The point of departure of any ethical theory is the anthropological fact that normally developed humans must lead their own lives themselves. This means that their conduct is neither programmed nor determined by instincts. Human beings must on every occasion engage the circumstances of a practical situation by their own choice and decision. Even when they find themselves delivered over to the stimuli and powers of particular circumstances in a completely passive manner, this does not occur in the way that (...) it does for a robot, but rather, on the basis of a background of an essential possibility that they can conduct themselves otherwise than they are now behaving. Where there is the possibility of a choice, then the question inevitably arises regarding the principle of the choice. On what do we base our decision to choose one possibility rather than another? We can let fate decide, we can consult astrological charts, we can appeal to an authority, or we can try to find out what we truly want, what are our deepest desires and what choice agrees best with these desires. Finally, we can also inquire into what decision is the objectively correct and rational one, i.e. which decision is good independent of our subjective preferences. This latter case, of course, presupposes a standard of the objectively good and rational, in regard to which we can be responsible for and evaluate our decisions as well as our ensuing actions. (shrink)
Starting from a reflection on the present stage of technological civilisation, a critical reading of Jonas's ethics of responsibility from a Husserlian point of view is presented. It is argued that Jonas's ethics fails to meet the challenge of the collective character of technological action, that his view of human history is problematic and that the metaphysical foundation of his ethics is uncritical and naive.
The ecological crisis is more than a threat to our physical survival. It is also a metaphysical or moral crisis. With the human imprint on the natural environment growing ever larger and deeper, we face the prospect of a world without true non-human otherness. Maybe as Bill McKibben argues, we have crossed the threshold already and, without being fully aware of it, live already in a postnatural world. Nature, then, is not only exhausted as a physical but also as a (...) metaphysical and moral resource.How do we respond to the end of wild nature? What does it mean for our human self-understanding? And why should we care? What is so horrifying about a completely humanized world, a world of only human meanings? Why should we not rejoice at our liberation from the prison of nature? The meaning of nature is evasive and fragile. It is located in concrete experiences in the lifeworld and its articulation is poetic rather than scientific but “in wildness is the preservation of the world” and the sanity of our minds. (shrink)
Recently there has arisen a new wave of optimism in the discussions about the environment. According to Gregg Easterbrook, one of the most prominent of the environmental optimists, we are presently witnessing fundamental and far-reaching changes for the better: “the Western world today is on the verge of the greatest ecological renewal that humankind has known; perhaps the greatest that the Earth has known” .The optimism of these new environmental optimists is not simply strategic, a mere psychological stimulant to maintain (...) the struggle against environmental destruction. They believe there are good reasons for being optimistic: they claim that a sober and scientific analysis of the environmental problematic shows that the prospects for the Earth and for our own kind are actually much better than the eco-alarmists would have us think. Nature is not on the brink of collapse. The real existing problems can be controlled and solved, at least if we are prepared to adopt a less dogmatic, more rational, pragmatic and flexible approach. The environmental movement, and environmental protesters are locked into ideas, analyses and attitudes that are no longer in touch, or never were in touch, with reality. So the time is ripe, according to the American environmental optimist Ronald Bailey, for a second wave of environmental activism. It is time for “a modern, smart environmentalism” .In what follows, I shall look at environmental optimism primarily as it is presented in Gregg Easterbrook’s voluminous book. His book contains a comprehensive and well-documented argument in favour of a new approach and a new attitude toward the whole environmental problematic. Of particular interest is his attempt to ground environmental optimism in an image of nature that has clearly been influenced by dynamic or evolutionary ecology — a new paradigm in ecology. Easterbrook considers himself a ‘liberal’, which might be translated as a ‘social democrat’ in the European political spectrum. He is not at all opposed to the environmental movement, environmental protest or environmental politics. Indeed, he regards the environmental movement as one of the most positive social developments of the 20th century. The politics of the environment and environmental protection legislation are, in his opinion, among the greatest success stories of the post-war social-democratic welfare state. “Americans and Europeans today live in a world where effective environmental influence is assured at nearly every level of government and business. This is a wonderful development for society”. (shrink)
