Research study: recommendations and suggestions – points relating to philosophy

In light of the progression of some of the themes and information that have been interwoven in this study, the following recommendations and suggestions are offered. The fact that these are offered would no doubt be regarded by many ‘academic philosophers’ as not belonging in a doctoral thesis, or any ‘philosophical’ text, for that matter, because of academic philosophy’s incompatibility with the notion of philosophy that I advance and defend here – one modelled on what Hadot (and further back, the ancient world) calls ‘philosophy as a way of life’ (discussed at length earlier). In the light of the sense of philosophy that this study subscribes to, therefore, these ‘recommendations and suggestions’ are completely consonant with the thoroughgoing argument.

Points relating to philosophy

First – and this may come as some surprise to individuals who consider themselves to be philosophically minded – it must be remembered that, according to Badiou (2009:74-75), if a philosopher defends, or justifies, or argues in favour of, humanity as it has been historically constituted, and/or the established model of humanity, the philosopher diminishes or suppresses philosophy: “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 shown in this study that humanity as it has been historically constituted, and/or the established model of humanity is/are Promethean, and I have also shown that Promethean attitudes have propelled the most destructive of ecological outcomes. In this light, anyone interested in philosophy, anyone who considers themselves to be philosophically minded, and anyone participating in philosophy in whatever manner, must remember that if they defend humanity as it has been historically constituted, and/or the established model of humanity, she or he not only ‘diminishes’ or ‘suppresses’ philosophy, but as a consequence of the domination of Western history by the Promethean, she or he also ‘justifies’, spreads and consolidates ecologically-problematic attitudes and phenomena.

Second, and further to the first suggestion, Badiou and Žižek do offer areas of philosophical focus that they consider to be more fitting for philosophy ‘in the present’. Philosophers can turn their attention to any of the following areas of focus if they wish to exonerate themselves somewhat from (the ecologically-problematic) established models of humanity:

* Incommensurability, mutual exclusivity, and paradoxical relations. * The creation of new problems. * The changing of the concepts of the debate. * The lack of certainty of ‘being at home’. * Internal foreignness. * The breakdown of organic society. * The elucidating of choice. * The shedding light on the distance between power and truths. * The redefinition of human nature. * The focus on singularities that participate in universality. * The disclosure of preconceived ideas of human nature. * Focus on thinking about the ‘transformation of life’.

The focus on any of these areas of philosophy will invariably, in the context of a dispensation shaped by the Promethean, halt Promethean Business-as-usual at the very least, and perhaps facilitate a focus on Orphic (ecologically-sensitive) ideas, attitudes, and projects.

Third, the ‘clash’ between, on the one hand, the Promethean attitudes and systems that drive the ecological crisis and, on the other hand, the Orphic attitudes that could direct human actions away from ecologically-problematic outcomes, is an exciting clash considering that aspect of philosophy (as depicted by Badiou and Žižek) occurring in the presence of paradoxical relations: “There is philosophy, and there can be philosophy, because there are paradoxical relations, because there are breaks, decisions, distances, events” (2009:19). The ecological crisis and the myriad of associated issues (discussed in this study) are therefore fertile areas of focus for people who wish to participate in philosophy as a dynamic process, versus philosophy as a purely academic discipline (which I will comment on in the next point).

Fourth, philosophers should consider that philosophy’s categorisation as primarily an academic discipline is, as I have shown, a consequence, according to Hadot (1995:269), of the association that occurred between philosophy and Christianity (which I have shown was predominantly characterised by Promethean attitudes) during the Middle Ages. Prior to this period, philosophy was, according to Hadot, a way of life, and as I have shown in Chapter 7, philosophy’s role was partly to transform people. This transformative process is one away from habitual perception (associated with Promethean instrumentality, operational thinking, exclusive pragmatism, and thinking in terms of utility) and toward cosmic consciousness, in which the inherent value of being, and the interconnection of all beings and places, are recognised – an Orphic recognition – and centralised. The philosopher who merely ‘talks the talk’ is simply dabbling in philosophical discourse, something that developed in the educational institution of the university alongside the Promethean project of global domination, which I have shown to have resulted in the ecological crisis. Such a philosopher, however, does not ‘walk the walk’ and work to guide her or his actions according to philosophical perception, which I have shown to be Orphic in character, and which inherently emphasises the interconnection of the individual with the cosmos, thereby having the effect of guiding one toward ecologically-sensitive actions. When a (desirable) resonance between individuals and ‘the cosmos’ is stressed here, it is important to note that ‘cosmos’ means ‘order’ (or ‘world’, for the ancient Greeks) – not in the sense of a militarily imposed order, but one that is alluded to in the title of Thomas Princen’s book, Treading softly – Paths to ecological order (2010).

Fifth, philosophical transformation in the context of philosophy as a way of life is a transformation toward personal inner peace, which requires that individuals constantly ‘work on themselves’ to do (Orphic) things like remain as aware as possible of their interconnection with the cosmos and nurture respect for the inherent value of nature, recognising that human beings are part of the cosmos and part of nature. In ‘working on oneself’, one breaks their own ‘habitualised’ patterns (which are by and large Promethean), and therefore breaks the exclusive grip of the Promethean in their own lives. This is, of course, important because when one breaks the grip of the Promethean, they halt ecologically-problematic actions in their own lives. But Hadot (1995:274) also points out that “inner peace is indispensable for efficacious action”, and he specifies that a crucial context in which such efficacious action unfolds is the community: “the philosophical life normally entails a communitary engagement”. Philosophers, in practising philosophy as a way of life (which is Orphic, and which involves ‘working on oneself’), therefore can take ecologically-respectful attitudes and ideas into their own communities, instigating social change away from the Promethean and toward the Orphic.

Sixth, it is suggested that one be cognisant of the character of philosophy discussed by Badiou and Žižek, which I argued resonates powerfully with the character of the Orphic, as well as Hadot’s philosophy as a way of life, which ‘leaps out’ at one as clearly Orphic in character. Exploring and experimenting with philosophy as depicted by these philosophers affords one the opportunity to transform oneself away from an exclusively instrumental, utilitarian, operational, pragmatic, and ecologically-problematic approach to the world, and instead towards an attitude where nature is respected as inherently valuable, and where human actions become directed by such an Orphic awareness. In other words, one can learn from philosophy (as it has been explored in this study) how to ‘let things be’, which is an indispensible lesson in the context of the ecological crisis.

Seventh, to recognise that the nurturing of Orphic attitudes is something that can begin with the transformation of the self in the manner spoken about by Hadot in Chapter 7, is recommended, which is to say that people can work on transforming themselves if they wish to contribute positively towards transformation in general. Considering that the world’s population of human beings is well over 7 billion people at the time of writing this sub-section, the transformation toward the Orphic cannot end with the individual. However, the individual can go about furthering the spread of Orphic attitudes more generally (for example, via ‘communitary engagement’, as discussed in Chapter 7), which the individual will surely be better equipped to do after self-transformation.

The eighth suggestion is to identify habitual perception, utilitarianism, operational thinking, subjective Reasoning, and instrumentalism when these Promethean attitudes are exclusively employed, regardless of the context in which such attitudes are encountered. I have shown in this study that these attitudes are deeply inculcated in causing the ecological crisis, and they need to be singled out in all socio-political and economic arenas, and revealed for what they are, i.e. attitudes that result in ecologically-problematic action being perpetuated across the socio-political and economic spectrum.