- philosophical assumptions
- ontological determination
- and Its naive understanding (nature)
- modernas as atuais. Rio de Janeiro: Ao Livro Técnico.
- desenvolvimento. Rio de Janeiro: CREA-RJ.
- Universal Bibliothek.
- aldershot., Hampshire: Dartmouth Publishing Co. U.K.
- Janeiro: Civilização Brasileira.
- Desmond M. (trans), Descartes on Method and Related Writings, England: Penguin Books Ltd.
- environmental ethics, and the metaphysics of nature. New York: Humanities Press.
- Hartmann. N. 1993. A filosofia do idealismo alemão. Belo José G. (trans), Lisboa: Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian.
- (trans), New York: State of New York Press.
- metaphysics – world, finitude, solitude. McNeill, Willian. (trans), Indianapolis: Indiana University Press.
- (trans), New York: Harper Torchbooks.
- Filosofia de la Universidad de Los Andes. 17-18 (2), pp.175-186.
- University Press.
- social da natureza. Rio de Janeiro: Civilização Brasileira.
- place, world. Cambridge: MIT Press.
- Olafson, F. A. 1993. The unity of Heidegger’s thougth. In: Cambridge companion to Heidegger. (Org.) Charles Guignon. New York: Cambridge University Press, pp. 97-121.
Determination of the Environment Concept Based on Heidegger’s Philosophy
Roberto S. Kahlmeyer-Mertens
The essay aims to objectively address the
environment concept within current’s environmental conservation discourse. The
author defines the ontological concept of environmentbased on the phenomenological evidence provided by the German philosopher Martin Heidegger. The author intends to indicate that
theusual understanding of the environment
concept is derived from a more radical experience,
which points to the between
this surrounding world and human existence. This
paper intends to clarify this concept, freeing it from its ambiguous use, and also to offer notesso that his issue can
be revisited withbenefits to theenvironment
epistemology issues. The
text will also outline the discussion about an ethic and conservative posture
concerning the environment and its bonds with the dwell, inhabit and
WORDS: Heidegger, environment, nature, environmental conservation, environmental
The issue of our work depends on an introduction of
the terms of the so-called environmental
issue. This essential theme covers the agenda of scientists, thinkers, activists, environmentalists
and politicians of all nations. This is due to observation of the degradation of the environment we live in, a problem brought about by civilization
model that relies on consumer relations in the kernel of an economic system governed by capital. This degradation is exacerbated by the
action of the technology which, as an
apparatus available to the aaforementioned socio-economic model, is able to optimize the methods of
exploration, production and consumption, besides promoting the satisfaction of the
growing needs engendered within this model, also responding for the its maintenance. In this manner, empowered by an increased the technical capacity to
intervene in the environment, extracting its resources, man does more than use
them for its livelihood. Man appropriates them, accumulating them in a reserve
fund that can be manipulated in accordance to the interest in exploring and storing energy resources, obtain profit, acquire power, or even in the production of the superfluous.
The intensive exploitation of environmental
resources soon reveals irreparable harm that
in the medium run could jeopardize the survival of man. Even
tough examples of these data are widely shown off on the media, it would not be much to remember some here too: the progressive exhaustion of nonrenewable
resources such as oil, and
deforestation, with the consequent
creation of desert spaces, climate and habitat modification and depletion of water resources. This concentration of resources generates disorders not
only in terms of “nature”.
