- About Us
- Our Work
- Get Involved
The atmosphere of this planet may most usefully be understood as a commonwealth of breath. For the air is hardly a bunch of gases that just happen to be drawn down to Earth and held in place by Earth’s gravity. Rather, our planet’s envelope of air is continually born from the ongoing interbreathing between the plants and animals of this biosphere. Indeed, this continually generated, far-from-equilibrium atmosphere would seem to be the very signature of a living planet.
Until climate change forced a new reckoning with this unseen element, the uncanny invisibility of the air had led many modern thinkers and institutions to overlook the massive influence of the atmosphere upon our lives. Yet that same invisibility is what led diverse indigenous, oral cultures to acknowledge the air as the most sacred dimension of the experienced world. In this session, we’ll ponder some possible implications that a renewed awareness of the enveloping atmosphere — as the commonwealth of breath — has for our understanding of mind itself.
David Abram – cultural ecologist and geophilosopher – is the author of The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World, and Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology. Described as "revolutionary" by the Los Angeles Times, as “daring” and “truly original” by the journal Science, David's work engages the ecological depths of experience, exploring the ways in which sensory perception, language, and imagination inform the relation between the human animal and the animate earth. David's philosophical craft is informed by his fieldwork with indigenous peoples in southeast Asia and the Americas, as well as by the philosophical tradition of phenomenology.
Dr. Abram was the first contemporary philosopher to advocate for a reappraisal of "animism" as a complexly nuanced and uniquely viable worldview, one which roots human cognition in the dynamic sentience of the body while affirming the ongoing entanglement of our bodily experience with the uncanny intelligence of other animals, each of whom encounters the same world that we perceive yet from an outrageously different angle and perspective. His work also articulates the entwinement of human subjectivity with the varied sensitivities of the plants upon whom we depend, as well as with the agency and dynamism of the particular places, or bioregions, that surround and sustain our communities. In recent years, David's work has come to be associated with a broad movement loosely termed "New Materialism," due to his espousal of a radically transformed sense of matter and materiality.
In his first book, David coined the phrase "the more-than-human world" in order to speak of nature as a realm that thoroughly includes humankind, yet also necessarily exceeds humankind; the phrase has now been taken up worldwide within the broad movement for ecological sanity. Dr. Abram has received numerous awards, including Rockefeller and Watson fellowships, and the international Lannan Literary Award for Nonfiction. Currently the Senior Visiting Scholar in Ecology and Natural Philosophy at Harvard University, David usually makes his home in the foothills of the southern Rockies, where he is co-founder and director of the Alliance for Wild Ethics (AWE).