Philosophy:Philosophy of environment

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The philosophy of environment is a trend of free thought located between philosophy, epistemology and anthropology. It combines various schools of philosophy such as humanist ecology, philosophy of evolution and environmental humanism. It is also meant to be a cultural trend having an influence in society.

Environment and evolution

The philosophical current indicated under the name philosophy of evolution has been developed since the 1970s by Humanist Ecology (also called Environmental or Evolutive Humanism) and by the neo-darwinian school. Its purpose is the long-term evolution of the complex living being in its universal environment, analysed through its Human cultural expression.

This trend is unique to the quasi religious Evolutionist Humanism advocated by Julian Huxley, notably during the founders congress of the IHEU (International Humanist and Ethical Union) in 1952.

Further than the basic scientific theory of evolution (notably neo-darwinian, Evolutive Humanism, developed by Richard Dawkins and Stephen Jay Gould), looks at the necessity for Man of a permanent adaptation of both his organism and his thoughts to his universal environment. And from there to the relativized relation to belief and to uncertainty, because human ideas evolve and are transformed, as are physical qualities, in a universal process of evolution and adaptive improvement in their environment. But this does not suppose determinism, genetic or cultural, it refers to the evolutive interactivity and reactivity, partly random, of the living being with his surroundings. According to Marc Carl, "Man must necessarily learn to manage the insufficient appearance and the uncertainty of information to fit and to develop in his relational interactions with his environment, as well as physically and culturally". In a universal environment still as much as 90% unknown, this evolutive cogitation therefore tries not to be locked in premature schemata and answers. It encourages humility in proposals and intuitive boldness in investigations. A subjacent humanist thought encourages human beings to deliberately take his destiny in his hands, in careful correlation with his environment, knowing that human thought is one of the most impacting manifestations of the living being, as an agent of transformation of the environment, and consequently not only of the Earth's environment. In terms of philosophy of evolution, the organized collective thought of humanity, and in general his evolutive culture, appears as the key to development of our species in its universal environment, and the key to a possibly significant interactive modification, in the long term, of this environment. It is principally a prospective step.

This cultural trend seems to have emerged because the concept of progressive permanent adaptation, which is no longer appreciated only by its scientific aspects, also took a metaphysical dimension (in a sense of research of the essence of the human), which consequently encourages analysis of human evolution, an agent which potentially modifies our environment, in philosophical terms. The possibilities and the risks of this evolution, non-deterministic because of its integration into a dynamic complex living system, gives the human existence and destiny a new sense. And to be involved in such a cogitation opens a philosophical way in which curious minds could not miss advancing sooner or later, a way which rests on a regenerated metaphysics, encouraging us to take back in an evolutive way Aristoteles original concept of physis and its substance, and to search with modern conceptual tools the essence and the sense of our life.

Humanist ecology (environmental humanism)

Supported by the philosophy of evolution, this international emerging concept has expressed since the 1970s an evolutive humanism, extending the naturalist tradition of ancient Greek philosophers. Humanist ecology encourages us to better understand and situate the place and the destiny of humanity in its environment in permanent evolution. Human destiny is put in perspective in a universal context where many things remain to be learned. Because it encourages every human in a responsibility in front of his conscience, humanist ecology can be defined too as a will of ethical responsibility of civilized humanity, favouring its permanent improvement and its happiness, in useful interaction with its evolutive environment, in a beneficial way as much for a human being particularly as for mankind in general, and in common symbiosis with their local and global bioscape in evolution. That serves to optimize human society in its own interactions and in its interactions with its bioscape, notably by preserving the planetary equilibrium of the Earth. This solidarity of all of mankind is necessary to preserve its environment and its best development in this environment inspired a particular political expression of humanist ecology, taken up notably by Statesmen such as Jacques Chirac (France) or Mohammed VI (Morocco) in the main meetings of the United Nations.

Evolution and its relativisation

Humanist ecology naturally favours the permanent adaptation and the best possible development of humanity, and of the human being, in an uncertain universal environment in permanent evolution, with a mind open enough to consider all the possibilities. In humanist ecological comprehension, it is vain to want to freeze an arbitrary cultural schemata and choose the apparent equilibrium and the supposed future of one moment of evolution. A permanent evolutive adaptation is necessary, as much biologically as mentally. That requires relativity and a caution in the analysis. According to this concept, for the human mind, any representation belongs to the domain of belief, considering the uncertainty of the relation of man to the universe, and the natural imperfection of his senses to represent his environment and his interactions with this environment; the reality perceived by Man being only one representation of reality, particular in mankind. Humanist ecology admits this relativized relation with belief but refutes any final and locking form, knowing that no truth can be final for the human mind without upsetting its natural evolutive necessity. This school of thought accepts belief in the present, for want of anything better, but dictates that you must take care to verify and update beliefs.


  • Emmanuel MOUNIER, Manifest for personalism, Seuil, Paris, 1936.
  • René DUBOS, The dreams of the reason, Denoël, Paris, 1964.
  • Jacques MONOD, Chance and necessity, Seuil, Paris, 1970.
  • René DUBOS, Choosing to be human, Denoël, Paris, 1974.
  • Richard DAWKINS, The selfish gene, Odile Jacob, Paris, 1976.
  • Marc CARL, Speech on Humanist ecology, LEAI, Paris, 1997-2002.
  • Stephen Jay GOULD, The structure of evolutionary theory, Belknap, 2002.