fredag 18. januar 2008

Environmental problems in light of Gabriel Marcel`s distinction problem/mystery

[Abstract til innlegg under symposiumet "What´s wrong with nature?" - Tartu, 25.-26. januar]
In the terminology of the French existentialist Gabriel Marcel (1889-1973), the mystery is metaproblematic. “A mystery is a problem which encroaches upon its own data and invades them, and so is transcended qua problem”. In this sense all genuine philosophy, in so far as it treats its real-life objects without reducing them to fixed concepts, is mysterious. A society of pure efficiency, on the other hand – obsessed with consciousness and its human peculiarities, and consequently assuming a human monopoly of any kind of agency – represents a form of human life with a highly problematic attitude to nature. Conceptually, nature – regarded as a force of its own – is already done away with.

Clearly, being alive represents both a problem and a mystery. It should read as a truism that all beings have to relate to the practical problem of living. Life, in other words, is necessarily problematic. On the other hand it is man, more than anyone else, who is inclined to dwell on the mystery of living. Needless to say, we are the metaproblematic being per se.
According to Marcel, the denial of the mysterious is symptomatic of the modern broken world. “At the root of having,” he states, “as also at the root of the problem or the technic, there lies a certain specialisation or specification of the self, and this is connected with [a] partial alienation of the self”. From an eco-existentialist point of view, to behave bluntly as efficient problem-solving creatures – treating everything (and everyone non-human) as reducible to controllable entities – appears to entail a terrible waste of human resources and potential.
Our problematic attitude to nature is intimately tied to the technological character of our society, and to our civilizational affinity to abstraction. Marcel writes:

It seems clear to me that the realm of having is identical with the realm of the
problematic – and at the same time, of course, with the realm where technics can
be used. The metaproblematic is in fact metatechnical. Every technic presupposes
a group of previously made abstractions which are the condition of its working;
it is powerless where full-blooded Being is in question.

This is the theoretical context in which the concept of an “environmental problem” will be analyzed. As contrasted with an environmental problem, the perception of a “mystery of nature” – so I will suggest – corresponds to an attitude of attachment to, or involvement in the problematic situation at hand. As a special case of a “world problem”, the concept of “environmental problem” sheds light on how we relate not only to nature, but also to ourselves.

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Fucking formatting. Funker dårlig,!