Exploring feelings in new book by King's philosophy professor
January 28, 2021
Congratulations to Dr. Russell Duvernoy, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, on the publication of his new book, Affect and Attention After Deleuze and Whitehead: Ecological Attunement by Edinburgh University Press.
The book investigates intersections between the 20th century French philosopher Gilles Deleuze and the British philosopher Alfred North Whitehead. It follows Deleuze’s notion of philosophy as the creation of concepts, asking the question: what concept comes out of a mutual reading of Deleuze and Whitehead? Dr. Duvernoy explains that the answer lies in the way their process-inflected metaphysics alter how we conceptualize the experience of subjectivity, changing the role of attention so we become a part of the creative unfolding of the universe, rather than being passively receptive.
“It is not so much we have feelings but rather feelings have us, in a sense,” says Dr. Duvernoy. “Ecological attunement” refers to the combined effects of feeling patterns and affective fields being metaphysically more primary, with subjectivity emerging out of such patterns in contingent and ongoing manners. “The combined effects of these claims cut deeply against the grain of prevailing conceptual habits regarding subjectivity,” he says.
The book is based on Dr. Duvernoy’s PhD dissertation, with the primary research taking place during the last three years of his doctoral studies. Once the project was accepted by the publishers, Dr. Duvernoy set to work rewriting his dissertation to fit the new format.
Dr. Duvernoy says he hopes the book will challenge Philosophy students to reflect more deeply on how differing meta-philosophical orientations regarding certainty, risk, and speculation lead towards different conceptions of what philosophical thinking is. He also hopes the book appeals to the sense of wonder for the layperson, especially for artists, creative organizers, activists, inspiring them in the collective necessity of learning how to live, think, and be otherwise.
“Deleuze and Whitehead are both philosophers who insist on the creative potential of challenging ossified assumptions and both develop highly original and innovative metaphysics that depart from entrenched orthodoxies. It was this that drew me towards their relation most consistently and made me want to write a book as an expression of the inspiration I felt in thinking with them,” says Dr. Duvernoy.
The book argues for the value for responsible speculative thinking in the context of crisis. Though Dr. Duvernoy hopes that it has some relevance to this this time in history, he stresses that it does not propose “any specific solution to the many entangled questions that face us as we struggle to understand how to live ethical and affirmative lives in the context of so much injustice, destabilization, and crisis.” Rather, he hopes “the book may help in opening new avenues for continuing to wrestle with questions of crisis and transformation.”
Dr. Duvernoy’s next project focusses more specifically on philosophical, social, and ethical implications of climate change. He is deepening his engagement with its social and material implications while continuing to explore the role that religious consciousness may play in the process of collective transformation.
“This intersects with issues of narration, atonement, and the relation between past, present, and future. It also involves questioning the relationship between singular individual experiences and the systemic social, economic, and political structures that condition them. The new book will draw on a collage of traditions and figures circling around this set of problems with Climate Change at the center,” he explains.
At King’s, Dr. Duvernoy teaches:
- PHIL 2244G Global Social-Political Ethics
- PHIL 3343G Special Topics in Ethics: Ethics and Climate Change
- PHIL 2227G Introduction to Indigenous Philosophies