Research study: introduction and background

In the year 1859 the English philosopher, political economist and civil servant John Stuart Mill saw his book On Liberty published. In it he points out the importance of “experiments of living”:

As it is useful that while mankind are imperfect there should be different opinions, so is it that there should be different experiments of living; that free scope should be given to varieties of character, short of injury to others; and that the worth of different modes of life should be proved practically, when any one thinks fit to try them.

Mill’s considered position could not be clearer: if you do not hurt anybody else in your endeavours, then you should be free to think and do whatever you like. This is indeed sums up the concept of ‘negative freedom’ or ‘negative liberty’: “One has negative liberty… when there is an absence of external interferences to one’s doing what one wishes – specifically, when there is an absence of external interferences by other people[1]. Mill was concerned that the ‘tyranny of the majority’[2] – or rather, that the tyranny of those “who succeed in making themselves accepted as the majority” – was eroding people’s freedoms in the negative sense to which I have just drawn attention. Freedom increasingly was becoming ‘positive freedom’, where “one has the opportunity and ability to do what one wishes”[3], but where the opportunities are invariably delineated by institutions or organisations such as the state. I must therefore add that one has positive liberty when one has the opportunity and ability to do what has been deemed as acceptable to do by the State or some other institution, organisation, or dominant societal, political, economic or attitudinal[4] force. Mill’s project in On Liberty was partly to situate the broad concepts of liberty and freedom on a spectrum and thereby emphasise that all liberties and freedoms are not equal – for example, that which a person does ‘freely’ under endorsement from a historically-dominant institution (such as State, Church, and economically influential entity) is not the same kind of liberty as the freedom to do whatever one pleases and be left alone so long as one does not injure another person.

It is not my intention to become reflectively engaged in the normative ethical activity of asking whether or not positive liberty is preferable to negative liberty. While it is possible to argue on the one hand that negative freedom is the freedom to starve, and on the other hand that ‘freedoms’ endorsed by specific institutions with clear vested interests and agendas are technically no freedoms at all, the answer perhaps lies in the middle of the two extremes, and this topic as ever remains a fertile one for consideration and discussion. For the initial purpose of this introduction, however, I would like to ask, to what extent is it possible to exercise freedom in its negative sense in contemporary society? By contemporary society, I mean specifically the advanced, consumer, competitive, Capitalist, industrial, Democratic, dominion-driven dispensation, an acronym for which is ACID, one I have adopted from Kvaloy via Hoyer (see Chapter 3) and adapted slightly[5].  Shortly after a person is born, he or she is given an identity number, national security number, national insurance number, or whatever the number is called in the country in which a person is born. This number ‘plugs’ one into a socio-political and economic system where invariably fiat currency intermediates almost all activity, and as I show in Chapter 2, fiat currency is debt-based and inherent to it is the need to pay back the debt created the moment money is issued. This is one reason why in ACID a person will never be allowed to exercise negative liberty: there is always a tax-person, a banker, a bureaucrat, an inspector, an auditor, or any of ACID’s henchmen knocking at the door, so to speak, to keep the cogs of a debt-based economy turning – one is never left alone to do as one likes, free from interference by other people, people who generally represent the ‘interests’ of ‘the system’. These interests (of which economic control is only one) are regurgitated in various forms via the corporate-owned mass media, as Chomsky and Herman remind one in Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media (1988:306): the mass media “are effective and powerful ideological institutions that carry out a system-supportive propaganda function by reliance on market forces, internalized assumptions, and self-censorship, and without overt coercion” – this topic is so well explored in the academic world that I deem it unnecessary to include extensive information related explicitly to it in this study, though I refer to the role of the mass media briefly in sub-section 4.2. I have chosen to explore various other ‘ACID perpetuation mechanisms’ in Chapter 4, ones that I feel are in need of exploration in light of the broad context I establish in this study: Mill’s dangers of Democracy, Democracy in a ‘free-market’ neoliberal Capitalist system, Marcuse’s one-dimensionality, Deleuze’s societies of control, and Princen’s ‘traffic control measures’. It is clear to me (based on the research I present in Chapter 4) that this is a system that forces upon a person a narrow positive freedom but marginalises chances of exercising negative freedom, and I suspect that Mill saw this coming over a century ago.