and conflicts eventually establish themselves in social relations. Disordered
demographic and urban growth, excessive waste production, unemployment,
poverty, famine and urban violence are just some of the possible
symptoms. (Castro, 2001)
Under the impact of the Second World War, it has been observed, mainly during the
1960s, greater attention paid to these problems, thus appearing various
proposals and initiatives in an attempt to reverse this situation. In many of these, there
was no longer the weakness characteristic of earlier approaches to understand the environment and nature in their bucolic sense but the proposal for a "rational
exploitation". This would be aimed
at effective actions to reduce the accelerated rate
of destruction of still
preserved natural resources and to find ways to reconcile environmental conservation with human needs, including the quality of life. Thus, one could minimize the depletion of resources,
using them sparingly, reducing the pace of environmental damage, in order to allow time for nature to act recovering
from the damage suffered (Assis,
2001). This way, man’s survival on Earth would be
assured. These assumptions about eco-efficiency underpin some of the key proposals of sustainable development into
It is not necessary to proceed much further
into this introduction to notice the inconsistencies of these ideas concerning
the environment, as, already in the declaration of their intentions, the
preservation discourse (which became the flag to various environmental movements) ends up reproducing the logic of consumption when one prescribes: a) moderate use of environmental
resources, so we can consume longer; b) systematic use of resources so that everyone can continue to produce and consume in a
greater or smaller degree; c) limiting the exploitation of the
environment in order to aggress less and less often, so that it has time to recover before
being re-explored; finally, d) a new mode of consumption to ensure, through the preservation of the intake, the continued consumption. (Assis, 2001) This is
sufficient to characterize the speech of conservation as something that is much closer to a control of administrative resources and, therefore, an economy approach, than an ethical stance towards the environment and
the development that we achieve from it. This structure that dictates rational exploitation, given the notion of conservation, could be compared to the appeasement policy of the English Chancellor Arthur N. Chamberlain, in the circumstances of the invasion of
Poland by Hitler, portrayed in an old cartoon. In the cartoon, the Nazi dictator tries to break the
door that separates him from his goal, while Chamberlain Just
cordially asks" – Mr. could you not
find a workaround to break the door without breaking the lock?" (Belmonte cited in Aquino, 1996, p. 68). Similarly, conservation, in the foregoing
terms, would notBe
just a sustainable degradation, or parodying the aforementioned charge, something close to a “Could you rape the environment nicely?"
Convinced that this way of behaving towards the problem is due to a misunderstanding of the phenomenon that the environment is, let us begin toenvironmental issues
1 The question of the Environment and their ambiguous
The problems of environmental degradation and the crisis thatthey
introduce can be approached from different directions. For this, we see public policy thinking new strategies to
meet the challenges of this framework, science (the same one that develops ways
to exploit) mobilized in some of its different sectors to develop new tools
through technology, in order to increase the human capacity to solve immediate
problems and others on the medium and long terms.
However, while efforts add together in favor of this combination, they stillseem, for the most part, unclear about their real goals and strategies (Brennan, 2001). An overview of the extensive literature on the subject, indicates that by
getting rid of
the many repetitions and mannerisms,one
faces a much reduced theoretical field (a
phenomenon perhaps explained by the relative novelty of the problem), having still some misconceptions and ambiguities. The author call ambiguity the situation in which everything seems to have been understood, authentically captured and discussed, when in fact it was
not, or the situation which doesn’t
seem to have been understood, whenIn
fact it was. (Heidegger,
1996) Thus, the redundant
expression "environment" is a good point to think one of the main ambiguities concerning the task of environmental conservation, not only because,
there is much talk about it but little to say, taking it to be obvious, when in fact
it is not, butbecause it refers to fundamental structures involved in environmental issues. Thus,
we might ask: what is environment? or, what we mean when we say an
We said above that the term environment is redundant, because in
its Constitution (as originally coined by the French biologist Geoffroy St.–Hilaire in their Progressive Studies
of a naturalist, 1835), the word itself brings together two terms that could be taken by synonyms, mean and ambience.
Some explanations arise for this redundancy: It is commonly attributed to the term mean, a complex relationship between the natural world and living being, influencingits life and behavior.
With the same meaning, the environmentemphasizes the physical and biological conditions of the natural world and living beings and, in particular in its
relations to man. (Birnbacher, 1997) Under both definitions, a key assumption is expressed, the separation between a presumed natural
world and man. Thus, we have an entity called nature on
one side (composed of the ordered sum of all other natural
entities) and the man on the
other side, asessentially
distinct things. When pointed out that separation, we aim the perspective in which man understands and relates with the environment.
The perspective is the subject-object duality, as found in Cartesian philosophy and science.
