Tuesday 24 November 2015

PhD diary #2: 24/11/2015

It may be a banal and nominalistic thing to write but until 1827 no one lived in an 'environment.' Even then, when the Scottish writer Thomas Carlyle coined the term in order to translate Goethe's use of the German Umgebung, this word did not quite chime with present understandings.

How did environment come to have the meaning it has today, what were its precursors and parallels and what was the significance of these changes for political, and particularly geopolitical, thought? These are things that I have been thinking about over the past few weeks. I've yet to reach an agreeable statement of a research question but I feel that I am getting there.

Philosophically, I am beginning to settle on the term 'speculative pragmatism' to describe the position that I wish to articulate. Historiographically, I am caught between 'historical ontology,' which has a previous life particularly in the works of Michel Foucault and Ian Hacking, and 'historical metaphysics,' which, to paraphrase Nietzsche, having less history is therefore more apt to be redefined. Of course, 'metaphysics' is likely to set even more eyes rolling, among the philosophically unpredisposed, than 'ontology.' But, then again, perhaps that's not altogether a bad thing.

Certainly, historical metaphysics seems as peculiar a combination of words as speculative pragmatism. A contradiction in terms? I'd prefer a contrast in terms. A tension not 'as yet unresolved' but rather maintaining a provocative interstice.