Philosophy of Religion, Theology, Earth Ethics, Decolonial Theology, Mysticism, Spiritual Exercises, Philosophy as a Way of Life, French Spiritualism, Simone Weil, Maine de Biran
I am a philosopher of religion working at the intersection of theology, critical theory and earth ethics. I received my PhD in 2015 from the Faculty of Divinity, University of Cambridge, and have taught at the Universities of Gothenburg and Cambridge. Currently I am research fellow at the multidisciplinary ECODISTURB project, based in the Faculty of Theology, University of Oslo. I am also affiliated lecturer at the Faculty of Divinity, University of Cambridge, where I design and co-teach an MPhil (MA) module, Theology in the Anthropocene.
I lead a team of interdisciplinary PhD students mapping responses to climate change in the Nordic region. ECODISTURB is funded by the University of Oslo, UiO:NORDIC, 2020-2024. Climate crisis and loss of nature are among the greatest challenges of our times. Nordic reactions are deeply ambivalent: destruction and recreation - gift, guilt and grace. Recognising that one of the shortcomings of environmentalism has been its tendency to favour unifying perspectives, the approach of ECODISTURB assumes tension, contradiction and conflict to be the norm rather than the exception.
Effort and Grace: On the Spiritual Exercise of Philosophy
What does it mean to practice philosophy as a way of life and spiritual exercise? My first book, Effort and Grace: On the Spiritual Exercise of Philosophy (London: Bloomsbury, 2020), offers a critical intervention and theological perspective on the legacy of Pierre Hadot and Michel Foucault. I tackle the importance of Simone Weil’s concept of attention for critical theory and practice today, and situates attention within the history of French reflexive or spiritualist philosophy, from Maine de Biran to Henri Bergson.
"[O]pening oneself to the outside, being 'attentive' to what is not human, is a profoundly ecological way of thinking and acting. [...] Kotva [...] thinks with rather than about key figures in practising philosophy as a way of life to help address a pressing contemporary issue." - Michael Barr, Metaphilosophy
"[The] most compelling interpretation of French Spiritualism yet offered in the English language." - Oliver Keenan, New Blackfriars
"[A] brilliant book on philosophy as a spiritual exercise." - Ola Sigurdson, Modern Theology
Ecologies of Ecstasy: Practicing Philosophy Through Mystical and Vegetal Being
I am currently completing a second book on philosophy as a way of life and spiritual exercise. The book counters the common understanding of spiritual exercises as technologies of the self, and narrates the ecological thinking implicit in the concept and practice of philosophy as a spiritual exercise. I provide original and thought-provoking readings of key texts in the tradition of Christian mysticism and spiritual exercise, with a special focus on the early modern period and the work of the woman mystic and author Jeanne Guyon (1648-1717). Showing how contemplation was once thought to be an activity shared with plants, animals and other organisms, I draw on feminist theology, new materialism and critical plant studies to articulate a new approach to the practice of philosophy as a way of life and spiritual exercise.
Magic and Ecology: Spellwork for a Damaged Planet
In 2019-2020 I convened Magic and Ecology, a series of online events funded by the Cambridge Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Science and Humanities (CRASSH), and am currently in the process of co-editing the proceedings of that project.
I maintain several social media accounts (Twitter, TikTok and YouTube) where I post updates and educational content relating to my research: @thisnonhumanity.
Kotva, S. (2020) Effort and Grace: On the Spiritual Exercise of Philosophy. London: Bloomsbury.
Kotva, S. (2019) The Occult Mind of Simone Weil. Philosophical Investigations 43/1-2: 122-141
Kotva, S. (2019) The Line of Resistance: Ravaisson and Bergson. Journal of Religion and Literature 49/2: 228-239.
Kotva S. (2019) Attention: Thomas A. Clark and Simone Weil', Journal of British and Irish Innovative Poetry. 11(1).
Kotva, S. (2018) Attention in the Anthropocene: On the Spiritual Exercises of Any Future Science. In Political Geology: Active Stratigraphies and the Making of Life. Eds Adam Bobbette and Amy Donovan. London: Palgrave Macmillan.
Kotva, S. (2018) One Question on Ritual and Religion. International Journal of Philosophy and Theology 79:3. 337-340.
Kotva. S. (2017) Sealanguage: Field Notes from the Anthropocene. PARSE Journal 6. 14-33
Kotva, S. and A. Tarbuck. (2017) The Non-Secular Pilgrimage: Walking and Looking in Ken Cockburn and Alec Finlay’s The Road North. Critical Survey 29. 33-52.
Kotva, S. (2016) The God of Effort: Henri Bergson and the Stoicism of Modernity. Modern Theology 32/3. 397-420.
Kotva, S. (2015) Gilles Deleuze, Simone Weil, and the Stoic Apprenticeship: Education as A Violent Training. Theory, Culture & Society 32/7-8. 101-121.