Deleuze and Deep Ecology

In Bernd Herzogenrath (ed.), An (Un)easy Alliance: Thinking the Environment with Deleuze/Guattari. pp. 116-138 (2008)
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I argue that 'deep' ecology (as exemplified by the work of Arnie Naess) involves three inter-related commitments: (1) to an ethics of nature or axiological anti-humanism in which natural entities, processes or systems can possess intrinsic value independently of human beings; (2) a metaphysical naturalism or anti-humanism in which human beings are themselves conceptualized as natural products; (3) a transformative aspect. Although (3) is sometimes cast in personal or psychological terms, I think the idea can be given a properly philosophical reconstruction along the lines of a kind of Ideologiekritik. I give the examples of Heidegger and Adorno to show how deeply our understanding of nature has been corrupted, and hence the depth of conceptual transformation required correctly to conceive nature. But both these thinkers simultaneously demonstrate a hostility to metaphysical naturalism and therefore have ultimately limited value for deep ecology. I then outline three possible relations of axiological to metaphysical commitments: (a) the abandonment of naturalism about values; (b) a projective or transcendentally idealist account of values; (c) an account of values as themselves lodged within the operation of natural systems. My reconstruction of the Ideologiekritiker shows them belonging to (b). So that if deep ecology is to avoid (a), it must embrace (c). Deleuze is much touted by environmental philosophers as contributing to (c). I argue that this is correct, but that the axiological commitments Deleuze manifests in his account of nature are ultimately quite different from those to which deep ecologists appear sympathetic.

Author's Profile

Alistair Welchman
University of Texas at San Antonio


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