Zhuangzi's Ecocentrism. In which way could the philosophy of Zhuangzi contribute to the right concept of a moral attitude towards nature?
Vlastuin, H.A. van
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In this thesis I answered the question of what attitude towards nature is the right moral concept. I answered this question in five parts. First, moral intuitions form the foundation of the attitude towards nature. Intuitions immediately create feelings which contain self-evident truth. This self-evident truth is discriminated by a feeling through clearness, reflection, coherence and consensus. It is intuitivly correct to hold an attitude of harmony in face of nature. This concept is clear, reflected, consistent and will find consensus. Second, the concept of anthropocentrism is clear and distinct, but not “ascertained by careful reflection”, so it does not match the intuitive attitude towards nature. Anthropocentrism provides the right for overexploitation which can leads to environmental change. And the enlightened anthropocentrism generates more questions than answers. This creates the need for a different conceptual attitude towards nature that is more reflected. Third, modern ecocentrism does match this requirement of reflectiveness, but is not consistent enough. Ecocentrism as attitude towards nature does not evaluate humans as superior to nature, but gives nature and humans the same value as they are both part of the same ecosystem. However, the underlying assumption of nature is romanticized and can lead to rigid interpretations of the ecosystem. Modern ecocentrism matches the intuitive attitude of harmony towards nature, is clear, reflected, but not fully coherent. A more coherent ecocentrism is desirable. Fourth, the ancient ecocentrism of Zhuangzi is clear, reflected and moreover, coherent. Therefore, the philosophy of Zhuangzi is able to match the concept of an intuitive harmonious attitude towards nature. The concepts of self-transformation, creative spontaneity, interpenetration and harmonization in the philosophy of Zhuangzi explain his attitude towards nature. This attitude towards nature can be described as ecocentrism while humans are interdependent from nature and do therefore not receive special attention. While ecocentrism is a modern term, the idea behind it is clearly not new; Zhuangzi already had this idea when he gave intrinsic value to nature. This ancient ecocentric attitude towards nature is able to provide the modern movement a balanced consistent concept of nature while it agrees with the foundations of ecocentrism. Zhuangzi sees the nature as creative and autonomous, what he has in common with modern ecocentrism, but he draws this line of argumentation further when he introduces the concept of non-action. Non-action in face of nature means that humans need to give nature autonomy and balance action and non-action. This conceptual attitude will help to evolve realistic ecology instead of building it on romanticized assumptions. Zhuangzi’s philosophy makes ecocentrism as a concept more consistent. Fifth, the concept of ecocentrism is not only the right moral attitude towards nature, but is also able find this global consensus. The modern ecocentric movement is mainly taking place in the West, the Norwegian philosopher Arne Naess is an influential defender of ecocentrism. However, the ecocentrism movement could be enriched with the philosophy of Zhuangzi, they both share the same common ground. Nature and humans are both part of the same ecosystem and interdepend on each other. Nature has intrinsic value which is separated from human’s utility. In this thesis I found therefore common ground in Western and Chinese philosophy. This shared consensus between the West and the East is the first important step, while it includes recognition of a big part of the world population, towards a global conceptual consensus in an attitude towards nature. Ecocentrism is in this consensus the right attitude towards nature as is argued. Therefore, ecocentrism matches the moral intuitive attitude towards nature, is clear, reflected, consistent and is able to generate consensus and is in this way the right moral attitude towards nature. To conclude, ecocentrism matches the moral intuitive attitude towards nature, is clear, reflected, consistent and is open for consensus with modern Western ecocentrism and the ancient Chinese philosophy of Zhuangzi.