IntroductionIn May 2006, the small group of doctoral students working on ecophilosophy at the Higher Institute of Philosophy at K.U.Leuven invited the Dutch environmental philosopher Martin Drenthen to a workshop to discuss his writings on the concept of wilderness, its metaphysical and moral meaning, and the challenge social constructivism poses for ecophilosophy and environmental protection. Drenthen’s publications on these topics had already been the subject of intense discussions in the months preceding the workshop. His presentation on the workshop and the (...) three critical responses by Wim Bollen, Glenn Deliège, and Richard Kover are published here in a thoroughly revised form on the basis of further and ongoing discussions about the issues involved. Three further contributions to the discussion are added: one by Nathan Edward Kowalski, a young Canadian philosopher who studied in Leuven and wrote his as yet unpublished dissertation on “Evil in Nature,” a second one by Kingsley Goodwin who is currently writing a dissertation on deep ecology at University College in Dublin and, finally, my own unsystematic thoughts inspired by Martin Drenthen’s provocative and stimulating hermeneutics of our postmodern understanding of nature and wilderness, as well as the diverse critical responses to Drenthen’s views by the other contributors. I owe gratitude to all of them for enriching my own ecophilosophical thought and enlarging its horizon although as my fragmentary reflections show at the cost of yet greater uncertainty and more questions about the possibilities of arguing for a radical environmentalist position. Such a position would somehow connect or ground our moral obligation to preserve genuine non-human otherness, wild and free nature, in the non-human meaning of such nature and in our essential need to be in direct and concrete contact with that field of wild non-human meaning because we ourselves belong to nature, because we are not only and purely civilized but are also and most fundamentally wild and free. Three fundamental questions need to be distinguished: the question about our moral obligations regarding nature and its preservation, the metaphysical question about the nature of nature or the meaning of nature, and the question of the metaphysical grounding of our morals in general, and of our moral obligation regarding nature in particular, in the nature or meaning of nature. The complex intertwinement between these three questions is at the heart of Martin Drenthen’s reflections.The authors contributing to the present discussion approach the various issues from markedly different philosophical backgrounds and concerns: critical theory, anthropology, analytic philosophy, phenomenology, hermeneutics, and deep ecology are all to some degree or other brought to bear on the question of what wilderness means for us, why we are fascinated by it and what it actually and in the first place is.Another interesting difference between the five respondents to Martin Drenthen’s wilderness-philosophy relates to the place from which they write: while the Canadians Richard Kover and Nathan Edward Kowalski have wilderness of some sort still close at hand, the Belgians Wim Bollen and Glenn Deliège write from a place which has been thoroughly domesticated, cultivated, and industrialised for a long time. Martin Drenthen himself, of course, writes from the same kind of place as these last two, which explains why he only refers to the wilderness that he has read about in novels, seen in movies, or experienced as recreated in the reserves of the Netherlands. The Irish Kingsley Goodwin writes perhaps from a third, intermediate place that is not wild anymore but still much more natural than Belgium or the Netherlands are.The differences in philosophical approach and concern combined with the difference of place generate a rich tapestry of perspectives and voices wrestling with the fundamental questions of our perceived homelessness and alienation from nature, our cultural discontent, our longing for and need for radical alterity, of immanence and transcendence, of who we are and where we belong, and more concretely of whether there is more to ground our efforts to preserve nature than enlightened self-interest and subjective preference. Martin