Peter Reason extends co-operative inquiry beyond humans

Peter Reason introduces his just published ARJ paper Extending Co-operative Inquiry Beyond the Human.

“In this paper I am taking seriously the notion that the world is alive; not just alive, the world is sentient and speaks to us, if only we will attend and listen. We can live on Earth as Gaia – that is to say, as a living, vital entity in which many kinds of beings create meaning and tell stories.

I can argue this philosophically, I know this through experience, I can show this in narratives. However, most of us in Western cultures have learned not to listen – we have been taught that the world is a collection of objects rather than a communion of subjects. Over the past four years I have been exploring, with Human and River persons, through various forms of experiential inquiry, a practice of calling up the world and its beings as sentient, inviting them to respond to our call.

The philosophy behind this approach includes ‘living cosmos panpsychism’, which draws on a significant undercurrent in Western philosophy – a view that has close parallels to that of Indigenous people in many parts of the planet. This view holds that matter is not inanimate; rather, some kind of innerness – mind, sentience, subjectivity – is a fundamental aspect of matter, just as matter is a fundamental aspect of mind. This also suggest that the expression of meaning doesn’t only come from the human side: the world is a reciprocal presence whose beings answer back when we reach out to them.

We are exploring this practice through co-operative inquiry, a form of action research developed as a humanistic approach of research with people rather than on people. I show how this can be extended for inquiry with other-than-human persons. I give some accounts of our experiences from these inquiries, narratives of occasions when the world has indeed ‘answered back’ to our invocation. I draw in particular on narratives when animals and birds have ‘turned up’ in unexpected ways.

My conclusion is that experiences of a sentient, responsive, communicative world are available not just to indigenous people living in traditional cultures, but to all human persons willing to put in the time, the attention, to risk their taken-for-granted sense of self, and to open themselves to that possibility. This has profound implications for our approach to the current ecological catastrophe, and for how humans might live in balance and harmony with Earth and her Beings.”

The ARJ paper’s forever link – ‘Extending Co-operative Inquiry Beyond the Human’-

You can also follow this work in on Substack at Learning how Land Speaks