JOFF. "The Possibility of an Antihumanist EcoAnarchism" (1) Introduction - The Concept of Naturalism

DELEUZE, GillesMARX, Karl (1818-1883)EcologyBOOKCHIN, Murray (14 janvier 1921 – 30 juillet 2006) Philosophy. Human naturePhilosophy. ModernityPhilosophy. PostmodernityNature. EnvironmentPhilosophy. EnlightenmentDERRIDA, JacquesRORTY, Richard (1931-2007)HEGEL, G. W. M. (1770-1831). PhilosopheFOUCAULT, MichelGUATTARI, FélixPhilosophy. HumanismJOFF
He who does not wish to speak of Capital should also be silent about ecology. (Jonathan Bradley) [1]



The Concept of Naturalism

Dialectical Naturalism

Rhizomatic Naturalism


Postmodern Nihilism

Poststructuralist Anarchism


The Concept of Humanism and the Promise of Enlightenment

The Domination of Nature and Marx’s Concept of Nature

The Concept of Hierarchy

Heidegger and Anti-Humanism

Systematising the Fragments


My writing not only contributes to environmental philosophy for it is a work of environmental philosophy. Such a work unashamedly operates out of a radical philosophical tradition. The tradition is Enlightenment bound and humanist in emphasis. This tradition begins, for the purposes of this thesis, with Feuerbach and Marx. [2] Yet, the fetters of the tradition of ‘critical criticism’ are free enough not to lead to a constriction of ideas. Thus, the position of my work is at once experimental and yet ‘rooted’ in the Enlightenment tradition. [3] It is this curious in-between or interstitial zone that will be explored. The equivocation nestles in-between two apparently irreconcilable structures of thought, namely, the philosophy of the ‘totality’ and the philosophy of otherness or ‘difference’. In questioning the in-between of the totality and poststructuralism’s (PS) emphasis upon positive difference and the confrontation between a defence of Enlightenment humanism and its contemporary erstwhile detractors, an experimental and ‘monstrous’ thinking emerges. In the juxtaposition of the ‘totality’ and the ‘different’, what is sought after is not a forced synthesis or reconciliation of difference, but a possibilising and a playfulness. In chartering unknown seas, new territories uncover generous spaces of experimentation and thought. This is perhaps the dangerous task of post-human philosophy: ‘the manufacture of materials to harness forces, to think the unthinkable’. [4]

In thinking this peculiar in-between, the metaphor of a ‘force-field’ [5] of ideas is employed. A force field of ideas abandons the search for an ‘extorted’ reconciliation of oppositions (Hegel’s will-to-system) but instead brings into the foreground the relationality of ideas which at once both attract and repel. Such a structure is dynamic, fluid and less rigid than a staid system which demands the unification of opposites ‘at any cost’. A defence of Enlightenment ideals that is historically situated requires the examination of the concepts of humanism and naturalism, in order to demonstrate that the ‘gay’ abandonment of such principles by ‘postmodern nihilism’ [6] is never fully extricable from the tradition that is rebelled against. The following points hope to illuminate the possibility of a ‘transhuman(t)’ [7] anarchism which is ecologically sensitive, tolerant of diversity, yet which sees the role of stewardship as essential for guiding the planet away from imminent collapse. [8] Deleuze, Guattari, and Foucault are taken as representatives of the canon of PS and Bookchin’s thinking is taken as representative of green (anarchist) political philosophy which roots itself in the humanist and naturalist tradition of the Enlightenment. [9] First and foremost, by demonstrating the interrelationship between PS and Bookchin’s social ecology, it will be shown that the incommensurability argument Bookchin employs is unwarranted and ungenerous. The incommensurability Bookchin sees between classical and dialectical logic renders Bookchin’s own observations contradictory. Incommensurability implies that rational standards are relative or internal to a tradition or culture or paradigm in which they are articulated. In this sense incommensurability implies relativism. [10] Thus, Bookchin is on slippery ground when he contends that:

"Brute facts" are distortions of reality in dialectical reason because for dialectical reason Being is not an agglomeration of fixed entities and phenomena. [11]

His defensive claim that analytic logic has no validity in testing the rationality of dialectical logic can be turned on his own conjectures and therefore his argument warrants further reflection. It is arguable whether such a defensive claim is a serious defect of social ecology. Furthermore, this form of argument is now disintegrating given the fact that the once opposed traditions of ‘continental’ and ‘analytical’ philosophy are engaging with and merging into one another. Derrida and Rorty are thinkers who attempt to bridge the gap between these two approaches to philosophy. Therefore, notwithstanding Bookchin’s protests, the question of rational dialogue, for those who have ears to listen, between PS, social and deep ecology and anarchism ought to be posed. In order to disclose the interconnections and affinities between PS, anarchist political philosophy and the possible fruitful co-optation of them by ecological thought demands that several centripetal concepts receive close attention. The concepts of the rhizome and arborescence, hierarchy, dualism, and becoming will be assessed in order to think the possibility for a commensurable discourse between two ‘apparently’ intransigent rivals.

