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Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology

Volume 21, Issue 2/3, 2017

Special Issue on the Anthropocene

Hub Zwart
Pages 175-198

From the Nadir of Negativity towards the Cusp of Reconciliation
A Dialectical (Hegelian-Teilhardian) Assessment of the Anthropocenic Challenge

This contribution addresses the anthropocenic challenge from a dialectical perspective, combining a diagnostics of the present with a prognostic of the emerging future. It builds on the oeuvres of two prominent dialectical thinkers, namely Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770–1831) and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881–1955). Hegel himself was a pre-anthropocenic thinker who did not yet thematise the anthropocenic challenge as such, but whose work allows us to emphasise the unprecedented newness of the current crisis. I will especially focus on his views on Earth as a planetary process, emphasising that (in the current situation) the “spirit” of technoscience is basically monitoring the impacts of its own activities on geochemistry and evolution. Subsequently, I will turn attention to Teilhard de Chardin, a palaeontologist and philosopher rightfully acknowledged as one of the first thinkers of the Anthropocene whose oeuvre provides a mediating middle term between Hegel’s conceptual groundwork and the anthropocenic present. Notably, I will discuss his views on self-directed evolution, on the on-going absorption of the biosphere by the noosphere, and on emerging options for “sublating” the current crisis into a synthetic convergence towards (what Teilhard refers to as) the Omega point. I will conclude that (a), after disclosing the biomolecular essence of life, biotechnology must now take a radical biomimetic turn (a shift from domesticating nature to the domestication of domestication, i.e., of technology); that (b) reflection itself must become distributed and collective; and (c), that the anthropocenic crisis must be sublated into the noocene.

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