French philosopher Rene Descartes (2003),
man is a thinking thing (res cogitans) different from other things only extensive (res extension), physical. By thinking, man would rule over natural things and make practical use of
them in favor of life. However, this useis based on a reification of the natural world, consisting of utilitarian deals, which disregard any common thread of this subject with all other entities that are now the objects
of their occupation. This dichotomy would
support the appropriation of nature
as a set of objects available as means to ends.
earth now revels itself as a coal mining district, the soil as a mineral
deposit. The field that the peasant formerly cultivated and set in order
appears differently than it did when to set in order still meant to take care
of and to maintain. The work of the peasant does not challenge the soil of the
field. In the sowing of the grain it places the seed in the keeping of the
forces of growth and watches over its increase. But meanwhile even the
cultivation of the fields has come under the grip of another kind of
settings-in-order, which sets upon nature”. (Heidegger, 1977, pp.
That way, trees are used as raw material or
fuel, the wind as energy to move mill, the river streams used as the
hydroelectric turbines driving force, sunlight turned into electricity by solar
cells, etc. Uses, which would be characterized by the Descartes’ philosophy
project, as ways of elevating the status of the subjects to masters
and possessors of nature (Descartes, 2003). This project, that was in his view radicalized by the historical influence of two industrial revolutions, inserts us into the previously
addressed of consumerism realm, further
hindering any evidence ofa community between man and its environment. So, considering the total dissociation between man and environment (i.e., between subject and its object) it would be possible to spoil it without any drama.
2 The environment and its
It is possible to enunciate now, based on the foregoing statements, that a particular way of understanding the environment would be responsible for its degrading action. We observed that a disregard of the environment as a game
space creates the man’s ignorance that it is constitutive of its existence. It is evident the urgency for a clarification of the concept of environment due to an anthropocentric manner with which the environmental issues are addressed, outlining which ‘place‘ man would occupy in this universe. These requirements are formally proposed in Being and Time in which the German philosopher Martin Heidegger from the analysis of man‘s existential condition of being-in-the–world says:
“The saying used
so often today “Human being have their environment” does not say anything
ontologically as long as this “having” is undetermined. In its very possibility
this “having” has its foundations in the essential constitution of being-in. As
a being essentially existing in this way, being-there can explicitly discover
beings which it encounters in the environment, can know about them, can avail
itself of them, can have “world”. The ontically trivial talk about
“having an environment” is ontologically a problem. To solve it requires
nothing less than defining the being of being-there beforehand in an ontologically
adequate way. If in biology use has been made of this constitution of
being-especially since K.E. von Baer – one must not conclude that its
philosophical use implies “biologism.” For as a positive science, biology, too,
can never find and determine this structure, it must presuppose it and
continually make use of it. This structure, itself, however, can be explicated
philosophically as the a priori condition for the thematic objects of biology
only if it is understood beforehand as a structure of being-there. Only in
terms of an orientation towards the ontological structure thus understood, can
“life” as a constitution of being be defined a priori in a privative way”. (Heidegger, 1996, p. 54)
With this passage the author
tries to accentuate the need for a definition of the way in which man is in his environment, since this man on his way of being "has" an environment and, finally, what kind of relationship is at stakein this ‘have‘. (Foltz, 1995) To Heidegger man is more than the
experience of a subject substantially established in a dichotomy and antagonism
to the natural world. In his
lifetime, a man would always-be-there, open to the possibilities of a space of relations and of being released in being-busy ways that would
provide him conditions for its
realization. Thus, man would not
subject to only then get
acquainted with other entities, but rather, he would be a being who, in his
environment, takes place there.
By reason of terminological affinity with the commented author, we will adopt a term that we intend to think in an analogous manner to the concept environment (Umwelt), namely: the world (Welt).
we have a world, for the being-in-the-world, there isn’t a relationship of
ownership or any accessory condition, but an essential characteristic and,
therefore, indispensable. So, according to Heidegger (1975), only as being-in-the–world is human experience possible. For only to exist in a world, this can be.
