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The Crisis of Thought 101: Updating the Term "We"


The Crisis of Thought 101 articles serve as one of the academic courses in the precise field of contemporary philosophy. The main aim of this research is to focus attention on the current crisis of thought and existence, analysing their genesis and the way in which they have taken place. The theoretical framework will be covered from a “posthumanist” stance and, essentially, the project involves the attempt to create a diagonal discourse that promotes collective entities and collaborative agency as the main tools for resistance and, more importantly, existence.

The Crisis of Thought 101 will be mainly divided into the following chapters:

Updating the term "We"

Previous articles in this 101 series have discussed the concept of considering history as a species record. It is worth asking whether that history is not unitary, but it involves all living beings on the planet. If the Anthropocene has redefined the time scales of future and past, how can one now understand history? Is it human history, as it has always been, or rather the life history of one species among others?

Thus, it has been questioned whether the Anthropocene is the sample of a narrative that mainly interpellates the human being, or has a planetary scope. In this regard, Chakrabarty encourages in his third thesis of the article The Climate of History: Four Theses (2009) to promote the transdisciplinarity of studies around the subject. He states that due to the wide spectrum of influence of the historical actions of the human species there is a necessity for interlinked studies. In other words, given that these actions have intervened both historically and geologically, among others, the urgency of transdisciplinary studies is evident. In 2015, Chakrabarty continues to sharpen the proposal at the Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona (CCCB), where he argues that the various branches of the humanities must inevitably become involved in research concerning climate change. If these are limited to science, one will not know how to discern what the expression "facing danger" really means, that is, science lacks the ontological tools (clarify what are they) that would allow it to evaluate the character of the word "danger". Bruno Latour, a French philosopher, anthropologist and sociologist, also asserted that the current situation calls for remodelling the traditional research methodologies. He did so through discourse in his book We Were Never Modern (1994). He exposed in this essay the paradox of philosophers who dedicate themselves to sciences while there are also scientists who engage with the humanities. Therefore, there exists already a transdisciplinary spirit and approach in the different fields of knowledge (philosophy, literature, science, anthropology, sociology, etc.), in the tireless common enterprise to respond to the circumstances generated by the Anthropocene.

Figure 1: Bruno Latour at his home in Paris.

Christopher Anderson/Magnum, for The New York Times

However, this theoretical transdisciplinarity falls short for those who argue that common work should encompass other spheres of shared knowledge beyond research. Pablo Servigne, an agricultural engineer and with a PhD in Biology, who co-authored the book Collapsology (2017) with Raphaël Stevens, argues that today's society is exposed to "continued collapses in different disciplines, the sequence of major disruptions and continued catastrophes" (Servigne, 2021). Therefore, all fields of knowledge must unite. He states that the solution passes through collectivity: new paths must be created in which we operate together to gain the possibility of avoiding collapse. It is worth noting the proposals of Donna Haraway, a biologist and feminist philosopher, professor emeritus at the University of California, who addresses the main constructive criticism of the concepts discussed. Haraway argues that adopting the Anthropocene as a fact implies accepting the irreversibility already mentioned by Marina Garcés in the first of these 101 articles: the irreversibility of the catastrophe of time (2017) [Click to read the article “The Rupture of Historical Time”]. Haraway states that giving Anthropocene such importance comes to oppose human action to the idea of Gaia or Mother Earth as the image of a living planet. That way, methodological lines of research are restricted and the approach to the study of history is made a false enterprise, insofar as factors that go beyond the human are not taken into account. In other words, if we continue to think of the Anthropocene as a corrosive product of the human species alone, we will not be able to see the Earth as a place we need to share with other species. We continue to believe we are its owners when, indeed, we are part of it.

Figure 2: Raphaël Stevens and Pablo Servigne, Arpa Editores

Returning to Chakrabarty, he argued in his lecture at the CCCB that it is not possible to approach the study of climate change by taking non-human beings as active agents, as this will only create unregulated minorities, for instance, new social groups of animals or plants with no real political representation (2015). Nevertheless, this idea was already opposed by Bruno Latour in 2018 in a lecture at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt (HKW) where he asked the following question: what would become of us without our stomach bacteria? This same symbiosis or cooperative act is what Donna Haraway adopts as her charter to explain, in a very pedagogical way, why being an individual always entails being many (2014). The author advocates leaving behind the concept of the Anthropocene as something that has happened, and to adopt a new one, that of the Chthulucene, as something that can happen. Thus, in her article Making Kin (2016), she encourages to deterritorialize intimate relationships, to flee from consumerist shortages, from the urgency to conceive and to create new relational spaces that do not respond to the human historical logic of family as a unitary concept. All these in order to be able to practice new, vital, and poietic actions that bring about a change, not only for the human species of course but also for non-humans. As she says, the Chthulucene "is the only thing that can possibly be ongoing" (Haraway, 2014).

Figure 3: Donna Haraway, Icarus Films for TheGuardian

Therefore, the conclusion is that we is not a term that encompasses all humans, but all living beings on the planet and, furthermore, the ecosystemic group that surrounds it all: bacteria, viruses, microorganisms. The human condition as bio-geological agent has been reached only as a result of the rupture of history as the great linear story of humanity. At the same time, this leads humans to consider their experience as a joint involvement and over time as a historical fact of the species among other species. In addition, it is what also makes humans be crossed by the rest of living things and experiences that occur around them. We occur in nature, and that is why we need to insert ourselves in the collective planetary narrative. The abstraction and negation of human exceptionalism is the only way to look for possible endings or solutions that can take all creatures out of the eternal present and offer them, once again, a possible future.

To sum up and paraphrase Latour, a very vivid way to experience planetary collectivity is not to think I live there while looking at a picture of the globe, but, instead, try to perform an exercise of immersion and think I am that, along with everything else, everything that has been and what is yet to be.

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1 Comment

Nora Schmel
Nora Schmel
Mar 09, 2022

The article explains abstract and complex ideas and transmits them that are easy to understand. Great work!

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Alicia Macías Recio

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