Habits in Theory and Practice: Philosophy, aesthetics, and the environment (February 8)

Friday February 8 | 9AM-5PM | Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities | Hope Park Square | Edinburgh | EH8 9NW

Habits in Theory and Practice: Philosophy, aesthetics, and the environment is an upcoming research workshop from the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities. An interdisciplinary exploration of the notion of habit from the perspective of its ramifications within aesthetics, history of philosophy and environmental studies, the workshop will feature our very own Marco Bernini (HtV researcher), alongside Jeremy Dunham, Pauline Phemister, Andrea Pinotti, Erika Fülöp, Lynn Jamieson and Harriet Harris. Questions for consideration include:

  • What is a habit and what is at stake in this notion? From a philosophical perspective, how does Aristotle’s idea of habit differ, for instance, from David Hume ’s or John Dewey’s understanding of it? What is the relationship between habits, practices and dispositions?
  • We usually make a clear distinction between good and bad habits: How and to what extent can bad habits be broken and, conversely, how can we develop and strengthen good habits?
  • Since our habits, as embodied sets of behavioural patterns and schemes, operate in most cases (although not necessarily) beneath the level of awareness, the first step to take in order to (possibly) change them is to bring them back to consciousness. According to Michel Proust, the arts are a powerful resource to “to bring us back into contact with the reality of life, by abolishing habits”. What is the potential of literature, theatre and – with an eye to contemporary arts – virtual art installations and virtual immersive environments to make us aware of our habits?
  • Scholars in the environmental sciences and in sociology of the environment today realize that there is “an urgent need for a robust theory of consumption that addresses how habits form, how they change and how policy can contribute to the formation of new habits that are less environmentally intrusive” (Harold Wilhite). What is an ‘environmental habit’ and why is it important?
  • How and to what extent practices such as meditation and mindfulness, which enjoy today increasing popularity, can help us “grasp” our habits of thinking and acting (including our environmental habits)? Indeed, “no act of cognition is going to change” our habits; “awareness of habit has to be cultivated at the level of sensations, feelings, and involuntary thoughts. This kind of awareness is deliberately cultivated in certain therapeutic and spiritual exercises” (Clare Carlisle) such as, for example, Buddhist meditation techniques and mindfulness techniques.

To register for the workshop or find out more information, please visit the Eventbrite page here.