Man, while one
that has possibilities, existentially reveals
itself as an “open”, i.e. as one that becomes since its opening (Entschlossenheit) in the world. This opening is not external to the being-there, either superimposed on it,
but it reveals the possibilities of its being. Possibility in which the being-there is founded (Heidegger,
As stated in the
citation, the being-in-the–world is being–in. However, this "in" should not be understood
as the physical notion of "inside…". For this type of
interpretation, at best, characterizes the "relationship" found between two or more extensive bodies. Relationship that could be exemplified by the proposition "the water is inside the glass" or "the books are in the drawer." This relationship can be extended to its imaginable limits, but phenomenologically
would not present us more than a relationship of container and
contents. Hence, instead of referring to the bodies in that spatial–locative relationship, the "in" of being-in-the–world is
concerned with a form in which it
always and already is, or, to speak with Heidegger (1996, p. 51): “(…) the “in” primordially
means a spatial relation of this kind. “In” is derived from innan-, to
live, habitare, to dwell. “An” means I am used to familiar with,
I take care of something. It has the meaning of colo in the sense of habito and diligo.”
The semantic involvement demonstrated here presents us
the fundamental distinction between the alleged relationship of the other things in the world
and of man in his existential
context. All these figures: live, dwell, grow, build, reproduce richer meaning than the mere inwardness. Pointing to be in the world, but not like the fact of simply being given the intra-physical, but in a building of residence relationships (Heidegger, 1978).
In a brief note, we point out that, because
of this orientation, even worn down
words by academic jargon and the public hype may appear under new direction. Thus, the term "ecology"
can be understood as knowledge of the relations with which man lives in his world,
building it (once the ‘echo‘ is derived
from the Greek ‘oikos’: indicates address); the same way: ‘habitat’ or ‘biosphere’ rather than the mere space occupied by a living organism, can be thought as An indication of a way of being-in–world or being-in-the–environment.
as existing in the
condition of being-in-the–world, branches out in various modes of being-in. Thus, in the world, this man was always there with something that relates to the world and that happens in the world. The world is constitutive of man, giving, this
existence of this entity. This brief characterization allows us to say that the world is not an objective
thing and not a summation of other targeted things. It would also inappropriate
to make use of the restricted, but
very common, idea that world would be a whole field,
representing only a limited physical space, within which man and its most diverse
manifestations would fit. Heidegger assures us that the world is neither an "ontic portrait" of being innerworldly, nor a mere
interpretation of the phenomenon of those entities. To Heidegger (1996), the world is the character of the man
himself, covering an entire cyclical significance and
relationships, from which it takes its origin, fate and
With this argument, we find the heideggerian interpretation for the sufficient
delimitation of the way of being of the world (environment) in the face of the existential constitution of man. Clearly man as being-in-the–world, is a complex of relations and not something
different from his world. Thus, being-in-the–world is his circumstance and
relationships that he engenders in the world. Conceiving this way, it would overcome the understanding of the
Cartesian subject as one other than the world and perhaps usher in a different way of acting in the environment.
the opening quotation, we witness Heidegger’s comment, according
to which biology, as a positive science,
could not find and determine this ontological structure of the being there’s world, but only presuppose it, using it. This statement applies
not only to biology but also for all the positive sciences, because these, do
not propose, in their projects,
to know the inner
causes of phenomena,
but on the contrary, are
concerned with discovering, thanks to the use and combination of
reasoning and observation, the effective laws of The
phenomena, their invariable relations of success and similarity. (Kahlmeyer-Mertens, 2007) Thus, these modes would be inappropriate to refer to the ontological
determination of the concept of world as the environment and the ontological
constitution of "life
". To Heidegger, the
and even the
traditional philosophy (with the residual influence of
the Cartesian orientation), on his way to investigate the world, objectifies
it in order to understand it as the set of objects or "natural-things" or nature as possessing physical properties subject to verification.
