Thursday, May 5th, 17:00 - 18:00 p.m.

Realist Ontology and the Aesthetics of Nature: Methexis, Mimēsis and Poiēsis as a Return to Nature 

Alexander J.B. Hampton, University of Toronto

The anthropocentric, disenchanted, commodified and instrumentalised view of nature, responsible for the anthropogenic destruction that characterises the environmental crisis, has deep roots in the Western intellectual tradition. However, equally a part of the Western tradition, though often-marginalised, is the philosophical tradition of ontological realism. This is the metaphysical position that ideals are real, transcendent realities that originate from a source that is beyond material and human reality, yet act as the ground for both. This consideration examines the resilient capacity of the realist tradition, most powerfully expressed through aesthetics, to disrupt and critique anthropocentrism, through three central, recurrent and evolving concepts: methexis (participation), mimēsis (imitation) and poiēsis (making). Taken together, these articulate and enact a relationship between humans and nature that recognises nature’s own inherent meaning and value apart from those imposed upon it by human minds. These dimensions of aesthetic realism are explored through examples from poetry, painting, music and architecture, taken from antiquity to modernity, each in its own way challenging anthropocentrism. In doing so, realist aesthetics presents itself as a creative resource for rethinking the human-nature relationship.

Short biography | Alexander J.B. Hampton

Alexander J. B. Hampton is an Assistant Professor of Religion at the University of Toronto, specialising in metaphysics, poetics and nature. He is the author of Romanticism and the Re-Invention of Modern Religion (Cambridge, 2019), and editor of Pandemic, Ecology and Theology: Perspectives on COVID-19 (Routledge, 2020), Christian Platonism: A History (Cambridge, 2021), and the Cambridge Companion to Christianity and the Environment (Cambridge, 2022). He is currently writing a study of nature and the metaphysics of participation. He holds degrees from Cambridge, Oxford, Stanford and Toronto. Further Information: