Nathan Kowalsky and his book, Hunting � Philosophy for Everyone: In Search of the Wild Life.
(Edmonton) When Nathan Kowalsky was starting a project recently, he rang up a colleague to say he would be editing a book about hunting and philosophy. The response was, �lots of people think the combination is almost an oxymoron; philosophers don�t hunt and hunters don�t think.�
The U of A philosophy professor says that stereotypical joke and others, including a regard for hunters as �callous, beer-swilling, barbaric, boorish, insensitive, politically conservative, gun-loving slobs,� are overturned in his new book, Hunting � Philosophy for Everyone: In Search of the Wild Life. The book also raises uncommon questions about the sport.��
�When people go hunting they kill something that�s beautiful. But hunters don�t necessarily hate the thing that they kill and they see the beauty in the animals they hunt,� Kowalsky said.
Kowalsky also says the practice of hunting touches on many aspects of human existence. �Hunting hits the nerve of fundamental human questions like death, embodiment and nonhuman life, and offers an alternative to the standard answers our culture offers.��
The text offers insights on a host of ethical hunting-related questions: whether hunting is ecologically damaging, whether hunting with primitive weapons such homemade bows and arrows is more acceptable than advanced weapons such as rifles and whether it�s acceptable for a hunter to pretend and lurk as a female in heat to trap and kill the male of an animal.
The book, which Kowalsky says is the first since 1944 to examine those questions philosophically, comes at a time when hunting is on the decline in many cultures, especially in the west where it is not a primary food source, said Kowalsky. A response to save the practice, which Kowalsky says is as old as the human race, has been to bring in those for whom hunting has been largely off the mark. �The move now is to get more women to go hunting, that way it can pass onto their children as a tradition.��
In the United States, the number of men who hunt is declining, while the rate women who are taking to the forest with bows, arrows and guns is increasing. But success in reviving a dying sport perhaps may also originate in the strengthening of other voices, he said. A quarter of the contributors to Kowalsky�s book are women, and not all of them share the feminist critique of hunting, he says.
�Very often, the critics of hunting are environmental eco-feminists who say that the way we treat nature is similar to the way we treat women; that if we abuse nature, it is similar to violence against women. And some of them argue that hunting is an act of rape, not against human females but against feminine notions of nature.�
Kowalsky, who says he�s an environmental philosopher, says ideas on hunting held by First Nations people are different but are in some ways similar to those shared among other westerners. He says the book, launched Oct. 25 at the U of A�s St. Joseph�s College, explored historic perspectives on hunting, including views held by First Nations people on the practice.
�Hunting is existentially profound, because it places the human being in direct physical contact with mortality,� Kowalsky said. �The only way to come to terms with hunting is to come to terms with the unavoidable fact that eventually, all individual organisms die.�
He says the book, which is a part of a series that tries to make philosophical reasoning more accessible by applying it to daily life conundrums, will not answer all the questions hunting raises, noting that philosophers perhaps never fully answer questions. He adds the text would serve readers in a more important way than simply answering troubling questions on hunting.
�The point of the book is to put the readers on the path of wisdom, which only they can tread,� he said. �It is to put them on the scent!