Philosophy ETDs

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Ive always been drawn to all things uncanny, which is how I believe I ended up devoting so much time to the study of philosophy. Those little moments of dissonance within the structure of our everyday lives that give us a glimpse of what's going on beneath the surface without bringing the surface world to a halt seemed to me deliciously charged with creative potential. In spite of the anxiety that such moments may instill, I find the simple fact that there is always more going on than meets the eye both humbling as well as intriguing; thus, I've gone about my life with the impression that the result of encounters with the uncanny heighten our curiosity about the world and our place in it, and teach us to be more aware of the presence of others who might not share our interests or point of view. I was taken aback to learn of the uncanny's ill repute in Western aesthetic discourse, and I thought I ought to set about trying to figure out what the root of that was and make an effort to salvage the positive aspects of the uncanny from the dustbin of the Tradition. Within this body of work I present a substantial glimpse of the uncanny and outline how its potential comes to light in the work of Freud and Heidegger. I then present the experience of the uncanny through the lens of Japanese aesthetics and its role in Zen Buddhist practice in order to further illuminate its positive potential in ethical terms. This is followed by an overview and critique of the dominant strands in contemporary environmental aesthetic discourse that fail to acknowledge the potential of the uncanny. Lastly, I argue that the cultivation of an appreciation of the uncanny has a crucial role to play in reacquainting Western culture with nature on more respectful and sustainable terms. Generally, I hope to show how the experience of the uncanny and opportunities to cultivate an appreciation of it can play a major role in reshaping the relationship between culture and nature in the direction of dialogue instead of domination.

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Level of Degree


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First Committee Member (Chair)

Thomson, Iain

Second Committee Member

Hayes, Richard

Third Committee Member

Saito, Yuriko




Environment (Aesthetics), Nature (Aesthetics), Nature and culture

Document Type


Available for download on Thursday, May 14, 2099

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Philosophy Commons