When discussing the topic of the debt-based economic system I referred to above, interlocutors have often responded in defence of the system by saying that it works, that despite imperfections it is the best system human beings have managed to construct after centuries of ‘progress’ through previous forms of economic activity. They point out that the technology I use, for example the computer I used to type this study, is all a product of the system and that I should be grateful for it all. Strange then that the imperatives accompanying ACID – expand, consume, ‘progress’, increase, dominate, compete, accelerate, develop, and so on (see Chapter 3 for research related to these imperatives and other ecologically-problematic qualities of historically-dominant shapers of discourse) – have led the human species, as well as the ecosystems constituting most of life on planet Earth, to an unprecedented crisis. In Chapter 1, I collate information that shows unambiguously that there is an ecological crisis, and in Chapter 2 that specific human practices in the forms of specific industries are direct causes of the phenomena constituting the ecological crisis. Clearly, then, some interlocutors have very narrow definitions in mind when they claim that the contemporary globalised economic system ‘works’ and is ‘the best’ system human beings have been able to create. The computer they tell me to be grateful for, they probably do not realise, is also designed to break after a specific period of time (as is the case with all products of Technology made for mass consumption) so that the corporation that produced it can continue accruing massive profits (and also ‘play its part’ in keeping the cogs of the economy turning). This is known as planned obsolescence[6], something that engineers and scientists are employed to ‘perfect’ despite the obscene ecological impact of a world full of Technology-designed-to-break all the time for the sake of (debt-based) economic activity. In Chapter 2, I reveal some of these obscene ecological impacts of several large-scale industries now found all over the world and which seem inseparable from the broadly-accepted notions of ‘development’ and ‘Democracy’. And this links back to what I have said about system-endorsed positive ‘freedoms’, specifically that they are exclusively prescribed by a dominant institution – in contemporary Democracy (which I characterise in Chapter 4 as a globalised political and economic system – the best system “money can buy”[7]– led by the USA), freedom is the positive freedom to develop, as Konik (2015:15-16) points out via Wolfgang Sachs:

…Truman promoted ever increasing production and technological advancement as key to the well-being of all nations, regardless of their economic, political, social and cultural differences, nuances, and dreams. Sachs holds that this was the first time that a “world view” was prescribed in which “all the peoples of the earth were to move along the same track and aspire to only one goal – development”.

I started this introduction with reference to the year 1859, the year that Mill’s On Liberty was published. It is perhaps an eerie coincidence that in the same year the first commercial oil well went into production in Titusville, Pennsylvania, USA. The world’s population of human beings at that time was 1 billion. Commercial oil provided the means by which human beings would multiply their population seven-fold in an evolutionary-historical blink of an eye, but it did not provide the motive. The motive can be traced to specific human attitudes, to the kinds of thoughts that human beings entertain about the relationship between themselves and the rest of the world, because what “people do about their ecology depends on what they think about themselves in relation to the things around them” (White 1971:11). Christianity, having institutionally dominated the direction of human thought for well over a millennium and having persecuted, oppressed and often obliterated[8] that which was alternative to it, spread the imperative of dominion-over-the-earth, widely eliminating alternative approaches to living and thereby starting the first of the homogenisation projects in the history of Western-dominated civilisation on which I focus, which via globalisation is now all of civilisation. Reductionist Science continued the project of spreading the dominion imperative, even though eventually it would eventually abandon the notion of God. Descartes, for example, anticipating the flavour of scientific inquiry as it would develop out of the period of Christian domination, writes in the Discourse on Method (1972:119) that he looks forward to the time when the new Science will render humans “masters and possessors of nature” – unsurprisingly, Descartes was a devout Christian. Francis Bacon, a figurehead in the Scientific arena who happened also to express Christian sentiments, stated that the “secrets of nature are better revealed under the torture of experiments than when they follow their natural course” (2008:93). In light of these and other similar Scientific sentiments, Pierre Hadot (2008: 123) states the following:

What we must say, I think, is that with Francis Bacon, Descartes, Galileo, and Newton, a definitive break… may have taken place, and these scholars discovered the means of progressing in a decisive and definitive way in this project of dominating nature, limiting themselves to the rigorous analysis of what is measurable and quantifiable in sensible phenomena”.

