International Conference in Bamberg, Germany
24-26 May 2007


Cancelled due to illness

Time and Space.

On the Multidimensionality of Time and the Obligation to Think in Open Concepts

Günter Altner, Berlin

At present an unimaginative single-mindedness dominates contemporary concepts of progress. Even where alternatives, based on sustainability, are offered, these alternatives are oriented towards narrow definitions of reality.

Is the time which we presuppose in our models of knowledge and action really in tune with the real structure of time? Is this maybe where the deeper reason for the disconnecting tendencies in the ecological and social contexts of the process of civilisation can be found?

Contemporary efforts to embed scientific-technical and industrial developments ecologically must include a new concept of time as a fundamental category of all reality. This new concept would draw at least in part on theological sources.

The contribution intends to develop an alternative by describing an open understanding of time in three steps: fundamental reflections - inter-disciplinary model - concrete concepts of action.


Nature, Culture and the Quest of the Sacred

Anne Buttimer, University College Dublin

Throughout recorded history people have attempted to explain the natural milieux in which their lives unfolded. Human cultures emerged through cultivation of natural resources - plants, animals and the bio-physical environment - in livelihood ways which varied through time and space. Nature also provided inspiration for symbols of social identity and the quest for the sacred.Most cultures have imaged their own place as the centre of the world, with horizons varying in shape and extent depending on their livelihoods and travel.

This paper explores various examples of nature symbolism, with a specific focus on water and the human quest for wholeness (holiness). Given today's urgent challenge to re-discover more sustainable ways of life, cross-cultural dialogue on the sacredness in Nature would indeed be timely.


Indigenous Knowledge and an Ethics of Place.

John Grim, Yale

In this talk I would explore two Native American ceremonials in North America and their connections between ritual, symbol and sense of place as generating ethical orientations. The first ceremonial I would briefly describe is the Winter Dance of the Interior Salish Peoples of the Columbia River in the state of Washington. This four day complex of ritual activity centers on the singing of visionary songs that evoke traditional ways of knowing the beings who are credited with creating the world. The ceremony generates an ethics of giving and an ethics of empathy. The second ceremonial is the Sundance, or Ashkisshe, of the Crow/Apsaalooke Peoples of Montana. This three, four, or five day ceremonial generates an ethics of disciplined intention. This ethical intention arises from forms of sacred dancing in the structured space of a lodge built especially for this ceremony. Both of these ceremonials are closely tied to local bioregions and both of them present ways of knowing the natural world that calls forth responsible behavior in that world.



The Wedge and the Knot: Hammering and Stitching the Face of Nature

Tim Ingold, University of Aberdeen

Outlining his idea of the ‘struggle for existence', in The Origin of Species , Charles Darwin compared the face of Nature at one moment to a surface riven by innumerable wedges, and at another moment to an entangled bank. In subsequent ecological thinking the former image has tended to prevail, along with the idea that organisms are externally bounded, solid entities that compete for limited space along the lines of their adjacency. In this paper I explore the implications of an alternative viewpoint, suggested by the image of entanglement. Here the organism is imagined not as a wedge-like block in a carpentered world, but rather as a line – or rather a knotted bundle of lines – in a world that is woven. In such a world, how should we conceive of ‘the environment'? Literally, an environment is that which surrounds; however you cannot surround a knot without enclosing it, which would immediately transform it into a bounded form. What we have been accustomed to calling ‘the environment' might, I suggest, be better envisaged as a zone of interpenetration or entanglement. It is within such a tangle of interlaced trails, continually ravelling here and unravelling there, that organisms – both human and non-human – grow or ‘issue forth' along the lines of their relationships. This tangle is the surface texture of the world. It has no insides or outsides, only openings and ‘ways through'. Thus an ecology of life must be fashioned in the stitching of lines, not in the hammering of blocks.


Transforming Religious Perspectives on Nature in Response to Climate Change

Anna Primavesi, Berks

‘Climate change' is an umbrella term for the global environmental consequences of human behaviour, especially over the past two hundred years. There is now an emerging consensus that it cannot be dealt with successfully simply by tinkering with existing industrial mechanisms or economic strategies. Paraphrasing Einstein, we cannot solve climate change problems by using the same sort of thinking that caused them in the first place. We need to think through our experiences, practices, interactions and religious insights into Nature in order to create a shared vision of how to live healthy and fulfilled lives within the earth community.

To contribute to this vision I shall explore our relationships within that community in terms of gift events that enabled us to emerge as a species and continue to support our existence. The transformative effects of this exploration include a perception of ourselves as the product of multi-faceted relationships between entities and their environments. This challenges religious presumptions about our having unmediated access to some source of knowledge about God, Nature and ourselves other than that mediated through multiple interactions within the world


The Philosophy and Practice of Ch'i in East Asia

Mary Evelyn Tucker, Yale University


Ch'i, the vital energy that courses through all life, has played an important role in East Asia in terms of both philosophy and personal practices. This paper will discuss one of the key philosophical arguments regarding the relationship of li (principle) and ch'i (material force), especially in Japan.  Kaibara Ekken (1630-1714) was a prominent Japanese scholar whose philosophical treatise, The Record of Great Doubts , is one of the central discourses in East Asia on the importance of ch'i. Ekken emphasizes the role of the monism of ch'i in achieving a life of engagement. Ekken believes that moral self-cultivation must take place within the dynamic forces of nature and amid the rigorous demands of society, and that the vitalism of ch'i provides the philosophical grounding for this vibrant interaction.