The origin or beginning of something plays a significant role in its ongoing explication: extreme sensitivity to initial conditions. As Aristotle observes (Ethics 1098b), “arche [origin] seems to be more than half of the whole.” There’s a story that philosophers tell themselves about the beginning of philosophy, a very common story, a story that seems to have past its expiration date. Continue reading
The new encyclical by Pope Francis, Laudato Si’: On the Care of our Common Home, contains many references to “integral ecology,” including an entire chapter by that title.
It’s relatively clear that Francis is working with the integral ecology proposed by the Brazilian liberation theologian Leonardo Boff, who draws on the general ecology of Félix Guattari and the integral ecology proposed by the cultural historian Thomas Berry. Regarding Boff’s influence, consider the Pope’s allusion to Boff’s Cry of the Earth, Cry of the Poor. “Today, however, we have to realize that a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor” (# 49). The Pope’s sense of integral ecology is also clearly influenced by the ecological sensibility of St. Francis of Assisi, whose phrase “Laudato Si'” (from his Canticle of the Creatures) provides the title and opening line for the encyclical.
The following are the selections from the encyclical that explicitly mention integral ecology. There are also many other references to integral and integrative approaches, including integral development, progress, and education. Moreover, the Pope does not intend integral ecology to be an exclusively or primarily Catholic endeavor. The encyclical is addressed to “every person living on this planet” (#3).
“I believe that Saint Francis is the example par excellence of care for the vulnerable and of an integral ecology lived out joyfully and authentically. […] Francis helps us to see that an integral ecology calls for openness to categories which transcend the language of mathematics and biology, and take us to the heart of what it is to be human.” (#10-11)
“We urgently need a humanism capable of bringing together the different fields of knowledge, including economics, in the service of a more integral and integrating vision. Today, the analysis of environmental problems cannot be separated from the analysis of human, family, work-related and urban contexts, nor from how individuals relate to themselves, which leads in turn to how they relate to others and to the environment.” (#141)
Any approach to an integral ecology, which by definition does not exclude human beings, needs to take account of the value of labour. (#124)
“An integral ecology includes taking time to recover a serene harmony with creation, reflecting on our lifestyle and our ideals, and contemplating the Creator who lives among us and surrounds us….” (#225)
“An integral ecology is also made up of simple daily gestures which break with the logic of violence, exploitation and selfishness.” (#230)
“Intergenerational solidarity is not optional, but rather a basic question of justice, since the world we have received also belongs to those who will follow us. The Portuguese bishops have called upon us to acknowledge this obligation of justice: “The environment is part of a logic of receptivity. It is on loan to each generation, which must then hand it on to the next”. An integral ecology is marked by this broader vision.” (#159)
At Footnotes2Plato, my friend and colleague Matt Segall posted a thoughtful essay, “Worldly Religion in Deleuze and Whitehead: On the Possibility of a Secular Divinity.” As the title suggests, the essay aims to rethink religion as worldly religion by thinking with Deleuze and Whitehead. And, of course, there are plenty of references to Plato.
It’s a good essay, indicative of a new trend in Whitehead studies: connecting Whitehead to poststructuralist philosophers. It’s also indicative of a new trend in Deleuze studies: articulating the spiritual/religious aspects of Deleuze’s thought by connecting Deleuze—a staunch critic of all things religious—to theological elements in the works of his influences (e.g., Whitehead, Bergson, Spinoza, Cusa, Bruno).
I find the Whitehead-Deleuze encounter to be fruitful, and I’m excited to see it unfold in increasingly rich contrasts. As it continues unfolding, I’m sure we’ll see more attention to Guattari’s role in all of this. Guattari is often dissociated from Deleuze (e.g., Badiou, who dismisses D&G’s co-written works as an aberration in Deleuze’s philosophy) or he is assimilated into Deleuze (e.g., the common practice of citing D&G’s co-written works by using phrases like “Deleuze says” or “according to Deleuze”). Something quite unique to the philosophical tradition happened with the conjunction of Deleuze and Guattari, a philosopher and non-philosopher, and an encounter with Deleuze must encounter that conjunction. But I digress…
I’ll conclude with one of Matt’s insights into Deleuze’s and Whitehead’s contributions to “a world-renewing medicinal brew sorely needed in the contemporary world.”
Whitehead shares with Deleuze a sense for the importance of experimental thinking. In the context of religious experimentation, asking whether or not God really exists becomes irrelevant. What becomes important is the sort of thoughts and practices that belief in God makes possible for the believer, and for the society to which the believer belongs.
Thinking of OWS and other movements resisting corporate globalization, I wonder if another world is possible. It’s an open question. If another world is possible, and we are going to facilitate its arrival, we will need a lot more than acentered, deterritorialized, destratified, or horizontal networks. A lot more than rhizomatic flows and smooth spaces. We will also need centralized institutions, judgments, hierarchies, and plenty of strata. Even Deleuze and Guattari recognize this. The rhizome is not neatly amenable to an opposition with arborescent hierarchy. “There are knots of arborescence in rhizomes and rhizomatic offshoots in roots” (A Thousand Plateaus [University of Minnesota, 1987], p. 20).
Of course, smooth spaces are not in themselves liberatory. But the struggle is changed or displaced in them, and life reconstitutes its stakes, confronts new obstacles, invents new paces, switches adversaries. Never believe that a smooth space will suffice to save us. (p. 500)
The Earth–the Deterritorialized, the Glacial, the giant Molecule–is a body without organs. This body without organs is permeated by unformed, unstable matters, by flows in all directions, by free intensities or nomadic singularities, by mad or transitory particles. That, however, was not the question at hand. For there simultaneously occurs upon the earth a very important, inevitable phenomenon that is beneficial in many respects and unfortunate in many others: stratification. (p. 40)