I explore aspects of Christianity and Science regarding the consequences they have for attitudes toward ecology in Chapter 3. I include in Chapter 3 an equal focus on Technology and Capitalism as central shapers of discourse that have spread ecologically-problematic attitudes across the globe, attitudes that ‘steer’ the human actions that result in ecologically-problematic outcomes. Suffice it so say for now that in ACID, the creation and use of Technology are intimately connected with the Scientific focus on “what is measurable and quantifiable in sensible phenomena” (Hadot, Ibid) as per the use of instrumental Reason identified by Horkheimer and which I discuss in Chapter 3. In the context of this study, instrumental Reason can be thought of as the application of reason for purely and exclusively technical-pragmatic purposes – more on this in Chapter 3, but for now let me point out that Horkheimer (1947:104) does offer a glimpse of the relevance of the pragmatic and instrumental attitude in the context of the ecological crisis: “Modern insensitivity to nature is indeed only a variation of the pragmatic attitude that is typical of Western civilization as a whole”. And Heidegger’s analysis of Technology as something entangled with the process of ‘Enframing’ reveals an attitude toward nature where it is reduced to nothing but a ‘standing reserve’ of resources for human use – this too I will discuss in Chapter 3. Regarding Capitalism, the observations of only one central critic of Capitalism need be mentioned for my purposes in this introduction – Joel Kovel. He points out (2002:48) that Capital

employs purely quantitative indices such as gross domestic product (GDP) because they are convenient indices of accumulation. Scarcely a critic of the ecological crisis has refrained from commenting upon the stupid brutality of this number, which reduces the living and the dead alike to the common denominator of what can be extracted from their commodification. It is necessary, though, to see thinking in terms of GDP as no mere error, but the actual logic of the reigning power…

My analysis of the constituents of the ecological crisis (Chapter 1), the direct physical causes of the crisis (Chapter 2), the attitudinal causes of the crisis (Chapter 3), and the perpetuation mechanisms that prevent social change (Chapter 4), all constitute the problem section of this study. The focal areas of Chapters 3 and 4 paint a detailed picture of a dispensation in which the possibility of conducting ‘experiments of living’ (a concept I referred to at the start of this introduction) is marginal, even negligible, because dominant shapers of discourse paved the way for a global platform characterised by socio-political and economic homogeneity that dictates the extent and limits of ‘freedom’. To be sure, this is a very confined, limited and narrow form of positive freedom – a person will not be left alone, free from interference from other people in this system. Furthermore, this almost all-encompassing system, ACID, which is a result of certain problematic attitudes toward nature and simultaneously a perpetuator of those attitudes, is a disaster for the ecology of the planet – I focus on the ecological details in Chapters 1 and 2.

I have just argued that the ecologically-problematic, globalised dispensation of ACID is one characterised by various traits that have the impact of perpetuating the globalised dispensation of ACID, and accordingly that alternatives to ACID – or experiments of living – are thereby marginalised or negated. With this in mind, consider very broadly the philosophical notion of dialectical process. For my purposes, I will describe a dialectical process very simply (in broadly Hegelian terms) as a process consisting of three parts: a thesis, an antithesis, and a synthesis. A thesis is an idea; in the spirit of simplicity, I will use the example of ‘self’ as a thesis. In this limited example, the antithesis of ‘self’ is ‘other’. A synthesis of the two might be ‘community’. The dialectical process therefore is a model often used to describe how change occurs: change of a concept (self – other – community), a society, or any system. I wish to make only the following point about the dialectical process I have just exemplified: the process requires that the thesis and the antithesis ‘merge’ or ‘combine’ or ‘overlap’ at some point, or else a synthesis cannot be arrived at – in other words, something new cannot emerge. In Hegelian logic the ‘synthesis’ will, in its turn, become a ‘thesis’, and by being ‘negated’ provoke a new antithesis, synthesis, and so on; to pursue this is not my purpose here, however.

