Anthropocentrism and Post-humanism

Etymologically derived from the Greek words ά νθϱωπoς (anthropos, or human being) and κ ́εντϱoν (kentron, or center), the term “anthropocentrism” is a worldview that privileges the aim of improving human welfare over other aspirations. The commonly
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  Trim Size: 170mm x 244mm Callan wbiea2387 wbiea2387.tex V1 - 10/14/2019 9:50 P.M. Page 1      ❦   ❦ ❦   ❦  Anthropocentrism and Post-humanism HELEN KOPNINA The Hague University of Applied Sciences, Netherlands Defining Terms: Anthropocentrism, Humanism,Post-humanism Etymologically derived rom the Greek words  ́ανθϱωπ o ς  ( anthropos , or human being)and κ́εντϱ o ν  ( kentron ,orcenter),theterm“anthropocentrism”isaworldviewthatpriv-ileges the aim o improving human welare over other aspirations. Te commonly heldmeaningoanthropocentrismis,accordingtothe OxfordEnglishDictionary  ,“regardinghumankindasthecentralormostimportantelementoexistence.”Whileanthropocen-trismliterallymeanshuman-centeredness,thetermisusedindifferentways.Accordingto the environmental philosopher Baird Callicott (2006, 119), anthropocentrism pre-supposes that “only humans are worthy o ethical considerations” and “other thingsare mere means to human ends.” Te terms “human chauvinism” and “speciesism” areclosely related to anthropocentrism. Humanism ,theculturalmovementthatgainedprominenceintheRenaissance,reersto the perceived duty to promote human welare above other objectives. Te humanis-ticorientationisparticularlyconcernedwith thepersonal,ethical,andpoliticalchoicesacing humans. Humanism includes social altruism and social justice. Social justicein relation to the environment is typically associated with “environmental justice” orconcern with the unequal exposure o different human groups to environmental risksand benefits. Environmental justice is associated with shallow ecology, concerned withthe air distribution o natural resources in order to address intergenerational justice(justice between the present and uture generations o humans), and the eradication o poverty (Naess 1973). Following rom this, humanism and anthropocentrism can beseen as close associates.Humanismhaslongbeenatenetosocioculturalanthropologyandhasunderwrittenaims to expose social inequalities, colonialism, racism, sexism, and the like (Sodikoff 2011). In anthropology, the idea o humanism is promoted, among others, by the Soci-ety or Humanistic Anthropology within the American Anthropological Association.Te roots o humanistic anthropology go back to the earlier anthropologists, such asBronisław Malinowski, who advocated a role or anthropologists as policy advisers toAricancolonialadministrators.Humanistanthropologyexplicitlyocusesoncriticismo colonization, racism, and sexism, combining community-level interactions throughparticipant observation with involvement with or on behal o marginalized or poorpeople in the developing world (Lewis 2005). Post-humanism  or  posthumanism  (literally meaning “afer humanism” or “beyondhumanism”) reers to any worldview, belie, or ideology that is critical o traditional Te International Encyclopedia of Anthropology  . Edited by Hilary Callan.© 2020 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Published 2020 by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.  Trim Size: 170mm x 244mm Callan wbiea2387 wbiea2387.tex V1 - 10/14/2019 9:50 P.M. Page 2      ❦   ❦ ❦   ❦ 2  A NTHROPOCENTRISM AND  P OST- HUMANISM humanism and associated theories about the superiority o humanity. Post-humanismhas its roots and draws its inspiration in the ecocentric (ecology- or nature-centered) environmental ethics (e.g., Katz 2011), deep ecology (e.g., Naess 1973),and animal-rights literature (e.g., Borràs 2016). Te philosopher Francesca Ferrando(2012) discussed post-humanism as a type o “mediation philosophy” which addressesnonhuman species as well as technology and ecology.Post-humanisminanthropologyisofenassociatedwiththenotionsosocialchange,responsibility, and multispecies coexistence (Haraway 2008).  