Drenthen deserves praise for inaugurating this fruitful discussion with his intriguing and highly paradoxical effort to hybridize a postmodern deconstruction of the idea and ideal of wilderness as unspoilt and true nature on the one hand with a new metaphysics of wilderness on the other. Arne Naess, who is generally regarded as the founding father of deep ecology, pointed out the positive and stimulating role that vagueness in the expression of ideas can play in political and philosophical debate. Such general and vague but highly suggestive expressions as ‘all life is one’ are not empty at all, as is often claimed; they are rather full of possibilities of ‘precisation’ and differentiation. Drenthen’s wilderness-philosophy is certainly not vague to the degree of ‘all life is one,’ but his expositions are similarly pregnant with a wealth of further questions, precisations, distinctions, and conceptual clarifications. Good examples of different kinds are to be found in the contributions of Nathan Edward Kowalski and Richard Kover. Kowalski points out that Drenthen’s notions of culture and wilderness need to be made more precise by distinguishing them from the notions of civilization and wildness such that wild cultures become a conceptual possibility. Richard Kover takes the lead from Drenthen’s question about the reason for our postmodern fascination for wilderness to confront it with our primordial fascination in terms of the dependence in the evolution of our subjectivity and our consciousness on the focused perceptual attention on wild forms.Glenn Deliège situates Martin Drenthen’s wilderness-philosophy in its original context of the Dutch debate on the preservation of nature, in particular on the new wilderness paradigm. According to this paradigm, the nature to be preserved should be true and pure, truly natural and wild nature, that is nature outside of and free from the cultivating and domesticating influence of humans. In the Netherlands, however, such nature no longer exists; it can only be preserved after it has first been artificially recreated. Deliège gives an informative summary account of the highly charged three-cornered debate between the adepts of this wilderness-paradigm, the proponents of the more traditional form of conservation of remnants of the typical European landscapes created by pre-industrial farming practices and the modern technocratic functionalists. This debate makes obvious that there are quite different views of the nature of nature and its value. Enter social constructivism: the contested nature of nature is nothing more than a social construct, an idea in a collective mind. The contestation itself is a struggle for authority and power between different such social constructs, any claim to scientific objectivity and objective truth for one’s image of nature is an arrogation of a truth which doesn’t exist and is potentially oppressive by silencing other views. Nature then is up for the grabs of politics, political negotiation, and compromise between various interest groups who all want to get some benefit from nature, some use-value.The problem with Drenthen’s effort to articulate a normative concept of nature which cannot be deconstructed in this way is the extreme formality and emptiness of his metaphysical concept of wilderness as that which is always ‘beyond’, always ‘more’ and which can never be exhausted by any image and construction of nature. Any more concrete determination is mere appearance; the thing in itself is a border concept of that which in fact cannot be grasped conceptually. Glenn Deliège is critical of this formality and emptiness from which it will be impossible to derive any concrete guidance for our conservation practices. He then goes on to defend the Arcadian tradition of our appreciation of nature as giving us a historically well-grounded orientation for those practices. Of course that Arcadian tradition is obviously a cultural construction but that doesn’t make it completely arbitrary and contingent since it is itself ultimately grounded in and open to modification by our concrete sensuous experiences of nature.Deliège here raises the very important issue of the relation between our concrete perceptual and bodily experiences in and with nature and our concepts and metaphysical images of nature. Drenthen himself approaches this issue from the hermeneutical perspective of our need to make sense of our experiences and to articulate their meaning. His confrontation with social constructivism and his effort to salvage something from its relativizing acid lead him, however, into the direction of a highly abstract and empty concept of wilderness.Richard Kover shows that perception is, indeed, the key to a radical critique of social constructivism. He does this with the help of the ecological anthropology of Paul Shepard, the structuralist anthropology of Claude