It is certainly the case that ‘new things’ have emerged (and continue to emerge) in and from the dispensation of ACID, the system which I have argued is characterised by various traits of the historically-dominant shapers of discourse – Christianity, Science, Technology, Capitalism, and to a lesser extent Democracy. But the ‘new things’ to which one is perhaps able to refer are more than likely completely compatible within the confines of consumer Capitalism, ‘pragmatic’ Technology, and reductionist Science – some of the very shapers of discourse under scrutiny in this study. However, I must ask: have any of the dominant system characteristics really changed since the dominion-enforcing reign of Christianity, since the ubiquitous expansion of pragmatic Technologies, since the compartmentalising materialism of reductionist Science, and since the profit-addiction inherent to Capitalism? One might perhaps be able to refer to isolated examples where a considerable change occurred, examples like the end of race-based slavery, or when the right to vote for leaders was granted to all people. However, these remain isolated examples. I have chosen a context of considerable proportions, namely the ecological crisis, as a reminder that systemically nothing has really changed – and by systemically I mean the advanced competitive consumer Capitalist industrial Democratic dominion-‘crazed’ dispensation that continues in the same direction as it has for centuries, albeit at an exponentially accelerated pace – the ecological crisis is a severe reminder of this. The characteristics of the system remain the same ones that have been ecologically-problematic since they became dominant, and I explore some of these characteristics and their development in Chapter 3. Indeed, mechanisms exist that prevent change of the characteristics that I have identified as ecologically-problematic, and I explore some of these mechanisms in Chapter 4.

The relevance of my reference to the dialectical process should now be clear: in ACID, the dialectical process is ‘frozen’ in any large-scale sense via an intricate interconnection of dominant physical and non-physical system components characterised by competition, dominion, utility, and a variety of other characteristics I call Promethean[9] (under inspiration from Pierre Hadot), listed at the end of Chapter 3. This, of course, is a topic open to discussion and debate, i.e. the topic of the extent to which ‘ACID does dialectic’, so to speak – in this study, I clearly espouse support for the view that in any large-scale sense of the concept of dialectic, ACID ‘does not do change’, so to speak. In Hegelian terms – if these must be adopted – one might say that the system has become so homogenised that any antithesis to a thesis is an antithesis only in name, and that the synthesis (or every synthesis, in succession), has incrementally ‘ironed out’ all genuine antitheses, so that only qualitative homogeneity remains. Or, using the well-known formula for encouraging originality, coined by Edward de Bono (1970), ‘lateral thinking’, in the present encompassing system the only lateral thinking that is tolerated is the kind that does not question the system itself, but merely promises its more efficient operation. In an interview[10], Manuel Castells, author of Rise of the Network Society (2010), offers a glimpse of support for my contention here – that ACID ‘does not do change’ – when he says that “the political institutions are impervious to change”, and of course the political institutions are central in and for ACID (I explore the problematic relationship between Capitalism and Democracy in Chapter 3). Rosi Braidotti (2013:58) also speaks about the “inertia of established mental habits” in a manner that suggests a stagnation of the dialectical cycle:

I do think that one of the most pointed paradoxes of our era is precisely the tension between the urgency of finding new and alternative modes of political and ethical agency for our technologically mediated world and the inertia of established mental habits on the other.

And Foster, Clark and York refer to a “prevailing hierarchical social order” with a “commitment to stasis in its fundamental social-property relations” (2010:17), a social order where “those on top have a vested interest in blocking fundamental change” (2010:27).

