By Arne Johan Vetlesen / Foto: Bjørn Kvaal
«Anthropocentrism is not merely, or even primarily, descriptive. It is normative in postulating that human beings are superior to all other beings and forms of life on Earth, thus meriting a moral standing denied everything nonhuman.»
In his book Panpsychism in the West, David Skrbina writes:
“The mechanistic worldview is deeply embedded in our collective psyche. For several hundred years the dominant orthodoxy has implicitly assumed that inanimate things are fundamentally devoid of mental qualities. This view has become integrated into our science, our literature, and our arts. Ultimately it has incorporated itself into our deepest social values, and thus become reflected in our collective actions. We treat nature as an impersonal thing or collection of things, without spontaneity, without intrinsic value, without “rights” of any kind. Natural resources, plant and animal species have been exploited for maximal short-term human benefit. Such mindless entities are seen as deserving of no particular respect or moral consideration. They exist to be collected, manipulated, dissected, and remade.” (Skrbina 2005: 265)
In quoting this portrait of the mechanistic worldview, I am well aware that its presuppositions – say, in the form of the Cartesian mind/matter dualism – have been subject to massive criticism ever since its breakthrough in the sixteenth century. And yet, despite attempts within both philosophy and the natural sciences to show the notion of nature as “an impersonal thing or collection of facts” to be simply untrue to the facts, as a society we continue to exploit natural resources, plants, and animal species with impunity; far from bringing the exploitation of the natural world to a halt, we are busy speeding it up. By restricting the capacities for mind and soul, intelligence and reason, spontaneity and purpose to human beings, the mechanistic worldview has helped entrench anthropocentrism – literally, human-centeredness – in all key domains of modern Western society to this very day.
Les mer «From Anthropocentrism to the Anthropocene»