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The ecology of conversation

Author Erland Kiøsterud answers philosophy professor Arne Johan Vetlesen by discussing the almost ubiquitous violence in society, in nature and in thinking.


In a very short time, the strange, small human species – consisting of small, scattered flocks of a few thousand individuals, migrating out of Africa at one time – has become seven billion hominids, which have colonized the globe with extreme force, and are now about to threaten their own and the planet's basis of life.
This is a reality that is difficult to accept, not least because our brain is essentially structured in the same way as when we migrated into Eurasia 70 years ago; cognitively and emotionally inclined to interpret and act in the world as if we were still a vulnerable small group in search of food and security.

When two males, in Norway, for example, in 2016, with great force attack the views of the imagined counterpart because they feel mistaken, and so with even greater force to promote their own views, it is not difficult to imagine the same two men in front of a decisive decision on a ridge or in the midst of its frozen herd on its way through the ice age of 10 or 50 000 years ago.
The need to win lies so deep within us that we even construct an enemy to show ourselves, show that we are both right and right.
Very much suggests that this cognitive trait, our intelligence and our extreme competitive instinct – which has also created our ability to utilize resources in our environment; this drive to figure things out, solve problems, be right, win and recover (the physical variation we share with the non-human animals), and which in crucial situations has saved our herd from the safe death – paradoxically the same the property that has now brought the planet to the breaking point of what it can carry organically.
Also, the extreme violence we are waging at the same time, our mental and physical attacks on each other, the killings and the wars, have these long, deep roots.

In an essay in Ny Tid (December 2015) I responded to an essay by Arne Johan Vetlesen in the same newspaper (November 2015) about, among other things, the causes of the ecological crisis we are in. Vetlesen has obviously felt uncomfortable with some of the views I gave him, and at one point I also obviously erred him.
He uses this opportunity in Ny Tid January 2016 for all it is worth to construct a picture of what he perceives as his opponent (signatory) and attribute to this views that he in hindsight does not know are true, in order to clear the space for his own views .
My real errand in the essay, in which I first acknowledge and address Vetlesen, was to show a model of non-violent behavior in the future environmental fight, which we know can be very violent, and to point out the positive in that Norwegian eco-think, where Vetlesen is now absolutely central, both have a deep understanding of society's latent violence og stands together in seeking nonviolent solutions in the environmental struggle. This skips Vetlesen over, to gain more power in the attack on his constructed opponent.

That is correct that parts of my position are rooted in a continental existentialism, where the experienced, vulnerable man in a silent immanence is central, and I assume that Vetlesen can admit that parts of his position spring from an anchorage in a transcendent Greek Christian thinking. Acknowledging this should not be a crisis. We all come from one place and we must move on. We are not just moving forward, we are, as 70 years ago, on our way into an almost unknown landscape; the ecology of the future. We know some of the challenges ahead, but far from all.
We have to, this one at a time, to find other ways to proceed than with aggression and violence.

Again, at risk To make a mistake, I feel, despite differences, that Vetlesen and the signatory essentially agree essentially – that there are biological as well as cultural, systemic and societal reasons why our capital-driven planet is in disarray.
More importantly, over the past few years, we have both moved from an anthropocentric to an ecocentric perspective. This is a big and serious step that involves a sea of ​​new questions. Here, therefore, comes only in very rough terms what this shift of basic view is about:

Only we, hopefully, can intervene and stop the violence that we as nature exercise against nature.

With one anthropocentric Basic view (which we have thus left) takes precedence over human needs in decisions taken in the management of the biotope, life and the basis of life there. Human needs are prioritized in decisions on the management of minerals, oceans, forests, plants and animals.
With an ecocentric view (which we now endorse), the needs of the biotope will far more often take precedence over human needs. With this view, human needs must, in many cases, be set aside, in favor of the lives and survival of non-human animals, plants and biotopes, on the grounds that only in this way can the basis of life on the planet as a whole be saved, and thus also human life. This ecocentric view raises many and difficult questions, which will be discussed in another context.

Vetlesen has obviously felt uncomfortable with some views I allow him.

Vetlesen and the undersigned also agrees well that the sensitive, vulnerable life world – nature – has intrinsic value. To this value I would add everything that sustains what lives – not just the mountain, the air and the water, but also the forks, ideas, our knitting and so on.
What we are disagreed whether, as I see it, is how we understand nature's intrinsic value. Vetlesen, as I read him, believes that what lives – nature and the vulnerable life of nature – has generic value, is a defining value in itself, and that we have to relate to it.
I believe that nature's intrinsic value, after all – even though we recognize the value as independent of us – must nevertheless be set and determined by man, that it is man and no other entity that can and should determine that value and facilitate it. . Here, Vetlesen reports deep disagreement, and places me in a booth with desperate metaphysicians and rationalist idiots.

Reason that I have come to this point of view, am bipartisan, and have to do with the potential of violence in the world.
First: The determination of nature's intrinsic value can only take place in this way. The matter, nature, immanence from which we come and live, has, by chance mutations, accidentally conferred on the hominids the ability to see themselves from the outside, and with that has given us a kind of consciousness. Without this event, nature would just go blind, blind also in its unlimited violence. Only we, the hominids, assign different values ​​and properties to other beings and objects, even though these properties are independent of us. Only we who see these beings, objects and values ​​from the outside, in such a way that we can make plans and consciously change the future. We can destroy the globe and we can repair the globe. It is only we, the hominids, who can hopefully intervene and stop the violence we, as nature, are waging against nature.
And then comes the second reason for my two-part stance, and the reason why I have chosen to call it other terms as materiality, nature, immanence – for «silence:»
The world, the universe, the planet, the life on the planet, I, the animals, everything that is, are completely contingent, that is: it could just as well have been as it has not been, it has arisen for no reason, and it can cease for no reason. Our world just might not have existed. This coincidence – the silence – which is immanent in the world, and from which we come and return, is without cause; the origin – the silence – is nothing to live for, nor anything to die for.

