Out of the university and into the streets, Briggle (Philosophy/Univ. of North Texas) brings the practice of “field philosophy” to the question of whether fracking is feckless or feasible.
The author seeks to demonstrate that philosophical practice can be socially engaged and practical. The rush of technology is a case in point. We usually take the technological wager, “gambling on the success of future innovations to bail us out of problems created by present innovations....The question is whether we can establish conditions to make it a fair and reasonable bet. In the case of fracking…these conditions are largely not in place.” Briggle is an advocate of the “proactionary” school, which in the big picture “says that rather than avoid error we should take risks in the pursuit of profound truths and great rewards.” On the micro level, the author asks if the risks of fracking are too harmful to outweigh its development in his college town of Denton. Briggle calls on Thomas Hobbes, René Descartes, Immanuel Kant, and other philosophers for advice, but he distills the complexity of technological innovation into three elements to assure a “fair and reasonable bet”: those most vulnerable to harm must give consent, a system of monitoring must attend the experiment, and the experiment must be modifiable when problems arise. These all come to bear when a group is organized to confront the energy industry and the dangers of fracking. It is a fraught story, but Briggle tells it warmly and cogently, exploring both the interpersonal relationships involved and some of the geological science behind fracking. The rogues are the usual suspects: PAC money, the Data Quality Act, and the merchants of greed who pathetically hide in groups with names like “Taxpayers for a Strong Economy.”
Goliath takes it right between the eyes in this unique take on the convoluted politics, science, and cultural issues at stake regarding fracking.