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Philosophical Anthropology

Environmental Destruction: A Philosophical-Anthropological Perspective

E. Meinberg
Institut of Pedagogy, German Sports Universit

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It is no secret anylonger that the ecological crisis puts mankind as a whole to an existential test which have to be solved in practice and in theory. So, by this the vast amount of literature can be explained which consequently led to the emergence of an own "genre" — the so called "ecoliterature" which herself is really dissonant and ambigious. In the meantime — besides other sources — almost all sciences take part in such kind of discussions what obviously can be traced back to the fact that the ecological crisis is such a substantial phenomena which leads therefore to numerous perceptions and different point of views.

Considering philosophy — for some the "royal discipline" per se — we can claim that she has forcefully regarded the ecological problems as a challenge in the last decade. But, she has owed her resources first and foremost to ethical considerations. Because of this an ecological ethics has — admittedly not undisputed — developed as a new special ethics. Besides this and apart from an aesthetics of nature as well as from a philosophy of nature different sections of philosophy acting in a much more restraint and careful way. Neither the social philosophy nor the one of history or metaphysics — only to name a few — have seriously engaged in the ecology although it is evident that they are really needed as competent participants. Generally, each section can participate on environmental dialogues.

The current role of philosophical anthropology

The outlined moderate discussions about ecological and environmental problems can also be observed within the philosophical anthropology which is — according to my opinion — not tenable.

One have to underline that philosophical anthropology — founded almost simultaneously by SCHELER and PLESSNER with a sounding echo in the twenties of our century and said to be death (KÖNIG 1978, 329) after having taken some breaks and reawakened in the meantime (MEINBERG 1988) — lost much of her charisma. Since a long time philosophical anthropology boomed any longer — a fact which is reflected in the discussions on the ecological problems. But, if she takes her own field of research seriously — namely to investigate human beings in their diverse relationships to the world — she has to be troubled by her own scruples.

It is particularly this deficient situation why I concentrate in my considerations on the role of philosophical anthropology in the context with destructions of the environment in order to encourage to take part more offensively in topical environmental debates. But how is this possible?

First of all, philosophical anthropology has to give up her trait as an indifferent observer by concentrating on her own qualities and, above all, by trying to prepare the ground for an ecological anthropology (as one of other anthropological special disciplines) who could work closely together with a philosophy of technique. Of course, it is not simple to achieve this. The first significant condition is that philosophical anthropology has to defend herself against the accusation of being an accomplice of "anthropocentrism" because the last named can be unanimously regarded as one of the responsibles for environmental disasters. The second is that she has to demonstrate her inherent capacity on enlightening reflections and interpretations on the ecological crisis. How could she defend against the suspicion of "anthropocentrism" and how could she give human acting orientation? My following remarks will deal with these two questions.

Philosophical anthropology in the defense

The shallow accusation that philosophical anthropology is the spiritual mother of "anthropocentrism" (ALTNER 1991) requires a deeper penetration than it is possible here. But, nevertheless, there are according to SCHELER, PLESSNER and GEHLEN at least two convincing arguments to criticize the outlined suspicion. According to the critics of anthropology the reason for the support of "anthropocentrism" by the philosophical anthropology can be seen in the fact that she has tried from its very beginning on to compare mankind with other creatures — even with plants — only to assign mankind both an uncomparable position and glorification in the whole of the beings. This point of view became practical in the ecological crisis then and is one reason among others for the overexploitation of all non — human things. Concerning this one can state:

SCHELER, PLESSNER and GEHLEN determine the difference between human and non-human in a pluralistic way. They aim at gaining a deeper insight in the "conditio humana" by describing the extraordinary position of mankind and not by using morally discriminating exclusions and challenging behavior that leads to destruction of environment. The central achievements of human beings are elaborated. We can call this a descriptive anthropocentrism which does not invite to environmental attacks. [Compare with this statement PLESSNER`s considerations on responsibility. That even means that philosophical anthropology has got an own ethics].

Philosophical anthropology also demonstrates that a non — anthropological position is not possible. If human beings try to define their relationship to the non human world — for example to the external nature — they are always guided by human views. It always happens from the anthropos`s point of view, without according to a compulsory automatism, leading necessarily to an evil or "despotic" (HÖFFE) "anthropocentrism". Therefore, the documents of the classical philosophical anthropology sharpens first and foremost the awareness for the necessity of a non — normative/value free anthropocentrism. Or, to put it in another way: philosophical anthropocentrism is a genuin anthropological category which is, in the topical discourse,however, " morally and ethically rationalized". And she is far away from supposing a "general anthropocentrism" of mankind — comparable to an inborn egoism. Over and above it: the philosophical anthropology can demonstrate that the ecological crisis is really a problem of culture, the "second nature" (GEHLEN).

