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Personalistic Organicism: Paradox or Paradigm?

  • Frederick Ferré

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Many environmental thinkers are torn in two opposing directions at once. For good reasons we are appalled by the damage that has been done to the earth by the ethos of heedless anthropocentric individualism, which has achieved its colossal feats of exploitation, encouraged to selfishness by its world view—of relation-free atoms—while chanting ‘reduction’ as its mantra. But also for good reasons we are repelled, at the other extreme, by environmentally correct images of mindless biocentric collectivisms in which precious personal values are overridden for the good of some healthy beehive ‘whole’.

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1 This paradox-prone term was first proposed in Ferré, 1989. See especially pp. 238 ff.

2 See, for example, Regan, 1990, p.78; but see also Midgley, 1983, ch. 9 for a characteristically sensible antidote.

3 For further support of the present both/and argument, see Midgley, 1978, ch. 10, ‘Speech and Other Excellences’, and ch. 11, ‘On Being Animal as Well as Rational’.

4 On this, and other related issues, see Merchant, 1990, for a thoughtful exploration of ‘egoistic’, ‘homocentric’, and ‘ecocentric’ ethics.

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