We need a profound rebellion, a rebellion like that not reproduces the violence and destruction.

Any hope lies in the future.
Here's the thing: It's in the fight for the right to define what er – what is real, what is real, what is to apply – that we find the origin of the violence and what produces the violence. It is in the struggle for the right to life, and to define it, that for the hominids is also a metaphysical struggle, that violence originated. If we once again, as several ecocentrists suggest, give a single part of matter, nature, a privileged, generic value, we will, before we know it, have a fight for what it is value, who has the right to define it, raw it, determine it. And it will be a deadly battle.
Yesterday, it was the metaphysical belief in God and the monotheistic religions that produced the violence on a massive scale. Yesterday it was the metaphysical belief in history, the nation, progress, fascism, communism and capitalism that produced – and reproduces – the violence on a massive scale. Tomorrow may be the equally metaphysical belief in nature and its inherent value – the struggle for the right to decide, name, rule and defend it – that will lead to violence on a massive scale.
No matter how sensitive, responsible, good and upright man feels, violence will not be stopped by giving nature privileged intrinsic value to nature. On the contrary.

To give nature one Generic, privileged value is to repeat the old metaphysics – the logic of dominion – and to re-launch the spiral of violence.
Do we ever wonder, once again, to put what we think is a positive, actual being – matter, God, history, nature or whatever it is – that the remaining, we are back in classical metaphysics, ready to wage war and exert violence on it – our – being.
We cannot fight for the contingency of our world and life contingent, however, the absolute coincidence – the silence. We can only in every way try to break the silence and stop the massive violence we produce. This may one day make us human. But we cannot do anything about the silence itself. And it is this powerlessness that is our hope today.
I am aware that for many these are new thoughts, and that it can be painful to give up the warm feeling of being or having the value, to let go of the enchantment. But the compensation – alertness, presence – is not bad, and it has a future in it.
What I have suggested is a radical, democratic and scientifically facilitated metaphysics, where ecocentrism can play out, rationally, without becoming violent, by deciding nature as non-natural and defender non-nature – what we have constructed which holds and holds sacred and inviolable – neither by violence nor law, but alone and by our vulnerable bodies and helpless languages. No faith, substance or being to kill for. Just a sore, awake and difficult future to live up to. (See New Time December 2015.)

When I use The term "science facilitated metaphysics", it is because it is science that tells us how the universe, planet and life have arisen and are put together, which has told us that the world and life are absolutely contingent – without any deep reason or explanation.
The immanence, or silence, in which we live, does not have language itself, it is we who give it language – or not. Immanence, or silence, opens up to a number of questions that we have just begun to answer: How do we, as nature, understand nature? How do we, as matter, understand matter? How do we, as silence, understand silence? How can we break the silence without repeating the violence? How do we carry the silence?
Pragmatics, which many have suggested as heir to classical metaphysics, does not answer these questions, it reproduces violence.

What we know about the history of the planet and about ourselves, doesn't promise very well. All we have to hope for is that science will give us new, greater insights, and that we, human beings, will in the future have a better understanding of nature and of ourselves as nature, a better understanding of how we can handle the problems we have. created and created. Should we avoid reproducing the massive, structural, physical, and psychological violence we have generated over time, avoid producing new victims, new unimaginable disorders, avoid repeating the violence and abuses that we daily inflict on nature, animals and people, mustn't we have a new understanding, a new consciousness. Though thin, insights into the silence we are the bearer of that hope.

In the ecosystem all parts are dependent on all the other parts. No single part controls the entire system. There is no winner in an ecological system. The ecological understanding opens for one radical expansion of democracy – not only are all units equally important, everyone must also be heard, saved: microbes, bees, bicycles, the lovers…
If we are going to do it, we must apply all the thought power that exists in the ecosystem in the community. Every single idea, every action that can help stop the violence and stop the destruction of the globe is the most important.
The males on the ridge will do well to calm down and listen to the surroundings. To once again fight the violent, metaphysical struggle for the right to define the being, the real, what is, and for which man has at all times died, is not only unproductive, but desolate.

Every single idea, every action that can help stop the violence and stop the destruction of the globe is the most important.

Everyone necessarily comes to these new, crucial questions about the future of the globe, to the point, from very different places and with very different ideological goods in the luggage. Moving on to a yet "unresolved", undiscovered country without necessarily agreeing with everything can form a hope and a kind of community.
We are occupied by an ideology that, with a destructive mode of production, destroys the life basis of the planet. We need a profound rebellion, a rebellion like that not reproduces the violence and destruction. The germs of this revolt are everywhere, in each of us, inside and outside of us, whether we are able to seize it.
How do I avoid repeating the abuse?
The ecological conversation has just begun.

With this, we end the debate between Kiøsterud and Vetlesen in the newspaper for this time. See for the debaters' essays in recent months regarding the status of ecology today – as well as further debate on this topic.

Erland Kiøsterud
Erland Kiøsterud
Author and essayist. Residing in Oslo. See also his website or Wikipedia

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