Navigating Through Climate Change: Beware of the Metaphors

Navigating Through Climate Change: Beware of the Metaphors by Douglas R McGaughey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Navigating Through Climate Change:
Beware of the Metaphors

[The following are reflections inspired by the reading of
Wes Jackson and Robert Jensen, An Inconvenient Apocalypse:
Environmental Collapse, Climate Crisis, and the Fate of Humanity
(Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2022)]

[Note to the Reader: There are no themes here that are original to this author. Their source is, for the most part, Immanuel Kant. I have merely re-figured what he con-figured. My personal definition of the ‘life of the mind’ is the expectation that one not only understands what another thinker said within the coherent context of her/his works but also knows where s/he said it. However, I have chosen not to provide citations to avoid any possible distraction from the flow of themes. One can find the relevant citations by searching my other writings.]


While by no means challenging the reality of the crisis, this author finds that Jackson and Jensen present an analysis of the origins and required response to the apocalyptic collapse of the earth’s climate that invoke key metaphors inappropriately. In agreement that the core response involves humanity acknowledging its ‘limits,’ but Jackson and Jenson treat limits only as imposing limitations on behavior. Furthermore, their account of ‘evolutionary adaptation’ is materialistically reductionistic and profiles humanity’s ‘carbon nature’ as a genetic condition driving the development of fossil fuel energy. Foremost, their materialistic reductionism treats ‘mind’ as merely a product of the brain’s synapses. The author claims that a more adequate understanding of, and response to, climate change requires careful attention to these key metaphors of ‘humanity’s limits,’ ‘environmental adaptation,’ and the ‘mind’ without succumbing to speciesism.

Everyone surely wants to be ‚on the right side of history’ – at least, mostly. When it comes to climate change, the pathway to the ‘right side’ is complicated by humanity’s limits. However, those limits include not only applying limits-to self-interest that, clearly, we must do to avoid further devastation of our planet. However, they also include limits-for that make possible experience, understanding, and responsible agency in the world. These universal limits-for precede our establishing limits-to our personal agency. In other words, to talk of limits does not mean determining merely what one ‘can’t do’ or ‘shouldn’t do.’ Paradoxically, limits are also inescapable for determining what one ‘can do’ and ‘ought’ do. In fact, were there no limits, there would be no species that could remotely expect to creatively respond to the climate crisis (or any other crisis) much less hold itself responsible for its agency.

„Sternenstaub und Seelenvogel“ Animationsfilm zu Analytic Theology: A Review (2.5 pages) 1 June 2020

Sternenstaub und Seelenvogel Animationsfilm zu Analytic Theology: A Review by Douglas R McGaughey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

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„Sternenstaub und Seelenvogel“
Animationsfilm zu Analytic Theology: A Review
Film Available at
Hochschule für Philosophie München


A review of the Animation Film in Analytic Theology, “Sternenstaub und Seelenvogel” (“Stardust and Soul Bird”), from the University of Augsburg, the Catholic Facults of the University of Innsbruck, the Munich School of Philosophy, the Univerfsity of Regensburg, and the School of Philosophical Theology of St. George (Frankfurt a.M.).

Letter to a Misanthropic Idiot (5 pages) 1 May 2020

A Letter to a Misanthropic Idiot by Douglas R McGaughey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

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A Letter to a Misanthropic Idiot[1]

Dear Fellow Human Being,

Please don’t get me wrong! I am not writing about the degree of your intelligence or cleverness. I am employing the word “idiot” in the etymological sense of the Greek word “idiot” (῎ιδιος), which means “one’s own, personal, and private”. Its secondary meaning is “peculiar, separate, distinct” from which is derived “strange”. Hence, I am not using idiot in the derisive sense of stupid or moron that it has come to have in English and German. I take the term’s etymology to be a call for a more nuanced analysis of the human condition.

