Academic journal article Philosophy Today

Theses on Weak Ecology

Academic journal article Philosophy Today

Theses on Weak Ecology

Article excerpt

I. WEAK THOUGHT IS NOT A MERE INVERSION OF THE IDEAL OF STRENGTH ON THE UNDERSIDE OF METAPHYSICS. IT MARKS A SHIFT FROM METAPHYSICAL ECONOMY TO POSTMETAPHYSICAL ECOLOGY.1

We live at a time of metaphysical backlash. Behaving as though deconstruction and weak thought were but minor blips on the radars of the Western intellectual tradition, unfortunate complications in a timeless pursuit of truth, or playful interludes between the bearishly serious acts of system-building, the "new" metaphysics, realisms, and materialisms- prey to collective amnesia-compete with one another for the title of the best, most accurate, and comprehensive ontological framework. Two years ago, Gianni Vattimo responded to the worrisome trend, which is still gathering steam, in an article "What Need, What Metaphysics?" There, he lamented that "[a] spectre is haunting the (late industrial) world: the new (or old) need for metaphysics, for absolute truth, even for eternal life," and suggested "asking whether there really is a (be it new or old) need for metaphysics."2 The need of metaphysics itself, experienced from within its systems, is insatiable. It will not rest until it has swallowed up all of raw existence and digested it into its categories. In turn, the need for metaphysics can be only sensed from the outside, once the needed object has been lost, is lacking, and, through its absence, evokes nostalgia, sends spectral tentacles, announces returns and renewals, and so on. It is in the register of an unsuccessful, because aborted halfway, work of mourning that today's backlash gains strength and threatens to erase each and every erasure, dissolution, or softening of foundations announced by deconstruction and weak thought.

The spectral return of metaphysics suspends thought from a kind of pendulum that has now swung back to the default position of the same, if only under the sign of lack. The risk is that weak thought, too, would be swept away by this pendular movement unless it breaks with the dogma of metaphysical monism admitting only "more" or "less" violence and uniformity. Vattimo's appeal to think "the history of Being as guided by the common guiding thread of the reduction of strong structures . . . oriented towards an ethics of non-violence"3 needs to be accompanied by the proviso that reduction and weakening are qualitative, rather than merely quantitative, shifts. To approximate "an ethics of non-violence," in other words, it is imperative to make a Hegelian leap from quantity to quality and to recast the distinction between weakness and strength in terms of two largely incommensurate attitudes, which I would like to name the ecological and the economic.

Note that ecology and economy at once respect and trouble the onto-metaphysical monism I have just invoked in a critical key. With regard to each other, they are both the same and the other and neither the same nor the other, since they revolve around the oikos (or dwelling), which lends the first three letters to each word and at which they arrive from the opposite directions of logos (articulation, reasoning, discourse, language, speech) and nomos (law, convention, division, distribution, allotment). If the default position of contemporary metaphysics is economic or economist-a position that encompasses an assumption of complete interchangeability of parts in the whole; an obsession with quantification and rankings; and an imposition of the more or less arbitrary conceptual and concrete partitions, barriers, walls, or separation fences onto the world-then the challenge addressed to its hegemony should involve an ecological alternative that begins but does not end with a one-dimensional "weakening" or "softening" of dominant structures. Only proceeding in such a way will we be able to skirt the traps that await anyone embarking on the Nietzschean "revaluation of all values": first, a symmetrical inversion that elevates the low and brings down the high (read: valorizes weakness over strength) and, second, a leveling down of differences observed through the lens of a general and widespread indifference. …

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