Activist, Professor, and Author of A Field Philosopher’s Guide to Fracking
“In this blunt yet hopeful chronology, Briggle confers with scientists, engineers, policy makers, and fellow citizens to gain a broad overview of fracking … Briggle’s philosophical framing of the conversation sets his work apart and helps provide further insight on this divisive topic.”—Publishers Weekly
Adam Briggle’s latest book, A Field Philosopher’s Guide to Fracking, chronicles his efforts to ban hydraulic fracturing for natural gas in Denton, Texas. Shortlisted for Columbia University’s prestigious J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize, the book examines the grand-scale implications of fracking on a philosophical level—that our ability to innovate outstrips our capacity to think about the consequences of our actions. As a ‘field philosopher,’ and as leader of the grassroots, democratic Denton Drilling Awareness Group, Briggle led the successful Frack Free Denton campaign to ban hydraulic fracturing in Denton’s city limits: an underdog victory for Denton, and now nationally recognized as a beacon for citizens’ rights.
A Field Philosopherâ€™s Guide to Saving the Planet, One Town at a Time
In this inspiring talk, Adam Briggle gives an insider’s look at how he led a grassroots campaign to ban fracking in a small city in north Texas. He tells personal stories about forging deep bonds with neighbors, and forging a civic voice keen enough to battle big money interests. He talks about overcoming the odds—including being called a Russian operative, receiving a visit from the FBI, and being accused of hating America—to emerge victorious, rock the oil and gas industry, and energize activist communities worldwide. And he describes his brave act of civil disobedience after their hard-won ban was nullified by the Texas legislature in a naked act of corruption, gutting the idea of local control.
This keynote will inspire audiences: to get involved in local politics, exercise their civic liberty, and have a say over the things that impact their lives. But it also serves as a fascinating case study to illustrate larger, more complex issues about democracy, technology, and our vision of a good life. As a philosopher, Briggle explores the epistemic, ethical, aesthetic, and metaphysical dimensions of our global technoscientific culture. In a dangerous wager, he argues, we tend to bank on future technologies to bail us out of problems caused by those we use at present. For that reason, Briggle’s struggle in Denton isn’t just about energy, or local politics, but about our modern condition. Our ability to innovate outstrips our very capacity to think about what we are capable of doing. Thus, fracking has everything to do with philosophy: it all comes down to who should have what power, what conception of justice should rule, how knowledge relates to action, how we should relate to nature, and other essentially philosophical questions. To solve these problems, Briggle lays out three criteria for ethical innovation and discusses the many ways these tend to be short-circuited in a capitalist system.
A Field Philosopherâ€™s Guide to Fracking
From the front lines of the fracking debate, a “field philosopher” explores one of our most divisive technologies.
When philosophy professor Adam Briggle moved to Denton, Texas, he had never heard of fracking. Only five years later he would successfully lead a citizens’ initiative to ban hydraulic fracturing in Denton—the first Texas town to challenge the oil and gas industry. On his journey to learn about fracking and its effects, he leaped from the ivory tower into the fray.
In beautifully narrated chapters, Briggle brings us to town hall debates and neighborhood meetings where citizens wrestle with issues few fully understand. Is fracking safe? How does it affect the local economy? Why are bakeries prohibited in neighborhoods while gas wells are permitted next to playgrounds? In his quest for answers Briggle meets people like Cathy McMullen. Her neighbors’ cows asphyxiated after drinking fracking fluids, and her orchard was razed to make way for a pipeline. Cathy did not consent to drilling, but those who profited lived far out of harm’s way.
Briggle’s first instinct was to think about fracking—deeply. Drawing on philosophers from Socrates to Kant, but also on conversations with engineers, legislators, and industry representatives, he develops a simple theory to evaluate fracking: we should give those at risk to harm a stake in the decisions we make, and we should monitor for and correct any problems that arise. Finding this regulatory process short-circuited, with government and industry alike turning a blind eye to symptoms like earthquakes and nosebleeds, Briggle decides to take action.
Though our field philosopher is initially out of his element—joining fierce activists like “Texas Sharon,” once called the “worst enemy” of the oil and gas industry—his story culminates in an underdog victory for Denton, now nationally recognized as a beacon for citizens' rights at the epicenter of the fracking revolution.
Socrates Tenured: The Institutions of 21st-Century Philosophy
Professional philosophy has strayed so far from its roots that Socrates wouldn’t stand a chance of landing tenure in most departments today. After all, he spent his time talking with people from all walks of life rather than being buried in the secondary literature and polishing arguments for peer-reviewed journals. Yet somehow this hypertrophy styles itself ‘real’ philosophy.
Socrates Tenured diagnoses the pathologies of contemporary philosophy and shows how the field can be revitalized. The first part of the book sketches the crisis facing philosophy in a neoliberal age and traces its roots back to the 20th-century move to turn philosophy into an academic discipline. In the second part the authors look at various attempts from applied ethics to their own brand of ‘field philosophy’ to confront the resulting problems of insularity and societal irrelevance. Part three connects this evaluation of philosophy with wider discussions in the politics of knowledge about the impacts of research on society. The final chapters consider both what impacts philosophy might have and what a philosophy of impact might look like.
A Rich Bioethics: Public Policy, Biotechnology, and the Kass Council
Several presidents have created bioethics councils to advise their administrations on the importance, meaning and possible implementation or regulation of rapidly developing biomedical technologies. From 2001 to 2005, the President’s Council on Bioethics, created by President George W. Bush, was under the leadership of Leon Kass. The Kass Council, as it was known, undertook what Adam Briggle describes as a more rich understanding of its task than that of previous councils. The council sought to understand what it means to advance human flourishing at the intersection of philosophy, politics, science, and technology within a democratic society.
Briggle’s survey of the history of U.S. public bioethics and advisory bioethics commissions, followed by an analysis of what constitutes a “rich” bioethics, forms the first part of the book. The second part treats the Kass Council as a case study of a federal institution that offered public, ethical advice within a highly polarized context, with the attendant charges of inappropriate politicization and policy irrelevance. The conclusion synthesizes the author’s findings into a story about the possible relationships between philosophy and policy making.
A Rich Bioethics: Public Policy, Biotechnology, and the Kass Council will attract students and scholars in bioethics and the fields of science, technology, and society, as well as those interested in the ethical and political dilemmas raised by modern science.
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