Institutt for filosofi og førstesemesterstudier

An Alternative to the Deep Ecological Self: Buddhist Resources for Climate Ethics

Masterseminar med Matthew Coffay: Fra Arne Næss sin dypøkologi til buddhistisk filosofi.

Briksdalselva og briksdalsbreen Sogn og Fjordane, Norge
Briksdalselva og Briksdalsbreen i Sogn og Fjordane
Wikimedia Commons


Though popular in the formative years of environmental ethics, Arne Naess’ deep ecology has since lost traction with environmental  philosophers. Naess has been criticized for failing to offer an ethical theory, instead developing an ontology from which he believed an ethic would naturally emerge. Following from this ontology, his norm of Self-realization urges us to widen our narrow sense of identity via a 
“non-rational, but not irrational” process of identification with all of nature.

Here, I examine a recent critique of both the practical and philosophical aspects of Naess’ epistemological and ontological approach. I conclude that deep ecology lacks practical appeal for applied ethics, but could be considered from a strictly ontological perspective. Following Deane Curtin, I offer a Buddhist reading of Naess’ concept of Self-realization. Ultimately, though, I suggest that we discard Naess’ system altogether and instead approach various problems in environmental ethics from the standpoint of Buddhist philosophy taken on its own. Working from a foundation of paraconsistent logic and a dialetheic theory of truth, Buddhist concepts of emptiness, dependent origination, and the nature of the self can contribute to various debates in climate ethics, including the intergenerational problem, individual and historical responsibility, and the non-identity problem.