Environmental Ethics

Volume 15, Issue 4, Winter 1993

Tom Cheetham
Pages 293-311

The Forms of Life
Complexity, History, and Actuality

A fundamental misapprehension of the nature of our being in the world underlies the general inhumanity and incoherence of modern culture. The belief that abstraction as a mode of knowing can be universalized to provide a rational ground for all human knowledge and action is a pernicious and unacknowledged background to several modern diseases. Illustrative of these maladies is the seeming dichotomy between the aesthetic and the analytic approaches to nature. One critical arena in which the incoherences of our current understandings of our place in nature come to light is in the battle over the environment. I argue that a more adequate conceptualization of our place in the natural world can be erected if the central metaphors for our understanding are grounded in notions derived from the sciences of life. The key concepts must include contingency, historicity, evolution, organism, and imaginative interaction with concrete reality in individual human beings