Research study: overall conclusion

James Lovelock has written the following[1]:

It may be that the destiny of mankind is to become tamed, so that the fierce, destructive, and greedy forces of tribalism and nationalism are fused into a compulsive urge to belong to the commonwealth of all creatures which constitutes Gaia. It might seem to be a surrender, but I suspect that the rewards, in the form of an increased sense of well-being and fulfilment, in knowing ourselves to be a dynamic part of a far greater entity, would be worth the loss of tribal freedom.

Lovelock’s focus here is on tribalism and nationalism, which, to be sure, foster fierceness, destructiveness, and greed, as Lovelock points out. The focus in this study has been on manifestations of the Promethean, where fierceness, destructiveness, and greed are characteristics clearly compatible with the general Promethean modus operandi. But in response to Lovelock’s remark – that it “may be that the destiny of mankind is to become tamed” – I must ask, who will do the taming? Who will force the surrender to which Lovelock refers? Certainly, if one takes seriously the qualities, characteristics, and modus operandi of the Promethean that have been looked at in this study, then it is clear that the taming and/or the surrender will not take place as a consequence of a ‘decision’ made, or process initiated, by proponents of the Promethean attitude – as I have shown in this study, the Promethean actively negates the possibility of alternatives to it from arising. I have also shown that Christianity, Science, Technology, Capitalism – and here I must add Democracy[2] – as they have historically unfolded, have laid the way for the contemporary socio-political and economic dispensation of ACID, which I have shown is a disaster for the collective ecology/ecologies of the planet. None of these are arenas that genuinely ‘open themselves’ to anything but that which perpetuates them. It follows that the taming and/or the surrender to which Lovelock refers will not arise from the dominant Promethean arenas of ACID – Capitalist Politics, growth-focused Business[3], reductionist and materialist Science, and Technology as directed by the dominion imperative – and that a “commonwealth of all creatures” constituting Gaia will thus not be actualised from within ACID or from anything Promethean.

The taming and/or surrender referred to by Lovelock will have to occur in some other way, and two possibilities readily come to mind. The first possibility is the occurrence of some sort of large-scale disaster affecting a considerably large per cent of the world’s population, including those people in first world countries who have materially benefitted the most from the era of the Promethean. Judging by the ‘attack’ on nature that has accompanied the rise and dominance of the Promethean dispensation of ACID, a far-reaching ecological disaster induced by humankind is unfortunately a plausible scenario. This first possibility is one for which a thorough context is established in Chapters 1 to 4 of this study, i.e. the Promethean component. All that has to occur is for Business as usual to continue unabated: “We are at red alert status. If business as usual continues, the world is headed within the next few decades for major tipping points along with irreversible environmental degradation, threatening much of humanity” (Foster, Clark and York 2010:14).

The other possibility is one contextualised by the information, themes and arguments in Chapters 5 to 7, i.e. the Orphic component. In Chapter 5, it was seen that Paul Hawken has made it clear that between one and two million organisations operate throughout the globe, organisations that in one manner or another work to bring justice to where Promethean powers have caused injustice. To be sure, these are small and ‘divergent’ groups whose influence is negligible in comparison to the influence of the Promethean powers in the globalised world. Yet these organisations form ‘nodes’ on a network, a network that could perhaps be thought of as an immune system of sorts, as Paul Hawken has pointed out (see Chapter 5). The Occupy Movement raised awareness on a global scale of various issues that have been explored in this study, and members of the Zeitgeist Movement continue to advocate positive social change in meeting groups (known as ‘chapters’) all over the world. Increasing evidence supports Graham Hancock’s research into a lost ancient civilisation that predates the ancient Egyptian civilisation – school and university history books may soon be rewritten, showing the youth that ACID is not an apex in human ‘development’, and that even ‘advanced’ civilisations have risen and fallen in the human past. The world’s economy is exceedingly fragile, and with further destabilisation there is strong potential for people to seek alternatives such as the ones discussed by Charles Eisenstein. As Science provides more and more information about the physical world, but clearly does not enhance knowledge about how to live in an ecologically ‘sick’[4] world, people will have to look elsewhere for ‘scientific guidance’, and Rupert Sheldrake offers an Orphic alternative with the potential to radically change the essence of the scientific enterprise. As the Promethean attitudes associated with ACID are increasingly revealed to result in an unsustainable human ‘civilisation’ due to its neglect for, and negation of the natural world, people may seek guidance from ‘older cultures’ whose relationship with the natural world is sustainable (or, unfortunately, was sustainable, considering the phenomenon of ‘absorption’ of members of older cultures into the globalised model of ACID). As the world of academia is increasingly stifled by rigid disciplinarity, bureaucracy, and Business-concerns associated with the reign of ACID (e.g. funding issues), philosophers can play their part by foregrounding, prioritising, and integrating into their work, their teaching, and their lives some of the philosophical ideas that have been discussed throughout this study, though most appropriately the ideas explored in Chapter 7[5], while simultaneously highlighting the ecological plight of the planet, a plight that has direct attitudinal and physical causes.

