My main point is that the creation of a free public time implies the creation of a democratic collective inspired by the project of social ecology. The first and second parts of this article focus on the modern social phenomena correlated to the general crisis and the emergence of the Internet Age (Castells, 2012). The third and fourth parts focus on new significations that seem to inspire modern social movements and the challenges that modern democratic ecological collectivities face. I (...) use the term “social ecology” as defined by Murray Bookchin: “Social ecology is based on the conviction that nearly all of our present ecological problems originate in deep-seated social problems” (Bookchin, 2006, p. 19). And I use the term “democracy” exclusively in the original, true meaning, of direct democracy where society is self-governed by the equal participation of every individual to political decisions and functions, as opposed to a modern representative democracy or republic, where political decisions rest in the hands of an oligarchy. In this sense, a truly democratic political collectivity is a truly ecological collectivity and vice versa. (shrink)
Human ecology, it is argued, even when embracing recent developments in the natural sciences and granting a place to culture, tends to justify excessively pessimistic conclusions about the prospects for creating a sustainable world order. This is illustrated through a study of the work and assumptions of Richard Newbold Adams and Stephen Bunker. It is argued that embracing hierarchy theory as this has been proposed and elaborated by Herbert Simon, Howard Pattee, T.F.H. Allen and others enables human ecology (...) to conceive humans both as part of nature and as cultural beings in a way that gives due regard to the ethical development of humanity. That is, ethical constraints need no longer be conceived of as 'unnatural'. Characterizing the nature of such constraints, conceived of as emerging from the Hegelian 'struggle for recognition', this argument is shown to justify some optimism about the future, and to give some idea of how society should be organized if ethical constraints, able to constrain humanity’s relationship to the rest of nature, are to prevail. (shrink)
In _Vibrant Matter_ the political theorist Jane Bennett, renowned for her work on nature, ethics, and affect, shifts her focus from the human experience of things to things themselves. Bennett argues that political theory needs to do a better job of recognizing the active participation of nonhuman forces in events. Toward that end, she theorizes a “vital materiality” that runs through and across bodies, both human and nonhuman. Bennett explores how political analyses of public events might change were we to (...) acknowledge that agency always emerges as the_ _effect of ad hoc configurations of human and nonhuman forces. She suggests that recognizing that agency is distributed this way, and is not solely the province of humans, might spur the cultivation of a more responsible, ecologically sound politics: a politics less devoted to blaming and condemning individuals than to discerning the web of forces affecting situations and events. Bennett examines the political and theoretical implications of vital materialism through extended discussions of commonplace things and physical phenomena including stem cells, fish oils, electricity, metal, and trash. She reflects on the vital power of material formations such as landfills, which generate lively streams of chemicals, and omega-3 fatty acids, which can transform brain chemistry and mood. Along the way, she engages with the concepts and claims of Spinoza, Nietzsche, Thoreau, Darwin, Adorno, and Deleuze, disclosing a long history of thinking about vibrant matter in Western philosophy, including attempts by Kant, Bergson, and the embryologist Hans Driesch to name the “vital force” inherent in material forms. Bennett concludes by sketching the contours of a “green materialist” ecophilosophy. (shrink)
Cognitive ecology is the study of cognitive phenomena in context. In particular, it points to the web of mutual dependence among the elements of a cognitive ecosystem. At least three fields were taking a deeply ecological approach to cognition 30 years ago: Gibson’s ecological psychology, Bateson’s ecology of mind, and Soviet cultural-historical activity theory. The ideas developed in those projects have now found a place in modern views of embodied, situated, distributed cognition. As cognitive theory continues to shift (...) from units of analysis defined by inherent properties of the elements to units defined in terms of dynamic patterns of correlation across elements, the study of cognitive ecosystems will become an increasingly important part of cognitive science. (shrink)
Ecologists attempt to understand the diversity of life with mathematical models. Often, mathematical models contain simplifying idealizations designed to cope with the blooming, buzzing confusion of the natural world. This strategy frequently issues in models whose predictions are inaccurate. Critics of theoretical ecology argue that only predictively accurate models are successful and contribute to the applied work of conservation biologists. Hence, they think that much of the mathematical work of ecologists is poor science. Against this view, I argue that (...) model building is successful even when models are predictively inaccurate for at least three reasons: models allow scientists to explore the possible behaviors of ecological systems; models give scientists simplified means by which they can investigate more complex systems by determining how the more complex system deviates from the simpler model; and models give scientists conceptual frameworks through which they can conduct experiments and fieldwork. Critics often mistake the purposes of model building, and once we recognize this, we can see their complaints are unjustified. Even though models in ecology are not always accurate in their assumptions and predictions, they still contribute to successful science. (shrink)
