Bring Water back to Philosophy

Reading Meandering and Riversphere is a new experience for me. Although it is apparent that multiple philosophers from diversified cultural settings think through water, river, or ocean, I do not realize that the paradox of Heraclitus could provoke such deliberate and fruitful thinking about the river, or in a more broader perspective, the water research. As far as I am concerned, there are at least two illuminations emitting between the lines.


First and foremost, this research provides me with a vision of future water research. Water research ought to be presented not in a singular dimension, but through poly dimensional contexts. As the earlier center of the western culture, ancient Greek city-states such as Miletus, Samos, Athens, Sparta were also earlier urbanized areas. Research concerning water quality and health problems in Ancient Greece and Rome suggests that the public health effects of water have caused much attention and been recorded in the scarce resources (see A Brief History of Water and Health from Ancient Civilizations to Modern Times). It is not clear whether there is any such water crisis in Miletus which makes Thales considers that water is the exclusive and absolute element in the universe. However,  the water problem in ancient urbanized areas could not be paralleled with the water crisis in the 20th century. Even back in the 19th century, water issues could not be so complicated and entangled with so many aspects of human life. The sprawl of urban areas in the 20th century not only dramatically changed the landscape, it also engineers water into an artificial object which could be operated and manipulated by plants, dams, and pipeline engineering. Are there any rivers running freely on the planet without any engineering trace? I doubt it deeply. Water has become a super complicated conundrum involving all the classical disciplines we developed so far. The problem is, the sum of the human knowledge from every discipline might not be enough for us to tackle the problem.

Second, in order to deal with this super complicated situation, Meandering and Riversphere establishes an angle through which we could possibly begin our clarification. By clarification, I mean this research clarifies the ontological and epistemological meaning of water issues. “Riversphere” is a better term than “watersphere” on the grounds that atmosphere is a combination of atmos and sphaira, the former of the two is a tangible object. Riversphere is an ontological probing of the water. The term, as the research emphasizes, is “a thick concept” that intertwines the sciences such as hydrological, biological, ecological knowledge and the humanities such as social-cultural movements, political activities, and narratives. It discloses the super complicated reality of the water issue. On the other hand, meandering reveals the epistemological approach of the water or river. Although the research itself distinctly regards this term as a metaphor, this term sheds lights on the epistemology of the water. Furthermore, it symbolizes a unique cognitive orientation. I would not say it is a pattern or paradigm, but I consider it as an inclusive orientation bringing into different patterns and models. It embraces uncertainty, fuzzy control, and unexpectedness, but it does not ignore the opposite patterns of those.

Eventually, “meandering” and “riversphere” would bring us back to the paradox which takes us to a world where the world of being and the world of becoming build up their reconciliation.