Pasi Heikkurinen: Ecophenomenosophy - A Response to the Anthropocene

This is one of the papers from our 2017 Annual Conference, the Future of Phenomenology. Information and the full conference booklet can be found at www.britishphenomenology.org.uk

 

According to Earth sciences, the planet has entered a new geological epoch. This epoch, referred to as the Anthropocene, is characterised by a significant human impact on nature and its processes. While humans have not equally contributed to the destruction of the non-human world, the dominance of this species calls for questioning the contemporary human condition. What is (now) wrong with ‘us’? The on-going widespread damage caused to the natural world, including the humankind, dates back (at least) to Industrial Revolution. The 19th century transition to new manufacturing processes and its existential relevance is well captured in Heidegger’s critique of technology. Heidegger notes that, in its essence, modern technology is a mode of revealing (Gestell) that takes humans further away from being itself. Albeit successful in challenging the technological frame of the modern human, classic phenomenology, however, does not provide tangible alternatives to think about being in also ecological terms. This paper argues that in order to respond to the undesired anthropogenic changes in the Earth’s biosphere – e.g. rising greenhouse gas levels, ocean acidification, deforestation and biodiversity deterioration – phenomenology needs to go ‘green’. In the Anthropocene, investigations on the human condition cannot be separated from (the question of) nature and its non-human processes. Dasein is not only connected to nature but also embedded in it, as well as unfolding from it. In this paper, I will conjoin elements of (mainly late) Heidegger’s phenomenology with some key tenets of ecophilosophical thinking to reconsider the human place vis-à-vis the rest of nature. As a response to the problems of the Anthropocene, I will outline an ‘ecophenomenosophy’ that rejects human–nature dualism, challenges the idea of progress, and calls for a non-anthropocentric approach to phenomena in the age of humans.

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