Particularly in democratic societies, humanity thinks of itself as “free” in contrast to tyrannies, autocracies, and oligarchies. The license plate from the state of New Hampshire states: “Give me liberty or give me death!” The USA is sung of as the “sweet land of liberty” for whom “our fathers died”. What follows is an examination of freedom and liberty.

Trump’s Utilitarianism: Placing the Economy First is Anti-Democratic and Immoral (4 Pages) 26 March 2020

Trump’s Utilitarianism: Placing the Economy First is Anti-Democratic and Immoral by Douglas R McGaughey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License

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Trump’s Utilitarianism: Placing the Economy First
is Anti-Democratic and Immoral[1]

Trumps call to cease social distancing and “rev up the economy” is the most blatant confirmation of his anti-democratic and autocratic mentality. Such “Utilitarianism” claims that it seeks “the greatest good for the greatest number”. Despite the appeal to the “majority”, though, Utilitarianism is not only anti-democratic but also arrogantly immoral. It is anti-democratic because it denies the dignity owed to every citizen and treats persons as mere means for achieving “the greater good”. It is arrogantly immoral because, under the assumption that only consequences count (“we know a tree by its fruit”), it claims to know in advance what the fruits are going to be of a decision/action. Both assumptions ignore the limits to human reason and elevate the agent(s) of such decision taking to the throne of God.

Was Kant Anti-Semitic? With an Addendum on Duty (38 pages) – Revised 10 March 2020

Was Kant Anti-Semitic? With an “Addendum on Duty” by is licensed by Douglas R McGaughey under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

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Was Kant Anti-Semitic?
with an “Addendum on Duty”[1]

 “It is a peculiar habit of our capacity of attentiveness to focus precisely on that which is flawed about someone else; and to do so unintentionally: to focus on the missing button on the coat of the other, or the gap in the teeth, or on an acquired speech defect and, consequently, to cause consternation in the other but also to debase ourselves in the process. – When in general it is a good thing, it is also not only proper but also wise to overlook the fault of the other and yes, to overlook even our own joy [in the matter]. However, the abstracting of this capacity involves a mental strength that can only be acquired by practice.” (Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View AA VII: 132)[2] (Trans. McG)


On this side of the Shoah, the discovery that Kant appeared to connect euthanasia with Judaism is horrific and deeply disturbing. However, with Kant nothing is as it simply appears to be. A careful reading of Kant discloses anything but a call for the physical annihilation of a social group, Jews. Kant speaks of Judaism’s voluntary (by no means from self-hatred) but gentle, spiritual death – as an historical religion, not as the violent murder of persons. He envisions that Judaism along with all other historical forms of religion will one day be renewed by a “pure” (or core) religion grounded in the dignity of all persons and a community committed to the internal commonweal of God to encourage moral effort. This God is no highest Being (ens summum) among beings but the Being of all beings (ens entium), as the unconditional condition of possibility for any and all reality and the origin of both the physical order that governs nature and the moral order that governs creative freedom. This core religion behind or above historical religion by no means removes humanity from history but is precisely what encourages humanity to exercise its incredible creative capacity in the world, responsibly.

Call for Papers: “Religion and Morality” – University of Cape Town – 27 Feb. – 1 Mar., 2019

Update of Presented Paper in Progress

Conference Call for Papers

Department of Religious Studies

University of Cape Town

Call for Papers

Moral and Ethical Frameworks and Performances

Convenors: Abdulkader Tayob; Andrea Brigaglia

In spite of deep-seated modernist suspicions, religions have been expected by the state and by societies to take some responsibility for morality and ethics. The close connection between moralities and religions has been recognized as an important part of social life. From Kant’s vision of religion rooted in ethics, to the challenges of globalization, ecological degradation and poverty alleviation in our time, religions are expected and often do respond with ethical values and virtues. This hope invested in religion is not always matched by social theory. Most contemporary and early modern scholars have not seen a close affinity between religion and true morality (ethics). The prevailing doxa is that the two are worlds apart. While freedom occupies an essential feature of a truly moral and ethical life, obligation and compulsion are believed to dominate religious life. The latter was characterised by very little scope for deviation and adaptation, which makes ethical choices difficult if not impossible. While closer attention to religious life has challenged these presuppositions, the prevailing prejudice is  hard to change. Religious moralities might be valued, but they are hardly regarded as truly ethical.

