Donovan Alexander Stewart is a PhD candidate at the Leiden Centre for Continental Philosophy. His research focuses on 20th and 21st century philosophy, orientated by the themes of ecology, technology, and nihilism.
Fields of interest
- Environmental Philosophy
- Theories of Situatedness and Place
- Philosophy of Technology
- Phenomenology (esp Heidegger and Levinas)
- Contemporary Continental Philosophy (esp Derrida, Deleuze, Stiegler)
My research departs from the challenge of the Anthropocene, which names the present epoch in which humanity, or at least a hegemonic form of it, is the dominant geological force. The results of this domination, including: mass species extinction, accelerated climate change, and exacerbated postcolonial instability; bring forth the ecological dimension of so-called Western civilisation, whose humanist dimension has already been criticised by several 20th century authors, and call for us to inquire into its metaphysical roots once more. This is the task of my PhD project. It affirms that in order to continue engaging with this metaphysical tradition, we must acknowledge that these crises are engrained within it, calling for at least two forms of inheritance: one critical, another affirmative. First, critique must be directed at contemporary theory, particularly that which concerns the Anthropocene, to see if it inadvertently retains presuppositions from this tradition that perpetuate this epoch. Second, while acknowledging that Western metaphysics is complicit with these crises, we must simultaneously refuse to outright reject this diverse tradition, and instead appropriate resources from it to strengthen our responses to today’s challenges.
My research project enacts such a double inheritance by examining the concept of justice that, I claim, must be reformulated in light of the Anthropocene. This work is necessary because the concept of justice is used frequently in contemporary theory, and legitimately so, but the prevailing concept of justice reproduces Western metaphysics' anthropocentrism and fixation on the present, and should be rethought to de-centre the human and clear ground for a renewed thinking of the environment. I suggest that current theories of justice tacitly understand peace as the enforcement of the same (e.g. the same juridical system, values, idea of the proper citizen) and violence to be the irruption of the different, and that this is how theories of justice reproduce the fundamental presuppositions of Western metaphysics. I argue that the differential forces of events that are unassimilable to the same are not inherently wrong, nor are they necessarily alien to ethical experience, but on the contrary, they make up the very condition of ethics as demonstrated by Levinas and Derrida. While Levinas has shown this relation between justice and differential force in light of inter-human ethics, I propose to show how this is also the basis of ecological thought, which is yet to be articulated.
- 2019-2020 Research Masters in Philosophy, KU Leuven, Thesis title: Derrida and the Violence of Justice
- 2018-2019 Masters in Philosophy, KU Leuven, Thesis title: Destruktion and Ethics: The Force of the Seinsfrage
- 2014-2018 Bachelors in Ethics and Politics, Bard College Berlin (formerly European College of Liberal Arts)