The Crisis of Thought 101: What About the Future?

Foreword


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:


What about the future?


Contemporary political philosophy attempts to explain the relations that can be established between the subjects, history and freedom; from a strictly creatural point of view, without even considering other species. Namely, if one draws from Hegel's thought and arrives to the ideas of communitarianism (Gargarella, 1999), one can follow the logical sequence on the allocation of freedoms:

  1. Human individuals are not born isolated, they develop in society.

  2. The identity of individuals is therefore formed in community.

  3. If the identity of each individual is what defines his or her character as a rational being, then rational ideas are the consequence of living together.

  4. Freedom is therefore not an individual matter. The concept of situated freedom appears: it derives from the interpretation propitiated by the social context, it is not a sovereign act of the will.

  5. This situated freedom is the product of crossed experiences of intertwined narratives that shape personalities and experiences.

  6. The development of the individual, then, depends on the environment, the community and the shared ideologies, traditions and culture.

Figure 1: Dipesh Chakrabarty portrait, University of Chicago, 2009.


The individual is conceived as the result of the sum, contraposition and mutability of certain narratives that are shared, collective and, in many cases, timeless - following Alasdair MacIntyre's proposal. Then, the subjects are responsible before their community, to which they "owe" their very identity. In other words, individuals are autonomous beings if and only if they develop in communities that allow and make it possible. However, this explanation of the origin of freedom appears categorically limited to merely human action and collectivities. Dipesh Chakrabarty, Indian historian and one of the principal figures of subaltern studies, elaborates on these concepts in his article The Climate of History: Four Theses (2009). The author affirms that contemporary societies are also the result of natural geological stages (Chakrabarty, 2009). Therefore, in addition to freedom being due to the possibilities offered by the social environment, it is also given to individuals by their condition of "biological agents" on the planet: "before being Catholics or capitalists, we are biological" (Chakrabarty, 2009). The subject-history-freedom trinomial is therefore linked to the natural, to the planetary.


Moreover, Chakrabarty poses the same question to which this article tries to give an answer: What about the future?. He investigated this further in the lecture The Human Condition in the Anthropocene, held at the CCCB in 2015. There he goes so far as to state that the very concept of freedom cannot be dissociated from energy consumption, whereby subject-history-freedom are inevitably linked to global warming. Furthermore, he reiterates his position of conceiving the human being as a "geological agent" that intervenes and modifies the planetary processes in a direct and literal way. This is where the concept of the Anthropocene is framed. This idea, although it does not cease to arouse debate, is generally accepted to designate the new geological period in which human beings find themselves.

Figure 2: Anthropocene, book. Layout and cover photography: Edward Burtynsky (2018)


However, assuming the Anthropocene as a new geological stage has its implications. To begin with, the term gives an anthropocentric explanation to climate change. Then, in addition to being a planetary condition, global warming becomes a collective responsibility. Therefore, it can be established that it has been the historical actions of human beings that have determined the catastrophic destiny of the era they are experiencing. Thus, the concept of Anthropocene appears inevitably linked to the present. On the one hand, climate change is the product of recent history, that is, of the technological development that has been taking place since the eighteenth century. On the other hand, it cancels out any possibility of a future because it admits disaster. Even so, Chakrabarty raises the need for a dialogue between the histories of capital - the histories of the freedom of subjects - which have given rise to climate change, and the history of the human species. In his third and fourth theses in The climate of history (2009), he argues that individuals must break their paradigmatic relationship with history in order to produce new knowledge about the collective past and future that can lead them out of this hecatomb. Climate change is thus a consequence of human actions as a species, a "negative universal history" (Chakrabarty, 2009). It ceases to be a history of capital and becomes the story of the devastation of the species.


Nevertheless, how far does collective responsibility for the historical actions of the species go? It has been analysed here that the freedom of individuals is sustained by crossed experiences in the community. If one tries to continue with this same communitarian reasoning and applies it to Chakrabarty's logic, it can be seen that the history of the human being as a species determines the place they occupy today in the world. Therefore, the responsibility is shared. That is the reason why it is also necessary to broaden the context of history itself and speak of a history of the species, interlinking epochs: past, present and future.

Figure 3: In the spirit of nature, everything is connected, Chantal van Ham (2018).


Then, the condition of individuals as bio-geological agents, whose experience is crossed by the history of other humans, implies that their lives are also linked to the existence and histories of other non-human beings, ecosystems..., or even by the geological stages of the planet. Thus, freedom goes from being a virtue or rational right proper to the human being, to acquire a broader sense. Freedom must be exercised starting from the field of the species, since it is given by the interaction of different beings, geological stages and planetary situations, and not only by other humans. Therefore, being free today, in addition to entailing energetic circumstances, means acquiring responsibility for the effects of historical action, as a species, on the planet and its future.


Image references


Bibliographic references

  • Chakrabarty, Dipesh (2009). The climate of History: Four Theses. The University of Chicago Press, vol. 35, no. 2, pp. 197-222.

  • Chakrabarty, Dipesh (2015). The Human Condition in the Anthropocene [lecture]. Barcelona: CCCB. Recuperado de: https://www.cccb.org/es/multimedia/videos/dipesh-chakrabarty/221059

  • Gargarella, Roberto (1999). Las teorías de la justicia después de Rawls: un breve manual de filosofía política. Barcelona: Paidós Ibérica.


Author Photo

Alicia Macías Recio

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