Volume 11, 2018
Jean Du Toit
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin as response to modernity’s nature-human dichotomy
A philosophical-critical study
Modernity as a philosophical and intellectual movement has cultivated a perspective of humanity as separated from nature. In modernity, nature is valuable only insofar as it has instrumental value (i.e. that it may be utilized for the benefit of humanity). This paper postulates that such an approach to the nature-human relationship may have led to considerable environmental damage and misuse, and that the perspective of humanity as separate from nature should be re-evaluated. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s philosophy is investigated as a possible means to overcome this dichotomy. De Chardin describes varying ontologies that are embedded in the evolutionary process and against which all human relevance and action must be sketched. This differs from an evolutionistic approach, because whilst engaging with scientific discourse (which tends to be reductionist in approach), de Chardin also incorporates spiritual and religious ideas and perspectives. Furthermore, de Chardin’s ideas differ from vague pantheism because he engages with the terminology used in modern science and re-evaluates this terminology’s application and conclusions in relation to his newly developed cosmology (or cosmogenesis). Several questions are central in this paper: Firstly, could de Chardin’s approach be incorporated into the natural scientific discourse? Secondly, does de Chardin’s cosmology provide new avenues for investigation into a closer and more sustainable relationship between humanity and the natural world?