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Toward a transpersonal ecology: The context, influence, meanings, and distinctiveness of the deep ecology approach to ecophilosophy

Fox, Warwick (1988) Toward a transpersonal ecology: The context, influence, meanings, and distinctiveness of the deep ecology approach to ecophilosophy. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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The distinguished Norwegian philosopher Arne Naess coined a distinction in 1972 between "shallow" and "deep" approaches to ecology and environmentalism. In the 1980s, this distinction - and particularly the ideas associated with "deep ecology," which constitutes the challenging or radical aspect of Naess's distinction - has come to exert a powerful influence upon academic ecophilosophical discussion. Moreover, the ideas associated with deep ecology have spread well beyond the confines of academic ecophilosophical discussion and have become a source of inspiration to - and, often, heated debate among - not only environmental activists but also ecologically oriented thinkers across a range of areas that includes ecological science, broad cultural analyses, sociology, and politics.

This dissertation is devoted to the articulation, clarification, and development of the deep ecology approach to ecophilosophy. The dissertation is divided into four parts, which examine the context, influence, meanings, and distinctiveness of the deep ecology approach to ecophilosophy respectively. In Part I, I outline the context of the emergence of ecophilosophy and show the central role that the issue of anthropocentrism has played in the development of ecophilosophical thinking. In particular, I show that Naess's shallow/deep ecology distinction represents just one of a number of apparently similar distinctions that have been made between anthropocentric and nonanthropocentric approaches to ecology and environmentalism.

In Part II, I show how influential deep ecology has become, both within academic ecophilosophical discussion and beyond, and consider the question other apparently comparable distinctions have exerted little or no influence upon ecophilosophical discussion. I argue that Naess's conception of deep ecology actually subsumes three related but analytically distinct meanings or fundamental ideas and that it is the distinctive nature (as an approach to ecophilosophy) of one of these meanings that has led to Naess's distinction drawing the advocacy that it has in ecophilosophical circles.

In Part III, I outline the three senses of deep ecology that are to be found in Naess's work. These senses refer to (i) the general idea of a nonanthropocentric (or ecocentric) approach to ecology/living-in-the-world; (ii) the idea of deriving one's ecologically relevant views from fundamental assumptions, by which Naess means assumptions that are arrived at by a process of asking progressively deeper questions; and (hi) the idea of the this-worldly realization of as expansive a sense of self as possible in a world in which selves and thingsin- the-world are conceived as processes. I refer to these senses as Naess's "popular," "formal," and "philosophical" senses of deep ecology respectively. On the basis of this analysis, I show, on the one hand, that there is nothing distinctive about Naess's popular sense of deep ecology and, on the other hand, that Naess's formal sense of deep ecology is untenable.

In Part IV, I proceed to show that it is Naess's philosophical sense of deep ecology that lies at the heart of what is tenable and distinctive about the deep ecology approach to ecophilosophy. I draw on recent developments in psychology in this context to suggest that it is more accurate and informative to refer to this distinctive, philosophical sense of deep ecology as "transpersonal ecology" rather than "deep ecology." (Naess makes it clear that the term "deep ecology" refers to what I have characterized as his formal sense of deep ecology.) In the Epilogue, I further elaborate the distinctive nature of the transpersonal ecology approach to ecophilosophy by discussing the specific kinds of identification that are implied by a transpersonal approach to ecology.

The dissertation also contains two appendices. The first addresses recent controversies concerning deep ecology and is entitled "The Deep Ecology- Ecofeminism Debate and its Parallels: A Defence of Deep Ecology's Concern with Anthropocentrism." I point the reader to this appendix primarily in the context of my discussion of the influence of deep ecology in Chapter 2. The second appendix provides background information that is relevant to the argument that is developed in Part IV and is entitled "The Emergence of Transpersonal Psychology." I point the reader to this appendix in the context of my discussion of transpersonal ecology in Chapter 7.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Social Inquiry
Notes: Note to the author: If you would like to make your thesis openly available on Murdoch University Library's Research Repository, please contact: Thank you.
Supervisor(s): Hallen, Patsy
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