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Appears in Collections:eTheses from Faculty of Arts and Humanities legacy departments
Title: Humanism and anti-humanism in environmental values
Author(s): Smith, Michael Frederick
Issue Date: 1993
Publisher: University of Stirling
Abstract: This thesis identifies a family of humanist presuppositions which, I argue, pervade modern Western society and are partly responsible for our inability to escape from a spiral of environmental destruction. For example, humanist ethical theories frequently assume the existence of an objective / subjective divide, autonomous rational individuals and a neutral rationality. I argue that these assumptions, which are peculiar to our society, provide a wholly inappropriate basis for the expression of many environmental concerns. Humanism imposes particular taxonomies and interpretations on social and environmental relations; these facilitate the treatment of nature as a resource rather than as a part of our (ethical) community. At the theoretical level, humanism develops explicit systems of ''formal rationaiity" which purport to be neutral e.g. axiological systems like neoclassical economics and utilitarianism. However, these systems reduce environmental evaluation to the bureaucratic application of abstract methodologies and, far from being neutral, they impose a particular humanist ideology on decision making processes which marginalises those who speak in a different voice. I develop an alternative perspective; a critical theory informed by the antihumanism of Althusser, the later Wittgenstein and Bourdieu. This post-humanist theoretical problematic works in two ways. First, it explains how ideologies interpellate individuals into social structures and reproduce current social values. Second, it advocates an alternative "ecological paradigm", embedded in anti-humanist and radical traditions which would give due regard to the constitutive role of 'nature' in the formation of our moral values.
Type: Thesis or Dissertation

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