Forest Forms and Ethical Life

What kind of guidance can the world Eduardo Kohn calls “forest” provide for living well on Earth in times of planetary anthropogenic ecological fragmentation? How, that is, can humans learn to ecologize their ethics? Reflecting on his ongoing ethnographic research in and around Indigenous communities of Ecuador’s Upper Amazon, Kohn uses what he learned to help find a path that can orient humans in their attempts to live well in relation to the many kinds of others that make and hold them. Ecologizing ethics, this article argues, turns on understanding the living world as a “thinking forest,” one that is mind manifesting or psychedelic in nature and as such requires a mode of attention that is itself psychedelic. Ethical guidance comes from finding ways to appreciate the “shape” of the larger mind of which people are a part, and in this way, to find direction from that form as it becomes manifest to them. This article discusses, thus, the ways in which an ecologized ethics is linked to the aesthetic ground from which it emerges.

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