about

Everyone talks about growing up in God’s country, but my home province, British Columbia, genuinely warrants the description. My childhood was split about equally between Whistler (whose once fabulous ski resort was bought, and ruined, by Vail Resorts in 2016) and Coquitlam (a very sleepy suburb back then, now swallowed whole by Vancouver). When not in school, I could likely have been found either carving turns in Harmony Bowl or wandering with friends through the trails of Burnaby Mountain. I left B.C. in my twenties to go to university in Ontario, eventually receiving a PhD in Philosophy from the University of Toronto. I have been in exile from God’s country ever since.

Since becoming a professional philosopher I’ve written on a wide variety of philosophical figures and topics –Descartes, Nietzsche, Spinoza, weakness of will and self-deception, forgiveness, ethical theory, and more. But almost all of my work in the past 15 years focuses on the grave threat anthropogenic climate change poses to nature, the global poor and people of the future. We may as well call this an existential crisis, so long as we avoid the implication that we are in the process of extinguishing ourselves altogether. We are on the path of barbarism rather than extinction, though I’m honestly not sure which destination is worse. In any case, it’s just a path. We can exit it by learning how to live better together and with nature, an irreducibly political task.

Recently, I have begun thinking and writing about all of this from two new perspectives. The first situates the climate crisis in a larger philosophical story connecting real-world collective trauma and the philosophical enterprise. I show how a few canonical philosophers–Plato, Augustine, Descartes, Spinoza and Hegel–constructed a metaphysics to help their contemporaries reorient themselves in a crisis-ridden world. The insights these philosophers uncovered can aid us in reorienting ourselves metaphysically in the midst of our emergency. I’m just wrapping up a book-length treatment of these ideas, aimed at a general audience.

My second project is about what it means to be Canadian in our new geological epoch, the Anthropocene. There are two monumental challenges facing Canadians in the new epoch: reconciliation between settlers and indigenous peoples on the one hand and mitigating and adapting to climate change on the other. I am seeking a way to frame the task of ‘nation-building’ in a way that both brings these challenges together and shows us a just and sustainable way forward.

Email: bwilliston@wlu.ca