Levi-Strauss and the phenomenology of Maurice Merleau-Ponty. It needs to be said here that Kover takes his leave from an unpublished paper by Martin Drenthen with the title “How to appropriate wilderness appropriately?” – the paper is accessible though on Drenthen’s web-site - in which Drenthen comments and reflects upon three contemporary wilderness-tales, one of them being Werner Herzog’s much-discussed documentary on Timothy Treadwell, an American environmentalist drop-out who lived thirteen summers among wild grizzlies in the Alaskan wilderness before being killed together with his girlfriend by a grizzly bear.Kover tries to show that we are not imprisoned in the mirror-cabinet of our mind or of our human sociality. To make his case, he starts from Paul Shepard’s thoughtful observation that the evolutionary emergence of the mind did not remove us from the natural world but actually connected us deeper with it. Through our mind we evolved more fully into it because our mind is primordially in our senses and in the ability to articulate a perceptual world. The natural world in the form of the system of natural species and their relations is the primary model for perceptual discriminations, for the fundamental discovery of order with its twin-aspects of distinction and discontinuity on the one side and relations and continuity on the other side. Our cognition is essentially perceptually based, our subjectivity is primordially informed by our inherence in the sensible world. Perceptual cognition is inherently intentional and relational, it is not an autonomous mental construction, it is rather in the world and informed by that which is perceived. The other is always intertwined with the subject. We are always already hooked up with the world, with the others, before we start reflecting, thinking, and conceptualizing. This is one of the major themes in Shepard’s work: what this insight means with regard to our relations to non-human otherness, in particular to our perceptual encounter with wild animals. In our encounter with non-human otherness, we are confronted with an essentially ambiguous sense of both affinity and disjuncture. Wild animals demonstrate to us that we are not homeless or alien to this world, that we fundamentally belong to it and are part of it. Their difference, however, shows us that there are different perspectives and ways of being in the world. “Thus the encounter with non-human others inform humans that we are both of the world and simultaneously not the world and there are horizons of significance beyond our own perspective.”Nathan Edward Kowalski comes to a similar conclusion when he situates our morality in the larger moral order of wild nature. According to Kowalski it is indeed a moral order though not our own, an Other to our morality but not simply a negative one. It is, as Drenthen says, a highly paradoxical amoral morality. But what can it mean to speak of morality here? For Kowalski it means that the issue is not merely the theoretical recognition and acknowledgment of axiological transcendence, of non-human values out there, but whether we will appropriately conform to and comport ourselves towards that axiological transcendence so that we can find a human homeland in wild nature instead of turning it into a wasteland. The question then is, how to fit our own human morality into this larger order and greater reality, to subordinate it to that greater reality as a part of it and encompassed but not denied by it so that we can be moral and natural at the same time, tender carnivores hunting the sacred game. Indigenous people follow a moral protocol in their relationship with non-human others which acknowledge and respects their autonomy, their alterity, and the sacred mystery of their different ways of being. They are not befriended but some of them are hunted and eaten – as an exchange in the gift-economy of nature.The problem of the homelessness and alienation from nature is discussed by Wim Bollen from the radically different vantage point of critical theory. In Adorno’s and Horkheimer’s Dialectic of Enlightenment the human story unfolds as a tragic effort to liberate ourselves from nature and to become fully human through rational control when in the end this effort turns against ourselves and instead of liberation and human flourishing we get social domination and repression of our natural needs. The frustrations and mutilations imposed upon us by a repressive civilization give rise to the regressive desire for a return to a natural existence. Referring to the myth of Odysseus and Circe as interpreted by Adorno and Horkheimer, Wim Bollen equates such a natural existence with animal life. In the light of contemporary knowledge about primitive existence, however, this equation is highly problematic. Palaeolithic foragers were already fully human in all respects. A life without