Ray Kurzweil and others have posited that the confluence of nanotechnology, artificial intelligence, robotics, and genetic engineering will soon produce posthuman beings that will far surpass us in power and intelligence. Just as black holes constitute a ldquo;singularityrdquo; from which no information can escape, posthumans will constitute a ldquo;singularity:rdquo; whose aims and capacities lie beyond our ken. I argue that technological posthumanists, whether wittingly or unwittingly, draw upon the long-standing Christian discourse of ldquo;theosis,rdquo; according to which humans are capable of (...) being God or god-like. From St. Paul and Luther to Hegel and Kurzweil, the idea of human self-deification plays a prominent role. Hegel in particular emphasizes that God becomes wholly actualized only in the process by which humanity achieves absolute consciousness. Kurzweil agrees that God becomes fully actual only through historical processes that illuminate and thus transform the entire universe. The difference is that for Kurzweil and many other posthumanists, our offspringmdash;the posthumansmdash;will carry out this extraordinary process. What will happen to Home sapiens in the meantime is a daunting question. (shrink)
Integral Ecology uses multiple perspectives to analyze environmental problems. Four of Integral Ecology's major analytical perspectives (known as the quadrants) correspond to the four divisions of the liberal arts and sciences: fine arts, natural science, social science, and humanities. Integral Ecology also utilizes the analytical perspective provided by the idea of cultural moral development. This perspective helps to reveal how stakeholders at different developmental stages disclose a phenomenon, in this case, a tropical forest that loggers propose to clear-cut. Integral Ecology (...) takes into account all pertinent perspectives, in order to arrive at the best possible solution to environmental problems and conflicts. (shrink)
Recent disclosures regarding the relationship between Heidegger’s thought and his own version of National Socialism have led me to rethink my earlier efforts to portray Heidegger as a forerunner of deep ecology. His political problems have provided ammunition for critics, such as Murray Bookchin, who regard deep ecology as a reactionary movement. In this essay, I argue that, despite some similarities, Heidegger’s thought and deep ecology are in many ways incompatible, in part because deep ecologists—in spite of their criticism of (...) the ecologically destructive character of technological modernity—generally support a “progressive” idea of human evolution. (shrink)
In this essay, I address three questions: the nature of heidegger's involvement with national socialism; whether there is an essential link between heidegger's thought and his political decision to support hitler; and allegations regarding anti-Semitism in his thought and politics.
J. Baird Callicott seeks to resolve the problem of the intrinsic value of nature by utilizing a nondualistic paradigm derived from quantum theory. His approach is twofold. According to his less radical approach, quantum theory shows that properties once considered to be “primary” and “objective” are in fact the products of interactions between observer and observed. Values are also the products of such interactions. According to his more radical approach, quantum theory’s doctrine of internal relations is the model for the (...) idea that everything is intrinsically valuable because the “I” is intrinsically valuable and related to everything else. I argue that humanity’s treatment of nature will become respectful only as humanity’s awareness evolves toward nondualism, and that such nondualistic awareness will not be produced by changes in scientific theory alone. Nevertheless, as Callicott suggests, such changes may be harbingers of evolutionary trends in human awareness. I conclude with a sketch of how nondualism, especially in its panentheistic version, provides the basis for environmental ethics. (shrink)
Deep ecologists have criticized reform environmentalists for not being sufficiently radical in their attempts to curb human exploitation of the nonhuman world. Ecofeminists, however, maintain that deep ecologists, too, are not sufficiently radical, for they have neglected the cmcial role played by patriarchalism in shaping the cultural categories responsible for Western humanity’s domination of Nature. According to eco-feminists, only by replacing those categories-including atomism, hierarchalism, dualism, and androcentrism - can humanity learn to dweIl in harmony with nonhuman beings. After reviewing (...) the eco-feminist critique both of reform environmentalism and of deep ecology, I sketch a critical dialogue between eco-feminism and deep ecology. (shrink)
MacIntyre, Clark, and Heidegger would all agree that the current problem with moral theory is its lack of a satisfactory conception of human telos. This lack leads us to resort to such fictions as rights, interests, and utility, which are “disguises for the will to power.” Ibid., p. 240. These thinkers would also agree that modern nation-states are cut off from the roots of the Western tradition. Modern political economy, with “its individualism, its acquisitiveness and its elevation of the values (...) of the market to a central social place”Ibid., p. 237. is leading us into “the coming age of barbarism and darkness.”Ibid., p. 244. MacIntyre's grim depiction of the future, which Heidegger calls “the time of the darkening of the earth” and “the flight of the gods”,Heidegger, “What Are Poets For?” in Poetry, Language, Thought. can only be met by re-appropriating our own tradition. Although Aristotle has much to tell us, I believe Heidegger is right to turn to Heraclitus for a non-anthropocentric conception of humanity's place in Nature. Other writers, however, such as Arne Naess, George Sessions, and Stuart Hampshire, argue that the writings of Spinoza may offer the most helpful vision of humanity needed to guide our efforts to find a more appropriate basis for our behavior toward each other and toward the non-human world as well.George Sessions, “Spinoza and Jeffets on Man in Nature,” Inquiry 20 (1977):481–528. Sessions' essay was criticized by Genevieve Lloyd in “Spinoza's Environmental Ethics,” Inquiry 