Anti-humanist Anarchism : by "Joff" (part one)

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This article originally took shape in the public domain on the Research on Anarchism Mailing list and is archived here. We wish to point out that this work is copyright, permission to reproduce this text must be sought from its author, which you can do at the email tags above and below. Now over to Joff.

Please find below fragments of a work in progress. They attempt to rethink Bookchin's animus vis-a-vis the poststructuralism of D&G [Deleuze and Guattari: ed.], Derrida and Foucault and the postmodernism of Baudrillard in "Re-enchanting Humanity", Todd May's "The Political Philosophy of Poststucturalist Anarchism" the triadic ecology of Guattari and a recent essay by Patrick Hayden on naturalist ontology.

And here's a few of fragments of autonomous thought..

The Possibility of an Anti-Humanist Anarchism

He who does not wish to speak of Capital should also be silent about ecology. (Jonathan Bradley)


My writing not only contributes to environmental philosophy for it is a work of environmental philosophy. Such a work unashamedly operates out of a radical philosophical tradition. The tradition is Enlightenment bound and humanist in emphasis. This tradition begins, for the purposes of this thesis, with Feuerbach and Marx. Yet, the fetters of the tradition of `critical criticism' are free enough not to lead to a constriction of ideas. Thus, the position of my work is at once experimental and yet `rooted' in the Enlightenment tradition. It is this curious in-between or interstitial zone that will be explored. The equivocation nestles in-between two apparently irreconcilable structures of thought, namely, the philosophy of the `totality' and the philosophy of otherness or `difference'. In questioning the in-between of the totality and poststructuralism's (PS) emphasis upon positive difference and the confrontation between a defence of Enlightenment humanism and its contemporary erstwhile detractors, an experimental and `monstrous' thinking emerges. In the juxtaposition of the `totality' and the `different', what is sought after is not a forced synthesis or reconciliation of difference, but a possibilising and a playfulness. In chartering unknown seas, new territories uncover generous spaces of experimentation and thought. This is perhaps the dangerous task of post-human philosophy: `the manufacture of materials to harness forces, to think the unthinkable'. In thinking this peculiar in-between, the metaphor of a `force-field' of ideas is employed. A force field of ideas abandons the search for an `extorted' reconciliation of oppositions (Hegel's will-to-system) but instead brings into the foreground the relationality of ideas which at once both attract and repel. Such a structure is dynamic, fluid and less rigid than a staid system which demands the unification of opposites `at any cost'. A defence of Enlightenment ideals that is historically situated requires the examination of the concepts of humanism and naturalism, in order to demonstrate that the `gay' abandonment of such principles by `postmodern nihilism' is never fully extricable from the tradition that is rebelled against. The following points hope to illuminate the possibility of a `transhuman(t)' anarchism which is ecologically sensitive, tolerant of diversity, yet which sees the role of stewardship as essential for guiding the planet away from imminent collapse. Deleuze, Guattari, and Foucault are taken as representatives of the canon of PS and Bookchin's thinking is taken as representative of green (anarchist) political philosophy which roots itself in the humanist and naturalist tradition of the Enlightenment. First and foremost, by demonstrating the interrelationship between PS and Bookchin's social ecology, it will be shown that the incommensurability argument Bookchin employs is unwarranted and ungenerous. The incommensurability Bookchin sees between classical and dialectical logic renders Bookchin's own observations contradictory. Incommensurability implies that rational standards are relative or internal to a tradition or culture or paradigm in which they are articulated. In this sense incommensurability implies relativism. Thus, Bookchin is on slippery ground when he contends that:

Brute facts" are distortions of reality in dialectical reason because for dialectical reason Being is not an agglomeration of fixed entities and phenomena.

