Interpretation, Deep Ecology to radical critique

This section argues that phenomenology is useful for accountability and ecological politics in that it aims to understand how this radical separation between people and the world has led to the current status quo. That is, an equilibrium that relies on markets and ‘sustainable’ solutions to address environmental problems. A phenomenologist argues along the lines that we cannot help but see the world, because we are Dasein, Heidegger’s German word for being in the world. We cannot help but be in the world, our being is immersed in that reality. Heidegger reaches into Dasein as into a colony of algae - the endeavour to seize something to hand and taking along with it that is connected with it (Sarfranski, 1998). One wonders whether a phenomenologist believe in intrinsic value then, or do they alternately say that while we are already immersed in the real world, we can do with it as we might like.

Therefore, a decision must be reached. Firstly, either we can see things as they really are, or we are locked into a representational frame. If we cannot, then what does it matter what we do? It might be the case that we act in accord with what is perceived at whatever level as our best interests at the time. If we can improve our interpretations then we must decide whether we will act in accordance with the notion of intrinsic value or not (Taylor, 1971a, 1971b). If we do not, then free market principles can prevail unfettered, and there is then no logical reason why they should not. But if we do decide to act in accordance with intrinsic value, then there are two obligations that follow - the first is to act as if intrinsic value should be protected and upheld wherever we see it, and the second obligation is to then attempt to find ways to better come to grips in an accurate perception of that value, and the concepts and categories through which we understand it.

Nevertheless, there exist other ways to interpret and perceive the world and its intrinsic value, and this involves the full utilisation of all our senses and capacities that allow us to come in contact with a deeper realism. This deeper appreciation of realism involves both perception and coping skills. These skills in adroit coping allow us to make our way in the world and interpret that world more fully. This then exposes some more problems with the modern infatuation with procedure, and how the social sciences assume that there are no direct means to appreciate the connections between the objects of Nature and humanity. More particularly, our thinking is limited by the supposition that the mind is separate and distinct from the world such that intrinsic values are dismissed, and we only have resources that emanate from the current social system to alleviate the perceived decline of Nature.

While many environmental perspectives cherish a full life as it includes interactions with Nature, that literature has not explained the connections between people’s concepts and categories, and their perception of the world.

A full life, arguably, involves the ability to appreciate Nature involved in the formation of knowledge and practices. This does not mean that Nature defines the morally good but involves recognising that Nature does not exist simply for human convenience. This involves a politics of recognition that respects others together with the natural world, and this involves recognising how these non-contingent and intrinsic relationships that shapes our being-in-the-world. This is not to say that people’s background coping skills shape the good because there is no simple correlation between these relationships and the policies that we adopt. It does mean, however, that to ignore these values impoverishes humanity and leaves us without an appreciation of our place in the world. Therefore, the interpretative thinking offered in this chapter involves a politics of recognition that respects others together with the natural world - these observations are built on recognising how non-contingent relationships shape our being-in-the-world.

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