Chapter 7 of PhD: introduction

Note: the content below is all in first draft format. It will change considerably during the time it takes for the study to be completed (especially by way of more academic support, generally). I post now ‘for interest’s sake’.

Introduction to Chapter 7:

That something is happening that can be called an ecological crisis is indisputable – this was the focus in Chapter 1 of this study. That human industries have caused and continue to cause vast ecological destruction associated directly with the ecological crisis is also indisputable – this was shown in Chapter 2. Specific historically-dominant attitudes have directed human actions towards ecologically destructive ends – some of the Promethean aspects of these attitudes were looked at Chapter 3. Additionally, various ‘mechanisms’ perpetuate ecologically-destructive actions – some were explored in Chapter 4. Alternative, Orphic ideas and attitudes that propel ecologically-sensitive actions are available – some of these ideas were focused on in Chapter 5. Permaculture offers twelve principles that, when used together as a framework for human endeavours, promote tangible ecologically-sustainable outcomes – this was explored in Chapter 6.

Philosophy has appeared at various stages from Chapter 3 onwards. I say this in the sense that philosophers’ ideas have been encountered at various stages of Chapters 3, 4 and 5. Beyond the contributions from various philosophers in previous chapters, however, what else does philosophy broadly ‘have to offer’ in the context of the focal areas of the different chapters? And vice versa: do any of the topics, themes, issues, or information encountered generally in the previous chapters ‘have anything to offer’ to the broad sphere of philosophy? In reading various works of philosophy, and in reading the work of various philosophers, as well as in reading about philosophy, I have encountered ideas that have stood out amongst others as particularly useful as a ‘next step’ considering the questions I have just asked.

After considering the progression of topics and themes in Chapters 1 to 6, one might expect in this chapter something of a ‘philosophical justification’ for choosing to give Orphic ideas more prevalence, first, in one’s own life and, second, in the broader socio-political and economic context(s) that determine(s) so much of how people position themselves mentally and physically in relation to their environments. One might even expect a ‘philosophical argument’ geared towards prioritising the spread of permaculture principles and practices in the context(s) I just mentioned. Indeed, my personal journey (as glimpsed in Chapter 6) has been one that has shown that ‘talk is cheap’ when it comes to the ecological crisis, that consideration of Orphic ideas motivates one to ‘tread softly’ on this planet, and that application of permaculture principles facilitates a tangible and sustainable interaction between the human and non-human arenas. However, such a process – of ‘philosophical justification’, and/or of ‘philosophical argument’ – would be highly problematic because the research I have conducted into the broad arena of philosophy – into the questions of what is philosophy and how is philosophy relevant in these broad contexts?  – has revealed the role of philosophy to be divorced, so to speak, from the socio-political, economic, and now ecological ‘positions’ that philosophers (and non-philosophers) may occupy; my meaning here may be somewhat unclear at this early stage of the chapter, but I will gradually offer clarity in this regard.

My research into the role of philosophy in the ecological crisis often uncovered philosophers, academics, environmentalists, ‘eco-philosophers’, etc., who offered outstanding critiques of the causes of the ecological crisis, the industries that directly cause the environmental impacts, the ideologies that have resulted in the crisis and continue to propel it, the perpetuation mechanisms of the crisis, and alternative ideas that challenge the ideologies behind the crisis. Chapters 1 to 5 of this study together constitute a compilation of that research, while Chapter 6 constitutes a review of permaculture in light of the first five chapters, with ‘my academic contribution’ thus far being to link themes, ideas, issues, ‘positions’, etc. from one area of research to some of the other areas. However, occasionally during the research process I encountered texts that delved more broadly into the issue – the question – of what philosophy is, and what its role is. And often I found myself reflecting on the ‘content’ (of Chapters 1 to 6) alongside what I was reading about philosophy and its role, and realising that there is something very relevant about the latter (philosophy in its broad sense) to the former (the content of Chapters 1 to 6), even if the latter was not explicitly commenting on the role of philosophy in the context of the ecological crisis.

The first text ‘on philosophy’ that stood out to me as most worthy of consideration in light of some of the broad issues brought forward during Chapters 1 to 6 is called Philosophy in the Present (2009), in which an ‘exchange’ occurs between Alain Badiou and Slavoj Žižek surrounding the question, what is the role of philosophy in the present? Their answers to the issue/question of the role of philosophy seem to me to be indispensible in the context of the ecological crisis for reasons I will explore in this chapter. Also important to note, in justification of the use of this text at this stage of this study, is that it is the most recent publication (2005 in French, and translated to English for a 2009 publication) ‘on philosophy’ or ‘about philosophy’ that I consulted during research for this study, and it cogently presents the theory ‘on philosophy’ by two very prominent, well-known contemporary philosophers – as such it stands out as being an intriguing text to consider, and in relation to which some broad issues of this study can be contemplated.

The other text ‘on philosophy’ that stood out to me, especially when considering how the role of philosophy is relevant in the context of the ecological crisis, is Pierre Hadot’s Philosophy as a way of life (1995). The title of the book is also the title of the final chapter of the book, which is of most interest to me considering the important implications that potentially arise in consequence of an examination (which I will conduct) of the ideas presented in the chapter, which can then be used in reflection of some of the issues surrounding the ecological crisis as I have presented them in this study. The penultimate chapter of the book, ‘The Sage and the World’, will also feature.

Additionally, I have found it to be the case that many colleagues and mentors in the academic quarters of philosophy are familiar with Hadot’s text and the ideas therein; however, I have encountered no colleagues or mentors who are familiar with the ideas (regarding the role of philosophy) outlined by Badiou and Žižek in their short discussion offered in Philosophy in the Present. My aim is therefore first to conduct a summary of Badiou and Žižek’s ideas about the role of philosophy, apply them in reflection of relevant content of Chapters 1 to 6 of this study, and thereafter to conduct the same process for Hadot’s ideas about the role of philosophy. This chronology will allow me to summarise and apply Hadot’s ideas to aspects of Chapters 1 to 6 of this study in a manner whereby I can incorporate relevant ideas already encountered in summary and application of Badioiu and Žižek’s ideas, thereby presenting Hadot’s ‘older’, more familiar ideas in a ‘fresher’ manner via ‘support’ (where or if relevant) from Žižek and Badiou.

Please note that, structurally in this chapter, sub-sections 2.1.1 to 2.1.4 together constitute an outline of concepts and theory as presented by Badiou and Žižek, and that in these sub-sections I deliberately do not do anything more than outline the concepts and the theory. I will refer back to the concepts and theory in the sub-sections numbered 2.2.1 to 2.2.12. A slightly different structural approach will be taken for the exploration of Hadot’s work. Here, in eight sub-sections (3.1.1 to 3.2.8), I will explore themes raised by Hadot and systematically use them to comment on various relevant points of consideration arising from previous aspects of this study.