The nature of man's blind zone

Cosmologies of the Anthropocene
Forfatter: Arne-Johan Vetlesen Routledge
Forlag: (Storbritannia)
A GOOD NATURE? / In the philosopher Arne Johan Vetlesen's new book, the environmental problems are a symptom that our thinking is completely wrong. May we perhaps open ourselves to the fact that everything around us is the soul?


Like Vetlesen's previous international release The Denial of Nature (2015) puts this book into an unusual philosophical argument in dialogue with contemporary environmental thinkers and environmental philosophyeven classics. Where the previous book ends with the question of nature's soul and self-will, the discussion in Cosmologies of the Anthropocene. The starting point is Freya Mathews # 'ecological revitalization of the concept panpsychism in the book #The Ecological Self# (1991)

Pan-psychism is the view that the psyche or soul is everywhere and in everything. Like Mathews, Vetlesen seeks a spontaneous closeness to the surroundings of people living in pre-modern ways – explored and reported within anthropology and its latest theoretical developments.

Among other things, he goes to Philippe Descola, who discusses the question of various cosmologies, understood as living truth systems. He also draws on psychological and psychoanalytic theories that describe a loss of contact with nature, various forms of culturally learned blindness.

Species, processes and nutrients have value as part of an ecosystem.

Vetlesen's hypothesis is that it is this one alienationone that makes the idea that everything is full of spirit – as both children and animist cultures seem to take for granted – seems foreign to us.

The value of nature is objective

Vetlesen's book, however, is far more than a poetic appeal for a sympathetic relationship with nature. Systematically and objectively, he agrees to get to the bottom of the matter – almost literally. Because do we really know what it is, what we call matter? Does it make sense to separate matter from spirit or consciousness, as Descartes did? Among the more provocative claims along the way in this rather technical discussion is that we do not understand our own consciousness precisely because we misunderstand matter – what we call the "outer nature". When we see everything outside the human being as dead matter and objects, or as more or less soulless "living things", we suffer from scientific prejudice – a misunderstood intellectual abstraction.

Vetlesen will not only establish an “environmental ethic»; he criticizes our whole worldview, our metaphysics and cosmology. If the destruction of nature springs from a certain understanding of nature, that understanding is simply crazy. Nature's value is true and objective, not something subjective that we associate with human purposes and benefits. Nor is the value of nature a projection or a postulate, as in Arne Næs. In nature, value consists in relationships: Species, processes and nutrients have value as part of an ecosystem. The atmosphere has value for everyone who breathes, the water has value for everything that grows; Nature is the sum of endless many endeavors and points of view where the parts are mutually valuable to sustain life and existence. When we relate sensory, direct and empowering to nature, we experience it as full of will, power and striving – a goal that Natural sciencesone often tries to deny or explain away.

Nature's goals and will

Also posthumanist thinkers of the time, such as Timothy Morton and Bruno Latour, think in terms of targeting, interests and relationships between actors. Thus, these thinkers will have no trouble perceiving a flower or a hummingbird, even a volcano or a storm, as "actors." What they lack in their intellectually playful juxtaposition of everything and everyone – artificial and natural, living and non-living – is, according to Vetlesen, a sincere grief over the loss of nature – and a sincere one. care for the world.

Photo: glady, pixabay
Photo: glady, pixabay

If we really want to get modern prejudice out of the blood, we must also, according to Vetlesen, exist existentially, ethically and sensibly in animistic Experience form. We can experience such receptivity in the encounter with wild nature, and in other more indigenous cultures, where such ways of living and thinking are still preserved – albeit increasingly marginalized.

Colonization of nature

A further point is that we modern people have colonized both the wild nature and the peoples and cultures that lived closer to it. In doing so, we also lose a critical outlook on our own shortcomings, our blunt feelings and possible mental mistakes. As Vetlesen puts it somewhere: The fact that we are unable to perceive or experience a spirit in nature is a weak argument that it does not exist. At worst, it is a fatal denial.

A genuine sorrow over the loss of nature – and a real care for the world.

A strong picture of colonizationone of nature comes to the end of the book, where he compares the treatment of animals and nature with the Spanish conquistadoragree on the treatment of Indians – they took them as slaves, cooked them to use their fat, or fed their dogs with their meat. By showing the brutality of such a denial of human dignity, Vetlesen illustrates the extent to which the exploitation of nature coincides with colonial history and the unscrupulous utilization of capitalism.

Banalized evil, repentance and wild salvation. That said, brutality and violence can hardly be said to be modern features, and animals, children and naturalists – without any comparison – can be rather violent. Perhaps we could extend Vetlesen's argument by saying that the peculiarly modern exploitation of nature has become a kind of industrial violence, a banal evil entirely in line with that diagnosis Hannah Arendt get off Eichmann, which organized Nazi extermination camps. The peculiarity of the natural destruction of our time is in that case that it is a cruelty carried out by an imaginative and unreflected attitude of a dutiful bureaucrat.

When the exploitation of nature turns into extinction, we are challenged to a total self-examination and must judge ourselves. Vetlesen quotes at the end Thoureau, who says, "In it would lie the salvation of the world." The contact with a wild nature that meets us opens up another possible world. Here is also a clue or insight that Vetlesen tirelessly circles in: We modern humans have been radically mistaken for our place in the world – and have failed earths endless value. If we have acted in the blind, we cannot see our own role clearly either – until we enter a new cosmology.

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