Scaling Sentience: the Earth, the Sky, and Outer Space


Presentation Title:

  • Scaling Sentience: the Earth, the Sky, and Outer Space



  • What can sentience teach us about politics? Sentience is often tied to human perception and apprehended in the (false) distinction between thoughts and feelings. As if feelings needed consciousness to find concrete expression. As if the political was primarily a brains affair. Departing from a definition of politics as that which problematizes the relationship between perception and action (and also from a definition of politics that acknowledges the possibility for organisms to think with their guts), we here question
    modalities of engagement with sentience beyond the human. In our consideration of sentience, we are cautious of collapses into animism, wary of panpsychism, and wish to evade simplistic misanthropism and anthropomorphism. In an attempt to avoid these pitfalls, we approach the question of sentience by considering scales, from the biological to the cosmic, from the molecular to the planetary, from the microbiome of one body to that of many (social).

    We ask: How can sentience move across scales? What are the socio-political implications of scaling sentience? Can scalar sentience bring new economies of care? This panel takes the form of a trialogue among the three presenters, structured so that our thoughts are read or spoken in a rotation of sections so that three perspectives combine and triangulate into a whole. We propose a threefold problematization which, instead of searching for the truth of scaling, performs sentience at different scales: the Earth (O’Reilly), the Sky (High), and Outer Space (Boucher), will act as three distinct poetic structuring devices of spatio-temporal sentience.