A Delicate Empiricism:
belonging and the natural world
an online learning course
Wikimedia Commons, attribution: Mountains-nature-person-hiking (23958935379).jpg
Thursday evenings, 6.00 - 8.00pm (GMT)
April 1st - May 27th, 2021
This course will run again in 2021. Please get in touch if you would like to be kept informed about future courses.
(*Note: course dates have been adapted in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. A wider range of price options are offered to accommodate those who may be experiencing financial difficulty due to the current situation – please see below for more details.)
Can we establish a deep and felt personal relationship with our environment? One that brings greater meaning to our interactions with the more-than-human world?
As a society we are increasingly aware of the environmental challenges we face, yet despite all the knowledge available we haven’t made fundamental changes to our lifestyles and ways of being in the world. Many of us talk about this change, yet we still find it difficult to lead a life that is congruent with our ethics.
This online course will support you to participate with the environment around you in a subtle and fundamentally different way - one that brings greater meaning to your interactions with the more-than-human world. Finding a delicate balance between thinking (intellect) and sensory experiences, empathy and empiricism can support each of us to establish deeper and more personal relationships with our environment.
It begins with us, so let’s get going!
Feedback from previous courses:
A well constructed, in depth course, which I found stimulating, enriching, and well supported with great resources. The study continues way beyond the ending of the course. I love re-reading and re-engaging in the exercises as a way of deepening, integrating and embodying the learning. This is life-long learning!
Shirley Long, Psychosynthesis Counsellor NZAC PAnzA (participant DE1)
Roland's availability to his students felt hugely generous. Thanks from the bottom of my heart for developing and offering this course…. I loved the way it moved through the topics that led into our feeling confident to tackle a project…. I look forward to working with you some more!
Wendy Glasgow, educator (participant DE1)
"The course inspired me to gain a deeper and broader perspective…..It also helped me to reflect more consciously on my thinking and blind spots. The readings provided alternative perspectives for engaging with the world: through our bodies, feelings and other under-explored dimensions of knowing....along with the practical assignments, this expanded my conventional, fragmented knowing and bridged what is ‘not bridgeable’ when we rely only on reason. It was a unique experience and the beginning of something very important for me."
Aikokul Arzieva, PhD candidate, Graduate Institute Geneva (participant DE2)
I liked the mix of theory and activity, it worked very well. I think the exercises are brilliant and provide luxurious space in simple ways.
Joanne Matthews, artist and designer (participant DE2)
Excellent. It was fantastic for me to follow and join in in this approach - to our connection, relation and capacity for observation of the earth, through resonance and presence rather than merely possibility and abstract concepts, which I find vital and very enrichening to combine with learning and reading.…. I found that this course made space equally for the scientific and the artistic, and that this interpenetration is essential.
Bartholomew Ryan, Research Coordinator CultureLab, Nova Institute of Philosophy [IFILNOVA] (participant DE2)
For further testimonials, please follow this link.
Central to some of the important questions raised by the Covid-19 pandemic is our relationship to the natural world. This course offers participants a variety of ‘phenomenon-centered' ways of engaging with the natural world; that support participants to develop an understanding of the inherent and intrinsic nature of phenomena. The course provides ideas and practices to support participants to reorient thinking and actions in ways that are more fully aligned with natural processes and the environments you live with. It serves as a foundation on which participants can apply the learning in other areas of life and work.
The term ‘delicate empiricism’ is borrowed from Johann von Goethe, the 18/19th century German poet and scientist who developed a rigorous and sophisticated way of participating with the dynamic qualities of living things. This course is inspired by his work and legacy.
The maximum number of participants for each course is 9 people.
The overarching focus of this course is to support participants to identify and practice ways of thinking, perceiving and relating to the natural world that bring each individual closer to the living qualities of phenomena. This includes recognising the difference between thinking about natural phenomena and participating with them, perceiving and valuing relationships (in and between phenomena), and finding ways to balance questions around environmental ethics with empirical facts and our lived experience of engaging with particular phenomena.
The course balances practical and theoretical material, with greater emphasis placed on experiential learning. It includes guided exercises with a range of natural phenomena, as well as both theoretical and experiential groundings in the philosophy of wholeness, the relationship between thought and perception, and Goethe’s phenomenological approach to natural science. Online tutorials will provide opportunities for individual questions to be explored within the group. Participants will be supported to apply the learning from the course to a short personal project (see more details under 'Weeks 7 - 8' below).
