Beyond the Nature-Culture Dualism
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- Haila, Y. Biology & Philosophy (2000) 15: 155. doi:10.1023/A:1006625830102
It is commonly accepted that the western view of humanity’s place in nature is dominated by a dualistic opposition between nature and culture. Historically this has arisen from externalization of nature in both productive and cognitive practices; instances of such externalization have become generalized. I think the dualism can be decomposed by identifying dominant elements in each particular instantiation and showing that their strict separation evaporates under close scrutiny. The philosophical challenge this perspective presents is to substitute concrete socioecological analysis for foundational metaphysics. A review of major interpretations of the history of the dualism in Western thought indicates that the legacy is more multistranded than is usually admitted. Modern science is often assumed to lie squarely within the dualism, but this is unfounded. In contrast, science provides tools for contextual analysis on how human activities and natural processes merge. The dualism thus evaporates in actual research practice. Nevertheless, the foundational metaphysics needs to be challenged, primarily because of its paralyzing effect on environmental philosophy.