At first glance, it is surprising that anarchism has demonstrated such a lack of tolerance towards PS theory. PS explores indeterminacy, the realm of appearances, freakish becomings, fragmentation, and positive otherness. In summa: the celebration of chaos. Anarchism, etymologically, is a state without order, a stateless and chaotic state without the State. [12] In celebrating the social order that emerges in the absence of the ordering principle of the State, anarchism thus emphasises creativity and spontaneity.

The Concept of Naturalism

The concept of naturalism: naturalism is a philosophical position which is open to a multiplicity of possible variations. From a general perspective a naturalist contends that whatever exists exists as natural phenomena. Naturalism thus rejects seeking explanation at the level of the super-natural. Yet, naturalism is not necessarily synonymous with materialism. Materialism is logically distinct from naturalism because naturalism is compatible with varying ontological positions. [13]

The chief tenets of naturalism are as follows:

(1) Knowledge of the universe is gained by analysis of ‘natural objects’ which are conditioned by the impact of natural causes. The universe of natural objects is knowable since it is governed by a causal and spatio-temporal order.

(2) Changes in the nature of natural objects are primarily explained through the operations and impacts of natural causes.

(3) A natural cause or system of natural causes which impacts upon a natural object is explainable as a natural process.

(4) The natural order is grasped as a system of natural processes. ‘Nature is in principle intelligible in all its parts, but it cannot be explained as whole’. [14]

(5) A natural methodology discloses the workings of the natural world in terms of natural causes and is testable through examination of the consequences of natural causes.

(6) The natural is intelligible, if and only if, natural processes are regular. As a consequence a natural methodology seeks to disclose natural laws which govern the universe of natural objects. Human beings as natural objects are in principle governed by the same natural processes which account for the change of vegetation and animals. The natural method is thus applicable to the domain of social and mental life. Humans, on this account, are immanent, they are natural objects.

(7) Recourse to nonnatural methodology occurs only in moments of despair. For the most part, all humans naturally apply the natural method since they intrinsically possess natural properties as natural objects.

(8) The practice of reason is consistent with the applicability of the natural method and science is the paradigm of reason’s application.

(9) Scientific rationality is not infallible and theories as such are subject to revisions and even abandonment if better theories (more true?) manifest themselves. Science’s fallibility implies that there can be no ultimate certitude for any scientific theory. Theories are rigorously tested against rival theories and there is nothing contradictory in believing a theory to be true and recognising that it may well be false by future standards.

(10) Mathematics and geometry do not point toward a transcendent Platonic ontology in which timeless numerical essences reside as distinct from the natural order. As such, numerical entities, according to naturalism, do not necessarily imply nonnatural objects.

(11) Naturalism recognises that there are other ways of experiencing the natural world but contends that the only cognitive mode of experience fitting for rigorous explanation is the scientific mode.

(12) Naturalism defends an ontological pluralism which rejects the claim that all natural objects are reducible to one form of natural object. All natural objects share a fixed level of reality. No exceptional natural object is more real than another.

(13) Naturalism recognises that humans are unique in their capacity to hold and pursue values but instead of elevating the species above the rest of nature’s inhabitants, naturalism perceives the human species as a natural phenomenon subject to natural laws which can be uncovered by a natural methodology. Naturalism contends that moral disputes are resolvable through the rigorous practice of the natural method. Contra a morally irrefragable intuitionism, naturalism defends the testing of moral arguments and scientific theories alike through the examination of testable consequences. And lastly

(14), naturalism is adamantly this-worldly to the extent that it considers philosophical problems as natural problems. Philosophy thus enquires after the human, natural object and speculation concerning transcendent entities is rigorously avoided.

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[1This is of course a craftily reworking of Horkheimer’s exhortation that: ‘He who does not wish to speak of capitalism should also be silent about fascism’, Horkheimer, M, «Die Juden und Europe», Zeitschrift fur Sozialforschung, VIII, 1/2, (193(), p.115, quoted in Jay, M, Adorno, Harvard: Harvard University Press, 1984, p.47.

[2‘The first task of philosophy, which is in the service of history, once the holy mask of human self-alienation has been discovered, is to discover self-alienation in its unholy forms. The criticism of heaven is thus transformed into the criticism of earth, the criticism of religion into the criticism of law, and the criticism of theology into the criticism of politics.’ McLellan, D (ed.), Karl Marx: Selected Writings, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990, p.64. McLellan quotes Marx in his Towards a Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right: Introduction.

[3McLellan, D., Marx: Selected Writings, p.69, quotes from Marx, Towards a Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, ‘To be radical is to grasp the matter by the root. But for man the root is man himself’.

