Volume 25, 2008
Philosophy and Gender
Environmental Philosophy and the New Ecological Order
Critiques of Modernity in Baird Callicott and Luc Ferry
The American environmental philosopher J. Baird Callicott argues that we human beings are ethically obliged to promote and protect the environment as an intrinsic value. To do so, we should adopt a scientifically and philosophically informed postmodern land ethic which protects and nurtures the great chain of being (pyramids of energy) from soil to civilization. The practice of this Leopoldian land ethic requires that we transform our modernist utilitarian and Cartesian ethics which instrumentalize and alienate nature. Two key works by Callicott outline his position as a mainstream academic deep ecologist: Earth’s Insights (1994) and Beyond the Land Ethic (1999). The French cultural and political philosopher, Luc Ferry, argues that deep ecological ideologies, such as Callicott’s, threaten
the historical enterprise of modernist humanism. The appeal of deep ecologists lies in their romantic and anti-Cartesian ideologies. In his book, The New Ecological Order (1995; Le nouvel ordre écologique, 1992), Ferry criticizes the deep ecologists (and he includes Callicott in this group) for their unjustified attacks on the traditions of humanism. In the conclusion to his book, deep ecological radicalism is equated with an anti-cosmopolitan “barbarism”. Ferry feels that the ideals of the European enlightenment and its modernist anthropocentrism which privileges human autonomy, freedom, and democratic ideals, have been undermined by the forces of the political left.