23 (1980):293–311. In reply, Arne Naess wrote “Environmental Ethics and Spinoza's Ethics: Comments on Genevieve Lloyd's Article,” Inquiry 23 (1980):313~ 325. Cf. also Stuart Hampshire, Two Theories of Morality (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977). Yet Aristotle, Qark, Heidegger, Heraclitus, Maclntyre, and Spinoza all agree that in order to behave fittingly, we must understand what it means to be human. At this time, I would like to acknowledge the importance of the following objection to what I have been arguing here: While it may be true that the concept of human rights is a fiction, it is nevertheless a very useful fiction for changing how human beings relate to each other. Tom Regan has frequently pointed out that even if the concept of rights proves to be ficticious, it can be helpful in protecting non-human beings from abuse by humans. Cf. his essay “Exploring the Idea of Animal Rights,” Animals' Rights - A Symposium (Sussex and London: Centaur Press Ltd., 1979); Regan, “Animal Rights, Human Wrongs,” Environmental Ethics 2 (1980):99–120. The doctrine of the rights of man justified the American and French revolutions, which brought forth new and important human freedoms. Today, most of humanity still lacks the protection afforded by constitutionally guaranteed human rights. Moreover, even in constitutional democracies there are frequent abuses of and attempts to curtail human rights. Until far more people become committed to protecting human rights, it is unlikely that there will be a big movement to extend rights to non-human beings, much less to overcome the anthropocentrism inherent in the concept of rights. What the Buddhist tradition calls “skillful means” is appropriate in our current situation.My thanks to Professor David Levin of Northwestern University for having reminded me of the importance of approaching the question of human rights in a “skillful” way. We must approach people in a way sensitive to their current self-understanding. Before we can pass on to the stage of planetary unity made possible by non-anthropocentric thinking, we need to find ways that promote mutual respect among human beings.On the topic of the relation between spiritual-psychological growth and the shift in human morality, cf. M.W. Fox, “Animal Rights and Nature Liberation,” in Animals' Rights - A Symposium. Out of such respect there can also arise respect for the non-human as well. While largely in agreement with this point of view, I would like to note that our means must be very skillful, indeed, if we are to transform our relationships to each other and to the natural world before irreparable damage is done to the earth, through nuclear war or environmental destruction. The time grows short for the transformation needed to bring us from the stage of anthropocentrism to a deeper awareness of our internal relationship to the whole world. Some people, such as Peter Russell, argue that we are witnessing the evolution of a non-anthropocentric mode of planetary consciousness that will be supported by the revolution in communications and computers. Peter Russel, The Global Brain: Speculations on the Evolutionary Leap tp Planetary Consciousness (New York: J.P. Tarcher, 1983). Other people, such as Jeremy Rifkin, maintain that the coming computer age promises ever greater intrusions into natural processes, such as the drive for control of genetic structures.Jeremy Rifkin, Algeny (New York: Viking, 1983). In my view, while it is important to extend the idea of human rights wherever possible, it is also crucial that we consider seriously the possibility that the idea of human rights is merely a transitional way of conceiving of morality. As we learn more about the interrelationship of human life with all other aspects of the earth's life, our self-understanding will no longer be in harmony with the human-centered morality we know today. We will either learn to respect all beings and act toward them in appropriate ways, or else we will continue down the road we are now headed - a road which seems to have a very disturbing destination. Learning to dwell appropriately on earth is the most pressing moral issue of the day. (shrink)
Recently several philosophers have argued that environmental reform movements cannot halt humankind’s destruction of the biosphere because they still operate within the anthropocentric humanism that forms the root of the ecological crisis. According to “radical” environmentalists, disaster can be averted only if we adopt a nonanthropocentric understanding of reality that teaches us to live harmoniouslyon the Earth. Martin Heidegger agrees that humanism leads human beings beyond their proper limits while forcing other beings beyond their limits as weIl. The doctrine of (...) the “rights of man” justifies human exploitation of nonhuman beings. Paradoxically, however, the doctrine of rights for nonhuman beings does not escape the orbit of humanism. According to Heidegger, a nonanthropocentric conception of humanity and its relation to nature must go beyond the doctrine of rights. We can dweIl harmoniously on Earth only by submitting to our primary obligation: to be open for the Being of beings. We need a new way of understanding Being, a new ethos, that lets beings manifest themselves not merely as objects for human ends, but as intrinsically important. Heidegger calls this ethos the “fourfold” of earth and sky, gods and mortals. Humanists argue that Heidegger is wrong to abandon the principle of human rights in favor of the notion that we are obligated to “let beings be,” while some radical environmentalists accuse hirn of being a humanist because he supposedly overestimates the importance of humankind’s ability to speak. Heidegger insists, however, that language makes possible culture, without which thereis no human experience of nature. An environmentally sound ethos. can arise, according to Heidegger, only from a shift within the cultural heritage of the West. Richard Rorty agrees that we must become open for a new “conversation” with the West, even if this requires abandoning traditionally important fields such as epistemology. The need to develop a new understanding of Being is so great that thinkers from the analytic and continental traditions of philosophy are finally initiating a long-overdue dialogue. (shrink)