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?”
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)
Sentientism is “Evidence, reason & compassion for all sentient beings.” More at Sentientism.info.
Everyone, Sentientist or not, is welcome in our groups. The biggest so far is here on Facebook.
Thanks Graham for the post-production.