University of Tasmania
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A first cast at a philosophy of fishing

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posted on 2023-05-27, 08:58 authored by Larelle BossiLarelle Bossi
There is more to the human activity of fishing than just catching fish. These are not the words of unlucky fishers. It is also not coincidental that this pursuit of the elusive is more than fishing for fish. If fishing did not pose all the challenges of being in pursuit of the elusive, it would not be fishing, nor would it serve as a metaphor for life. And whilst the thesis is inspired by the purest notion of fishing for fish, the existential quest to which the more entails, is inescapable. From Paleolithic Man to a Prioress of a Medieval Nunnery, the human activity of fishing casts its net out to the unknown in search of an elusive creature that smells less like fish and more like the salty-sweet bounty of lost feminine deities. Irrespective of the longstanding use of fishing as an allegory of the spiritual quest (or of human life as such experienced), and the numerous fishing tales that hint at a popular philosophy, one published paragraph from 1880 remains the only Philosophy of Fishing to date. This lacking of philosophical inquiry into fishing has never seemed so queer as in our current conundrum in fisheries management. Management of the last of the hunters and gatherers has proved to be a challenge in fisheries the world over. Beyond the question of twenty first century industrial fishing I argue that the human activity of fishing may play a key role in the understanding of ourselves as a symbolic mind, and moreover, how the activity of fishing itself, as a conduit of two worlds may be an embodied symbol of our humanity. This thesis in three parts aims to demonstrate how a philosophy of fishing may contribute to both the current topological discourse, and its applicability in entering multidisciplinary discussions involving current global issues in fisheries policy and governance. Motivated by Susanne Langer's work on symbolism, and also the fishing tales of celebrated literature, Part I considers how the activity of fishing has been instrumental in understanding ourselves as human beings and further enabling us to connect with that understanding. In Part II, the thinking about a sense of place within the elemental and unframeable waterscape is facilitated through the philosophies of Jose Ortega y Gasset, Jeff Malpas and Freya Mathews. With an aim at synthesizing our evolutionary capacity for symbolism with a topological consideration of an aquatic sense of place, Part III develops an ethical consideration of fishing inspired by the topological philosophies and reflected in the notions of Indigenous kinship and Dreamings they support.


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