We invite systematic consideration of the metaphors of cycles and circulation as a long-term theme in the history of the life and environmental sciences and medicine. Ubiquitous in ancient religious and philosophical traditions, especially in representing the seasons and the motions of celestial bodies, circles once symbolized perfection. Over the centuries cyclic images in western medicine, natural philosophy, natural history and eventually biology gained independence from cosmology and theology and came to depend less on strictly circular forms. As potent ‘canonical (...) icons’, cycles also interacted with representations of linear and irreversible change, including arrows, arcs, scales, series and trees, as in theories of the Earth and of evolution. In modern times life cycles and reproductive cycles have often been held to characterize life, in some cases especially female life, while human efforts selectively to foster and disrupt these cycles have harnessed their productivity in medicine and agriculture. But strong cyclic metaphors have continued to link physiology and climatology, medicine and economics, and biology and manufacturing, notably through the relations between land, food and population. From the grand nineteenth-century transformations of matter to systems ecology, the circulation of molecules through organic and inorganic compartments has posed the problem of maintaining identity in the face of flux and highlights the seductive ability of cyclic schemes to imply closure where no original state was in fact restored. More concerted attention to cycles and circulation will enrich analyses of the power of metaphors to naturalize understandings of life and their shaping by practical interests and political imaginations. (shrink)
The volume documents, and makes an original contribution to, an astonishing period in twentieth-century philosophy—the progress of Arne Naess's ecophilosophy from its inception to the present. It includes Naess's most crucial polemics with leading thinkers, drawn from sources as diverse as scholarly articles, correspondence, TV interviews and unpublished exchanges. The book testifies to the skeptical and self-correcting aspects of Naess's vision, which has deepened and broadened to include third world and feminist perspectives. Philosophical Dialogues is an essential addition to the (...) literature on environmental philosophy. (shrink)
Buckminster Fuller’s experiences in the Navy became a model for his ecological design projects and suggestions for the global management of ‘Spaceship Earth’. Inspired by technocratic ideas of the 1930s, Fuller envisaged, in the 1970s, an elitist world without politics, in which designers were at the helm, steering the planet out of its environmental crises.
The etymological origin of ecology in the human house is the point of departure of this article. It argues that oikos is not merely a vague metaphor for ecology, but that built households provide a key to understanding the household of nature. Three households support this claim: the cabins of Henry Thoreau, Aldo Leopold and Arne Noess. The article suggests that their views on the household of nature stand in direct relationship with their respective homes. They also have a distant (...) epistemological bird's-eye view of nature seen from homes which were located - symbolically or in reality - on a mountain top. (shrink)
The South African ecologist and political activist Edward Roux used evolutionary biology to argue against racism. During the cold-war, he transformed his communist beliefs into advocacy for scientific rationalism, management, and protection of nature against advancing capitalism. These pleas for saving the environment served as a vehicle for questioning the more risky issue of evolution and racial order in society. The link between ecological and political order had long been an important theme among the country's ecologists and politicians alike. The (...) statesman Jan Christian Smuts' holistic theory of evolution and racial order inspired the nation's ecologists to sanctify an ecologically informed racial policy. This idealist informed methodology stood in direct opposition to the materialist approach to ecology of Roux. These methodological debates reflected differing political support from within the Union Party and people on the radical left, respectively. Ecology was of concern to politicians because understandings of the order of nature had direct implications for the racial order of the South African society. (shrink)