Post-humanist anthropol-ogy   has also addressed the hierarchical relationship between humans and nonhumans.Intheirbook  Posthumanism:AnthropologicalInsights (2017),AlanandJosephineSmartrevive “traditional” ethnographies where cattle, pigs, yams, and sorcerers were centralto the anthropological narratives, but they also extend their discussion to more con-temporary topics such as microbiomes that inhabit human bodies and nano-machines.Te ocus in a study o the “more than human,” including animals, plants, bacteria,and other organisms, is on the interrelatedness o the human and nonhuman domains(Abram et al. 2016). More ecocentric scholars in environmental anthropology haveembraced post-humanism that recognizes deep ecology (Naess 1973), and/or animalrights/welare (Peters 2016; Singer 1977), and/or ecological justice (Baxter 2005) per-spectives. More recent ethnographies have started emphasizing the value o nonhumanlie (e.g., Shoreman-Ouimet and Kopnina 2016).From the point o view o post-humanism, there is no reason to a priori limit cer-tain rights to some communities, indigenous or not, and no part o humanity shouldbe “exempt” rom responsibility to nonhumans. Post-humanism may recognize thata degree o human activism is a necessary part o environmental protection precisely because humanity possesses the consciousness to recognize the morality o rights. In amore radical interpretation, post-humanism questions the central tenets o humanism,condemning speciesism, human chauvinism, and human supremacy. Different Types of Anthropocentrism Te anthropologist David Kidner (2014) has argued that it is not anthropocentrismbut rather “industrocentrism,” or a ocus on industrial neoliberalism, that subordi-nates both people and nature to the economic system. Kidner argues that the use o the term “anthropocentrism” is ar rom culturally universal as this perspective may well be unique to industrial societies. As part o the definition o anthropocentrism is“legitimate” care or humanity, the term blinds us to the systemic character o industri-alism’scolonizationotheworld.Whileindustrocentrismsupportstheassumptionthathumaninterestshavetobe“balanced”againstthoseothenaturalorder,itactivelycam-ouflagescolonizationotheplanetandpeopleasmere“resources”or“capital”underthepretense that it is o benefit to humanity.im Hayward (1997) interpreted anthropocentrism as meaning two things: first,anthropocentrism as the love o one’s own species, and, second, anthropocentrism asdiscrimination against other species. Tis position is similar to the distinction between“strong” (a belie that nonhumans have value only i they are valuable or humans) and“weak” anthropocentrism (a belie that is seen as inevitable and even benevolent as it  Trim Size: 170mm x 244mm Callan wbiea2387 wbiea2387.tex V1 - 10/14/2019 9:50 P.M. Page 3      ❦   ❦ ❦   ❦ A NTHROPOCENTRISM AND  P OST- HUMANISM  3 underscores the sel-interested motivation to preserve the environment) developed by Bryan Norton (1984).In the first case, a legitimate concern or human welare can be seen as “natural” andeven noble, as care or one’s own species acknowledges that a balanced, healthy, andnaturally plentiul environment is necessary or humans to prosper. Indeed, all speciesare selfish to the extent that they need to sustain and nourish themselves and repro-duce, and thus by evolutionary deault, are concerned about own welare (Kopninaet al. 2018a). It is also assumed that, while anthropocentric and non-anthropocentricdiffer, all people will strive to preserve the environment on which they (or the subjectso their concern) are dependent. Tis  convergence theory  , or environmental pragma-tism, assumes that, in the case o environmental protection, anthropocentric and eco-centric motivations achieve the same ends in practice (e.g., Grey 1993; Norton 1984).Tus, pragmatic environmentalists such as Norton (1984, 1992) and Weston (1985)typically reject the intrinsic value o the environment in avor o instrumental values.Norton (1984, 131) argued that weak anthropocentrism provides a basis or criticizingunsustainablepractices, thereby providing an adequate basis or environmental protec-tion without what he ound to be the “questionable ontological commitments made by non-anthropocentrists in attributing intrinsic value to nature.”Inthesecondcase,anthropocentrismisa“concernwithhumanintereststotheexclu-sion, or at