So at a very superficial level I agree with the broad concept of ‘the end of history’, a concept attributed mainly to Francis Fukuyama[11] – but only in the sense that the concept highlights an ideological goal attributed to the Promethean and its contemporary manifestation as ACID, rather than as an accurate depiction of the normative (or desirable) ‘positive status’ of liberal Democracy (let alone the capacity to put an arbitrary stop to the historical process itself) , which Fukuyama[12] is clearly in favour of:

Writing in the twentieth century, Hegel’s great interpreter, Alexandre Kojève, asserted intransigently that history had ended because what he called the “universal and homogeneous state” – what we can understand as liberal democracy – definitely solved the question of recognition by replacing the relationship of lordship and bondage with universal and equal recognition. What man had been seeking throughout the course of history – what had driven the prior ‘stages of history’ – was recognition. In the modern world, he finally found it, and was ‘completely satisfied.’ This claim was made seriously by Kojève, and it deserves to be taken seriously by us.

Leaving aside the question, whether this interpretation is compatible with Hegel’s own work (which it arguably is not, considering the difference between Hegel’s ‘logic’ and actual history) Fukuyama does indeed take Kojève’s claim seriously, and espouses support for liberal Democracy, while I do neither of these things due to the inherently problematic characteristics and mechanisms of ACID I write about in this study. I show that Promethean characteristics, qualities, and attitudes result in actions that marginalise alternatives to the Promethean, and also result in the construction of dominant system ‘mechanisms’ that prevent alternatives from arising. Put differently, the Promethean is like a ruthless dictator, whose ‘success’ is attributable to his or her might and dominance (and who accordingly eliminates opposition), rather than like a meritocratic leader who facilitates any kind of promising system-wide change.

I have argued (and I present information in this study to support the argument) that the dominant characteristics of ACID are ecologically-problematic and that mechanisms exist that prevent social and economic change, hence my claim that ACID is something in which the dialectical wheel is prevented from spinning in any real manner. However, just because ACID ‘does not do dialectic’ does not mean that ‘antitheses’ are not available. I use the word antitheses very loosely here; better for my purposes would be the phrase ‘alternatives’. I turn my attention in Chapter 5 to such alternatives, ones characterised by qualities that would clearly be unsuited in the broad arenas of ACID. One example is the Occupy Movement that occurred primarily in the years 2011-12, a movement in which attention was drawn to the rule of what was referred to as the one per cent – the one per cent of the world’s population that owns and controls considerable portions of the world’s wealth and uses it to reap massive profits, usually via socially-problematic, ethically-problematic, and ecologically-problematic means. I explore aspects of this movement in Chapter 5; it is clear that some of the characteristics of the movement are entirely different to those common to ACID, something which Noam Chomsky comments on: the movement “spontaneously created something that doesn’t really exist in the country [i.e. the USA]: communities of mutual support, cooperation, open spaces for discussion… just people doing things and helping each other”[13]. This is an important observation in the context of this study: people cooperating and helping each other, i.e. not competing. The movement offers such glimpses of manifestations of alternative attitudes, alternative attitudes I am convinced are ones that need to be paid attention to when addressing the question of what to do in light of the ecological crisis. Broadly, these alternative attitudes are ones I call Orphic[14] (again under inspiration from Pierre Hadot).

Other areas of focus in Chapter 5, to differing degrees, espouse attitudes that are in contrast to the problematic ones I identify in earlier parts of the study, and I offer these attitudes as ‘suggestions’ for further exploration as a ‘response’ in the context of the ecological crisis. A certain indulgence on the part of the reader is required here: indulgence in the form of a kind of ‘suspension of disbelief’ regarding some of these ‘suggestions’. Without it, the reader would not, for example, give someone like Graham Hancock (whose important work has, despite some striking recent confirmations by other scientists, been largely sidelined by mainstream scientists), a chance to convince her or him. I will here describe as briefly as possible some of the focal areas of Chapter 5; I will comment on the ‘ecological implications’ of these focal areas in Chapter 5. ‘Older cultures’ like the Kogi, the Ik of Uganda, the Najavo, the Hopi, the Cree, Ojibwa and the San (listed by Thom Hartmann in his ‘Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight‘ (1998:154), all share the attitude of deeply respecting the interconnection of the human and non-human world, and accordingly see human beings as a reciprocal part of nature. Paul Hawken, in his Blessed Unrest, writes about an unnamed movement consisting of between one and two million organisations and groups all working toward justice in various spheres, and though disparate, these organisations and groups share the vision of an ecologically, socially, politically, and economically sustainable dispensation. Rupert Sheldrake proposes a non-reductionist scientific model he calls morphic resonance, where characteristics of a species are shaped by non-physical fields rather than purely physical and quantitative genetic processes. Graham Hancock identifies contemporary civilization as one with amnesia, where what is forgotten is a large and crucial chunk of human history where humankind reached a sophisticated level of civilisation with its own knowledge and technology; despite its sophistication, the civilisation was unable to survive a cataclysm, but survivors of the cataclysm initiated megalithic stone building projects to convey to future civilisations some important messages from vast antiquity. Charles Eisenstein identifies an approach to human economic activity he calls sacred economics, an approach that is unrecognisable in character and in social and ecological impact when compared to the debt-based and growth-focused economic system of contemporary civilisation. The Zeitgeist Movement is one characterised by a strong sense of technological and scientific pragmatism, yet manages to align such pragmatism with sustainable and ecologically-sensitive approaches to providing for physical human needs in a context of finite ‘resources’, and non-physical needs via (partly) the maintenance of healthy ecologies.

