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Moral philosophy of ecologic destruction

I'm thinking about creating a wiki page titled Moral philosophy and ecologic destruction. Philosophers are getting increasingly interested in the challenge of our century....

From a forum discussion:

Still; it seems that the big question is "what will it take to get folks to make changes now, which will help preserve the future?"

That's one big question.

We can, in fact, do a lot of work on the Azimuth Project to help answer this question! We've got a page

Psychology of sustainability

which is all about this, and it deserves to be greatly extended (and broken down into pages on more specialized aspects of this question).

The page Psychology of sustainability is about "public relations", how to sell the climate science. I am totally pessimistic that PR techniques are of any significant help to sell facts to folks who don't want to hear them. And methinks using PR and psychology may just lead us further down the path of trivializing science -- What is necessary methinks is to work out why folks don't want to listen - and to make this inconvenient truth explicit. Yes, why not shame folks into accepting reality...

Thus I suggest this new page. Perhaps someone can come up with a better title.

Here's two examples of philosophers' writings:

Climate Change as a Perfect Moral Storm by Stephen Gardiner September 10, 2009

[...]

Beware Ye Who Enter Here

There is one final complication. The convergence of the global and intergenerational storms creates a new and distinct problem: the problem of moral corruption.

Given the privileged global positions of those in some parts of the world as well as the privileged intergenerational positions of those now alive or, at least, above a certain age, it is easy to think that it is in our interest not to take the climate change problem as seriously as we should.

This means that we are vulnerable to all kinds of influences that make this possible. Most obviously, we should beware the forces of denial, complacency, and selective attention. Less obviously, there is a real danger of self-deception, and in particular of remaining satisfied with policies that, on the surface, appear to take the issue seriously but actually do little to address the concerns of the future.

This moral corruption is a little understood impact of climate change – and everyone in the current generation is vulnerable.

Arran Gare, Philosophical Anthropology, Ethics and Political Philosophy in an Age of Impending Catastrophe, Cosmos and History, Vol 5, No 2 (2009)

Abstract

In this paper it is argued that philosophical anthropology is central to ethics and politics. The denial of this has facilitated the triumph of debased notions of humans developed by Hobbes which has facilitated the enslavement of people to the logic of the global market, a logic which is now destroying the ecological conditions for civilization and most life on Earth. Reviving the classical understanding of the central place of philosophical anthropology to ethics and politics, the early work of Hegel and Marx is explicated, defended and further developed by interpreting this through developments in post-mechanistic science. Overcoming the opposition between the sciences and the humanities, it is suggested that the conception of humans developed in this way can orient people in their struggle for the liberty to avert a global ecological catastrophe.

Introduction

Of all the destructive ideas produced and disseminated by the British philosopher G.E. Moore, one of the most influential progenitors of analytic philosophy, none has been more pernicious or disastrous for culture and civilization than the notion of the “naturalistic fallacy”.[1] While based on an argument about how terms are defined, specifically the term “good”, this so-called fallacy denied any relevance to efforts to advance our understanding of the cosmos and our place within it to ethics and political philosophy. The result has been not only the trivializing of ethics, political philosophy and philosophy more generally, but the trivialization of science which, partly as a consequence of this, has been redefined as nothing but a means to develop technology.

[My emph.]

In a different spirit, here's Joanna Macy, an eminent "eco Buddhist". Her article The Greatest Danger might perhaps be better placed in Psychology of sustainability.

How do we live with the fact that we are destroying our world? [...]

Of all the dangers we face, from climate chaos to permanent war, none is so great as this deadening of our response. For psychic numbing impedes our capacity to process and respond to information. The energy expended in pushing down despair is diverted from more crucial uses, depleting the resilience and imagination needed for fresh visions and strategies.

Zen poet Thich Nhat Hanh was asked, “what do we most need to do to save our world?” His answer was this: “What we most need to do is to hear within us the sounds of the Earth crying.”

Cracking the Shell

How do we confront what we scarcely dare to think? How do we face our grief, fear, and rage without “going to pieces?”

It is good to realize that falling apart is not such a bad thing. Indeed, it is as essential to transformation as the cracking of outgrown shells. Anxieties and doubts can be healthy and creative, not only for the person, but for the society, because they permit new and original approaches to reality.

[...]

When we open our eyes to what is happening, even when it breaks our hearts, we discover our true size; for our heart, when it breaks open, can hold the whole universe.

[...]

[My italics for the eminent wisdom. I once met an Auschwitz survivor whose heart indeed could hold the whole universe.]

Comments

  • 1.
    edited March 2011

    I think this page is a great idea! Make it and put this material onto it!

    Just one suggestion: I've never heard the adjective "ecologic" in English; I think it's always "ecological". And I think the standard term for the subject you're talking about is environmental ethics. There are, of course, good and evil approaches to environmental ethics.

    As you know, I get sad when you take a bunch of nice references and put them here, on the forum, where we'll read them once — rather than on the Wiki, where it's easy to keep going back to them and adding more information, and more people are likely to read it.

    Zen poet Thich Nhat Hanh was asked, “what do we most need to do to save our world?” His answer was this: “What we most need to do is to hear within us the sounds of the Earth crying.”

    Indeed. He's a cool dude. I never thought of him as Zen Buddhist, and since he's Vietnamese I wouldn't have guessed it, but apparently he entered a "Thiền" (Vietnamese for Zen) monastery at age 16.

    Since I was recently in Hanoi, I find it fascinating to read his story.

    Comment Source:I think this page is a great idea! Make it and put this material onto it! Just one suggestion: I've never heard the adjective "ecologic" in English; I think it's always "ecological". And I think the standard term for the subject you're talking about is [environmental ethics](http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/ethics-environmental/). There are, of course, good and evil approaches to environmental ethics. As you know, I get sad when you take a bunch of nice references and put them _here_, on the forum, where we'll read them once — rather than on the Wiki, where it's easy to keep going back to them and adding more information, and more people are likely to read it. > Zen poet Thich Nhat Hanh was asked, “what do we most need to do to save our world?” His answer was this: “What we most need to do is to hear within us the sounds of the Earth crying.” Indeed. He's a cool dude. I never thought of him as **Zen** Buddhist, and since he's Vietnamese I wouldn't have guessed it, but apparently he entered a "Thiền" (Vietnamese for Zen) monastery at age 16. Since I was recently in Hanoi, I find it fascinating to read [his story](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thich_Nhat_Hanh#During_the_Vietnam_War).
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