Beyond modernity and tradition: A third way for development

Ethics and the Environment 11 (2):85-113 (2006)
Abstract
: How we understand the world (our metaphysical premise) determines, to a large degree, how we treat it. How we treat our world constitutes our basic modality. Our basic modality colors everything we do—our entire culture takes its cue from it. Three basic modalities are here distinguished. The first is the modality of pre-materialist or traditional, religion-based societies. This is a modality of importuning, the seeking of assistance from supernatural sources. The second is the modality of materialist or modern, secular societies. This is a modality of instrumentalism, involving mastery, control, and a will to re-make the world in accordance with human ends. The third is the modality of prospective post-materialist societies. These societies would be post-religious but not post-spiritual. Their modality would be one of letting the world unfold according to its own nature, and, by extension, finding creative synergies between human and nonhuman conativities. This modality of synergy is explicated by reference to the Daoist notion of wu wei
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