What I am not able to offer in Chapter 5 is a clear route for transition, and by this I mean a transition from an ecologically-problematic dispensation characterised predominantly by Promethean attitudes, to an ecologically-sustainable dispensation characterised by Orphic attitudes. Indeed, during my research of the focal areas of Chapter 5, I never found any convincing information pertaining to the means by which transition could occur. This is perhaps a common limitation of the different areas on which I focus in Chapter 5, and if I were to offer nothing in the form of ‘actionable’ steps toward solutions, then it would be a limitation of this study as well. However, this is where permaculture becomes an invaluable addition in the context of this study. I explore conceptual and practical aspects of permaculture throughout Chapter 6, but suffice it to say for now that permaculture is a design system motivated by the imperative for human beings to co-exist in a sustainable manner with the non-human world. Considering what I have said about transition, permaculture plays a crucial role because it offers very specific principles that can be applied by an individual, a family, a community, a village, a city, a country… and I dare to suggest even by all the countries constituting the human civilisation. There is, however, no one-size-fits-all way to implement permaculture: in permaculture, every environment is a manifestation of different natural features, and often synthetic features too, that need to be observed, and in which human beings need to interact and make small and slow changes, accepting feedback, valuing the marginal, and so on – these latter clauses are allusions to specific permaculture principles. There are twelve of them, all of which I discuss and reflect on in Chapter 6, and all of the principles are context specific. Permaculture, I contend, is a context-specific, adaptable, patient, accessible, realistic, down-to-earth, actionable approach to creating change. It is an embodiment of the awareness of the need to carefully design and construct alternatives to the systems of ACID from the ground up via ecologically-respectful means. So when faced with the question of how to transition from ACID to something sustainable and ecologically-respectful, the answer is not to be found in something as complicated and perhaps idealistic as voting for a ‘green’ political party[15], but rather in the assembly and use of a compost toilet; in the planting of fruiting trees; in the catching and storing of rain-water; in growing some herbs and edible leaf-crops near the home kitchen; in getting rid of ‘the television’; in purchasing one or two solar panels and one or two deep-cycle batteries and learning how to adapt one’s lighting and (for example) computer-powering needs to this small solar-power setup; in being creative with the ‘waste products’ that usually end up in the bin and making useful items from them; in keeping chickens for the purposes of producing eggs for protein in the diet; in sourcing local fresh produce and meat wherever possible; in learning the edible properties of ‘weeds’ and incorporating ‘weeds’ into one’s diet; and so on. These may seem like small steps, but one need not be part of some bigger social phenomenon, or be rich, or be talented, or well-connected socially, in order to take the steps – and this simplicity is part of what makes permaculture very appealing in the context of the socio-political and economic complications that underpin the ecological crisis. Remembering the opening remarks to this introduction about positive and negative freedom, I should point out that permaculture is one of the few arenas in which one can learn how to exercise negative freedom – in the implementation of small, slow, sustainable, synergistic systemic solutions that together add up, with the consequence that the need to depend fully on the homogenised and homogenising systems of ACID is thereby reduced. I am not for a moment suggesting that permaculture can feed the world – perhaps it could, but the world’s 7.4 billion people grew to that number because of the widespread commercialisation of fossil-fuels since the second half of the 19th century (when the population of human beings was only 1 billion; I discuss this in Chapter 3), but the fossil-fuel system is now unanimously acknowledged to be inherently unsustainable – something that uses a finite resource can never exist infinitely[16]. I add that not only is it unsustainable, but it is also the physical means by which the Promethean attitudes could accelerate in their historical spread across the globe – I address this process in Chapter 3. If something is inherently unsustainable then it must come to an end, so here I draw obvious attention to the question, then what?[17] And this is when permaculture can be turned to – but never in a one-size-fits-all manner, as I have already commented. On smaller scales, if one wishes to conduct small ‘experiments of living’, then permaculture is a great place to start, as it offers numerous options to put ecologically-sensitive ideas and attitudes into practice. I add in Chapter 6 ‘down-to-earth’, ‘low-tech’ examples of how I have implemented permaculture in my own life and thereby managed to exercise some level of autonomy in the face of the seemingly-overwhelming juggernaut that is ACID.

