her “we”—that is, we who call ourselves humanists—must step up and own the resulting trouble, because while we have delayed and dithered, reluctant to give up our outdated tools, our partners in the biological sciences have tossed out the “old saws” as “seriously unthinkable—not available to think with,” and taken up new approaches capable of capturing the “overflowing richness” of planetary life and of moving nimbly across scale levels, from the microscopic multispecies symbioses that make possible our most basic bodily existence, to the long-unknown, richly networked communicative resources of plant life, to Gaia as a figure for the planetary processes studied by Earth System Sciences.

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2022-05-20

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