Proponents of sustainability and complex systems tend to present their ideas and prescriptions as new and innovative, and sometimes as conceptual insights and a set of values that have been recovered from non-Western traditions. On the first point, to the extent that sustainability studies and complexity theory utilize new technologies and scientific discoveries in their pursuits, they are indeed new and innovative. However, the fundamental tenets of sustainability—living within limits; imposing/encouraging limits and stewardship through social pressures/incentives and civic policies—are some of the hallmarks of ancient Greek culture and thought. As for systems thinking—the idea that no phenomenon is a discrete, isolated entity or event, but must be viewed as part of complex, interrelated wholes with physical, moral, social, and noetic dimensions—this is exactly the philosophic undertaking of the Presocratics and of the poet Hesiod, and, in their wake, of Plato and Aristotle, and, later, the Stoics, Cynics, and Epicureans.
This lecture is the first installment of Professor Usher’s new book project in which he traces the trajectory of modern ideas about sustainability and complexity theory back to the Greeks. Its aim is 1) to invigorate current thinking in these areas, and 2) to underscore the extent of the Greco-Roman contribution to these topics of contemporary, global concern.
Philosophy Seminar Series
Date: Thursday, 5 Mar 2015
Time: 2pm – 4pm
Venue: AS3 #05-23
Speaker: Mark Usher, University of Vermont
Moderator: Dr. Qu Hsueh Ming
About the Speaker:
M.D. Usher is Professor and Chair of Classics at the University of Vermont. In addition to academic books and articles, he has published three children’s books, original poetry and translations, and two opera libretti. The impetus for this project on sustainability and complex systems stems from his training as a Classicist specializing in Greek literature, his appointment as a Sustainability Faculty Fellow at the University of Vermont for 2010-11, and twelve years of hands-on experience as a farmer. (He and his wife built and operate Works & Days Farm, a small, diversified farmstead that produces lamb, poultry, eggs, and honey on 125 acres.)