The transfer of food among group members is a ubiquitous feature of small-scale forager and forager-agricultural populations. The uniqueness of pervasive sharing among humans, especially among unrelated individuals, has led researchers to evaluate numerous hypotheses about the adaptive functions and patterns of sharing in different ecologies. This article attempts to organize available cross-cultural evidence pertaining to several contentious evolutionary models: kin selection, reciprocal altruism, tolerated scrounging, and costly signaling. Debates about the relevance of these models focus primarily on the extent (...) to which individuals exert control over the distribution of foods they acquire, and the extent to which donors receive food or other fitness-enhancing benefits in return for shares given away. Each model can explain some of the variance in sharing patterns within groups, and so generalizations that ignore or deny the importance of any one model may be misleading. Careful multivariate analyses and cross-cultural comparisons of food transfer patterns are therefore necessary tools for assessing aspects of the sexual division of labor, human life history evolution, and the evolution of the family. This article also introduces a framework for better understanding variation in sharing behavior across small-scale traditional societies. I discuss the importance of resource ecology and the degree of coordination in acquisition activities as a key feature that influences sharing behavior. Key Words: behavioral ecology; cooperation; costly signaling; food sharing; foragers; reciprocal altruism. (shrink)
Naess and Sessions “Deep Ecology Platform” provided a loose framework for a movement that was gaining momentum after a series of successful social and political actions and events throughout the 1970s and early 1980s. Most of the points are essentially adopted from Naess’ earlier work, which provided the basis for a number of the core concepts expressed in the later eight points and is largely an expression of a movement that sought to create a shift in consciousness of society (...) towards the natural world. It is probably better understood as a lose framework that encapsulates a world view and perspective of nature which is better understood as an aesthetic movement rather than a moral or ethical movement. (shrink)
This book is a sustained examination of issues in the philosophy of ecology that have been a source of controversy since the emergence of ecology as an explicit scientific discipline. The controversies revolve around the idea of a balance of nature, the possibility of general ecological knowledge and the role of model-building in ecology. The Science of the Struggle for Existence is also a detailed treatment of these issues that incorporates both a comprehensive investigation of the relevant (...) ecological literature and the development of an explicit theoretical framework in the philosophy of science. It addresses issues in the philosophy of ecology that are of particular importance for the deployment of ecology in the solution of environmental problems. It will have a cross-disciplinary appeal and will interest students and professionals in science, the philosophy of science, and environmental studies as well as policy-makers. (shrink)
The contrast between the strategies of research employed in reductionism and holism masks a radical contradiction between two different scientific philosophies. We concentrate in particular on an analysis of the key philosophical issues which give structure to holistic thought. A first (non-exhaustive) analysis of the philosophical tradition will dwell upon: a) the theory of emergence: each level of organisation is characterised by properties whose laws cannot be deduced from the laws of the inferior levels of organisation (Engels, Morgan); b) clarification (...) of the relations between the “whole” and the “parts” (Woodger, Needham); c) the ontological or epistemological nature of the emergent properties; are they a phenomenological reality or solely an artefact of the state of our knowledge? (Pepper, Henle, Hempel and Oppenheim); d) the proposition of the holistic theoretical and methodological model ( Novikoff, Feibleman). I then go on to examine the differences that exist between the reductionist and the holistic approaches at various levels of analysis: that is to say, the differences which affect their ontologies, methodologies and epistemologies respectively. I attempt to understand the spirit of a holistic approach to ecology by analyzing the major work of E.P. Odum Fundamentals of ecology (1953, 1959, 1971). I set forward what might be meant by the “holistic approach”, which is implicated in all the different levels of organisation at which the problem of “complexity” is debated. Ecology presents itself as an “holistic science” and Odum’s book offers a vision of the world which dates far back in the history of philosophy. By looking at the three different editions of this fundamental text on ecology, we may become aware of the evolution of Odum’s thought. In fact, only in the third and last edition is there a conscious appropriation of the holistic approach (by using the theoretical models of Feibleman who, for his part, refers to Novikoff). However, even when formally referring to the theory of emergence (that is to say the ontological nucleus of every holistic approach), Odum’s systemic analysis presents the same logical errors, which push him back into the reductionist domain. Above all, in his examination of the main concepts of “population”, “community” and “ecosystem”, there is a misunderstanding of the profound difference between “collective properties” and “emergent properties”. Moreover, the cybernetic models of Odum’s systemic analysis (introduced into ecology by Margalef), allowed him to vastly oversimplify his methodological task: in fact, neither how many levels nor which levels of organization are fundamental for the study of each individual level is clearly marked. Finally, Odum analyses the ecosystem as composed of energetic flux and cycles of matter, referring to the trophic-dynamic vision of Lindeman. That is to say, in my opinion, he juxtaposes a reductionistic methodology and epistemology to an holistic ontology. (shrink)
In this volume, the authors discuss what practical contributions ecology can and can't make in applied science and environmental problem solving. In the first section, they discuss conceptual problems that have often prevented the formulation and evaluation of powerful, precise, general theories, explain why island biogeography is still beset with controversy and examine the ways that science is value laden. In the second section, they describe how ecology can give us specific answers to practical environmental questions posed in (...) individual case studies, and argue for a new way to look at scientific error. A case study using the Florida panther is examined in the light of these findings. (shrink)
Evolutionary, ecological and ethical studies are, at the same time, specific scientific disciplines and, from an historical point of view, structurally linked domains of research. In a context of environmental crisis, the need is increasingly emerging for a connecting epistemological framework able to express a common or convergent tendency of thought and practice aimed at building, among other things, an environmental policy management respectful of the planet’s biodiversity and its evolutionary potential.
