Anthropocentric

"Anthropocentric" redirects here. For The Ocean Collective album, see Anthropocentric (album).

Anthropocentrism (from Greek: ἄνθρωπος, ánthrōpos, "human being"; and κέντρον, kéntron, "center") is the position that human beings are the central or most significant species on the planet (in the sense that they are considered to have a moral status different to that of other animals), or the assessment of reality through an exclusively human perspective.[1] The term can be used interchangeably with humanocentrism, and some refer to the concept as human supremacy. Anthropocentrism is considered to be profoundly embedded in many modern human cultures and conscious acts. It is a major concept in the field of environmental ethics and environmental philosophy, where it is often considered to be the root cause of problems created by human interaction with the environment. However, many proponents of anthropocentrism point out that this is not necessarily the case: they argue that a sound long-term view acknowledges that a healthy, sustainable environment is necessary for humans and that the real issue is shallow anthropocentrism.[2][3]

Environmental philosophy

Anthropocentrism, also known as homocentricism or human supremacism,[4] has been posited by some environmentalists, in such books as Confessions of an Eco-Warrior by Dave Foreman and Green Rage by Christopher Manes, as the underlying (if unstated) reason why humanity dominates and sees the need to "develop" most of the Earth. Anthropocentrism is believed by some to be the central problematic concept in environmental philosophy, where it is used to draw attention to a systematic bias in traditional Western attitudes to the non-human world.[5] Val Plumwood has argued[6][7] that anthropocentrism plays an analogous role in green theory to androcentrism in feminist theory and ethnocentrism in anti-racist theory. Plumwood calls human-centredness "anthrocentrism" to emphasise this parallel.

One of the first extended philosophical essays addressing environmental ethics, John Passmore's Man's Responsibility for Nature[8] has been criticised by defenders of deep ecology because of its anthropocentrism, often claimed to be constitutive of traditional Western moral thought.[9] Defenders of anthropocentrist views point out that maintenance of a healthy, sustainable environment is necessary for human well-being as opposed for its own sake. The problem with a "shallow" viewpoint is not that it is human-centred but that according to William Grey: "What's wrong with shallow views is not their concern about the well-being of humans, but that they do not really consider enough in what that well-being consists. According to this view, we need to develop an enriched, fortified anthropocentric notion of human interest to replace the dominant short-term, sectional and self-regarding conception."[10] In turn, Plumwood in Environmental Culture: The Ecological Crisis of Reason argued that Grey's anthropocentrism is inadequate.[11]

It is important to take note that many devoted environmentalists encompass a somewhat anthropocentric-based philosophical view supporting the fact that they will argue in favor of saving the environment for the sake of human populations. Grey writes: "We should be concerned to promote a rich, diverse, and vibrant biosphere. Human flourishing may certainly be included as a legitimate part of such a flourishing."[12] Biocentrism has been proposed as an antithesis of anthropocentrism.[13] It has also been proposed as a generalised form of anthropocentrism.[14]

Christianity

The 1985 CBC series "A Planet For the Taking", explored the Old Testament roots of anthropocentrism and how it shaped our view of non-human animals. Some Christian proponents of anthropocentrism base their belief on the Bible, such as the verse 1:26 in the Book of Genesis: Template:Cquote

The use of the word "dominion" in the Genesis is controversial. Many Biblical scholars, especially Roman Catholic and other non-Protestant Christians, consider this to be a flawed translation of a word meaning "stewardship", which would indicate that mankind should take care of the earth and its various forms of life, but is not inherently better than any other form of life.[15] The current Latin Vulgate, the official Bible of the Catholic Christian church, states that God holds man responsible for the care and fate of all earthly creatures.[16][17]

The original Hebrew word in question is וְיִרְדּוּ stemming from the root רדה meaning to oppress or subjugate. Literally understood as to come down upon. Some evangelical Christians have also been critical, viewing a human-centred worldview, rather than a Christ-centred or God-centred worldview, as a core societal problem. According to this viewpoint, humanity placing its own desires ahead of the teachings of the Bible leads to rampant selfishness and behaviour viewed as sinful.

Human rights

Anthropocentrism is the grounding for some naturalistic concepts of human rights. Defenders of anthropocentrism argue that it is the necessary fundamental premise to defend universal human rights, since what matters morally is simply being human. For example, noted philosopher Mortimer J. Adler wrote, "Those who oppose injurious discrimination on the moral ground that all human beings, being equal in their humanity, should be treated equally in all those respects that concern their common humanity, would have no solid basis in fact to support their normative principle." Adler is stating here, that denying what is now called human exceptionalism could lead to tyranny, writing that if we ever came to believe that humans do not possess a unique moral status, the intellectual foundation of our liberties collapses: "Why, then, should not groups of superior men be able to justify their enslavement, exploitation, or even genocide of inferior human groups on factual and moral grounds akin to those we now rely on to justify our treatment of the animals we harness as beasts of burden, that we butcher for food and clothing, or that we destroy as disease-bearing pests or as dangerous predators?"[18]

Author and anthropocentrism defender Wesley J. Smith from the Discovery Institute has written that human exceptionalism is what gives rise to human duties to each other, the natural world, and to treat animals humanely. Writing in A Rat is a Pig is a Dog is a Boy, a critique of animal rights ideology, "Because we are unquestionably a unique species--the only species capable of even contemplating ethical issues and assuming responsibilities--we uniquely are capable of apprehending the difference between right and wrong, good and evil, proper and improper conduct toward animals. Or to put it more succinctly if being human isn't what requires us to treat animals humanely, what in the world does?"[19]

Critics counter that anthropocentrism has contributed to speciesism and bioconservatism at the expense of the natural environment, animal rights, and individual rights.[20]

In fiction

In science-fiction, humanocentrism is the idea that humans, as both beings and a species, are the superior sentients. Essentially the equivalent of race supremacy on a galactic scale, it entails intolerant discrimination against sentient non-humans, much like race supremacists discriminate against those not of their race. This idea is countered by anti-humanism. At times, this ideal also includes fear of and superiority over strong AIs and cyborgs, downplaying the ideas of integration, cybernetic revolts, machine rule and Tilden's Laws of Robotics.

Origins

Some secular proponents of human exceptionalism point to evidence of unusual rapid evolution of the brain and the emergence of exceptional aptitudes. As one commentator put it, "Over the course of human history, we have been successful in cultivating our faculties, shaping our development, and impacting upon the wider world in a deliberate fashion, quite distinct from evolutionary processes".[21]

Mark Twain mocked the belief in human supremacy in Letters from the Earth.[22]

The 2012 documentary The Superior Human? systematically analyzes anthropocentrism and concludes that value is fundamentally an opinion, and since life forms naturally value their own traits, most humans are misled to believe that they are actually more valuable than other species. This natural bias, combined with a received sense of comfort and an excuse for exploitation of non-humans cause anthropocentrism to remain in society.[23] [24] [25]

See also

Further reading

  • Bertalanffy, General System Theory (1993): 239-48
  • Boddice, Rob (ed), Anthropocentrism: Humans, Animals, Environments (Leiden and Boston, Brill: 2011)
  • The Historical Roots of Our Ecologic Crisis", Science, Vol 155 (Number 3767), March 10, 1967, pp 1203–1207
  • Chew, Sing C. "Ecology in Command"
  • Chew, Sing C. "Ecological Futures"

References

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