[4Deleuze, Vincennes Seminar, 7 March 1978.

[5Jay, M, Adorno, p.14.

[6‘Postmodernism’ is extremely difficult if not impossible to define. Its growth stems from architecture, literary theory, aesthetics and philosophy. Postmodernism challenges the traditional bedrock that there is an autonomous stable subject able to represent a stable, accessible reality. Postmodernism is interested in the constitution of the autonomous, white, male, heterosexual subject of philosophy. From particular postmodern perspective, the constitution is subjected to forces of an other-determined nature. For example, Foucault claims that the ‘subject’ is constituted through historical discourses. Questions of normality/abnormality are defined not by sole reference to physiological evidence but also by contemporary social and political issues. Postmodernism is also interested in the way language constitutes the world and how meaning is social and provisional. Postmodernism thus is interested in the question of representation. The postmodern malaise regarding representation stems from the claim that knowledge can no longer represent the real (Baudrillard). The crisis of representation, as it has been called is a crisis in transcendent principles. The relationship between postmodernism and anti-humanism begins to make sense when we begin to look at the waning of anthropocentrism. Meyer captures much of my perspective concerning postmodernism as a cultural phenomena. ‘Man is no longer to be the measure of things, the center of the universe. He has been measured and found to be an undistinguished bit of matter different in no essential way from bacteria, stones, and trees. His goals and purposes, his egocentric notions of past, present, and future; his faith in his power to predict and, through prediction, to control his destiny - all these are called into question, considered irrelevant, or deemed trivial’. Meyer, L, The end of Renaissance?, Hudson Review 16, p.186. Quoted in Bertens, H, The Idea of the Postmodern, London: Routledge, 1995, p.24-25.

[7This concept I believe is my own. The concept examines the interplay of the transhuman and transhumance. Transhumance is a nomadic practice which involves the movement of cattle and people from one area to another according to the quality of the land.

[8Norbert Wiener, a mathematician, coined the word ‘cybernetics’ from the Greek word meaning steersman. He defined it as the science of communication and control in the animal and the machine. In examining the relationship between the transhuman(t), cybernetics, and ecology one is not advancing a Clynesian or an Extropian one-dimensional technological optimism. Transhuman(t) anarchism takes on board the insights into the human/inhuman condition proffered by Nietzsche but sees them operating in poststructuralist terms alongside scientific research into (bio)-evolutionary and technological phenomena. Transhuman(t) anarchism thus examines natural evolution in terms of the chaotic and the non-linear as well as seeing philosophy as concerned with alien becomings and the posthumous (Nietzsche’s philosophy of the future).

[9Pepper, Eco-Socialism: From deep ecology to social justice, London: Routledge, 1993. Pepper notes Atkinson’s argument that anarchist political philosophy informs the praxis of ‘green utopianism’, p.152, Atkinson, A, Principles of Political Economy, London: Belhaven, 1991. However, Pepper argues that anarchism is not primarily a philosophy of nature although Bookchin has probably gone further than most in constructing a philosophy of nature. The trouble with Pepper’s formulation is located in his comparison between green anarchism and postmodernism. Pepper interprets postmodernism as a rejection of universals (ideal fo equality for example) and the idea of universal, steady progress. He then implies that anarchism shares such a distrust in Enlightenment ideals and that both postmodernism and anarchism imply a cultural relativism. The intransingent incorporation of social ecology into Pepper’s framework ought to repel the coding of anarchism as necessarily relativistic.

[10The incommensurability of scientific paradigms is found in Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Paradigms.

[11Bookchin, Philosophy of Social Ecology: Essays on Dialectical Reason, Monteal: Black Rose, 1990, p.36.

[12A ‘stateless state’ is misleading if the reader fails to recognise that anarchism not only calls for a reexamination of extant political structures but also states of consciousness. As Hakim Bey says: ‘The IDEA of the POLICE like hydra grows 100 new heads for each one cut off—and all these heads are live cops. Slicing off heads gains us nothing, but only enhances the beast’s power till it swallows us. First murder the IDEA—blow up the monument inside us - & then perhaps... the balance of power will shift. When the last cop in our brain is gunned down by the last unfulfilled desire-perhaps even the landscape around us will begin to change’, Bey, H, Temporary Autonomous Zone.

[13Edwards , P, (ed.), The Encyclopaedia of Philosophy, London: Collier-Macmillan, 1967, p.448. ‘There is room within the naturalistic movement for any variety of otherwise rival ontologies, which explains the philosophical heterogeneity of the group of philosophers who identity themselves as naturalists: it is methodological rather than an ontological monism to which they indifferently subscribe, a monism leaving them free to be dualists, idealists, materialists, atheists or nonatheists, as the case may be’.

[14Edwards, P, (ed.), The Encyclopaedia of Philosophy, p.448.