Richard Watson maintains that deep ecology suffers from an internal contradiction and should therefore be rejected. Watson contends that deep ecology claims to be non-anthropocentric while at the same time is committed to setting humans apart from nature, which is inherently anthropocentric. I argue that Watson’s objection arises out of a fundamental misunderstanding of how deep ecologist’s conceive of the ‘Self.’ Drawing on resources from Buddhism, I offer an understanding of the ‘Self’ that is fully consistent with deep (...)ecology, and does not lead to the anthropocentric contradiction that Watson identifies. The paper will proceed as follows: First, I articulate Watson’s objection, and briefly discuss the traditional deep ecology position. Next, I turn to a discussion of the ‘Self’ and show that there are conceptions of human nature that are not separate from ‘Nature.’ It will thus be shown that deep ecology is not inconsistent and need not be rejected. (shrink)
The world’s leading environmental advisory institutions look to ecological theory and research as an objective guide for policy and resource management decision-making. In addition to various theoretical merits of doing so, it is therefore crucially important to clear up confusions about ecology’s conceptual foundations and to make plain the basic workings of inferential methods used in the science. Through discussion of key moments in the genesis of the theoretical branch of ecology, this essay elucidates a general heuristic role (...) of teleological metaphor in ecological research and defuses certain enduring confusions and misguided criticisms of current work in ecology. (shrink)
In the first edition of Radical Ecology --the now classic examination major philosophical, ethical, scientific, and economic roots of environmental problems--Carolyn Merchant responded to the profound awareness of environmental crisis which prevailed in the closing decade of the twentieth century. In this provocative and readable study, Merchant examined the ways that radical ecologists can transform science and society in order to sustain life on this planet. Now in this second edition, Merchant continues to emphasize how laws, regulations and scientific (...) research alone cannot reverse the spread of pollution or restore our dwindling resources. Merchant argues that in order to maintain a livable world, we must formulate new social, economic, scientific, and spiritual approaches that will fundamentally transform human relationships with nature. She analyzes the revolutionary ideas of visionary ecologists for a new economy, society, science, and religion, and examines their efforts to bring environmental problems to the attention of the public. This new edition features a new Introduction from the author, a thorough updating of chapters, and two entirely new chapters on recent global movements and globalization and the environment. It is a timely update that will give students everything they need to know on the most recent philosophical positions and social movements that characterize the radical ecology spectrum. (shrink)
While economic theory has been enormously influential since the eighteenth century, the level of dominance of culture, politics and ethics gained by it in the last few decades is unprecedented. Not only has economic theory taken the place of political philosophy and ethical discourse and imposed its own concepts and image of society on other social sciences, it has redefined the natural sciences through its own categories as nothing but instruments of production, investment in which is to be judged in (...) terms of its profitability. In this chapter I challenge all this, arguing for the primacy of political philosophy inspired by T.H. Green, showing how A.N. Whitehead provided the natural philosophy to defend Green's social liberalism. I then defend ecological economics and human ecology based on assumptions deriving from Whitehead to replace current economic and political doctrines as the basis for formulating public policy. (shrink)
In this paper, I adopt the view that if general forces or processes can be detected in ecology, then the principles or models that represent them should provide predictions that are approximately correct and, when not, should lead to the sorts of intervening factors that usually make trouble. I argue that Lotka–Volterra principles do not meet this standard; in both their simple “strategic” and their complex “tactical” forms they are not approximately correct of the findings of the laboratory experiments (...) and historical studies most likely to confirm them; nor do they instruct ecologists where to look for likely intervening factors. Evidence drawn from long-term case studies and other available data sets suggests that the populations of predators and their prey are not regulated by an interaction between them but are controlled by transient, contingent, and accidental events that affect each animal and each population individualistically. This paper argues that the presence of general forces or processes in ecology should be determined by comparing competing models of these forces not just to each other or to a null model but also to case studies that may challenge theoretical approaches with convincing individualistic causal accounts of the phenomena. (shrink)