civilization need not be an animal-existence.According to Adorno/Horkheimer, our subjectivity and autonomy have to be wrested from animal-nature through an exertive struggle that cannot but proceed by a threefold strategy of domination: the domination of non-human otherness, of human others, and of our own inner nature. The siren song of nature consists in the temptation to give up that struggle for the promise of an unreflective, non-alienated natural existence without toil.When Odysseus’ men give in to Circe’s seduction they are, however, not transformed into wild animals but into swine. According to Bollen this signifies that we cannot re-wild ourselves, that we remain imprisoned in civilization, either as master-subjects or as domesticated animals. Bollen, by the way, like Drenthen, does not distinguish conceptually between civilization and culture. Since re-wilding for Bollen means the impossibility of returning to animal-existence, which is actually the impossibility of becoming another species since biologically we are animals already, to be imprisoned in civilisation means nothing else than to be imprisoned in our humanity. The fact that we cannot become wild animals again – according to Paul Shepard, however, we are still wild animals – is indeed, as Bollen stresses, a trivial form of alienation. A more meaningful concept of alienation which can be put to critical use must refer to a culturally and historically determined frustration and deficit inside the cultural order that is to be overcome not by an impossible regression but by progressive politics leading beyond the three intertwined forms of domination. Not back to nature but forward towards a reconciliation of culture with nature! Such a reconciliation would neither collapse culture into the immanence of nature nor submerge nature into the transcendence of culture. According with the three forms of domination it would be a three-dimensional form of reconciliation.Odysseus’ men did not got what they thought were promised them: the complete liberation from the burden of being autonomous subjects, of being civilized, but they got something worthwhile, namely a certain from of pleasure, a limited and provisional relief and escape. Bollen sees a critical potential in these piggish pleasures after all and consequently even in the siren song of nature since these pleasures were only experienced because Odysseus’ men gave in to it. But one has to give in to this siren song critically if it is to unfold its liberating potential. The problem with pleasure though in bourgeois society is that it is necessarily betrayed, instrumentalized and sold.Kingsley Goodwin’s paper starts by defending deep ecology against the charge of asserting a naïve and dogmatic metaphysics of nature. For convenience sake, but not quite unproblematically, he identifies deep ecology with the environmental thought of Arne Naess. A metaphysics of nature for Naess is always part of a personal worldview. Worldviews which are partly inspired by ecology Naess calls ecosophies. Naess always stresses the personal character of such a worldview and the irreducible plurality of them. It used to be a common misunderstanding of the platform of deep ecology which Naess conceived together with George Sessions that it expressed in a condensed form the metaphysical beliefs of deep ecology. Naess’ intention, however, was to try to articulate in a general fashion the basic viewpoints on which the supporters of the deep ecology movement agreed. It would be possible then to derive these viewpoints from quite different worldviews. In light of this, I think, that Goodwin’s characterisation of the platform as “pragmatic and activist” is not quite appropriate.Goodwin goes on to compare Drenthen’s conception of wilderness and wildness with the similar position developed by Neil Evernden in his book The Social Creation of Nature. He like Naess in his personal ecosophy stresses the crucial role of perceptual experience of wild otherness to find an antidote to the relativity and contingency of our interpretations of nature. Evernden refers to studies on child development to argue for a non-dualistic and relational conception of the self, similar to Naess’ relational ontology. According to Goodwin, Drenthen, in spite of his hermeneutical approach remains too much indebted to the Western subject/object-dualism. The object, in this case wild nature, is pure otherness.With regard to a compost heap, Goodwin shows that we are not separated from nature by an inseparable gulf, that nature is close at hand, and that we can experience and explore it, appreciate the complex play of identity and difference it consists of, the exchanges and transformations and that we can identify with the organisms involved in these exchanges.