the expense, o interests o other species” (Hayward 1997, 52). Tis stronganthropocentrism has been implicated in a number o environmental problems, romthe destruction o wild habitats to abuse o animals used or consumption and medicalresearch (Norton 1984). In his book   Te Arrogance of Humanism  (1978), the Americanbiologist David Ehreneld describes the consequences o this exclusion. Critique of Anthropocentrism Te rejection o intrinsic value is ofen justified by the arguments that humans cannotknow what the needs o other species are as we can perceive the world and morality only with our own senses (Grey 1993; Norton 1984). Yet, according to the concept o anthropocentric allacy, while we can perceive the environment and its elements only by our human senses, this does not mean that we cannot grant nature intrinsic value(Eckersley 1992; Washington 2015). By way o comparison, white men are capableo developing a consciousness that recognizes the rights o women or other ethnicgroups (Kopnina et al. 2018a). Tey do not have to be sexist or racist just becausethey are white males. Consequently, ecocentrism is not antihumanist but rather isdirected “against an uncaring, economic, narrow-minded humanism rather thanagainst humanism itsel” (Barry 1999, 31). Critics have argued that, since it embracesinstrumental valuation o resources, anthropocentrism does not protect nonhumanbeings without economic value (Crist 2015; Katz 2011; Kopnina 2018b; Piccolo et al.2018; Washington et al. 2018), nor does it saeguard animal welare (Regan 1986;Singer 1977). Anthropocentric motivation was shown to be inadequate or biodiversity protection outside o instances when both people and environment are negatively affected, basically abandoning species that are not instrumental to human welare(Caaro and Primack 2014; Shoreman-Ouimet and Kopnina 2016).  Trim Size: 170mm x 244mm Callan wbiea2387 wbiea2387.tex V1 - 10/14/2019 9:50 P.M. Page 4      ❦   ❦ ❦   ❦ 4  A NTHROPOCENTRISM AND  P OST- HUMANISM Cross-Cultural Environmental Ethics While some cultures worship trees and “sacred” natural places (Knudtson andSuzuki 1992; Kopnina 2015; Sponsel 2014), other communities can be indifferent toenvironmental concerns or cruel to animals (aylor 2010). While anthropocentri-cally motivated anthropology morally privileges indigenous rights and traditions, itsimultaneously disregards ecological justice and animal rights.For example, the anthropologist Veronica Strang (2017) asks whether the Absrci-nals o Australia have the “right” to continue hunting wallabies to the point that theonce plentiul population has dwindled to critical levels. Te complexities o the moraldilemma associated with rights have suraced at a meeting between Absrcinal eldersand representatives o the Queensland National Parks and Wildlie Service, which pro-moted legislation to prevent the hunting o vulnerable or threatened species in nationalparks. One o the Absrcinal elders, Colin Lawrence, reerred to the local history o colonial settlement. In the early 1900s a European settler had shot a number o Abo-riginal people until he was speared by one o their leaders, who is now regarded as alocal hero. Te settler, according to Lawrence, had shot Absrcinal people “like dogs,”“andnowyouwanttotelluswecan’tevenshootawallaby!”(fieldnotes,1991,inStrang2017, 275).Tis case begs a ew ethical questions. Do the Absrcinals have a right to mistreatanimals in the same way as they were themselves mistreated by colonial rulers? Whogivesthisrighttothepeopleandsimultaneouslytakesitawayromwallabies?Isrespector nonhumans something that colonial power holders brought with them (as part o Western postmaterial values) or has it been part o the indigenous societies (as part o traditional ecocentrism)?While there is robust ethnographic evidence that many indigenous societies used toliverelativelysustainablyandcouldhavebeenconsideredecocentricoratleastzoocen-tric (e.g., Sponsel 2014), this example illustrates that anthropocentrism may be takingoverindigenousworldviews.Onemighthypothesizethatindigenousanthropocentrismcould have emerged under the influence o colonial oppression, substituting or tra-ditional post-humanist values. However, while the (arguably also