Clearly, a dichotomy has been foregrounded: a dichotomy between ecologically-problematic attitudes and ecologically-respectful attitudes; a dichotomy between the Promethean and the Orphic. I argue in this study that the Promethean, due to its characterisation in part by dominance, its focus on having dominion over all of the non-human world, and a variety of other characteristics, has marginalised the Orphic, whose various characteristics have made it easy to be dominated. It is with this dichotomy in mind, as well as with the broad context of the ecological crisis as I explore it in this study, that I turn to the question of the role of philosophy. Two texts in particular stood out to me during my research into the role of philosophy. The first is a text called Philosophy in the Present, structural aspects of which I have already commented on in the Summary section. In the text, Badiou and Žižek offer their answers to the question of the role of philosophy in the present, and both philosophers make it perfectly clear that philosophy occurs when faced with incommensurability, or in other words, when insurmountable barriers to dialogue are encountered: Žižek explicitly says that philosophy is not a dialogue (2009:50). I list most of the characteristics of philosophy I take from Philosophy in the headings of the sub-sections of the first half of Chapter 7: philosophy as the creation of new problems; philosophy as a process of cutting through particulars to reach the universal; philosophy and incommensurability, mutual exclusivity, and paradoxical relations; philosophy and the creation of new problems; philosophy and changing the concepts of the debate; philosophy and no certainty of ‘being at home’, internal foreignness, and the breakdown of organic society; philosophy as the Elucidation of choice; philosophy as the shedding of light on the distance between power and truths; philosophy and the redefinition of human nature; philosophy as singularity participating in universality; philosophy and preconceived ideas of human nature; philosophy and humanity as it has been historically constituted; philosophy and the established model of humanity; philosophy and the ‘transformation of life’. Each of these focal areas, as well as others I have not listed here, opens up possibilities for insight on various aspects of Chapters 1 to 6 of this study. For example, “humanity as it has been historically constituted and defined” is a phrase that Badiou (2009:74-75) uses in the following: “Each time that philosophy confines itself to humanity as it has been historically constituted and defined, it diminishes itself, and in the end suppresses itself. It suppresses itself because its only use becomes that of conserving, spreading and consolidating the established model of humanity”. I have already suggested in this introduction that various shapers of discourse (on which I focus mainly in Chapter 3) have dominated historically: the attitudes of domination and dominion partly characterise them, propelling their dominance and dominion, and via their dominance and dominion, they homogenised the historical playing field, resulting in ACID, the Promethean writ large. In other words, the Promethean ‘model of humanity’ is “humanity as it has been historically constituted” (Ibid). And Badiou makes it clear that when philosophy confines itself to, conserves, spreads, or consolidates humanity as it has been historically constituted, it diminishes and suppresses itself. An obvious route, then, toward practicing philosophy in a manner where it is not diminished or suppressed, is to broaden focus and bring (incommensurable) alternatives ‘into the mix’, so to speak – and of course, I focus on alternatives in Chapters 5 and 6. In other words, the historically dominant Promethean may be positioned against the Orphic. Accordingly, the dialectical wheel can turn properly: the dominant theses of the Promethean will be posed against the ‘antitheses’ (I prefer ‘alternative ideas’) of the Orphic, and synthesis can potentially occur.

