Humanism and Environmentalism

By Passmore, John Arthur | Free Inquiry, Spring 1993 | Go to article overview

Humanism and Environmentalism


Passmore, John Arthur, Free Inquiry


Humanism and environmentalism both come in a variety of shapes and sizes. There is an extreme form of humanism that is incompatible with even the mildest form of environmentalism; there is an extreme form of environmentalism that is incompatible with even the mildest form of humanism. The interesting question is whether there is a modest form of environmentalism that is completely compatible with a modest form of humanism, and is, indeed, demanded by it.

What do I understand by an extreme form of humanism? One that thinks of human beings as confronting what it calls "the natural world" in the spirit of an antagonist, as something to be domesticated, exploited, reshaped so that in the end wherever human beings look they will see their own faces reflected, whether in manufactured goods, in farms, in parks, or gardens. Only then, it is argued, will human beings be totally free--when nothing else is free, when nature is wholly subdued, totally at the service of humankind. Such humanism is wholly inconsistent with even the minimum of environmentalism or, to use the now preferred word, ecologism. For that insists that human beings live, move, and have their being as members of complex, interacting, ecosystems; that since human beings are neither omnipotent nor omniscient any attempt at total control over such systems could only lead to total disaster and any major irreversible intervention should be undertaken only with caution.

What about extreme environmentalism? That is misanthropic. It sees human beings simply as destructive forces. Particularly now that human beings have discovered science and technology, they threaten, on this view, the continued existence of every form of life. At the very least, they should revert to the hunter-gatherer stage of human development, living as other animals do, but their total disappearance from the Earth's surface would be the ideal solution, provided that it could be accomplished without the loss of other species. Moderate humanism, responding to this, is not obliged to deny that many human beings have been, are, and will always be greedy, power-ridden, and destructive. But at the same time it points to the creativeness of human beings, to what they have added to the world by their presence, not as hunter-gatherers but in virtue of their development of civilization. Freud was a humanist even though he recognized the discontents of civilization; Gibbon even although he saw in history a record of the vices and follies of mankind. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Humanism and Environmentalism
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.