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An ecology of this moment: Overcoming the reification of the self in ecophilosophy

Anda, Ingvar (2001) An ecology of this moment: Overcoming the reification of the self in ecophilosophy. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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Abstract

The modern human individual is alienated from the natural world and this is a significant factor in the current ecological crisis. This is an observation made by many ecophilosophers and is the starting point for this dissertation. I focus on that branch of ecophilosophy that Arne Naess named deep ecology as providing a promising approach to overcoming alienation. Although Naess's notion of Self-realisation is one that is well known within ecophilosophy, the complexity of thought that underpins Self-realisation is not always apparent. A major influence on the way Naess articulates his thinking is Greek (Pyrrhonian) scepticism. I analyse the way Naess's overcoming of alienation, through rethinking the self's relationship with the natural world, incorporates the various facets of his thought. Elaborations of Self-realisation by Warwick Fox and others, as well as critiques of Self-realisation by ecofeminists, point to problems of abstraction and reification of the self. Naess's writing seems to avoid reification and abstraction and bears much in common with Buddhism.

Buddhism, like Naess’s Pyrrhonism, maintains that making dogmatic assertions ('clinging to views') restricts the mind and hinders liberation. The Buddhist understanding that the self is inherently empty, due to its radical interdependence with all other phenomena, is not only in accord with Naess's notion of the self but also allows for a more thorough critique of the human tendency to reify a self. The alienated and reified Cartesian self that exploits the natural world to the point of threatening its very existence makes this critique an urgent requirement. Drawing on Dogen, I develop an account of self-realisation which I am calling an ecology of this moment. Robert Aitken and Gary Snyder’s attempts to elaborate Dogen's thinking in the contemporary context of ecological crisis are evaluated as providing grounded examples of overcoming the reification of the self.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation: Division of Social Sciences, Humanities and Education
Notes: Note to the author: If you would like to make your thesis openly available on Murdoch University Library's Research Repository, please contact: repository@murdoch.edu.au. Thank you.
Supervisor(s): Hallen, Patsy and Booth, Michael
URI: http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/id/eprint/50485
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