The feeling of oak : the remembrance, loss, and rediscovery of intrinsic valuations for the more-than-human
Sean Andrés Cummings
May 8, 2019
Department or Program
In three parts, this thesis investigates how and why we as humans find value in the more-than-human entities of the world around us. Why do some of us view something like, for instance, an oak tree as intrinsically valuable while others view it mostly as a source of raw materials for instrumental use? What determines where we lie along the spectrum between these points of view? Can the way we value the oak change, and if so, should it? Chapter one leans on E.O. Wilson’s biophilia hypothesis to explore the potential origins of human love for entities like the oak and ponders whether other species might share our fascination with the beauty of the biotic world for its own sake. Chapter two examines how the tendency to value more-than-human entities intrinsically may be reinforced or discouraged depending on the narratives and systems of production and consumption we grow up with. Chapter three argues that, given our capacity to affect the way we value more-than-human entities, we need to seriously consider actively fostering a sense of them as intrinsically valuable, both for our own sakes and for that of all other life on Earth.