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Finding Words to Describe this Moment We’re In & Why it Matters with Jonathan Rowson

Tuesday November 14th
Doors & drinks 6.30pm; Talk starts 7pm

Does it matter which words we use to describe our global predicament? Anyone who lived through ‘Take Back Control!’ in the UK or ‘Make America Great Again!’ in the USA knows that words shape reality. Strategic language of this sort is a kind of landscape gardening of civic and cultural space, and the aesthetic changes what we see, where we can move, and what’s allowed to grow.

Many feel it's 'the action' that counts, but language is arguably our primary tool in taking social action of any kind. Are terms like crisis and emergency 'just words' then, and interchangeable? Or might it be worth our while to reflect more deeply on what we are trying to convey and choose words accordingly?

For instance, how do we speak of climate collapse in a way that reflects the relevance of climate to almost everything, while not reducing everything to climate at a time when there are related but also separate challenges relating to technology, culture, economy, and democracy? While it might seem ridiculous, for instance, to wonder whether what we are contending with is a polycrisis, a permacrisis, a metacrisis, or not a crisis at all, might it actually be a critical part of the work we are called upon to do today?

In The Ethics of Terminology in 1902, Charles Sanders Peirce argues that “It is wrong to say that good language is important to good thought, merely; for it is of the essence of it.”

Jonathan Rowson, philosopher, co-founder and director of Perspectiva, will make the case for 'metacrisis' as the best single term available to capture our predicament, which he defines as "the historically specific threat to truth, beauty, and goodness caused by our persistent misunderstanding, misvaluing and misappropriating of reality.

"The metacrisis is the crisis within and between all the world’s major crises, a root cause that is at once singular and plural, a multi-faceted delusion arising from the spiritual and material exhaustion of modernity that permeates the world’s interrelated challenges and manifests institutionally and culturally to the detriment of life on earth."

Kairos, 84 Tottenham Court Road, London W1T 4TG

Doors open at 6.30pm for drinks. The talk will start at 7pm followed by a one-pot vegan supper and discussion.

£8 members, £15 non-members. Includes food.

Booking is initially only open to Kairos members. Booking for non-members opens on October 14th.