Love and the Anthropocene
The Anthropocene is an existential crisis facing humanity, wherein human beings worldwide are confronted with the fact that not only are we in the midst of an unprecedented ecological crisis that endangers the basic living conditions of humankind, but that we are the culprit.
This narrative has elicited increasing and widespread feelings of fear, anxiety, and disillusionment in citizens of every nation on the planet. Einstein said that we cannot solve a problem with the same line of thinking that created the conditions for it. Much has been written about the Anthropocene from scientific and ecological perspectives; this thesis will approach the issue from a philosophical standpoint in an attempt to address the ideological frameworks premised on control and domination of one another and our environment that brought about our current predicament. To understand from whence these ideas originated, we will examine Plato’s Cosmology, specifically his theory of Forms, Reason and Necessity, and the ruler/ruled dynamic. Having considered the impact, evolution, and consequences of Platonic ideals in the development of the western political tradition, we will turn our attention toward contemporary philosophical concepts in search of new frameworks and solutions. Using the phenomenological method, we will consider the non-egoistic existential philosophy of Karl Jaspers and the political philosophy of Hannah Arendt.
The works of Jaspers and Arendt have been selected for several reasons. If humanity is indeed experiencing an existential crisis, Jaspers provides an existential antidote through striving toward non-egoistic Existenz in pursuit of higher consciousness. We will discuss paths toward realizing one’s Existenz such as existential communication, cultivating interrelated freedom, and the loving struggle. Next we will turn to Hannah Arendt’s critique of Plato’s philosophy and the western political tradition, specifically addressing her concepts of plurality, ‘the fact that men, and not Man live on the earth and inhabit the world;’ natality, our unique ability to begin new processes; and the pre-socratic polis, the political space which emerges through people acting in consort (HC, 7). Arendt’s concepts of action and natality offer us hope that we can always embark on a new course.
The Anthropocene imposes its existential question on all people at once, demanding each person to ask, why exist? What does it mean to be a human being in this context? The Anthropocene has awakened our awareness to the fact that not only humans inhabit the earth, but also millions of other species. Plurality seems to be a law of the planet and the foundation of the resilience of entire ecosystems. For human beings, it is also the foundation and condition of politics. To act with others, we must engage people from a spectrum of viewpoints to build a common world that is symbiotic rather than antithetical to our environment, the earth, and the other people and creatures who inhabit it. The reflections of this thesis provide guidance on how the concepts of Jaspers and Arendt can inform and support us in our efforts to move beyond the disturbed human relationships that have contributed significantly to the emergence of the Anthropocene and its existential threats to human and non-human life.