Research in ecology and evolutionary biology (evo-eco) often tries to emulate the “hard” sciences such as physics and chemistry, but to many of its practitioners feels more like the “soft” sciences of psychology and sociology. I argue that this schizophrenic attitude is the result of lack of appreciation of the full consequences of the peculiarity of the evo-eco sciences as lying in between a-historical disciplines such as physics and completely historical ones as like paleontology. Furthermore, evo-eco researchers have gotten (...) stuck on mathematically appealing but philosophi- cally simplistic concepts such as null hypotheses and p-values defined according to the frequentist approach in statistics, with the consequence of having been unable to fully embrace the complexity and subtlety of the problems with which ecologists and evolutionary biologists deal with. I review and discuss some literature in ecology, philosophy of science and psychology to show that a more critical methodological attitude can be liberating for the evo-eco scientist and can lead to a more fecund and enjoyable practice of ecology and evolutionary biology. With this aim, I briefly cover concepts such as the method of multiple hypotheses, Bayesian analysis, and strong inference. (shrink)
In a (2016) paper in this journal, I defuse allegations that theoretical ecological research is problematic because it relies on teleological metaphysical assumptions. Mark Sagoff offers a formal reply. In it, he concedes that I succeeded in establishing that ecologists abandoned robust teleological views long ago and that they use teleological characterizations as metaphors that aid in developing mechanistic explanations of ecological phenomena. Yet, he contends that I did not give enduring criticisms of theoretical ecology a fair shake in (...) my paper. He says this is because enduring criticisms center on concerns about the nature of ecological networks and forces, the instrumentality of ecological laws and theoretical models, and the relation between theoretical and empirical methods in ecology that that paper does not broach. Below I set apart the distinct criticisms Sagoff presents in his commentary and respond to each in turn. (shrink)
The thinking of those with the power to formulate and implement public policy is now almost totally dominated by the so-called science of economics. While efforts have been made to supplement or modify economics to make it less brutal or less environmentally blind, here it is suggested that economics is so fundamentally flawed and that it so completely dominates the culture of late modern capitalism (or postmodernity) that a new master human science is required to displace it and provide an (...) alternative coordinating framework for research and for defining reality. This could then provide an alternative basis for formulating public policy. It is argued that if human ecology is to fill this role, it will must be developed on consistently anti-reductionist foundations, and that such a social science would totally reorient public policy from a domain for power elites to a domain for genuinely democratic societies to define and control their destinies. -/- . (shrink)
The standard mathematical models in population ecology assume that a population's growth rate is a function of its environment. In this paper we investigate an alternative proposal according to which the rate of change of the growth rate is a function of the environment and of environmental change. We focus on the philosophical issues involved in such a fundamental shift in theoretical assumptions, as well as on the explanations the two theories offer for some of the key data such (...) as cyclic populations. We also discuss the relationship between this move in population ecology and a similar move from first-order to second-order differential equations championed by Galileo and Newton in celestial mechanics. (shrink)
Ecology – unlike astronomy, physics, or chemistry – is a science with an associated political and ethical movement: the Green Movement. As a result, the ecological position is often accompanied by appeals to holism, and by a mystical quasi-religious conception of the ecosystem. In this title, first published in 1988, Andrew Brennan argues that we can reduce much of the mysticism surrounding ecological discussions by placing them within a larger context, and illustrating that our individual interests are bound with (...) larger, community interests. Using an interdisciplinary approach, which bridges the gap between the sciences, philosophy, and ethics, this is an accessible title, which will be of particular value to students with an interest in the philosophy of environmental science and ethics. (shrink)
Considers that in ecosystem, landscape and global ecology, an energetics reading of ecological systems is an expression of a cybernetic, systemic and holistic approach. In ecosystem ecology, the Odumian paradigm emphasizes the concept of emergence, but it has not been accompanied by the creation of a method that fully respects the complexity of the objects studied. In landscape ecology, although the emergentist, multi-level, triadic methodology of J.K. Feibleman and D.T. Campbell has gained acceptance, the importance of emergent (...) properties is still undervalued. In global ecology, the Gaia hypothesis is an expression of an organicist metaphor, while the emergentist terminology used is incongruent with the underlying physicalist cybernetics. More generally, an analytico-additional methodology and the reduction of the properties of ecosystems to the laws of physical chemistry render purely formal any assertion about the emergentist and holistic nature of the ecological systems studied. (shrink)
