A seismic shift in thinking about the environment from the 1960s onwards can blind us to the fact that inhabitants of the ancient world (c. 800 BCE – 400 CE) were also acutely aware that they existed as part of an ecological system. Yet for these thinkers it was not rapidly melting icecaps which made examining their relationship with the environment so urgent, but the theological questions it raised. This conference will embrace pagan, Jewish and Christian thinking about the intersection of theology and ecology, whether expressed in sources we might now label philosophy, scripture, natural history, science, liturgy or folklore.
How did these thinkers understand their natural environment to stand in relation to the divine? And how did this understanding condition human interaction with the natural world? By bringing together biblical scholars, classicists, philosophers and theologians the first aim of this conference is to paint a cohesive and multi-disciplinary picture of the theological sophistication of ancient thinking about nature.
At the same time, the conference will not lose sight of our current ecological crisis. What impact, if any, should ancient thinking about the environment have on our own ecological thinking? While individual advances have been made in theorising how ancient thinking might inform modern responses to ecological issues, there is still vital need for cross-disciplinary discussion of the impact of such thinking on relatively new disciplines such as environmental philosophy and eco-theology, and on contemporary calls to environmental action. As such this conference aims, in a mutually reinforcing process, to shape both our knowledge of the ancient world and the work of those who are writing the theology, philosophy and ethics of the twenty-first century.
The conference is sponsored jointly by the Classics Faculty, University of Cambridge and the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion and will be held in St Edmund’s College, Cambridge. Plenary speakers include Prof Robin Attfield (Cardiff), Prof Melissa Lane (Princeton), Prof Michael Northcott (Edinburgh), Prof Richard Seaford (Exeter), Prof David Sedley (Cambridge), Dr Helen Van Noorden (Cambridge), Dr Emmanuela Bakola (KCL) and Dr Edward Adams (KCL). The conference organisers, Dr Ailsa Hunt and Dr Hilary Marlow, invite short papers that examine any aspect of how ecology and theology intersect in the ancient world, and how such interplay impacts on contemporary thinking about the environment. Papers may include, but are not restricted to, those areas outlined below:
· textual, theological and philosophical perspectives on human relationships with nature in the ancient world
· visions for nature in prophetic, apocalyptic and eschatological literature
· the influence of Stoicism or other philosophical systems on ancient attitudes towards the natural world, and their significance in modern environmental philosophy
· the theological thinking behind ancient attitudes to issues such as deforestation, mining, dams, pollution, vegetarianism, sacrifice or vivisection
· philosophical ideals of self sufficiency and their impact on ancient thinking about nature
· the intersection of theological and ecological thinking in ancient philosophical debate about the perishability of the world / periodic cataclysms in which civilisation is erased
· the identification and interpretation of natural disasters and portents
· (ab)uses of ancient thinking about nature in neopagan environmental movement
It is anticipated that the allocated time for each paper will be 20 minutes, with additional time for questions/discussion. If you are interested in presenting a paper, please send a title and abstract (200 words max) to Dr Ailsa Hunt at [email protected] before 31st October 2013.
Presenters and delegates (apart from invited plenary speakers) will be responsible for their own accommodation in Cambridge and a list of options will be provided. For further enquiries please contact either of the organisers on [email protected] or [email protected] It is hoped that selected papers from the conference will be published in a volume edited by Dr Hunt and Dr Marlow.