Western) concepto human rights seems to be readily adapted in the rhetoric opposing national park authorities, post-humanism seems to have a long way to go. Te assumption that non-human species should be treated “like dogs” (not in the sense o pampered pets) seemsmorally deensible because their moral significance is simply lef out o consideration(e.g., Caaro and Primack 2014; Doak et al. 2015; Kopnina 2016). Connecting the Dots: Post-humanism in Theory and ItsPractical Implications Post-humanistsdonotdenythedestructivereachotherichandtheimmoralityocolo-nialism.Yet,whiletherichconsumemore,theinfluenceothepoorontheenvironmentis more localized, involving or example overhunting, which leads to the “empty orestsyndrome” (Crist and Caaro 2012). Without a strategy to voluntarily reduce human  Trim Size: 170mm x 244mm Callan wbiea2387 wbiea2387.tex V1 - 10/14/2019 9:50 P.M. Page 5      ❦   ❦ ❦   ❦ A NTHROPOCENTRISM AND  P OST- HUMANISM  5 population,andtoredistributeresourcesawayromtherichtothepoorwithoutbloody revolution, the total economic pie will be still consumed either way. In act, it appearsthat, while meat consumption in rich countries is declining, it is increasing in poorones( Economist  2018).Inthissense,anthropocentrismisnotjustaboutoverconsumingelites, but also supports an ideology o global human entitlement to natural resources(Crist 2012).Yet, as generations o cultural change have shown, ideology is not fixed. Respector nonhuman rights has been recently enshrined in some governments’ legalsystems (Sykes 2016). Te Universal Declaration o Human Rights has served toinspire initiatives such as the Universal Declaration o Rights o Mother Earth(https://therightso, initiated by the Bolivian govern-ment; the Wildlands Project Land Conservation (Noss 1992); the rights o rivers inNewZealand,Australia,andIndia (O’Donnellandalbot-Jones2018)andoLakeEriein the United States. Also recently, more Western consumers have turned to veganism( Economist   2018).Still,thepracticalmaniestationopost-humanismexposesethicaldilemmas.Inoneotheinterpretationso post-humanism,legitimatehumanistgrievances,rangingromcolonialism to racism and sexism are translated into human relationships with otherspecies. However, in anthropology, this translation tends to be allegorical rather thanpolitical and legal. For example, drawing on the tradition o multispecies ethnography,Salazar Parreñas’ (2015, 1) describes a captured orangutan: Te orangutan hersel was subjected to constraints o space rooted in colonial and post-colonial histories o making territories. And those constraints were, or her, genderedinsoar that her sex affected her relationship to space. For instance, whenever man-agers thought she should get pregnant, she would be orced into captivity with a maleorangutan or the purpose o procreation. Tus ocus on the human groups’ suffering rom colonialism and gender overwrite thesimple act that the orangutan was caged and orced to mate. ypically, such multi-species investigations all short o recognizing animal rights or even animal welare.Another example o this is a reflection by Donna Haraway, a well-known supportero post-humanism, on her riend’s inquiry about animal experimentation: So i you were going to abandon humanism, in avour o the post-humanism, ahuman-ism, non-humanism o the process philosophers, o the phenomenologists, o Derridaand Whitehead, I still want to know how specifically laboratory experimental practicesgetdoneandgetjustified  …  Iwanttoknowwhatyouwouldsaywhensomeonebutton-holes you and says: I challenge you to deend the slaughter o lab animals in biomedicalexperiments. (Sharon Ghamari-abrizi, cited in Haraway 2008, 86–87) Haraway responded: Yes,Iwilldeendanimalkillingorreasonsandindetailedmaterial–semioticconditionsthatIjudgetolerablebecauseoagreatergoodcalculation.Andno,thatisneverenough.Ireusethechoiceo“inviolableanimalrights”versus“humangoodismoreimportant.”Both o those proceeds as i calculation solved the dilemma, and all I or we have to dois choose. I have never regarded that as enough in abortion politics either. Because wedid not learn how to shape the public discourse well enough, in legal and popular battles
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