6/6/11: Ecosophy T: Deep Versus Shallow Ecology

In this chapter Naess expounds his “ecosophy” (philosophy inspired by the deep ecological movement). His primary focus is on human identity and Self-realization; he tries to define what he means by “Self” as opposed to “self” and discusses the result of wideness and depth of identification as a consequence of increased maturity. Naess’ “Ecosophy T” utilizes a line from the Bhagavad Gita to clarify what he means by “Self-realization:”

(In Sanskrit)
Sarvabhutastham atmanam
sarvabhutani ca’tmani
Itsate yogayuktatma
sarvatra samadarsanah

(Translation by Radhakrishnan)
“He whose self is harmonized by yoga seeth the Self
abiding in all beings and all beings in Self;
everywhere he sees the same.”

Krishna: Self-realization embodied in nature

Thus, Naess concludes: “Self-realization in its absolute maxim is, as I see it, the mature experience of oneness in diversity as depicted in the above verse.” Based on this definition Naess goes on to explain why he believes living beings (not just humans) have intrinsic value and a right to live and flourish. In his words:

“Insofar as we consider ourselves and or family and friends to have an intrinsic value, the widening identification inevitably leads to the attribution of intrinsic value to others. The metaphysical maxim [from the Bhagavad Gita] will then involve the attribution of intrinsic value to all living beings. The right to live is only a different way of expressing this evaluation.”

So from the ecological point of view, Naess sees the problems with our environment as problems of identification. Sadly though as more people widen their identification of self to Self Naess still predicts, “continued devastation of conditions of life on this planet, combined with a powerless upsurge of sorrow and lamentation.”

I find it interesting, however, that despite Naess prediction at the end of the chapter he plays a hopeful note; in the final sentence of the chapter he goes on to say that, “what actually happens is often wildly ‘improbable,’ and perhaps the strong anthropocentric arguments and wise recommendations of World Conservation Strategy (1980) will, after all, make a significant effect.”

This reading provided me much to reflect upon. His advanced vocabulary and argumentation style made the reading a bit dense at times, but his focus was so fascinating that I chose to pay close enough attention to cognize as much as I could. On a very personal level I feel satisfied by what he had to say, because my individual process has been very close to his characterization of widening identity and maturation into “Self-realization.” Thus, I feel like he has successfully characterized the depth of my experience of widening and deepening identification over course of the last 3 years. However, while my ability to cognize more complex concepts and relationships has increased exponentially over those three years, my experience of identification with and intrinsic valuation of life beyond just humans has been more or less present as far as my memory goes back. Having had these experiences of oneness as a child even further solidifies the validity of Naess’ argument for me.

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