Cambridge Companion to Religion and the Environment
eds. Alexander J. B. Hampton (Toronto), Douglas Hedley (Cambridge)
PUBLICATION EALY 2021
This book is more than a reference work that surveys the state of the field, it aims to re-frame and re-present the topic in a new, and productive light focused upon the concept of nature itself. The question of ‘nature’ will proceed not on a simple juxtaposition between revealed religion and scientific naturalism. Instead, it will advance by questioning the role of the modern-secular intellectual framework by which both are constructed and contextualised. This approach will make for an impactful re-conceptualising of the relationship of religion and nature. It will aim to re-define the approach to the field, integrating the study of religion and the philosophy of religion in relation to the emerging field of the environmental humanities.
What would nature look like if it were re-imagined outside of the now critically contested categories of secular modernity. The volume will explore whether the modern, secular definition of ‘nature’, often taken to refer to the collective phenomena of the physical world, as opposed to humans or human creations, has rendered an authentic relationship to nature impossible, alienating humans from their place within nature by placing them apart from and above it. It will ask whether the notion of the modern secular individual, as the self-possessed determiner of an anthropocentric version of reality, is intrinsically separated from a sense of nature possessed of its own intrinsic value. Furthermore, it will explore the secular construction of nature and its relationship to the logic of consumption and technological progress that has led to the present environmental crisis.
In light of these questions, the Companion will ask whether a more complex understanding of ‘nature’, drawing upon a history of the term stretching back to antique Greek thought, is capable of informing present-day questions. The notion of ‘natures’, referring to inherent, underlying and intrinsic value, opens up deeper, more complex questions, not the least being questions of the common nature shared between humans, the natural environment, and the common sources of such nature. Here, the history of the philosophy of religion, fundamentally concerned with the question of natures, can play a pivotal role. The defining influence of philosophical-theological commitments has been sorely underestimated by many recent commentators. This volume will correct this defect in the literature.