Response and Responsibility in the Post-Human Present: Teilhard De Chardin As New Materialist

Monday, 11 July 2016: 14:15
Location: Hörsaal 32 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Sam HAN, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
What are the prospects of ethics and ethical thinking after the ontological turn in social theory? This is a question that seems to follow much of the new thinking in social theory, as reflected in recent writings by figures associated with the new materialism, a line of thought that posits the interconnectivity of all things, whether human or not, on the plane of immanence. What these figures have in common is, of course, an ontology that differs a great deal from what Latour deems the “modernist settlement” that separated nature and culture. The intellectual sources of this move are well known and have been discussed thoroughly as well, including Latour, of course, but also Deleuze, Spinoza and Leibniz. I propose to posit another thinker that has mostly been left out in this discussion: the French Jesuit priest and philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, whose concepts of the “noopshere” and “total matter,” bear similarities to the vitalist philosophy of the new materialist ontology in social theory. Moreover, I argue that his work is important for rethinking the concept of ethics in terms of response and “responsibility.” In this paper, I will present an overview of the de Chardin’s thought in a systematic manner as it relates to new materialism while also making specific connections to the ethical aspects of the ontological turn.