“A central feature of any naturalism is that there is at least some form of continuity between mind and nature – or, that mind “stretches” to meet nature (in the words of John Dewey). But, what is “mind” within a naturalistic register? A basic premise for naturalists such as Charles S. Peirce, John Dewey, George Herbert Mead, Alfred North Whitehead, or Susanne Langer – naturalists in the American philosophical tradition – is that “mind” is essentially symbolic. This is to say that, conceptually, mind is both expressive and representational. This, though, begs the question: what within nature might be able to “think?” As any “ecstatic” naturalism seeks to explore nature’s deeply embedded transformational potential, the theme of this year’s congress questions nature’s potential for “mind” – or “intelligence” – and questions how that mind might be at work within the natural world, especially as expressed by means of symbol. What precisely is nature’s potential for expressive intelligence and how is it expressed through symbol and concept? And further, what other than the human might be able to “think?” What does it mean to think? Can machines think? Can forests think? Insects? Birds? Fish? Transcending beyond the boundaries of the human, we seek papers that wish to explore especially non-human modes of intelligence within the realm of the symbolic in order to connect naturalism to applied philosophical fields, whether animal ethics, cognitive science and artificial intelligence, political ecology, biosemiotics, and so on. Papers need not be exclusively about the philosophy of ecstatic naturalism but are encouraged to at least minimally address its perspective before moving on to present a different thesis of the paper so as to place all papers of the congress within the stream of contemporary philosophical naturalism.”
The above text comes from Leon Niemoczynski’s blog where he is inviting people to submit papers and participate in the Eight International Congress on Ecstatic Naturalism to be held on the campus of Drew University. The theme this year is “Nature and the Symbolic in the Human and Non-human.” Leon also links to a lecture by Eduardo Kohn titled “Toward an Anthropology Beyond the Human,” which should definitely be listened to by all.
Photo above by Félix Morlán