Congratulations Dr. Alexander J.B. Hampton

August 17, 2020 by Michael Twamley

Congratulations to Dr. Alexander J.B. Hampton, Assistant Professor, on his successful SSHRC Insight Development Grant application.

SSHRC Insight Development Grant: Religion and Romantic Ecology

Project Description:

Our present age is well aware of the problematic alienation of human beings from the natural environment of which we are a part, and the destructive an unsustainable relationship this has led to. Despite this, there is a collective sense that we are somehow incapable of addressing on ongoing crisis that is already multi-generational. Recently, the advent of the environmental humanities has pointed out that it is not our knowledge of ecology that is preventing us from acting, but the cultural context in which our technical and scientific know how is deployed. The upshot of this insight is that there is an important role not just for the sciences in addressing the environmental crisis, but the humanities as well.

Within this context, this project turns to the thought of an important figure in early Romanticism, Friedrich von Hardenberg (1772-1801), better known as Novalis. Though his reputation today is largely literary, Novalis was an important early environmental figure, deeply involved in both science and religion. In particular he was concerned with an increasingly human-centred, anthropocentric, way of conceptualising nature. This was present both in the burgeoning new natural sciences, and in the popular Kantian-influenced philosophy of transcendental idealism. Whilst appreciating the insights of both, Novalis also sought to balance out these subject-centred ways of conceptualising nature with ways of shaping knowledge that instituted a dialogue between humans and nature. To do this, Novalis turned to ancient religious knowledge, both pagan and Christian in origin.

This project will explore Novalis Romantic ecology, and the role Neoplatonism and Christian Platonism played in forming his idea of nature. In recovering, and systematically reconstructing his thought, it will also bring his insights into dialogue with our present-day environmental concerns. In so doing, it will respond to the important call of the environmental humanities to address our ecological crisis on a cultural and civilizational level.

This project builds on Alexander J.B. Hampton’s previous work in the history of the philosophy of religion, and his current research on religion and ecology. He has previously published Romanticism and the Re-Invention of Modern Religion (Cambridge, 2019), on Romantic religious thought, and Christian Platonism: A History (Cambridge, 2020), a co-edited volume on religious metaphysics. This project will contribute more broadly to his current work on post-secular nature, the metaphysics and nature, and his co-editorship of the Cambridge Companion to Religion, Nature and the Environment in the West.