Jared Diamond, despite being ‘cautiously optimistic’ (2005:521-523) “about the world’s future”,  points out (2005:14-15) that a “society’s responses [to its problems] depend on its political, economic, and social institutions and on its cultural values. Those institutions and values affect whether the society solves (or even tries to solve) its problems”. I have shown in this study that the dominant institutions are Promethean, and that the Promethean actively marginalises and/or negates that which is alternative to it, so I do not share Diamond’s cautious optimism that responses to society’s problems will proactively be arrived at. Instead, I consider myself to be ‘realistically pessimistic’ that the dominant Promethean shapers of discourse will continue ‘doing what they do’, steering the collective planetary organism toward what Diamond (2005:498) refers to as the ‘resolution’ of “the world’s environmental problems… in unpleasant ways not of our choice”:

Thus, because we are rapidly advancing along this non-sustainable course, the world’s environmental problems will get resolved, in one way or another, within the lifetimes of the children and young adults alive today. The only question is whether they will become resolved in pleasant ways of our own choice, or in unpleasant ways not of our choice, such as warfare, genocide, starvation, disease epidemics, and collapses of societies. While all of those grim phenomena have been endemic to humanity throughout our history, their frequency increases with environmental degradation, population pressure, and the resulting poverty and political instability.

However, despite my pessimism regarding large-scale, institutionalised steps toward solving the world’s ecological problems, I have shown in Chapter 6 that a person can take matters into their own hands and, by applying permaculture techniques and by applying permaculture principles, can design their own systems. This is grounds for some hope, because a person can work toward being part of the proverbial solution rather than the problem. This may not solve the world’s ecological problems, but it does give one the chance to create an environment in which respect for nature’s inherent value can be nurtured and foregrounded, and in which one can ‘let things be’, and where one breaks free (to some extent) from the pattern of perpetuating ‘humanity as it has been historically constituted’ by the dominant Promethean shapers of discourse. Along the way, individuals who have embarked on the journey of Orphic discovery can spend time in rare contexts unhampered by the Promethean attitude, and opportunities to nurture ‘peace of mind’ or ‘inner peace’ can increasingly be incorporated by individuals who make concerted efforts to do so. I agree fully with Hadot when he says that (1995:274) “inner peace is indispensable for efficacious action” – efficacious action by committed individuals, such as the individual persons or movements considered in Chapter 5, is in my view a more realistic means by which broader socio-political, economic and cultural change can be instigated, rather than placing hope in inherently Promethean institutions, who resist change (as I have shown in this study). It is in this regard that philosophy as I have explored it in this study also plays such a critical role in the context of the ecological crisis. My focus on some of Hadot’s work has revealed philosophy as a way of life to be an Orphic project where nature is actively allowed to ‘let be’, and where the individual who practices philosophy as a way of life must to some extent engage with their communities, potentially slowing the spread of the Promethean agenda and instead working to create opportunities to nurture Orphic ideas, attitudes and actions. And as seen in my focus on Badiou and Žižek’s take on philosophy ‘in the present’, defending humanity as it has been historically constituted (which I have shown is Promethean) is not the job of the philosopher – the philosopher must, to some extent at least, dabble beyond the restrictive realms of the Promethean, and Orphic attitudes can thus be incorporated into the philosophical remit.

[1] Accessed 6 March 2017 at

[2] This addition is made upon reflection of the content of Chapter 4, sub-section 4.3., where ‘Democracy’ in a ‘free-market’ neoliberal Capitalist system is heavily inculcated as a prominent perpetuator of the Promethean dispensation. Democracy in its Promethean format is something to which I ascribe a capital letter, i.e. Democracy as it has historically unfolded versus democracy in its idealised form. This is based on Speth’s distinction (2008:31) apparent here: “I use ‘modern capitalism’ here in a broad sense as an actual, existing system of political economy, not as an idealized model” – something I have commented on several times in this study already, as early as in the ‘Conventions’ section.

[3] Which I capitalise for the same reason I capitalise Christianity and Capitalism, a reason I have discussed several times in this study already.

[4] Here I invoke the analogy of a sick patient, discussed at the start of the Aims and Methodology section.

[5] On this note I hold up Bert Olivier as a shining example of a philosopher and academic who has throughout his career brought ‘Orphically-aligned’ issues to the forefront of academic discussions, grounding such discussions on ‘matters of ultimate concern’ (to quote Vetlesen – see Chapter 3), proactively resisting the bureaucratisation of the university by Promethean powers who wish to model the university on that of a Business.