The classical holism-reductionism debate, which has been of major importance to the development of ecological theory and methodology, is an epistemological patchwork. At any moment, there is a risk of it slipping into an incoherent, chaotic Tower of Babel. Yet philosophy, like the sciences, requires that words and their correlative concepts be used rigorously and univocally. The prevalent use of everyday language in the holism-reductionism issue may give a false impression regarding its underlying clarity and coherence. In reality, the conceptual (...) categories underlying the debate have yet to be accurately defined and consistently used. There is a need to map out a clear conceptual, logical and epistemological framework. To this end, we propose a minimalist epistemological foundation. The issue is easier to grasp if we keep in mind that holism generally represents the ontological background of emergentism, but does not necessarily coincide with it. We therefore speak in very loose terms of the “holism-reductionism” debate, although it would really be better characterised by the terms emergentism and reductionism. The confrontation between these antagonistic paradigms unfolds at various semantic and operational levels. In definitional terms, there is not just emergentism and reductionism, but various kinds of emergentisms and reductionisms. (shrink)
Since Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962), historians and philosophers of science have paid increasing attention to the implications of disciplinarity. In this chapter we consider restrictions posed to interdisciplinary exchange between ecology and economics that result from a particular kind of commitment to the ideal of disciplinary purity, that is, that each discipline is defined by an appropriate, unique set of objects, methods, theories, and aims. We argue that, when it comes to the objects of study (...) in ecology and economics, ideas of disciplinary purity have been underwritten by the artificial-natural distinction. We then problematize this distinction, and thus disciplinary purity, both conceptually and empirically. Conceptually, the distinction is no longer tenable. Empirically, recent interdisciplinary research has shown the epistemological and policy-oriented benefits of dealing with models which explicitly link anthropogenic (i.e., “artificial”) and non-anthropogenic factors (i.e., “natural”). We conclude that, in the current age of the Anthropocene, it is to be expected that without interdisciplinary exchange, ecology and economics may relinquish global relevance because the distinct and separate systems to which each “pure” science was originally made to apply will only diminish over time. (shrink)
Michel Serres's relation to ecocriticism is complex. On the one hand, he is a pioneer in the area, anticipating the current fashion for ecological thought by over a decade. On the other hand, 'ecology' and 'eco-criticism' are singularly infelicitous terms to describe Serres's thinking if they are taken to indicate that attention should be paid to particular 'environmental' concerns. For Serres, such local, circumscribed ideas as 'ecology' or 'eco-philosophy' are one of the causes of our ecological crisis, and (...) no progress can be made while such narrow concerns govern our thinking. This chapter intervenes in the ongoing discussion about the relation of Serres to ecology by drawing on some of Serres's more recent texts on pollution and dwelling, and this fresh material leads us to modulate existing treatments of Serres and ecology. I insist on the inextricability of two senses of ecology in Serres's approach: a broader meaning that refers to the interconnectedness and inextricability of all entities (natural and cultural, material and ideal), and a narrower sense that evokes classically 'environmental' concerns. Serres's recent work leads us to challenge some of the vectors and assumptions of the debate by radicalising the continuity between 'natural' and 'cultural' phenomena, questioning some of the commonplaces that structure almost all ecological thinking, and arguing that the entire paradigm of ecology as 'conservation' and 'protection' is bankrupt and self-undermining. After outlining the shape of Serres's 'general ecology' and its opposition to ecology as conservation, this chapter asks what sorts of practices and values a Serresian general ecology can engender when it considers birdsong, advertising, industrial pollution and money to be manifestations of the same drive for appropriation through pollution. A response is given in terms of three key Serresian motifs: the world as fetish, parasitic symbiosis, and global cosmocracy. (shrink)
The status of population genetics has become hotly debated among biologists and philosophers of biology. Many seem to view population genetics as relatively unchanged since the Modern Synthesis and have argued that subjects such as development were left out of the Synthesis. Some have called for an extended evolutionary synthesis or for recognizing the insignificance of population genetics. Yet others such as Michael Lynch have defended population genetics, declaring "nothing in evolution makes sense except in the light of population genetics" (...) (a twist on Dobzhansky's famous slogan that "nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution"). Missing from this discussion is the use of population genetics to shed light on ecology and vice versa, beginning in the 1940s and continuing until the present day. I highlight some of that history through an overview of traditions such as ecological genetics and population biology, followed by a slightly more in-depth look at a contemporary study of the endangered California Tiger Salamander. I argue that population genetics is a powerful and useful tool that continues to be used and modified, even if it isn't required for all evolutionary explanations or doesn't incorporate all the causal factors of evolution. (shrink)
Ecology, Community and Lifestyle is a revised and expanded translation of Naess' book Okologi, Samfunn og Livsstil, which sets out the author's thinking on the relevance of philosophy to the problems of environmental degradation and the rethinking of the relationship between mankind and nature. The text has been thoroughly updated by Naess and revised and translated by David Rothenberg.
