Does ecology need philosophy? Do we need a coherent, life-affirming philosophy to undergird lifestyles and communities for environmental justice? I’m Mike Eggleston, blogging for People of Faith for Justice in March of 2021, and I think so.
One small for instance. Especially in the months of winter and spring, I happily garden, pruning, planting, weeding, buying veggies, trees and plants, and putting them in the ground. But I’m weak on knowledge and planning. The fruit of my gardening would be more beautiful, bounteous, and regenerative if I knew better what I was doing. Being trained in permaculture or master gardening would surely make the whole experience more satisfying. Such training could give me something like a philosophy of earth care.
One larger for instance. Our entire civilization does have philosophical beliefs underlying our earth care. Unfortunately, it’s the lack of earth care, and the destruction of ecological systems, that they foment. The main philosophical assumption that is leading us to environmental collapse, I think, is Cartesian dualism dating from roughly the 17th century, with its later spin off, free-market capitalism. The first basically splits matter and mind. . .and leads to those creatures who believe that they alone have minds to manipulate mere matter however they may. The second, free-market capitalism, makes the goal of life the accumulation of wealth. . .and has led to massive accumulations of wealth by some humans and the depletion of planetary life in its multiple other forms. So in my view, philosophy matters. It could on a small scale make me a better gardener. And philosophy on a global scale has made for a seriously ill biosphere on earth.
We need new philosophies (and ethics) to undergird thriving life on earth. In the fall of 2020, ten persons who are SLO County environmental activists or members of People of Faith for Justice (or both) studied for eight weeks Philip Clayton’s and Andrew Schwartz’s book, What Is Ecological Civilization: Crisis, Hope, and the Future of the Planet. It’s short and systematic but not simple; it arises out of the Center for Process Studies at Claremont Graduate University and the Center for Ecological Civilization also headquartered there. The SLO county study group decided we need to seek to establish a satellite center for Ecological Civilization here on the Central Coast, and that a next step would be to launch a study in the spring which would introduce the basic principles of “process thought.” (British physicist, mathematician, and philosopher Alfred North Whitehead in the early 20th century called his proposals “the philosophy of organism”, and Charles Hartshorne and other philosophers of the Chicago School used other names, but the name that has stuck is “process thought” or “process philosophy.) That’s an apt name for the basic tenets of process thought, which include:
Coming to the action point. An eight-week study of the basics of process philosophy will be held on eight Thursdays, beginning April 8, from 2:00 – 3:15 PM. The book will be the simplest and perhaps least academic introduction to process thought that I could find, namely, “Piglets Process,” by philosopher and pastor Bruce Epperly. In its less than 100 pages it explores 12 aspects of process thought through a series of fictional dialogues and reflections with AA Milne’s small but intrepid stuffed animal Piglet, from the Winnie the Pooh books. (No, Winnie and Piglet were not consciously process philosophers, though they appeared on paper at almost the same time as Whitehead’s opus, Process and Reality.) Piglet’s Process may be the gentlest and most humble way to introduce oneself to process thinking. I expect that a much more rigorous and ecological study of Rabbi Bradley Artson’s book, Renewing the Process of Creation: A Jewish Integration of Science and Spirit will be offered by the Hollister Institute of St Benedict’s Episcopal Church of Los Osos right after the completion of the Piglet’s Process study, by early June, but that’s not mine to say. Watch for news of a subsequent study of Philip Clayton’s anthology, The new Possible: Visions of our World Beyond Crisis, with 28 eye-opening essays on possibilities in economics, education, governance, agriculture, art, and other fields as human civilization emerges from present crises.
Meanwhile, all are invited to buy Piglets Process, under $7 on Kindle or $9 and up used or new on Amazon, and zoom with Mike and others on Thursday afternoons from April 8 at 2 PM. Ground your ecological actions with philosophical hope.
Email me if interested in participating at email@example.com, and I’ll send zoom information and a schedule of readings and questions. Thank you,