The second text to which I refer regarding the question of the role of philosophy in the context of the ecological crisis as I have explored the context, is Hadot’s essay ‘Philosophy as a way of life’[18]. The purview here is mostly different from that in Philosophy in the present, with the occasional overlapping implication. Hadot traces the notion of philosophy as a way of life as it was ‘approached’ in ancient times – an approach that I contend is of considerable value in the context of the ecological crisis as I explore it in this study. For example, Hadot (1995:254) quotes Bergson to convey the character of ‘habitual perception’:

Life requires that we put on blinkers; we must not look to the right, to the left, or behind, but straight ahead, in the direction in which we are supposed to walk. In order to live, we must be selective in our knowledge and our memories, and retain only that which may contribute to our action upon things.

This is one manner of perception where human beings retain knowledge which may contribute to our action upon things, and Hadot (Ibid) refers to it as “utilitarian perception”. I do not suggest that utilitarian perception is ‘bad’, because certainly everyday pragmatism is necessary in the pursuit of food, shelter, and so many other material needs. But the Bergson quote does suggest an exclusive pragmatism, and this is the realm of the Promethean, where the ‘objects’ of nature are valued only for their instrumental value and not their inherent value – and ACID is the contemporary ‘manifestation’ or embodiment of this hegemonic realm. I develop these and other related themes at various stages in this study, but in the second half of Chapter 7 I show that the concept of philosophy as a way of life nurtures a form of perception where the inherent value of extant things is foregrounded, where human attitudes align with an ecologically-respectful ‘cosmic consciousness’, and where human actions accordingly are aligned with qualities of the Orphic as they are identified in this study. By exploring philosophy in its ‘format’ I have just commented on, I hope to be able to offer a refreshing method that can be used to approach and address the worrying issue of the ecological crisis, a crisis which hitherto has clearly not been adequately addressed considering the extent to which the crisis is daily exacerbated.

[1] accessed 15 February 2017.

[2] I explain and explore the notion of the tyranny of the majority in Chapter 4, sub-section 4.2, called ‘Mill’s dangers of democracy’.

[3] accessed 15 February 2017.

[4] …in the sense of a force that shapes or influences attitudes.

[5] I comment on this acronym, as well as my adaptation of it, in the section called ‘Comments on some central terms’.

[6] See sub-section 5.8 on the Zeitgeist Movement

[7] …to quote Peter Barnes, as I do in Chapter 4.

[8] See the following source for an example of the Christian prosecution of the Cathars, Albigensians, and Bogomils: accessed 22 May 2017.

[9] I discuss the use of the term Promethean in the ‘Comments on some central terms’ and the ‘Aims and methodology’ section.

[10] accessed 22 February 2017

[11] accessed 12 March 2017

[12] accessed 4 April 2017

[13] accessed 20 February 2017

[14] I discuss the use of the term Orphic in the ‘Comments on some central terms’ and the ‘Aims and methodology’ section.

[15] …because, as I show in Chapter 4, there is only one party – the Business party. This is Chomsky’s remark.

[16] See Diamond 2005:490 –  “While there has been much discussion about how many big oil and gas fields remain to be discovered, and while coal reserves are believed to be large, the prevalent view is that known and likely reserves of readily accessible oil and natural gas will last for a few more decades”.

[17] Some people respond to the question by pointing out that ‘Technology will save us’ – I address this outrageous fallacy explicitly in Chapter 3.

[18] I do draw from a second essay of his as well, ‘The sage and the world’, but mostly in connection to the central ideas of the former essay. Both essays appear in the book called Philosophy as a way of life, and ‘The sage and the world’ certainly leads thematically into ‘Philosophy as a way of life’.