I claim that the balance of nature metaphoris shorthand for a paradigmatic view of natureas a beneficent force. I trace the historicalorigins of this concept and demonstrate that itoperates today in the discipline of populationecology. Although it might be suspected thatthis metaphor is a pre-theoretic description ofthe more precisely defined notion ofequilibrium, I demonstrate that balance ofnature has constricted the meaning ofmathematical equilibrium in population ecology.As well as influencing the meaning ofequilibrium, the metaphor has also loaded themathematical term with (...) values.Environmentalists and critics use thisconflation of meaning and value to theiradvantage. This interplay between the balanceof nature and equilibrium fits aninteractionist interpretation of the role ofmetaphor in science. However, it seems theinteraction is asymmetric, and the balance ofnature metaphor has had a larger influence onmathematical equilibrium than vice versa. Thisdisproportionate influence suggests that themetaphor was and continues to be a constitutivepart of ecological theories. (shrink)
A community, for ecologists, is a unit for discussing collections of organisms. It refers to collections of populations, which consist (by definition) of individuals of a single species. This is straightforward. But communities are unusual kinds of objects, if they are objects at all. They are collections consisting of other diverse, scattered, partly-autonomous, dynamic entities (that is, animals, plants, and other organisms). They often lack obvious boundaries or stable memberships, as their constituent populations not only change but also move in (...) and out of areas, and in and out of relationships with other populations. Familiar objects have identifiable boundaries, for example, and if communities do not, maybe they are not objects. Maybe they do not exist at all. The question this possibility suggests, of what criteria there might be for identifying communities, and for determining whether such communities exist at all, has long been discussed by ecologists. This essay addresses this question as it has recently been taken up by philosophers of science, by examining answers to it which appeared a century ago and which have framed the continuing discussion. (shrink)
The paper presents a critical appraisal of Floridi’s metaphysical foundation of information ecology. It highlights some of the issues raised by Floridi with regard to the axiological status of the objects in the “infosphere,” the moral status of artificial agents, and Floridi’s foundation of information ethics as information ecology. I further criticise the ontological conception of value as a first order category. I suggest that a weakening of Floridi’s demiurgic information ecology is needed in order not to (...) forget the limitations of human actors and/or of their surrogates, digital agents. I plea for a rational theoretical and practical view of such agents beyond utopian reasoning with regard to their potential moral status. (shrink)
Ambitiously identifying fresh issues in the study of complex systems, Peter J. Taylor, in a model of interdisciplinary exploration, makes these concerns accessible to scholars in the fields of ecology, environmental science, and science studies. Unruly Complexity explores concepts used to deal with complexity in three realms: ecology and socio-environmental change; the collective constitution of knowledge; and the interpretations of science as they influence subsequent research. For each realm Taylor shows that unruly complexity-situations that lack definite boundaries, where (...) what goes on "outside" continually restructures what is "inside," and where diverse processes come together to produce change-should not be suppressed by partitioning complexity into well-bounded systems that can be studied or managed from an outside vantage point. Using case studies from Australia, North America, and Africa, he encourages readers to be troubled by conventional boundaries-especially between science and the interpretation of science-and to reflect more self-consciously on the conceptual and practical choices researchers make. (shrink)
This article offers a theoretical comparison between field and ecology, as developed by Pierre Bourdieu and the Chicago School of sociology. While field theory and ecological theory share similar conceptualizations of actors, positions, and relations, and while they converge in their views on structural isomorphism, temporality, and social psychology, they are quite different on several other scores: power and inequality, endogeneity, heterogeneity, metaphorical sources, and abstraction. With a fine-grained comparison of the two approaches, this article provides the basis for (...) a continuous dialogue among social theorists and empirical researchers regarding the nature of social space, its structural and processual composition, and how it changes over time. -/- . (shrink)
Ecologists use a remarkable range of methods and techniques to understand complex, inherently variable, and functionally diverse entities and processes across a staggering range of spatial, temporal and interactive scales. These multiple perspectives make ecology very different to the exemplar of science often presented by philosophers. In Philosophical Foundations for the Practices of Ecology, designed for graduate students and researchers, ecology is put into a new philosophical framework that engages with this inherent pluralism while still placing constraints (...) on the ways that we can investigate and understand nature. The authors begin by exploring the sources of variety in the practice of ecology and how these have led to the current conceptual confusion. They argue that the solution is to adopt the approach of constrained perspectivism and go on to explore the ontological, metaphysical, and epistemological aspects of this position and how it can be used in ecological research and teaching. (shrink)
