The Philosophy of Biomimicry

Philosophy and Technology 29 (3):223-243 (2016)
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The philosophy of biomimicry, I argue, consists of four main areas of inquiry. The first, which has already been explored by Freya Mathews, concerns the “deep” question of what Nature ultimately is. The second, third, and fourth areas correspond to the three basic principles of biomimicry as laid out by Janine Benyus. “Nature as model” is the poetic principle of biomimicry, for it tells us how it is that things are to be “brought forth”. “Nature as measure” is the ethical principle of biomimicry, for it tells us that Nature places ethical limits or standards on what it is possible for us to accomplish. And “Nature as mentor” is the epistemological principle of biomimicry, for it affirms that Nature is the ultimate source of truth, wisdom, and freedom from error. Within this overall framework, I argue that seeing Nature as physis—understood as “self-production” or “self-placing-into-the-open”—constitutes the requisite ground for the poetic, ethical, and epistemological principles of biomimicry, and that biomimicry thus conceived involves a new philosophical paradigm, which I call “enlightened naturalism”.

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