"Thinking like a mountain : toward a council of all beings" book is an introduction to deep ecology by Joanna Macy, John Seed, Pat Flemming and Arne Naess. "Beyond anthropocentrism"'s chapter by John Seed describes a bio-centric alternative to human-centrism.

While i understand this part :

As your memory improves, as the implications of evolution and ecology are internalised and replace the outmoded anthropocentric structures in your mind, there is an identification with all life. Then follows the realisation that the distinction between "life" and "lifeless" is a human construct. Every atom in this body existed before organic life emerged 4000 million years ago... (4)

I dont understand the note :

(4) Prominent physicists such as David Bohm [...], and biologists and philosophers such as Charles Birch and John Cobb Jr. [...] would agree with Alfred North Whitehead that 'a thoroughgoing evolutionary philosophy is inconsistent with materialism. The aboriginal stuff, or material from which a materialistic philosophy starts is incapable of evolution." ("Science and the Modern World", Fontana,1975 (first published 1926) p133).

As i understand it, it implies that the seed of materialism was in aboriginal culture itself... but i'm reluctant to understand that it would not be capable of evolution. How should i understand this ?

The whole chapter can be found in several places on the web, here for example : https://www.rainforestinfo.org.au/deep-eco/Anthropo.htm

  • 1
    I think he is using "aboriginal" in the general sense of "original", not in the sense of any human culture we label as "aboriginal" (the first definition rather than the second here). So the assertion is that if the original stuff of reality didn't already have some "life"-like qualities, it could never have evolved into life. Whitehead did argue for a form of panpsychism but I don't know if he actually made the attributed argument, and his was a "process philosophy" that took processes rather than "stuff" of any kind as fundamental.
    – Hypnosifl
    Nov 22, 2021 at 17:11
  • The passage alludes to Whitehead's argument in Critique of Scientific Materialism, see Dholakia's surmise. It is based on a certain understanding of the "aboriginal stuff" = "material" as bland, abstract and lacking "vitality". Of course, materialists are likely to disagree with such characterization of matter, and Bohm and Birch are not exactly in the mainstream in their interpretations of physics.
    – Conifold
    Nov 22, 2021 at 21:46
  • Thanks for your comments.
    – JLuc
    Nov 27, 2021 at 11:55


You must log in to answer this question.

Browse other questions tagged .