David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C 29 (1):137-164 (1998)
Postmodernism was not launched by the development of Warholesque pop art in the 1960s, nor was it initiated by the explosive destruction of the Pruitt-Igoe modern housing project of St Louis, Missouri in 1972, or by the commissioning of Jean-Francois Lyotard's work on knowledge in advanced societies by the Quebec government in the late 1970s. Postmodernism began with the publication of a paper entitled `The individualistic concept of plant the association' in 1926 by the plant ecologist Henry Gleason. If we dare to characterize postmodernism, emphases on ideas such as heterogeneity, ephemerality, anti-foundationalism, pluralism, fragmentation, indeterminacy, schizophrenia, chaos, antiformalism, discontinuity, absence, playfulness, irony, localism, anarchy and ontological meaninglessness are the ones that tend to abound. The Gleasonian theory of plant associations can be said to reflect such ideas in the ecological arena. Certainly there is room for, and an expanding professional commitment to, a fully-fledged neo-Gleasonian postmodern approach to natural history in which ecological phenomena are examined using non-determinist, pluralist and local perspectives that reject the foundationalism and unifying approach of modernist science and which posits a view of the Earth's biota highlighting fragmentation, anarchism and non-interaction. Community ecology, as opposed to the unifying and totalizing tendencies of ecosystems ecology, might rightly claim to be the intellectual site of such a postmodern natural history. Often, postmodern studies not only attempt to describe a postmodern phenomenon but act to forge new varieties of postmodernism. It is in this vein that this paper seeks to present a non-anthropocentric form of postmodernism; not by dissolving the dualistic barrier that separates humanity from nature (as many environmentalisms would advocate) but by dissolving humanity and nature.
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