His defensive claim that analytic logic has no validity in testing the rationality of dialectical logic can be turned on his own conjectures and therefore his argument warrants further reflection. It is arguable whether such a defensive claim is a serious defect of social ecology. Furthermore, this form of argument is now disintegrating given the fact that the once opposed traditions of `continental' and `analytical' philosophy are engaging with and merging into one another. Derrida and Rorty are thinkers who attempt to bridge the gap between these two approaches to philosophy. Therefore, notwithstanding Bookchin's protests, the question of rational dialogue, for those who have ears to listen, between PS, social and deep ecology and anarchism ought to be posed. In order to disclose the interconnections and affinities between PS, anarchist political philosophy and the possible fruitful co-optation of them by ecological thought demands that several centripetal concepts receive close attention. The concepts of the rhizome and arborescence, hierarchy, dualism, and becoming will be assessed in order to think the possibility for a commensurable discourse between two `apparently' intransigent rivals. At first glance, it is surprising that anarchism has demonstrated such a lack of tolerance towards PS theory. PS explores indeterminacy, the realm of appearances, freakish becomings, fragmentation, and positive otherness. In summa: the celebration of chaos. Anarchism, etymologically, is a state without order, a stateless and chaotic state without the State. In celebrating the social order that emerges in the absence of the ordering principle of the State, anarchism thus emphasises creativity and spontaneity.

The Concept of Naturalism

The concept of naturalism: naturalism is a philosophical position which is open to a multiplicity of possible variations. From a general perspective a naturalist contends that whatever exists exists as natural phenomena. Naturalism thus rejects seeking explanation at the level of the super-natural. Yet, naturalism is not necessarily synonymous with materialism. Materialism is logically distinct from naturalism because naturalism is compatible with varying ontological positions. The chief tenets of naturalism are as follows: (1) Knowledge of the universe is gained by analysis of `natural objects' which are conditioned by the impact of natural causes. The universe of natural objects is knowable since it is governed by a causal and spatio-temporal order. (2) Changes in the nature of natural objects are primarily explained through the operations and impacts of natural causes. (3) A natural cause or system of natural causes which impacts upon a natural object is explainable as a natural process. (4) The natural order is grasped as a system of natural processes. `Nature is in principle intelligible in all its parts, but it cannot be explained as whole'. (5) A natural methodology discloses the workings of the natural world in terms of natural causes and is testable through examination of the consequences of natural causes. (6) The natural is intelligible, if and only if, natural processes are regular. As a consequence a natural methodology seeks to disclose natural laws which govern the universe of natural objects. Human beings as natural objects are in principle governed by the same natural processes which account for the change of vegetation and animals. The natural method is thus applicable to the domain of social and mental life. Humans, on this account, are immanent, they are natural objects. (7) Recourse to nonnatural methodology occurs only in moments of despair. For the most part, all humans naturally apply the natural method since they intrinsically possess natural properties as natural objects. (8) The practice of reason is consistent with the applicability of the natural method and science is the paradigm of reason's application. (9) Scientific rationality is not infallible and theories as such are subject to revisions and even abandonment if better theories (more true?) manifest themselves. Science's fallibility implies that there can be no ultimate certitude for any scientific theory. Theories are rigorously tested against rival theories and there is nothing contradictory in believing a theory to be true and recognising that it may well be false by future standards. (10) Mathematics and geometry do not point toward a transcendent Platonic ontology in which timeless numerical essences reside as distinct from the natural order. As such, numerical entities, according to naturalism, do not necessarily imply nonnatural objects. (11) Naturalism recognises that are other ways of experiencing the natural world but contends that the only cognitive mode of experience fitting for rigorous explanation is the scientific mode. (12) Naturalism defends an ontological pluralism which rejects the claim that all natural objects are reducible to one form of natural object. All natural objects share a fixed level of reality. No exceptional natural object is more real than another. (13) Naturalism recognises that humans are unique in their capacity to hold and pursue values but instead of elevating the species above the rest of nature's inhabitants, naturalism perceives the human species as a natural phenomenon subject to natural laws which can be uncovered by a natural methodology. Naturalism contends that moral disputes are resolvable through the rigorous practice of the natural method. Contra a morally irrefragable intuitionism, naturalism defends the testing of moral arguments and scientific theories alike through the examination of testable consequences. And lastly (14), naturalism is adamantly this-worldly to the extent that it considers philosophical problems as natural problems. Philosophy thus enquires after the human, natural object and speculation concerning transcendent entities is rigorously avoided.

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