“And you, my Mountain, will you Never Walk Towards me?”

  • Jan Fennema
Part of the Einstein Meets Magritte: An Interdisciplinary Reflection on Science, Nature, Art, Human Action and Society book series (EMMA, volume 5)


The title of this text, the subject matter of a lecture, is a phrase, a motto, taken from a book by the Norwegian philosopher Arne Naess. It is a poetic title, and an enigmatic one as well. In a special sense, it can be considered the introductory phrase of Naess’ monograph Ecology, Community and Lifestyle [1], a book that is very much worth reading. The title may stimulate the reader to ask questions, for instance, about the meaning of this introductory phrase, about what it intends to convey. Besides, as the text leads us to contemplate the relation of ecology to theology, and vice versa, without doubt other questions will follow. I will try to answer such questions, but the reader is warned: the answers will doubtless give rise to further questions.


Human Individual Monograph Ecology Worth Reading Ecological Thinking Theological Thinking 
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    Naess, A., Ecology, Community and Lifestyle, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 1989/1991.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    Clearly, there is a difference between scientific theories that, as such, can be subjected to tests, and scientific theories that, because of their all-encompassing character, function more or less as the leading ideas of research programmes. Such leading ideas will not easily be given up, and I prefer to call them metatheories or meta-sciences.Google Scholar
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    Compare, for instance, [12], [13].Google Scholar
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    David Rothenberg, the translator of Naess’ monograph which was originally written in Norwegian, kindly explained to me that these words genuinely spoke to him when trying to express his feelings. The words had appeared before as an epigram to a novel titled Ararat by the poet D.M. Thomas, written in the early 1980s, and were spontaneously remembered.Google Scholar
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    The experience of the ‘otherness’ of things, that is the experience of the ‘quality of being other’ of any being distinct from one’s self, is part of everyone’s daily life. In particular since the philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas many books and other texts have been written on the crucial role played by the experience of otherness. In this connection reference is made only to Levinas’ magnum opus Totaliié et infini [14]. (The two key words of this title concisely call to mind the contrast between the ‘totality’ of the world of beings objectified by an observer and the ‘infinity’ of the subject of any being that opposes this observer; thus, an ontology of things loses its impact in the face of what is manifestly other.)Google Scholar
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    The term ‘space-time’, which has been borrowed from the physical theory of relativity, is used metaphorically here. It is suggestive of a close interrelat-edness of space and time, implying that the imminent future can be considered the ‘other-in-time’ in a manner consonant with the everyday conception of an arbitrary being considered as the ‘other-in-space’.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    As innumerable texts have been written on the philosophy of the human being, only those references are given that played a special role when writing the text at hand. The topicality of philosophical anthropology was discussed in an international colloquium in 1990; a selection of the presented papers was published under the title The Quest for Man [15]. A study of the intrinsic meaningfulness of nature has been the subject of a thesis defended by Petran Kockelkoren entitled De natuur van de goede verstaander [16]. The term ‘eccentric (being)’, which is part of the title of a section of the text at hand, is borrowed from Helmuth Plessner’s anthropology, but here used in a rather idiosyncratic manner; Plessner’s (biological) anthropology is amply discussed in the literature mentioned above. A crucial concept of Plessner’s anthropology is that the living individual-whether or not human-is characterized by its so-called intentional boundary realization; but unlike an animal, a human individual can vary this boundary, thus enabling the human species to develop culturally. A typical term used in this connection is the ‘positionality’ of the living individual, which distinguishes it from the non-living.Google Scholar
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    The sensitivity to cherish hope and to expect determines our will and our humanity. In this connection it may be interesting to compare Jan Foudraine’s criticism of those currents in psychiatry that observe (mainly) the objective/objectifiable factors when treating the disorder of a psychiatric patient, instead of considering him/her as a human being to be met in a therapeutic community. In Foudraine’s view psychiatry must loosen its ties with the natural sciences in order to heal the patient. See [17] (many reprints and several translations).Google Scholar
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    The term ‘positionality’ has been briefly explained in note [7].Google Scholar
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    Accordingly, both the human being and the world as such have been described as ‘ouverture’, ‘overture’, elsewhere; see [18], [19] (By mistake, in the last publication ‘Qetiv’ was printed in stead of the correct term ‘Ketiv’).Google Scholar
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    Compare his impressive volumes [20], [21].Google Scholar
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    Woordenboek Filosofie, Van Gorcum, Assen/Maastricht, 1992.Google Scholar
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    Levinas, E. Totalit é et infini, Essai sur l’exieriorite, Martinus Nijhoff, Den Haag 1974.Google Scholar
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    van Nispen, J. and Tiemersma, D. (eds.), The Quest for Man, Van Gorcum, Assen/Maastricht 1991.Google Scholar
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    Foudraine, J., Wie is van haut? (Who is made of wood?), Amboboeken, Baarn 1971.Google Scholar
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    Fennema, J., “De l’ouverture de l’homme et du monde: réflexions sur la technique, les sciences et la religion”, Revue des Questions Scientifiques, 1, 1996, pp. 27–37.Google Scholar
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    Fennema, J., “Ketiv und Qere. Die natürliche Theologie als Gottessuche”, Evangelische Theologie, 2, 1993, pp. 157–174.Google Scholar
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    Lyotard, J.-F., Le différend, Les éditions de Minuit, Paris, 1983.Google Scholar
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    Clark, W. C., Scientific American, September 1989, pp. 19–26.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jan Fennema
    • 1
  1. 1.HilversumThe Netherlands

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