Call for papers- Journal Bachelard studies (1/2020)
Bachelard: An Ecological Thinker?
edited by Jean-Philippe Pierron (Jean-Philippe.Pierron@u-bourgogne.fr)
Bachelard did not write about ecology, and his epistemology is more about the sciences of matter than about the life sciences. Nor has it produced an environmental aesthetics, in the sense that we understand it today. Finally, he did not develop a normative stance towards an environmental ethics and policy. If he happened to refer to “Walden” by H.D. Thoreau, it was more in the context of dreams of the forest than a call for activism as a form of freedom and civic protest.
These three reservations make us aware of the ease with which Bachelard could be prematurely summoned in the field of ecology. However, even though his work is often read through the prism of technoscience elevated to the rank of highest modern rationality, whose transformative revolutions confirm the real progress of reason, the other half of his work is dedicated to understanding and defending a poetic imagination of romantic provenance, which supports free creativity, a joyful coexistence with the natural world, and even a cosmo-centric ethic. More and more architects, urban planners, visual artists, and video-makers see in Bachelard’s thinking the philosophical resources to nourish an alternative thought and practice, a defense of the preindustrial world, a harmonioius relationship with elements of nature, its landscapes, rhythms, an existential approach to housing, etc. The work is also rich in lexicons, where terms such as place, earth, nature, cosmos, rhythm emerge, as well as verbs such as participate, interiorize, merge, etc. In what way can Bachelard be considered an international figure of ecological thought, especially outside France?
1- First of all, Bachelard’s life was imbued with ecological sensitivity. Born in Bar-sur-Aube in Champagne in the late nineteenth century, he long lived, described, appreciated and valued a pre-industrial landscape with his craft practices. During the 1920s he used to walk daily through vineyards on his way to college. This personal and cultural story reflects his concerns about health that inspired him to defend body hygiene, walking, breathing, respect for rhythm–and even homeopathy—throughout his writings. His attachment to Bar-sur-Aube and Dijon (until 1940) led him in the 1930s to defend a ruralist vision of the balance between man and craftsmanship, symbolic powers peculiar to material substances, and the laborious hand of the craftsman or the artist. No wonder he became friends with witnesses of an endangered world (most notably, Gaston Roupnel, champion of the French countryside) during his years at the University of Dijon. Until the end of his life, he read books by poets immersed in the lyricism of nature, and he was greatly appreciated by regionalist writers such as Henri Vincenot. His attachment to the traditional house (with cellar and attic), in Bar-sur-Aube or Dijon, encouraged him to criticize the urban world (Paris) and the art of building high-rises removed from nature (he detested using the elevator!)—a critique which alternative planners would likely support nowadays. Could one go so far as to imagine Bachelard adopting an ecological lifestyle?
2- Bachelard’s analyses of poetics seem obvious, but they must be questioned and taken conceptually in order to get closer to ecological considerations. Earth, air, fire, or water mobilize his poetics of the elements, which resonates with an ecological crisis that could be described as attacking the four elements: rare-earth elements (known as potential contaminants), polluted air, global warming fires, water tainted by “Attila sources”. Does not poetics provide a “natural” language for developing a sensitive and imaginative approach to nature? If so, what is it that characterizes an elemental poetics vis-à-vis an environmental aesthetics? What are the points of convergence and what are significant differences? What are we to think about this poetic tetralogy vis-à-vis cosmologies in other cultures which understand the affinities between the human and material worlds differently (e.g. the five elements including wood in Chinese cosmology)? It also opens up a question about the passage from poetics to ecological consideration.
How does the transition from image to concept, or from image to value, take place? Through such an ecological cosmology rooted in ancient Greece or alchemy—a cosmology that describes the aesthetic and ethical values of the 4 elements (themselves irreducible to the inert matter of physics and chemistry)—do we not discover a philosophy of life that displays a cyclical and rhythmic transformative power capable of acting upon human beings via the unconscious (Jung), the will (Schopenhauer), and even via “open reason”? If so, one might then be able to cut through Bachelard’s dilemma between the “man of the theorem” vs. the “man of the poem” to examine the fecundity of his analyses, to think about interdisciplinary themes such as modes of dwelling, the rhythms of an accelerating society and creative production within the framework of a kind of anesthesia we are currently experiencing in our sensitive relations to nature.
3- From a scientific and technological perspective, what assistance can Bachelardian epistemology and phenomenotechnique provide to illuminate contemporary issues of highly analytical physicochemical and agronomic knowledge concerning systemic approaches to ecological sciences? Given that, as a philosopher, Bachelard devoted much of his thought to chemistry, and considering today’s discussions about “green chemistry,” for example, how can the analyses of the epistemologist shed light on the links between science, technology, and the proper care of nature?
4- Can these different orientations of Bachelard’s thought–rarely systematized, and hardly reducible to an all-encompassing category–be related to that of other contemporary phenomenological and hermeneutic thinkers ( M. Heidegger, M. Merleau-Ponty, etc.) who also converge on issues of ecological culture, as recognized and discussed by geographers (A. Berque, etc.) and poets (K. White, Michel Collot, etc.)? If so, could we not bring to light possible resonances between Bachelard’s analyses and problems of environmental philosophy? Do Bachelard’s reflections on place or intimate cosmicity, within the framework of a “topophilia”, assist us in questioning the ethics of “place” of contemporary authors in ecology? Do his analyses of the dreamer’s cogito provide food for thought to suggest the nature of the ecological self?
5- Finally, we will also take more critical approaches into consideration: to what extent is poetic imagination opposed to science in its approach of nature? In what way is Bachelard’s elemental tetralogy universalizable (cf. Chinese typology)? Does his “rhythmanalysis” (albeit unfinished) allow us to think of all the temporal dimensions of nature? In what way does his attachment to a naturalistic poetic paradigm incite opposition, resistance or even mistrust from the reader who views it as anti-progressive, even though it is countered by his own progressive scientific rationalism?
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– The Author may propose an article for the sections La lettre and L’esprit of a maximum of 7,000 words in english, with an Abstract (150 words) in french and in italian, followed by five key words in english attached.
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