Martin Heidegger and the Ontological Status of Nature: Rethinking Metaphysical Assumptions of Modern Western Philosophy for a Sound Environmental Ethics

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Addis Ababa University


The alarming possible consequences of anthropogenic environmental crisis and global passivity to such insidious problems invoked philosophers and non-philosophers to study the root causes of environmental crisis. This problem beseeches the global humanity to come up with a sound and practical solutions. Among others, philosophers raised a question of what counts morally and why and this gave a birth for modern environmental ethics that is situated in modern Western philosophy. Significant numbers of philosophers propose a radical shift from the Western metaphysical tradition and other group of philosophers prefers to propose environmental ethics that works at the matrix of modern Western metaphysical tradition. A deeper analysis has been done in order to understand the debate on environmental ethics and to find out the faulty line of reasoning in the proposed ethical theories. I find out that modern Western metaphysical and technological assumption, that I situate on the philosophy of Rene Descartes, about human beings and of the natural environment could not provide us a ground to articulate a sound environmental ethics and thus a radical break from this intellectual tradition is an imperative. I hold that a sound environmental ethics should be holistic in its nature and ought to acknowledge intrinsic value of individual beings. So, the overall project of this thesis is to ground this kind of environmental ethics with a sound ontology base and technological practices. I argue that various philosophical works of Martin Heidegger could enable us to articulate a sound environmental ethics that afford intrinsic value of non-human begins in the interrelated world. I argue that Heidegger’s fundamental ontology could help us to understand the main faulty line of reasoning in modern Western philosophy that caused environmental crises. Besides, regardless of the debate on the possibility of Heidegger’s inspired ethics I argue that we can fruitfully apply his proto-ontological works to understand contemporary predicament of environmental crises and I used his concept of “Mitsein” to ground a holistic environmental ethics that acknowledges the intrinsic value of individual beings, including the non-human beings. In trying to show the relevance of this thesis in addressing practical issues, I have shown how contemporary debates on sustainable development goals could drive important elements from this kind of ethics that could have a significant impact in promoting and integrating the three goals of sustainable development. Keywords: Anthropocentrism, Challenging-forth, Dasein, Enframing, Fundamental Ontology, Intrinsic value, Holism, Hyper-separation, Technology, Standing-reserve



Anthropocentrism, Fundamental Ontology, Challenging forth, Standing reserve