Anthropology in the offense

Considering PLESSNER´s general determination of human beings as "Homo Mundanus" (MEINBERG 1988) and, particularly, as "Homo Absconditus" one can problemless reconstruct prolific targets of an anthropological "ecology of man and mankind" which is closely related to PLESSNER`s political anthropology (vgl. SCHÜRRMANN 1997, 345ff.).

Now, I have reached the point that will show the constructive offensive direction which points out that one, may be the domaine of philosophical anthropology is dealing with both concepts of man, mankind and world. Not accidently MARQUARD emphazises that philosophical anthropology has made career under the sign of a certain concept of mankind — the so called "Homo Compensator". H. LENK emphazises and explains in a much more convincing way that "Homo Performator" surpasses "Homo Compensator" (LENK 1983). So, undoubtedly fact is: philosophical anthropology has a monopol in the research on concepts of man, mankind and world.

How important those concepts are stresses — among others — JONAS in the following quotation taken from his book Das Prinzip Verantwortung. Versuch einer Ethik für die technologische Zivilisation:

"We existentially need the threat by such a concept of man that will us frighten and by this frightening we must find out the true concept of man" [JONAS 1979, 63].

However, in which way this "true concept of man" is designed fact is that the destruction of environment needs constructive concepts of man in order to be solved. Concerning this I am going to make a proposal by outlining the concept of "Homo Oecologicus" who is — in the context of the experiences with the ecological crisis designed and presents a special "edition" of "Homo Mundanus". But what are the main traits of "Homo oecologicus"?

A brief portrait of Homo Oecologicus

His biophilia is fundamental for "Homo oecologicus". SCHWEITZER`s famous principle: "I am life that wants to live within life that itself wants to live" unmistakenly characterizes the habitus of "Homo Oecologicus". He is a loving person. His motivation to oppose actions having a detrimental effect on the environment is based on his positive attitude towards life, on his will to form an create his life. So, the respect of the living is the basis and first principle of life. Of course, this deeply rooted engagement of living does not only have an important meaning for human beings but also for the existing creatures surrounding the human beings. Knowing this, we can point out that "Homo Oecologicus" follows a special morality and ethics.

The morality of "Homo Oecologicus" can be regarded as an "ethics of co-existence," because of the simple reason that the life of an individual always requires the existence of other human beings. This is a biological anthropological fact. But more important is: Life is both a gift and a task to which standards, maxims, duties, values, principles and imperatives belong. As co-existence is always something imposed it cannot be achieved effortless. Exactly in this context co-existence presents itself as an ethical category that demands moral achievements in daily living.

But, however, it would be wrong to identify "Homo Oecologicus" with his moral experiences and ethical judgements. On the contrary, "Homo Oecologicus" is sensitive for numerous human impressions — and he can only be this because he is an individual of the senses. Biophilia and sensorial nature are two sides of one and the same medal. Constructed as a biophilic creature he does not only lead an acceptable life according to moral standards which demands from him a certain kind of asketism but also at taking pleasure in the beauty of life. He wants to live well by making aesthetic experiences. Therefore, art of living embraces both moral and non-moral practices.

With reference to the classical distinction between the beauty of art and beauty of nature, with which KANT and later HEGEL — the last named in a contrary form, however, — managed to prevent aesthetic experiences and thoughts from sticking too closely to the beauty arts, "Homo Oecologicus" wants to lead a beautiful life by perceptions, experiences and interpretations of the beauty of nature. The beauty of art is considered by the presentation and copy of nature (for example landscape drawing) which partly offers the observer a kind of contemplative self-examination.

"Homo Oecologicus" defines aesthetics mainly by an aesthetic of nature. This type of perception is first and foremost possible by participating in the beauty of nature. In an active way he elicits central meanings from the beauty of nature in order to increase his biophilia. Therefore, the loss of aesthetical experiences in nature reduces not only options concerning the beauty of life but all in all the cultivations of the senses. Tschernobyl and other scenes have both covered and tricked our senses. This is a bitter and aesthetical truth! No doubt about it: The ecological crisis is in a special manner an aesthetical crisis, too.

