Conference Report: ‘Comment penser l’anthropocène?’ at Collège de France, Paris by Yannick van den Berg

November 5 & 6, 2015 – Conference Program and Videos

The two-day conference ‘Comment penser l’anthropocène?’ (‘How to think the Anthropocene?’) at the Collège de France in Paris brought together numerous scholars from natural and political sciences, from philosophy, anthropology, sociology, history and law. It was chaired by Catherine Larrère and Philippe Descola with the support of the patronage committee around Stefan Helmreich, Tim Ingold, Sandra Laugier, Carolyn Merchant and Eduardo Viveiros de Castro.

As this selection of contributions will show, the conference’s talks centered around fundamental and far-reaching questions of science, law, politics, economy and philosophy in the time of the Anthropocene and did not fail to stimulate controversial discussions. Overall, the conference made clear that much progress was made in finding a colloquial voice of the different disciplines and understandings. The question of how to think the Anthropocene, however, can yet hardly be seen in a different way than an idea to be explored, an idea that bears existential implications of how we humans and non-humans inhabit our future environments. Intermingled with ontological and epistemological considerations are issues of well-being and integration. Health, community, territory, economics and law are the practical and political tasks to be tackled.

In his opening speech, Philippe Descola (Collège de France) laid out the ground for the following two days by first locating the Anthropocene in the history of the Earth and human beings. In 200,000 years of co-evolution, humans indeed altered their surrounding environment to sometimes irreversible degrees. But as long as agriculture constituted the basic form of production they were not alienated from nature.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.