Accepted paper:

Staying with speculation: natures, futures, politics


Luke Moffat (Lancaster University)

Paper short abstract:

I examine the increasing use of speculation and speculative methods in research practices across the sciences, arts and humanities. I use these approaches to classify the Anthropocene as an inherently speculative entity, or collection of entities. Using the nature-philosophy of F.W.J. Schelling, I argue that this speculative status requires consideration of key political questions over the material ramifications of speculation itself.

Paper long abstract:

In the past decade, speculation has become an increasingly widespread concept in disciplines across the sciences, arts and humanities. Emerging from this, are disparate but often overlapping conceptual, theoretical and practical uses of speculative research methods. This cross-disciplinary pool of research has come together in STS, as a site where questions emerge about potential, as well as concrete ramifications of speculation. One arena where this is particularly pertinent is the Anthropocene. Despite being a young concept, there is already a wealth of existing discussions of the Anthropocene. As an inherently speculative entity, I claim that the Anthropocene exists in an unstable balance between anthropocentric and materialist, anti-humanist conceptions of human-world relations. In this paper, I draw upon a neglected approach to speculation and to humanity’s place in nature, F.W.J Schelling’s nature-philosophy, in particular, his project of speculative physics. Schelling wrote at the turn of the nineteenth century, a time when revolutions in the sciences were challenging traditional notions of matter, nature and consciousness. I claim that these can prove valuable in negotiating our position in this anthropecenic age. Schelling conceives of nature as an already organic whole, out of which consciousness emerges according to the same fundamental process, which Schelling calls ‘unconditioned productivity’. As human productivity appears to impact the planet more and more, I present Schelling’s speculative physics as a tool for speaking to many of the approaches called upon to discuss the Anthropocene, including STS, New Materialisms and Feminist Technoscience.

panel A16
Infrastructures of the Anthropocene