Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Machinocene: Illusions of instrumental reason

Filozofija I Društvo 30 (4):543-570 (2019)
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In their seminal work, Dialectics of Enlightenment, Horkheimer and Adorno interpreted capitalism as the irrational monetization of nature. In the present work, I analyze three 21st century concepts, Anthropocene, Capitalocene and Machinocene, in light of Horkheimer and Adorno’s arguments and recent arguments from the philosophy of biology. The analysis reveals a remarkable prescience of the term “instrumental reason”, which is present in each of the three concepts in a profound and cryptic way. In my interpretation, the term describes the propensity of science based on the notion of physicalism to interpret nature as the machine analyzable and programmable by the human reason. As a result, the Anthropocene concept is built around the mechanicist model, which may be presented as the metaphor of the car without brakes. In a similar fashion, the Machinocene concept predicts the emergence of the mechanical mind, which will dominate nature in the near future. Finally, the Capitalocene concept turns a perfectly rational ambition to expand knowledge into an irrational obsession with over-knowledge, by employing the institutionalized science as the engine of capitalism without brakes. The common denominator of all three concepts is the irrational propensity to legitimize self-destruction. Potential avenues for countering the effects of “instrumental reason” are suggested.

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Predrag Slijepcevic
Brunel University


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