Ethics: It’s About Changing Your Soul, Composing, 07/03/2016

I felt like Friday’s post didn’t really get into the meat of how much this anti-racism argument actually hits to the core of the ethical ideas I’ve developed in my non-fiction writing. 

It stuck pretty solidly with the framework of Antonio Negri’s stories about Pasolini’s and Moravia’s trips to India. But it never got beyond the level of talking about that story. I wanted it to, but frankly, I was pretty tired when I was writing that one. 

Ecology, Ethics, and the Future of Humanity deals with this at the end of its narrative. After wandering through the different inadequate attempts from academic philosophy to figure out what environmentalist morality should be or is,* it ends up concluding that this isn’t quite the right question to ask.

One thing, of many, that I wanted to do with Ecology,
Ethics, and the Future of Humanity
 is make clear that
environmentalism wasn't necessarily about the
rejection of technology or urbanity per se.
* This is a problem with philosophy as a wider tradition – the unfortunately common belief that the discipline is after universal truths that you discover through reflection and argument alone. In other words, the truths of environmentalist morality, if we truly discover them, have always been true. Where I think those truths came to be once humanity became capable of serious and seriously fast ecological destruction.

The individual principles or moral imperatives about living in a more ecologically sustainable way don’t actually matter. What counts is that we transform ourselves to think and act more ecologically than egotistically. Change ourselves ethically, and the moralities will follow.

There will be lots of environmentalist moralities. There already are, actually. And if everyone becomes an environmentalist, there will be many more than there are now. When environmentalism is the top priority of our moral thinking, we’ll all discover different routes to live that ideal.

It’s the same when we deal with racism. I mean, the two problems – ecological destruction and the ideologies of racism – are incredibly different in their content. But I’m talking at a super-abstract level here about the potential in humanity for radical ethical transformation.

At that context, the process is basically the same – transformation of who we are and how we think in our instinctual, habitual aspects. In our most everyday, innocuous moments, we’re totally different people than we used to be. This process of transforming yourself is the essence of political change. 

That’s how I end Ecology, Ethics, and the Future of Humanity. I’ll explore that whole process explicitly, from start to some kind of finish, in Utopias

These two books of philosophy – one written and published, the other still inchoate and largely immaterial – are at the centre of more than just my own writing and publishing projects. Their ideas inform my work in politics. 

I remember reading Knut Hamsun as a novelist who
could give me some ideas about how to approach
environmentalist living. But his writing and ideas are
sadly more that of a broken romantic (and Romantic),
as well as being disturbingly sexist in his literary
themes and racist in his everyday life. Pan was a
beautifully written novel, though.
Right now, that’s the Syria Film Festival and its promotion of rights for refugees and war migrants, and my involvement with the New Democratic Party, trying to inject the energy of contemporary social movements back into the organization. 

Art about people who are frequently demonized in more socially conservative conversations help puncture stereotypes and delusions about migrants and refugees. Thinking along with Negri, it helps people see folks they considered utterly alien to themselves as actually having much in common – a desire for peace, prosperity, and democracy. 

Canada’s modern social movements – particularly Idle No More, our chapters of Black Lives Matter, and Basic Income – are about radically reorienting how each of us understands ourselves. Our whole identity transforms. 

And I’m taking this concept to the Canadian Philosophical Association meetings this May in Calgary. There, I’m presenting a morning-long panel on Ecology, Ethics, and the Future of Humanity. I’ll not only discuss its philosophical themes and methods, but also the implications for philosophy as a profession, discipline, and tradition.

I’ve been going through a lot of financial difficulties lately as I try to get my new career as a business communicator and a writer off the ground. It made me think I should cancel my panel, until friends and former colleagues from my academy days impressed on me what an accomplishment it is to land a panel of this size at the CPA when you don’t even have a university position at all. 

The short version, because this post is already running longer than I’d planned. If philosophy is to regain its public relevance, it has to leave its academic rabbit-holes behind – stop the norms of argument and increasingly technical debate.

Philosophy as a tradition has to be about bringing the most profound cognitive powers of humanity to political activism – about seeing the depth and breadth of change that humanity can bring to ourselves. 

And then do it!

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