Recent interest in Aristotle’s virtue ethics has prompted a turn to the religious life worlds where ethics and morality are guided by a complex of beliefs, values and practices.  Theodicies (the justification for the persistence of evil) are only one among the many ways in which religious traditions frame human life on earth. Other ways of thinking about how religions frame ethics and ethical dispositions  might be conceptions of the nature of good or evil, conceptions of the human person, patterns of social and culture life that sustain moral life, or the future of the good in this world and the afterworlds. But conceptions of a moral life are not presented in clearly organized frameworks. They are embodied and lived through narratives and practices that sustain a moral and religious life for individuals and groups. And they are subtly malleable, but also resilient to winds of change.

This is a call for papers on the deep connection between religious traditions and morality as it is articulated in texts, beliefs, media, dispositions, practices, attitudes and emotions.

  • What are the conceptions of the good life and how are they formulated and framed in the foundational texts religious traditions?
  • How are ideas of religious ethics and morality embodied and sustained over a period of time. How do they meet the demands of change and challenges in political, economic or cultural contexts?
  • How are ethics and moralities sustained and transmitted through informal and formal educational projects?

If you are interested, please send a detailed summary of 1500 words to  by 30 October 2018. A meeting will be planned for January 2019.



On the Value and Lack of Values of Artificial Intelligence (9 Pages) – Updated August 2019

Updated August 2019

“On the Value and Lack of Values of Artificial Intelligence” by Douglas R. McGaughey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

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Presented in Prof. Otfried Höffe’s
12 January 2019


On the Value and Lack of Values of Artificial Intelligence[1]


An examination of the claims made on behalf of “artificial intelligence” (AI) that it can and will replace human rationality.  Whereas AI has the potential to be beneficial (as the case with any product of autonomous freedom), it also has the potential to be extremely destructive.  However, the core thesis of the paper is not simply one of a critique of AI by practical reason but a rejection of the materialistic reductionism on the part of the blind defenders of AI.  Already in the 18th Century, Critical Idealism pointed out that there is far more to reason than the “hypothetical” imperatives and “culture” of technical skills.  We lose humanity when we overlook the a priori synthetic structures of theoretical and practical reason, the reflecting judgment of “aesthetics,” and “pure” religion.

Theology and Revolution – David Friedrich Strauß and the 1839 Zurich Revolution

Original German Materials in the Order of Their Appearance

in the ‘Historical Reader’ for

David Friedrich Strauß, A Reading of his Gospel Criticism

and Metaphysics

Schultheß, Aufzeichnungen über die Straußische Bewegung und den 6. September 1839

Beschreibung des 6. Herbstmonats 1839 in Zürich

Paulus, Ueber theologische Lehrfreiheit

de Wette, Dr. Strauß und die Züricher Kirche

Strauß darf und soll nicht kommen!!

Strauß, Sensschreiben an die … Herren Bürgermeister Hirzel, Prof. Orelli und Prof Hitzig in Zürich

Antwort eines Laien auf das Sendschreiben des Hrn. D. Strauss an Hirzel, Orelli und Hitzig

Henne, Sendschreiben an den Großen Rath des Kantons Zürich

Meyer, Der Werth des geschriebenen Wortes an Henne

Kottinger, Doktor Strauß und seine Lehre. Ein freies Wort an die freien Züricher

Wirth, An dem Verfasser der Schrift: “Doctor Strauss und seine Lehre,” und das Zürichische Volk

Scherr, Ein freies und belehrendes Sendschreiben des züricherischen Seminardirektors an die Herren

Bericht über die Wirksamkeit des Hülfvereins zum Besten der am 6. September 3829 Verunglückten