With the early success of the deep ecology movement in attracting adherents and with the increasing threat of a global ecological catastrophe, one would have expected this movement to have triumphed. We should be in the process of radically transforming society to create a harmonious relationship between humans and the rest of nature. Instead, deep ecology has been marginalized. What has triumphed instead is an alliance of managerialism, transnational corporations and neo-liberalism committed to replacing communities with markets and (...) transforming every facet of nature and society into means for increasing the profitability of corporations and expanding GDP. This outcome is here explained by the failure of deep ecologists to understand the ideological, political and economic forces driving ecological destruction, and thereby what is required to overcome these. To regain the initiative, it is argued, it will be necessary to recover the whole project of the Radical Enlightenment upholding the Renaissance quest for liberty that was subverted by the scientific materialism and possessive individualism of the Moderate Enlightenment. Not only will it be necessary to transform science to develop a comprehensive alternative conception of nature and humanity and its destiny, it will be necessary to revive and develop the institutions of the Radical Enlightenment to subordinate markets to democratically organized communities at multiple levels, as communities of communities committed to augmenting the life of these communities, including the life of ecological communities. Doing so will involve reformulating the grand narrative of emancipation as a dialogic, polyphonic grand narrative to orient individuals, organizations and nations to create a global ecological civilization. -/- . (shrink)
The most pressing problems facing humanity today - over-population, energy shortages, climate change, soil erosion, species extinctions, the risk of epidemic disease, the threat of warfare that could destroy all the hard-won gains of civilization, and even the recent fibrillations of the stock market - are all ecological or have a large ecological component. in this volume philosophers turn their attention to understanding the science of ecology and its huge implications for the human project. To get the application of (...)ecology to policy or other practical concerns right, humanity needs a clear and disinterested philosophical understanding of ecology which can help identify the practical lessons of science. Conversely, the urgent practical demands humanity faces today cannot help but direct scientific and philosophical investigation toward the basis of those ecological challenges that threaten human survival. This book will help to fuel the timely renaissance of interest in philosophy of ecology that is now occurring in the philosophical profession. Provides a bridge between philosophy and current scientific findings Covers theory and applications Encourages multi-disciplinary dialogue. (shrink)
When data are limited, simple models of complex ecological systems tend to wind up closer to the truth than more complex models of the same systems. This greater proximity to the truth, or verisimilitude, leads to greater predictive success. When more data are available, the advantage of simplicity decreases, and more complex models may gain the upper hand. In ecology, holistic models are usually simpler than reductionistic models. Thus, when data are limited, holistic models have an advantage over reductionistic (...) models, with respect to verisimilitude and predictive success. I illustrate these points with models designed to explain and predict the numbers of species on islands. (shrink)
There is a long history of controversy in ecology over the role of competition in determining patterns of distribution and abundance, and over the significance of the mathematical modeling of competitive interactions. This paper examines the controversy. Three kinds of considerations have been involved at one time or another during the history of this debate. There has been dispute about the kinds of regularities ecologists can expect to find, about the significance of evolutionary considerations for ecological inquiry, and about (...) the empirical credentials of theoretical studies of competition. Each of these elements is examined with an eye toward gaining philosophical clarification of the issues involved. In the process, certain shortcomings of contemporary philosophical theories are revealed. In particular, I argue that plausibility arguments based on background considerations are an important part of the model building tradition, but that current accounts of the structure and evaluation of scientific theories do little to illuminate this side of theoretical ecology. (shrink)
Using a case study from the Kolli Hills, India, I suggest that political ecology provides a useful theoretical basis for considering localized dietary transitions in rural, agricultural communities in developing countries. By examining the reasons for the near-disappearance of local minor millets as staple foods in three small-farmer communities, I argue that an explicit, actor-oriented analysis allows for an integration of food issues with considerations of environmental circumstances, local aspirations, and labor concerns. That is, an agricultural shift that abandons (...) minor millets as a food resource reflects environmental changes and household economic aspirations. Such an analysis has implications for the creation of practical food security projects through the recognition and incorporation of small-farmer experiences, voices, and priorities. This research was undertaken through ethnographic fieldwork, using semi-structured interviews and participant observation as the primary methods. (shrink)
In this paper, we discuss the perspective of intra-organismal ecology by investigating a family of ecological models. We consider two types of models. First order models describe the population dynamics as being directly affected by ecological factors (here understood as nutrients, space, etc). They might be thought of as analogous to Aristotelian physics. Second order models describe the population dynamics as being indirectly affected, the ecological factors now affecting the derivative of the growth rate (that is, the population acceleration), (...) possibly through an impact on non-genetically inherited factors. Second order models might be thought of as analogous to Galilean physics. In the joint paper, we apply these ideas to a situation of gene therapy. (shrink)
Ecology has often been characterized as an immature scientific discipline. This paper explores some of the sources of this alleged immaturity. I argue that the perception of immaturity results primarily from the fact that historically ecologists have based their work upon two very different approaches to research.
