Title: Environment and Well-Being: A Cross-Cultural Study
Owen Flanagan (James B. Duke University Professor of Philosophy, Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience, Co-Director, the Center of Comparative Philosophy, Duke University)
Jeffrey Nicolaisen (Candidate for Ph.D., Graduate Program in Religion, Duke University)
Wenqing Zhao (Post-doctoral Research Fellow and Associate Director, The Center for Comparative Philosophy, Duke University)
Traditional modes of Asian thought receive limited attention in North American and European academia, especially in their application to solving contemporary problems. The objective of our project is to explore how Asian thought can inform current debates on the environment and well-being. We approach these problems through Asian thought and practices that include Confucianism, Buddhism, and Hinduism and their encounter with empirical science. Our approach is transdisciplinary, utilizing cutting edge work in fields such as psychology, ecology, and anthropology to examine how both humans and nonhumans can flourish in a period where global connections and the human impact on the environment challenge purely Western modes of apprehending and solving problems. We analyze the dynamic interaction between living Asian traditions and local practices of environmentalprotection, focusing on issues such as multi-species relationships. We then draw on ethnographic findings to answer modern-day philosophical questions such as how these traditions understand the impact of environment on well-being and how Western empirical and philosophical studies can learn from their Asian counterparts. We plan to achieve this goal through collaboration with both local and international environmental scientists, cultural anthropologists and comparative philosophers. We leverage the extensive connections of the Center for Comparative Philosophy with India and Hong Kong, while simultaneously building new connections with Taiwan. This project leads to the networked population of experts necessary to make a significant contribution to the transdisciplinary study of the environment and well-being, which will in turn serve as the foundation for building a multimillion dollar Templeton project.