*The proceeding remarks only highlight some of the prominent themes and considerations in the various contributions to this topical issue of Ethical Perspectives. Hopefully the reader will feel invited and enticed to read the articles themselves, starting, preferably of course, with the essay by Martin Drenthen, who sparked off this lively discussion on the moral meaning of wild nature. I am honoured and pleased to be able to introduce these rich explorations by such talented young environmental philosophers who are eager to develop environmental philosophy further and lead it into new directions. They all have to wrestle with and find answers to the challenge postmodern deconstruction and social constructivism pose for environmental philosophy. In the face of that challenge, it is even more difficult than it already was to provide solid and convincing arguments for the defence of wild and free nature beyond merely pragmatic arguments in terms of its utilitarian value for us. The reason for that defence is not clear-cut and proves to be just as evasive as the moral meaning of nature itself. But neither that reason nor that meaning are mere phantoms and mirages that vanish when we approach them and try to grasp them. They are more substantial, even if they will never have the solidity of a mathematical proof or a scientific measurement. Their locale is the lifeworld which from the point of view of scientific and logical precision and clarity is a messy place where subject and object, reason and heart, fact and value, experience and thought and, yes, nature and culture cannot be clearly separated. This has important consequences for environmental philosophy and its methodology. Conceptual analysis and logical argumentation have to become sensitive to the richness of experience in the lifeworld and to the diverse efforts of its articulation: i.e., they have to open themselves up and maybe even to subordinate themselves to phenomenological and hermeneutical approaches. For me personally this is one of the most important conclusions I draw from the discussion presented here. (shrink)
Moral Theory and Theorizing in Healthcare Ethics Content Type Journal Article Category Editorial Pages 365-368 DOI 10.1007/s10677-011-9291-x Authors Mike McNamee, College of Human and Health Sciences, Swansea, SA28PP UK Thomas Schramme, Universität Hamburg, Philosophisches Seminar, Von-Melle-Park 6, 20146 Hamburg, Germany Journal Ethical Theory and Moral Practice Online ISSN 1572-8447 Print ISSN 1386-2820 Journal Volume Volume 14 Journal Issue Volume 14, Number 4.
EinleitungDer Begriff Kinästhese ist in der Husserl-Literatur durchaus geläufig. Trotzdem fehlt bis heute eine umfassende Erörterung seiner Bedeutung und seiner Spielformen sowie auch seiner konkreten Entwicklungsgeschichte bei Husserl.Zu erwähnen wären in dieser Hinsicht besonders: Claesges (1964), Claesges’ „Einleitung des Herausgebers“ zu Hua XVI, Drummond (1984), Melle (1983), S. 114–120, Piedade (2001), Przybylski (2006) und Mattens (2009). Vermutlich würde fast jeder Husserl-Kenner – wenn danach fragt – ohne weiteres antworten, Kinästhesen seien jene Bewegungsmöglichkeiten des leiblichen Subjekts, durch die sich seine (...) Wahrnehmungsgegenstände auf ihrer elementarsten Stufe (jene der sogenannten „Sinnesdinge“) konstituieren. Das ist bestimmt richtig, da für Husserl in der Tat Wahrnehmung ihre Gegenstände eben nicht in einer augenblicklichen „Impression“ voll erschließt, sondern sie vielmehr in mannigfaltigen Zusammenhängen von „Abschattungen“, d. h. in zusammenhängenden Sequenzen pa. (shrink)
Le thème de la nature occupe une place importante dans les recherches éthiques de Husserl et il y a certainement lieu d?examiner, dans le régime de sa phénoménologie, les enjeux essentiels du type de liaison possible entre nature et éthique pour se demander en quel sens une approche phénoménologique de la nature peut contribuer à fonder une éthique. L?étude de ce thème est d?autant plus pertinente dans la perspective d?une réflexion sur l?origine, les conditions et les fondements de l?évaluation éthique, (...) ainsi que sur les contenus et les formes de la valeur éthique en général, qu?elle conduit à caractériser la notion de nature dans une acception spécifiquement phénoménologique et résolument non naturaliste. En guise de préliminaire, il faut rappeler que l?éthique de Husserl ? dont l?intention de base réside dans la fondation subjective de l?idéalité éthique ? se développe principalement dans deux directions qui coexistent dans l?ensemble des recherches que Husserl consacre au thème de l?éthique. D?un côté, Husserl cherche à fonder l?éthique sur une théorie de la valeur. C?est tout le projet du volume XXVIII des Husserliana Vorlesungen über Ethik und Wertlehre , édité en 1988 par U. Melle 1 . Ce volume reprend l?essentiel du texte des cours de Göttingen du semestre d?hiver 1908-1909 et des semestres d?été 1911 et 1914 qui ont l?ambition de déployer une éthique authentiquement. (shrink)