Destructions of the environment are attacks on the sensuality. Because of this they affect the most fundamental phenomenon-the life itself. In the ecological crisis the lived body is threatened. Hardly any other crisis places the constitution of the lived body at disposal as the ecological one. This anthropological fact has been — apart from a few exceptions — neglected up till now. Of course, this neglectance can be traced back to an philosophical — anthropological tradition that has been interrupted only by approaches developed by philosophers such as KIERKEGAARD, FEUERBACH, NIETZSCHE, MERLEAU-PONTY or SARTRE. Even representatives of the philosophical anthropology (PLESSNER, GEHLEN) have tried to rehabilitate concepts of lived body.

In contrast to other concepts of man characterized by the ignorance of the lived body "Homo Oecologicus" symbolizes the deep anchoring of the lived body. Here it becomes obvious that conduct of life also means conduct of the body in which according to the prevailling situation different body-world relations can function as leaders.

Sexuality existentially belongs to this, too — the ecological crisis even influences and is influenced by this highly intimate field. It is commonly held that one reason for the dramatic growth of population can be seen in the overpopulation which is itself a result of sexual practices which differ from culture to culture.The experiences of the ecological crisis teach us that reproduction is definitly not riskless — on the contrary, it can be contraproductive against mankind. It is in some way paradoxical that sexual behavior serves on the one hand the preservation of life and have also, on the other hand, a detrimental effect on it. Now, in which way does "Homo Oecologicus" react on the prevailling sexuality?

The answer suggests itself: Even in this case he tries to follow the principle of co-existence which is double faced:

Firstly, in sexuality two partners who differ from each others by different sex specific role models concerning their phantasies, feelings and wishful images are — by the complete preservation of their own identity — unified to a certain formation of co-existence. Secondly, destructions of the environment are in the context of reproductive problems an unprecedented phenomena in the history of the sexuality of mankind because a co-existence is demanded here which breaks through the unviolable circle of an intime relationship between two persons. So, the obligation for co-existence with the following not yet born generation becomes more and more decicive. Therefore, a sexuality could grow which withdraws from the reproductive telos and opens up different sexual meaning relations. So much about "Homo oecologicus". Finally, I`ll sum up with a concluding note in general that which refers to the motto of this congress.

Concluding note

PLATON`s idea of paideia is localized in the so called "caven-allegory" — a caven which has an opening. This symbolizes man/mankind`s open-mindedness for the world that is, of course, an inevitable basis for the process of formation and education (=paideia). This specific kind of open-mindedness, of a turning towards the world becomes that outstanding issue in the philosophical anthropology of our century and is a typical trait of "Homo Mundanus". So, PLATON is, independent of all distinctions to modern times, someone like the forerunner of the philosophical anthropology. Only and metaphorical: Nowadays, "Paideia" does not take place in the open loneliness of the caven, but the decisive scene of paideia is the world in a sense of an increasing globalized world which includes necessarily the environment. Nevertheless, these are, at least, two insights that will outline this millenium. Firstly, PLATON`s knowledge that "paideia" means in the deepest "turning back", perhaps revolution of the soul which is needed to avoid further environmental destruction. Secondly: Philosophical anthropology will be an important "educator" which can conduct our lives; for she is an uncomparable source of concepts of man and mankind. "Homo oecologicus" is one of those attemps and examples.

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JONAS, H.: Das Prinzip Verantwortung. Versuch einer Ethik für die technologische Zivilisation. Frankfurt a.M. 1979.

LENK, H.: Wie philosophisch ist die Philosophische Anthropologie? Methodologische Bewertung zu den anthropologischen Grundlagen der Sozialwissenschaften. In: FREY, C. / ZELGER, J. (Hrsg.): Der Mensch und die Wissenschaft vom Menschen. Bd. 1. Innsbruck 1983, 145 ff.

MAQUARD, O.: Homo Compensator. Zur anthropologischen Karriere eines metaphysischen Begriffs. In: FREY, C. / ZELGER, J. (Hrsg.): Der Mensch und die Wissenschaft vom Menschen. Bd. 1. Innsbruck 1983, 63 ff.

MEINBERG, E.: Das Menschenbild der

MEINBERG, E.: Homo Oecologicus. Das neue Menschenbild im Zeichen der ökologischen Krise. Darmstadt 1995.

PLESSNER, H.: Gesammelte Schriften. Frankfurt a.M. 1985.

SCHELER, M.: Die Stellung des Menschen im Kosmos. Bern, München 1966.

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