Comparing propositions: what do we make of this analysis?
The state proposition—RON as a set of normative claims—suggests that the rights of nature exist first and foremost as state language. This premise brings into being a particular kind of legal entity: nature. The cosmological proposition— RON as meshwork—suggests exactly the opposite, that is, RON might not exist as such and even the notion of “rights” might not have a local equivalent where the web of life has been broken and yet the activation of legal redress is still needed. This radical difference could cancel out the “resolution” of a case vis-à-vis the mere recognition of rights. In fact, the comparison between these two propositions reveals the possibility of their mutual incommensurability given the absence of a common gr ound of comparison. In other words, what the state proposition sees as rights, the cosmological proposition might see as responsibilities (a sort of legal “perspectivism”: Viveiros de Castro 1998). The underlying tectonic effect—the collision of cosmologies—presents us with an interesting realization, namely there are different ways of conceptualizing what the law is as well as different ways of worlding through the law, and they might not be mutually commensurable.
Selecting the proposition
In the state proposition. RON is ontologically prior to acts of comparison and adjudication. Hence, these rights exist primarily as language vis-à-vis positive law. Conversely, in the cosmological proposition, RON becomes both (a) an emergent property of cross-ontological comparison or its impossibility (that is, RON is what conies after (dis)agreements between agents of the human and nonhuman kind), as well as (b) what is already recognized as “an infinite web of relationships” in the everyday of a particular collective, for example, the Law of the Guardianship of the Earth of the Inga People. While selecting the state proposition is somewhat straightforward, this is not the case when it comes to deciding about the cosmological proposition. The sources of cosmological propositions can be multiple (storytelling as law, locally codified law, deliberative law, material culture and so on) and the selection mechanism is not extinguished simply by selecting isomorphic equivalences across cultures (i.e. what is the definition of “nature” in modern and non-modem societies?). Is the act of comparison even possible? Is there something akin to “rights” in a local conununity that allows comparison? Is comparing actually translating? What are the risks of translating across ontologies when it comes to local law, culture and territory?
Criteria of comparison
Five themes come to mind once we have established the limits and possibilities of cross-ontological comparison (Descola 2013) in contexts of adjudication. First, we have to determine what is considered as existent, for example, “nature," “human and more-thau-human persons,” “inter-being relations" and “meshworks,” among other existents. Depending on what is rendered as existent, we have to establish who has (or has not) rights to what and what kind of rights does this “who" have. Once we have established what is deemed as existent and the kinds of rights predicated upon them, for example, the regeneration and respect for reproductive cycles, we will then need to establish who will be considered as a legitimate spokesperson for the rights-holder. And this question is not only about legal representation in the context of adjudication, but also about learning the local protocols of representation outside of the court. These protocols could involve carefill and respectfi.il engagement with locally appropriate decision-making protocols with different kinds of beings. The fourth step would then be to determine the proposition’s reading strategy and aims.
In general, we imagine two general kinds of reading strategies, namely exegesis under conditions of law as a system of positive nonns. and tectonics—in the double sense of encountering the collision of ontologies and following the socio-material relations of rights—under conditions of law as meshwork. The first strategy (exegesis) leads to the allocation of rights among predetermined existents. while the second (tectonics) harnesses RON’S capacities to heal relations in flux and becoming (ways of life). Exegesis and tectonics are both important and complementary strategies, which means that comparing them is not a zerosum game. How can the law heal relations? Following the cosmological proposition, the law can heal relations by cultivating and stimulating their conditions of emergence in a particular place. In this context, the word “healing” refers to the holistic regeneration—to the extent possible—of the fabric of dynamic and self-organizing interactions between ways of life (i.e. minerals, plants, humans, animals, spirits, legal propositions) that make up the meshwork of a particularplace. More than allocating rights between existents. the cosmological proposition aims at articulating a kind of law that can become a tool to regenerate (reweave) socio-ecological relationships that make up a place (spiritual payments, ecological corridors, seed diversity). And this requires a kind of legal imagination and language where beings are not only considered subjects with rights, but also law-producing selves. This is what we have called the legal activation (or healing) of relationality.
Determiningfluid outcomes of comparison and possible questions for practical scenarios of adjudication
Both the state proposition and the cosmological proposition open up a shared horizon of environmental protection. Where RON as text provides a nonnative horizon for the protection of “nature,” RON as teks offers a nonnative horizon for the regeneration and “ongoingness” (Haraway 2016) of life relations in contexts of extractivism (i.e. the principal source of harm). Again, they are partially connected. Although the state proposition weaves Pachamama and nature together, this begs the question of whether nature and Pachamama are the same kind of
Conjuring sentient beings and relations 131 entities. Are we granting rights to the same kind of subjects? On the other hand, the cosmological proposition opens the critical question of how far can we go with ontological uncertainty when it comes to deciding who is a “subject” of rights and what is an “object” of protection. Is this sort of ontological undecidability acceptable in practical contexts of adjudication? These questions will remain open for the time being. Suffice it to say that this methodology is as much about learning to ask questions as it is about learning to weave RON’S relational field for a particular case involving unsettled existents such as nature and Pachamama.