Given to Bewilderment, Hand to Limb

  • H. Peter Steeves
Part of the Contributions To Phenomenology book series (CTPH, volume 92)


“Given to Bewilderment, Hand to Limb” takes up the Druidic conception of the cosmos as composed of three elements—nwyfre, gwyar, and calas—as a means of investigating what it might mean to re-imagine a philosophy of nature that takes ethics rather than ontology as its starting point. Beginning with a deconstruction of Bataille’s notion of excess and Derrida’s conception of the gift, Sect. 1 of the chapter argues that nature is fundamentally aneconomic, that all discourse of exchange must be understood only in terms of giving and accepting. This not only allows us to see what it means for a system to move toward a common Good, but it also solves an old problem having to do with thermodynamics and the origin of life on Earth.

Section 2 continues to develop the “ethics before ontology” approach to philosophy of nature, specifically looking at the fluidity of species and a thought experiment originally proposed by Richard Dawkins meant to link humans to other apes. Expanding on the thought experiment, the chapter encourages us to consider the possibility of holding hands with a tree (and, consequently, to ask what it would mean to see a tree as “handed”). Finally, Sect. 3 focuses on nonliving things, such as rocks, asking what an ethics for rocks might look like, and thus how a rock might be said to give and accept as well as flourish.


  1. Bataille, G. (1988). The accursed share: An essay on general economy, Volume 1: Consumption. New York: Zone Books.Google Scholar
  2. Dawkins, R. (1993). Gaps in the mind. In P. Cavalieri & P. Singer (Eds.), The great ape project. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin.Google Scholar
  3. Derrida, J. (1992). Given time: 1. Counterfeit money (P. Kamuf, Trans.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  4. Hart, J. (1992). The person and the common life. Dordrecht: Kluwer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Heidegger, M. (1977). What calls for thinking? (D. F. Krell, Ed. & Trans.). Martin Heidegger, basic writings. New York: Harper & Row.Google Scholar
  6. Heidegger, M. (2000). Introduction to metaphysics (G. Fried & R. Polt, Trans.). New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  7. MacCulloch, J. A. (2003). Druids. In J. Hastings & J. L. Selbie (Ed.), The encyclopedia of religion and ethics, part 9. Whitefish: Kessinger PublishingGoogle Scholar
  8. Steeves, H. P. (1998). Founding community: A phenomenological-ethical inquiry. Dordrecht: Kluwer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Steeves, H. P. (2007). Classification: Species concept. In M. Bekoff (Ed.), The encyclopedia of human-animal relationships. Westport: Greenwood Press.Google Scholar
  10. Thoreau, H. D. (2000). Wild fruits (B. P. Dean, Ed.). New York: W. W. Norton & Co. Quoted in Richard, Francis. Fall 2006. Thoreau’s Wild Fruits. Cabinet: 23, 75.Google Scholar
  11. Fox News. (2009). Surgeons find tree growing inside man’s lung.,2933,514955,00.html. Accessed 30 Aug 2013.

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.DePaul UniversityChicagoUSA

Personalised recommendations