© 2019

Ontology and Closeness in Human-Nature Relationships

Beyond Dualisms, Materialism and Posthumanism


  • This book makes the case that all environmental problems are intimate and relational in origin

  • Presents a new perspective that challenges the posthumanist solution to human exceptionalism

  • Moves beyond materialism and human/nature dualisms to a close human-nature relational ontology


Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xv
  2. Understandings of Human-Nature Relationships

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 1-1
    2. Neil H. Kessler
      Pages 3-21
    3. Neil H. Kessler
      Pages 23-33
    4. Neil H. Kessler
      Pages 35-88
  3. Dualism and Relational Structure

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 89-89
    2. Neil H. Kessler
      Pages 91-106
    3. Neil H. Kessler
      Pages 107-179
  4. Part III

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 181-181
    2. Neil H. Kessler
      Pages 183-194
    3. Neil H. Kessler
      Pages 195-220
    4. Neil H. Kessler
      Pages 221-230
  5. Part IV

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 231-231
    2. Neil H. Kessler
      Pages 233-285
    3. Neil H. Kessler
      Pages 287-327
  6. Conclusion

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 329-329
    2. Neil H. Kessler
      Pages 331-333
  7. Back Matter
    Pages 335-343

About this book


In Ontology and Closeness in Human-Nature Relationships, Neil H. Kessler identifies the preconceptions which can keep the modern human mind in the dark about what is happening relationally between humans and the more-than-human world.  He has written an accessible work of environmental philosophy, with a focus on the ontology of human-nature relationships.  In it, he contends that large-scale environmental problems are intimate and relational in origin.  He also challenges the deeply embedded, modernist assumptions about the relational limitations of more-than-human beings, ones which place erroneous limitations on the possibilities for human/more-than-human closeness. Diverging from the posthumanist literature and its frequent reliance on new materialist ontology, the arguments in the book attempt to sweep away what ecofeminists call “human/nature dualisms.  In doing so, conceptual avenues open up that have the power to radically alter how we engage in our daily interactions with the more-than-human world all around us.  

Given the diversity of fields and disciplines focused on the human-nature relationship, the topics of this book vary quite broadly, but always converge at the nexus of what is possible between humans and more-than-human beings.  The discussion interweaves the influence of human/nature dualisms with the limitations of Deleuzian becoming and posthumanism’s new materialism and agential realism.  It leverages interhuman interdependence theory, Charles Peirce’s synechism of feeling and various treatments of Theory of Mind while exploring the influence of human/nature dualisms on sustainability, place attachment, common worlds pedagogy, emergence, and critical animal studies.  It also explores the implications of plant electrical activity, plant intelligence, and plant “neurobiology” for possibilities of relational capacities in plants while even grappling with theories of animism to challenge the animate/inanimate divide.  The result is an engaging, novel treatment of human-nature relational ontology that will encourage the reader to look at the world in a whole new way.


environmental philosophy human-nature relationships ontology human-nature dualism environmental problems

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Natural Resources and the EnvironmentUniversity of New HampshireDurhamUSA

About the authors

Neil H. Kessler is an adjunct professor in the Department of Natural Resources at the University of New Hampshire.  He earned his Ph.D. in natural resources, with a focus on environmental philosophy.  He has extensive experience teaching environmental policy, ecology and ethics, particularly in backcountry settings such as the rainforests of Southeast Alaska.  It is in wild places such as this that he honed the ideas for this book.  When he’s not teaching, Neil serves on his town’s Conservation Commission helping craft regulations and promoting nature overall. 

Bibliographic information