Participants are strongly encouraged to carry out the exercises provided. You will be supported to reflect on your impressions and experiences of the exercises and consider the ways in which you relate to the more-than-human world. As a group we will explore how to develop and transform our own relationships with the natural world in ways that are simultaneously more grounded and reciprocal - meeting both our needs as humans and those of the more-than-human world. We will reflect on what this means to our lives in more general terms and how nurturing different relationships with the more-than-human world can change our actions.
A note on experiential learning or 'learning by doing'
One of the core aims of A Delicate Empiricism is to facilitate awareness of the different ways we can participate and engage with the natural world. The course encourages participants to reflect on the differences in lived experience and meaning that emerge when we give attention to how we participate with our surroundings.
Much of the learning is experience-based. The course guides you through cycles of practice (through exercises) followed by opportunities to reflect on your experiences and learning. Exercises will be offered between the weekly sessions, and you will be encouraged to explore them as part of your learning.
Participant-numbers are limited to 9 to ensure that there is sufficient time for all to contribute during the group sessions.
Brief overview of the course content, including reading material:
Weeks 1 - 3: reading on the topics of wholeness, participation with and perception of the natural world/environment, the limits of the scientific method and phenomenologically-inspired exercises. Weekly group tutorials on the topics above, reading and exercises between tutorials.
Weeks 4 - 6: practical application of areas covered in Weeks 1-3, studies of various natural phenomena including plants, landscapes and the weather. Observation and imagination exercises and reflection through weekly group tutorials. Practical exercises and further optional reading between tutorials.
Weeks 7 - 8: personal projects – each participant is invited to choose a phenomenon/area of study to apply the learning from the course. Areas of study include any natural phenomena you have access to (e.g. plants, landscapes, animals), as well as topics with a social focus, such as human-made objects, social or community-based issues, a project or organisation. There will be no group session during Week 7. Instead, in the time between the sessions in Week 6 & 8, participants are offered up to 2 x 45mins one-to-one online support sessions to develop their personal projects. Participants will have the opportunity to present their personal projects to the group in Week 8. Former participants have found this session to be beneficial and formative and all are encouraged to make a short presentation.
Week 9: the final session continues with the presentations by participants of their personal projects and concludes with reflections and closing thoughts.
Reading material and multimedia content include those from authors: H Bortoft, D Abram, S Talbott, A Leopold, J Bennett, JW v Goethe, C Holdrege, D Bohm, F Amrine, O Barfield, N Shepherd, R Carson, C Merchant.
No prior knowledge or experience is necessary to take part in this course. However, the following are minimum requirements that will enable you to participate effectively:
• Sufficient internet bandwidth for participation in video conference calls.
• Willingness to dedicate time to reading one or more articles each week (many of which are academic in nature), particularly during weeks 1-3.
• During weeks 4-8, you will be encouraged to dedicate time each week for experiential practice. The time given to practice is an important part of the course and you are asked to consider your availability before making a booking.
Date / Time:
Thursday evenings, from April 1st – May 27th, 2021 (9 weeks*)
Online tutorial time: Thursdays 6.00 - 8.00pm (UK GMT)
(*1 group session per week on all weeks other than Week 7 where there will be no group session. Between Weeks 6-8 up to 2 optional one-to-one sessions (45mins each). See Course Content for more detail).
Fees**: please see 'Note on prices' below.
GBP £330 (High Waged) / £295 (Waged) / £230 (Low waged).
GBP £435 (Private/Public sector organisations) / £380 (Third Sector organisations).
Maximum number of participants per course: 9 people.
**Note on prices:
A sliding scale has been set for the course fee. This is to take into account people's different financial circumstances, particularly in the context of the pandemic. Please choose your own price band depending on your income. I am keen to ensure no one is put off participating for financial reasons. If you find yourself in this position, please get in touch. In this case, please specify why you would like to join the course or how you feel it may help you or your work/practice, and what you are able to pay or contribute. I tend not to offer free places and instead prefer to have an exchange of some kind.
Those on higher incomes, please consider supporting subsidised places, either by paying a higher rate or by making a donation specifically for this purpose. Places subsidised by donations can, on request, be advertised on this website. The extra portion of fees paid at the 'organisations rate' (above the 'individual rate') will go towards subsidising low/unwaged places on this and/or future courses.
To make a booking or for any enquiries, please click here.