“The safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato.”
–Alfred North Whitehead

Towards a Cosmotheandric Re-orientation: Response to Knowledge-Ecology

Adam Robbert over at Knowledge-Ecology recently responded to After Nature’s (Leon Niemoczynski) post on anthrodecentrism in Object-Oriented Ontology. I’ve visited this topic several times lately, but I’d have to admit that I seem to have failed to fully develop my own position in regards to the place of the human in the universe.

What I have suggested thus far is that we make a distinction between the particular earthly species we call Homo sapiens and a universal anthropic evolutionary potential, or Anthropos, characterized by its archetypal intelligence and compassion. The Anthropos is not yet an actual being, but remains a possible being. Teilhard de Chardin calls this being the Omega toward which cosmic evolution inevitably tends. I am not always able to muster the same metaphysical optimism that Teilhard does, but I am unable to shake the sneaking suspicion that the continuity of human civilization ultimately depends upon each individual’s faith in the possibility of realizing the absolute wisdom and love of the Anthropos. Civilized life is predicated on the assumption that our species, at least at its scientific and spiritual best, represents a unique example of a universal anthropic tendency intrinsic to cosmogenesis. Without faith in this highest human potential, I believe we simply lose the will necessary to live together peacefully on earth. Without an anthropic orientation, in other words, our ethicality and zest for life (as Teilhard calls it) would shrivel and die within a generation or two. Indeed, I think European civilization is growing precariously close to the death of belief in the Anthropos, just as it has already killed God. Perhaps now, in our thoroughly disenchanted historical moment, all that is left to us as a “live option” (as William James would say) is the Cosmos; but even there, late industrial capitalism continues to man the helm of an economic system pushing the earth into ever-worsening mass extinction and global climate change.

Adam writes:

“[OOO] reveals that the human has not been traumatically ‘decentered’ by the triple revolutions of Copernicus, Darwin, and Freud (feel free to add to this list your favorite ‘traumatic’ decentralists…). This decentering, we can now see, was actually only a traumatic event from a particularly eurocentric, dualist, and transcendentalist perspective. I think its time we stop whining about the poor european psyche’s ‘displacement’ and realize that immanence, ontological parity, and evolutionary cosmology actually center us within the context of things.”

I am all for immanence, ontological parity, and evolutionary cosmology; but I affirm the importance of these principles right alongside those of transcendence, ontological depth, and involutionary metaphysics. There are cross-cultural parallels in the philosophies of India and of various indigenous traditions for these three notions; they are not simply anomalies of a deranged European mentality (e.g., the Indian Vedas and the Mayan Popul Voh). The modern scientific “displacement” of humanity is unavoidable, but if our civilization is to survive the 21st century, I think we must also seek out and discover some sort of cosmotheandric re-orientation. Instead of understanding Cosmos, Theos, and Anthropos as ontologically dissociated and isolable substances as the ancients often did, and instead of annihilating each one-by-one as the moderns have, we must enact a weltanschauung wherein this trinity becomes complexly interpenetrating and dependently co-arising.

Adam goes on to suggest that OOO may be the first substance-based and anti-essentialist philosophy. I’m still not convinced of the linguistic utility or metaphysical validity of returning to a substance ontology. I remain committed to the process-relational paradigm. If we consider the main thrust of the scientific displacement of human beings from the center, most of its momentum seems to come from the discovery of the deep time of evolution and thus the developmental nature of the universe. As Teilhard conveys it, 19th and 20th century cosmology has made it clear that the Anthropos is not the static center of a hierarchically arranged Great Chain of Being, but the “axis and arrow” of a complexly organized creative process of unfolding. In other words, our species, as a result of a longing for the anthropic ideal, is near the leading edge of the cosmogenic rush toward deeper interiority. Everything actual possesses a degree of interiority (and so withdrawnness) precisely because it is a process of becoming (I’ve developed the reasons why here and here).



3 responses to “Towards a Cosmotheandric Re-orientation: Response to Knowledge-Ecology”

  1. […] response to my earlier post on OOO and ecological ethics (itself a commentary on a post over at After Nature […]

  2. Notes on the Occupation from the Mountaintop « Footnotes to Plato Avatar

    […] at this point is a healthy dose of theology, though theology in the interests of re-establishing a humane cosmology. We need constructive philosophy (like Speculative Realism/Object-Oriented Ontology, […]

  3. philosophyprime Avatar

    My belief has come into the idea that there is no ultimate ideal of development – that the creative potential is towards a plurality and that no single ego can ever truly universalize – we are not god and never will be. Please consider the previous statements in context of my entire comment. To me this plurality of ego is beautiful because it means there is always something to explore and expand into as part of the creative evolution of being. Individuality is built into our reality. Could a creative reality be otherwise?

    And IMO if you deeply consider what process reality implies …it implies a uniqueness of creative being which by it’s very nature hinges on finite perspective rather than god-view. Perhaps this is similar to what you mean by withdrawnness..ie..identity(this as opposed to the ‘vacuous actuality’ of modern scientific metaphysics)! Any ego can only assume limited perspective and thus limited ownership of reality. I have come to this idea after years of considering Max Stirner’s writings in particular in addition to my own ruminations. Kant is another big background influence for me. Whitehead and James I’ve focused on more recently tho I have yet to read Whitehead sufficiently.

    Tho we have process we still have identity. There must be identity otherwise reality would be entirely meaningless and incoherent. Identity can persist within a process reality via spatio-temporal isolation. Thus integrating identity(brings to mind the calculus) over a short time period can often yield pragmatically stable identity. But integrating over the duration of the universe as an extreme opposite example yields total process where that old classic objective identity becomes meaningless except as a totally interdependent part of the grand process. Temporal resolution! A kind of temporal dependence of identity. Eg over extremely short time periods like human life day to day, typical object-oriented thinking often works just fine….im actually developing my thoughts in this very comment so please indulge me a little.

    Something like the dynamism of a system is inversely proportional to the ‘objective’ lifespan of its parts.

    Power can never be complete, egos always have structural limitations dictated by the relative nature of perspective…this is my point. The impossibility of mastering a relative, possibly even globally contradictory(see James, Pluralistic Universe) item such as perspective. It suggests that as reality evolves we will see different egos evolve and that it won’t just be a single master absolute destiny with total predictable convergence. In fact I want to suggest that this is not even possible, this absolute evolution. To me this is a beautiful thought. If reality is genuinely creative then there must be an element of diversity. A vibrant ecology indeed…just as in the rainforest no single organism is the absolute, perhaps the greater reality will be so as well.

    David Bohm has been a fascination lately, too.

    As for where humanity might be going..I can’t wait til we move beyond humanity. Humanity is downright animal and we were gifted with sloppy and deluded psyches. Cacophony is all too common not just in social groups but even within individuals. The real advance here is thru a living dialectic of sorts – to move beyond humanity and redesign ourselves in a more harmonious manner thereby moving the evolutionary process progressively. Our often dissonant and even psychically cannibalistic natures can really sully the human world and I am all for racing past that. I also believe it’s the only way…humanity as is ain’t gonna cut it. Esp not without the fear of God these days. It will take more than new ideology by my estimation. I deeply admire your desire for a more harmonious future. I feel the only way to get there is to advance our own anthropic process and become something else not just in mind but also in grounds of mind, in space of mind, in instinct, etc. Harmony.

    There is always the lure of the romanticization of human beings as is – but I prefer to move beyond what we are and become more intra- and inter-harmonious and qualitatively expansive.

    Just some thoughts…fascinating ideas you have here!

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