This book presents a comprehensive view of an important new field in human geography and interdisciplinary studies of nature-society relations. Tracing the development of political ecology from its origins in geography and ecological anthropology in the 1970s, to its current status as an established field, the book investigates how late twentieth-century developments in social and ecological theories are brought together to create a powerful framework for comprehending environmental problems. Making Political Ecology argues for an inclusionary conceptualization of the (...) field that absorbs empirical studies from urban, rural, First World and Third World contexts and the theoretical insights of feminism, poststructuralism, neo-Marxism, and non-equilibrium ecology. Extracts from the writings of key figures in political ecology provide an empirical grounding for these abstract concepts. Neumann's book will convince readers of political ecology's particular suitability for grappling with the most difficult questions concerning social justice, environmental change, and human relationships with nature. (shrink)
Ecology and Revolution: Global Crisis and the Political Challenge is an in-depth exploration and analysis of the global ecological crisis (going far beyond the issue of global warming) in the larger context of historical conditions and ...
Scientific misconduct obstructs the advance of knowledge in science. Its impact in some disciplines is still poorly known, as is the frequency in which it is detected. Here, I examine how frequently editors of ecology and evolution journals detect scientist misconduct. On average, editors managed 0.114 allegations of misconduct per year. Editors considered 6 of 14 allegations (42.9%) to be true, but only in 2 cases were the authors declared guilty, the remaining being dropped for lack of proof. The (...) annual rate of allegations that were probably warranted was 0.053, although the rate of demonstrated misconduct was 0.018, while the rate of false or erroneous allegations was 0.024. Considering that several cases of misconduct are probably not reported, these findings suggest that editors detect less than one-third of all fraudulent papers. (shrink)
Aarne Naess, in a seminal paper on environmental philosophy, distinguished between two streams of environmental philosophy and activism—shallow and deep. The deep, long-range ecology movement has developed over the past four decades on a variety of fronts. However, in the context of global conferences on development, population, and environment held during the 1990s, even shallow environmentalism seems to have less priority than demands for worldwide economic growth based on trade liberalization and a free market global economy.
This paper emerges from and aims to contribute to conversations on agricultural biodiversity loss, value, and renewal. Standard international responses to the crisis of agrobiodiversity erosion focus mostly on ex situ preservation of germplasm, with little financial and strategic support for in situ cultivation. Yet, one agrarian collective in the Peruvian Andes—the Parque de la Papa (Parque)—has repatriated a thousand native potatoes from the gene bank in Lima so as to catalyze in situ regeneration of lost agricultural biodiversity in the (...) region. Drawing on participant action research and observation, this paper engages with the projects underway at the Parque—as well as “indigenous biocultural heritage” (IBCH), the original action-framework guiding the Parque’s work. IBCH grounds the ecology of successful crop diversity within the Andean cosmovisión, or worldview—which is included, but marginalized, in mainstream agrobiodiversity conservation policies. The IBCH concept counters apolitical renderings of agrobiodiversity erosion, arguing that this disregard of biocultural heritage perpetuates colonialist devaluations of efficacious “traditional ecological knowledge” and epistemologies. Accordingly, this paper discerns here an on-site, or in situ, political ecology of agricultural biodiversity conservation. (shrink)
Presents a provocatively anthropocentric analysis of the way forward for green politics and environmental movements, exposing the deficiencies and contradictions of green approaches to post-modern politics and deep ecology. This title available in eBook format. Click here for more information . Visit our eBookstore at: www.ebookstore.tandf.co.uk.