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Limits of Knowability – Bath Spa University

Probing the Vicissitudes of the Cosmos: The Limits of Knowability in Literary and Scientific Worldviews

Wednesday 28 June, 2023 – Wednesday 28 June, 2023
3:00 PM – 5:00 PM

CM 133, Newton Park

The concept of the World Turtle, when applied to metaphysics and epistemology, expresses how only fragments of details may ever be accessed from an infinite regression, whether probing ultimate origins, say of the universe, or ultimate ends, say of the earth.

Given how the latter is ever-more self-evidently unfurling before us, it may seem untimely to further probe the vicissitudes of the cosmos. After all, it was our insatiable drive to interrogate how things work, from atom to atmosphere, and how seemingly disparate phenomena influence one another, from atom to atmosphere, that progressively revealed just how biophysical life as always already at the behest of radical asymmetry and radical contingency. And, to close the conundrum in a circle that can never be fully enclosed: the insatiable drive also revealed the limits of knowability in both literary and scientific probings of the World Turtle, and the myriad worldviews that arise from so doing.

In this presentation, I probe literary and scientific worldviews of the rupture of life on earth that is self-evidently unfurling before us. These worldviews offer, hover untimely, compelling insights into what this rupture means for re-worlding worldviews; not only in terms of being alive during such an upheaval, but actually being alive to upheaval itself.

To illustrate this re-worlding, I draw on Joseph Meeker’s landmark The Comedy of Survival: Studies in Literary Ecology, in the context of Cormac McCarthy’s novels The Road and Sunset Limited, Lars Von Trier’s film Melancholia, and the writing of George Bataille. Ultimately, by reframing the current human-induced ecological crisis in the context of just how volatile life on this planet actually is, the presentation aims to articulate a new worldview for a new world coming, premised on fidelity to the vicissitudes of the cosmos.

About the speaker

Dr Joshua Wodak is a researcher, writer, and artist who works at the intersection of the Environmental Humanities and Science and Technology Studies. His research addresses the socio-cultural dimensions of the climate crisis and the Anthropocene, with a focus on the ethics and efficacy of conservation through technoscience, including Synthetic Biology, Assisted Evolution, and Climate Engineering.

He holds a BA (Honours) in Anthropology (Sydney University, 2002), a PhD in Interdisciplinary Cross-Cultural Research (Australian National University, 2011) and has exhibited his media art, sculpture, and interactive installations in art galleries, museums and festivals across Australia and internationally.

He is currently a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Culture and Society, Western Sydney University, and a Chief Investigator at the Australian Research Council Centre for Excellence in Synthetic Biology.

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