“The Politics of Love” – Writer Philip McKibbin – Sentientism Episode 120

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Philip is a writer from Aotearoa New Zealand, of Pākehā (NZ European) and Māori (Ngāi Tahu) descent. He is a PhD candidate at the University of Sydney, affiliated with the Sydney Environment Institute. He holds a Master of Arts in Philosophy from The University of Auckland & diplomas in te reo Māori (the Māori language) from Te Wānanga o Aotearoa. Philip has written for publications such as the Guardian, Newsroom, & Takahē. His book, Love Notes: for a Politics of Love, is published in New York by Lantern Books. In 2018, he co-organised ‘The Politics of Love: A Conference’ at All Souls College, Oxford. Philip was also kaiwhakatipu (editor) of He Ika Haehae Kupenga.

In Sentientist Conversations we talk about the two most important questions: “what’s real?” & “what matters?”

Sentientism is “evidence, reason & compassion for all sentient beings.” The audio is on our Podcast here on Apple & here everywhere else.

We discuss:
00:00 Welcome

01:54 Philip’s Intro

  • Writing on animals, Maori issues & “The Politics of Love”

03:10 What’s Real?

  • Neither parent very religious so grew up agnostic?
  • Anglican Christian high school
  • Sermons talked more about love than god
  • Confirmed at 14 yrs… “ridiculous… what do 14 yr olds know?”
  • “A lot of the metaphysical background was smuggled in”
  • Anglicanism to comparative religion to philosophy
  • Turning from metaphysical to normative/ethics/politics
  • “The final nature of reality is unknowable to us & we just have to proceed on our senses”
  • Albert Camus
  • The risk of being distracted by esoteric philosophical questions… instead “We need to be engaged in work that tried to bring about a better world in the light of obvious suffering”
  • “I do believe there is something transcendent that is true… spiritual… love”
  • “Communing with the spiritual… but through a critical filter”
  • “Prophets of love… Martin Luther King Jr & Te Whiti O Rongomai”
  • God, purpose, meaning, spirit, love… “Our attempts to name it… project our own interpretations on to it… prevent us from fully understanding…”
  • Ethical risks from religious or spiritual epistemologies (unchallengeable, unknowable, incommunicable, obedience, higher purposes, constrained/conditional compassion)
  • Old, new testaments, “what would the next step be?… Something like love?… a more mature ethical outlook.”
  • Is something missing from a purely naturalistic ethics? “Not necessarily… we should & can find reasons for acting in a loving way independently from this spirituality I have described.”

26:30 What Matters?

  • “I understand ethics in relation to love & relationship”
  • Constructing & affirming the morality we want to see in the world
  • “We are living in an absurd world… we need to determine & assert our own values… try to act lovingly”
  • “The Politics of Love”
  • A communal house as a metaphor “something we create in which to live”
  • “The challenge is to ensure that our ethics & politics has philosophical strength… we do that with tools like reason & critical thinking”
  • “Our ethics & politics will be less coherent, less robust… if we only recognise that human beings are sentient”
  • Black, indigenous & feminist theory
  • “Our anti-racism is undermined if we’re not also anti-sexist”
  • “We can’t unpick one [oppression] without unpicking the others”

37:44 Who Matters?

  • In 2015 The Politics of Love hardly mentioned non-human animals… “since then my heart has opened, or re-opened, to non-human animals & the rest of nature”
  • Beyond sentience… the “more than human world”
  • “Who matters? Everyone & everything.”
  • “Sentience needs to be taken into account morally”
  • Risks of instrumentalism re: non-sentient entities?
  • Is the notion of sentience tethered to the human?
  • Interests, relationships
  • “The environmental movement… has overlooked the sentience of non-human animals”
  • “I’m not convinced that value comes from sentience”

57:13 A Better Future?

  • The Politics of Love
  • Choosing optimism
  • Personal interactions to govt. policy
  • “I understand love as being intellectual & emotional”
  • bell hooks “work as central to love”
  • “Anything short of love isn’t going to be enough”
  • “Love is not scarce & it’s not limited. We can have more of it simply by choosing it”
  • Veganism & decarceration as examples of a loving politics
  • “Collective action always boils down to individual action”
  • “We cannot effect any change unless we effect that change in ourselves”
  • Pluralism, mutuality, honesty, intersectionality: “It’s going to look different in different places”
  • When cultural values clash with a Politics of Love
  • “I don’t think indigenous cultures should be engaged with uncritically”
  • He Ika Haehae Kupenga, “The fish who tears the net”… as a Maori vegan
  • “It’s harder to do it with love when it’s coming from without”
  • “That idea that indigenous cultures… should be preserved and are relics of the past is a patronising idea… a colonial idea”
  • Criticism as a sign of love & respect (Jennifer C Nash)

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