Beyond “Nature”

Towards more engaged and care-full ways of relating to the environment

Authored by: Mark Coeckelbergh

Routledge Handbook of Environmental Anthropology

Print publication date:  August  2016
Online publication date:  August  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138782877
eBook ISBN: 9781315768946
Adobe ISBN: 9781317667964


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In modernity the environment is usually perceived as “nature”: either it is seen from an objectivist–technoscientific point of view, or it is experienced in subjectivist–romantic terms – both of which are entangled with how we act. This chapter uses philosophical reflection and argument to show that both modes of seeing and treating the environment present a distorted view of the basic, existential relation between humans and their environment – and indeed a distorted view of the human – and undesirably limit the range of possibilities we have for relating to our environment. Influenced by Heideggerian phenomenology and contemporary anthropology, it explores how we might conceptualize a less dualistic and less alienated relation to the environment, and makes us pay attention to the role of technology and the moral significance of the language we use to talk about the environment. It uses the terms “engagement” and “care” to articulate different relational possibilities, and suggests a conception of the human–environment relation which deconstructs not only the technoscientific–romantic dialectic but also goes beyond the anthropocentrism–ecocentrism duality.

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