Ecosocialist Debate

Anthropocentrism vs Ecocentrism: Notes on a False Dichotomy

Can environmental destruction be stopped by promoting an alternative philosophy?

Is it a real choice?

by Ian Angus

The latest issue of the journal International Socialism features my evaluation of an ongoing philosophical debate in the environmental movement. Here’s a teaser ….

“The idea that environmental destruction is caused by wrong ideas, by a false conception of humanity’s relationship to nature, can be found right across the broad green spectrum. In more formal terms, it is the view that saving Earth requires general adoption of an ecocentric philosophy that is nature-centered rather than human-centered. Among radical environmentalists, it is often coupled with the charge that Marxism is anthropocentric — that it is only concerned with, or gives inappropriate priority to, human needs….

“No ecosocialist questions the importance of non-human nature, and we all condemn the rapacious, anti-ecological actions that characterize capitalism. However, ‘ecocentrism’ and ‘intrinsic value of nature’ are not just words — they are concepts that embody a particular view of the relationship between human and non-human nature, and of how environmental destruction can be stopped. Before adopting them, ecosocialists should have a clear understanding of what they mean, and consider carefully whether they are compatible with our fight against capitalist ecocide.

“In my view, the ‘anthropocentrism versus ecocentrism’ debate was misconceived from the beginning, and has directed the attention of people who are sincerely concerned about the environment away from real problems and real solutions. The related concept of the “intrinsic value of nature” has never been clearly defined and only promotes confusion. Both ideas detract from the clear and scientific understanding of the relationship between humanity and the rest of nature that we must have in order to interpret and change the world.”

Click here to read the full article …

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