Our author identifies in this stance a concern with the determination of the essential
constitution of the environment, however:
“(…) even if he could explain the pure nature of being,
through the fundamental affirmations of mathematical physics, this phenomenon ontology would
never reach the ‘world‘. In itself, nature is a being who comes to meet in the world and that can be discovered, followed by different ways and degrees.”(Heidegger, 1993, p.95)
Heidegger, these attitudes toward research approach rather than the primary
phenomenon in the world, a derivative representation of it, or approaches a being found
in the world, the
According to the German thinker, the environment, while world, differs in an
essential way from what is interpreted as nature, so this is just one entity among many others, subject to an appropriation by an objective person that, with this, has a dichotomous relationship. Nature as an
“Ontologically and categorically
understood, nature is a boundary case of the being of possible innerwordly
beings. Being-there can discover beings as nature only in a definite mode of
its being-in-the-word. This kind of knowledge has the character of a certain
“de-worlding” of the word. (…) But even the phenomenon “nature”, for instance
in the sense of the Romantic concept of nature, is ontologically comprehensible
only in terms of the concept of the world; that is, in terms of an analytic of
being-there”. (Heidegger, 1996, p. 61)
Accordingly, confusing world with nature (environment) is
to ignore the distinction that further
clarifies this concept. Comprehension that would
disregard the world as the constitutive entanglement of man (in his ways, moods, intentions, motivations, goals, occupations, measures to be considered binding relations, referrals, meanings and visions of community
with other beings–in–world) to its "de-worlding," conceiving it as another ‘thing‘ capable
of being objectively handled, used, consumed, exploited and degraded by someone
who understands himself apart and therefore not engaged
with this environment. Thus,
to assert that the nature can
only be grasped ontologically from the concept of the
world as seen from the existential analysis of man is
the same as to underscore it as a derivative mode of apprehending the
world. Derived mode accessible through
and Its naive understanding (nature)
Among these ways, the concept of
nature finds at the core of modern thought, marked by
the dominant idea of the philosophy of
subjectivity, another voice that would emphatically mark nature’s
identity with man (unlike the way
Heidegger would see the problem), surpassing the subject-object dichotomy. This
is what we saw with the writings of the Philosophy of nature F.W.
J. Schelling (ideas that we
will deal with a synthetic overview, without strict pretensions; pointing to an appropriate unfolding on another occasion).
Schelling (1907) establishes a "common–unity" of man with
nature, in that it recognizes this as unconscious subjectivity in
development. In this,
through the progressive
gain of determinations, the living nature would present
itself at various stages, and whose ultimate
goal would be the highest–conscious subjectivity, i.e. a
free nature, self-determined,
able to "see itself" as
a man. In this development,
driven by a productive
force, the man-nature takes the position Of a prevailing ordering principle of nature, capable of seeing the world on the
unity of nature itself, keeping the accidental distinction,
to which nature is unconscious, while he, man is
the very nature conscious of itself. These ideas, with emphasis
on the experience of community between man and nature are illustrated by the following
“Like all things and elements of nature, while mere abstractions of the whole, dissolve in the total life (Allleben) so the nature – whose image is the Earth and stars, each of which carries in itself divinely all forms and kinds of being – and creations
elements of the subject must become an ordinary life, higher than the life of each of them in particular.” (Schelling, 1907, s/p.)
These ideas of Schelling, according to Hartmann (1993), already in his time were regarded
as intemperate in his intuition, being nearer to thoughts of a speculative
theologian than a scientific investigator. The
adoption of such perspective, for
the specialist, would only be exceeded by
the romantics, responsible for the rescue of
the concept of a deity and Nature’s own intangibility. After the presentations that
followed, which intended to accomplish the task of an ontological definition of
the concept of environment,
contextualizing their understanding of nature and unraveling their ambiguities, using the ideas of authors in philosophy, some questions may arise from
the clash with the environmental problem: wouldn’t these ideas
be theoretical reflections about a real
problem which is essentially practical, depending more on effective actions than
on one “metaphysical” speech? Would
not all these ideas be integral parts of a doctrine much
closer to poetry and, therefore, unrelated
to any commitment to the environment? Would
have this speech forgotten man’s need to
make use of environmental resources, essential to its
yet, to what extent the philosophical approach would
be most suitable to contribute to the
issue of environment and its preservation?
There is no way of denying man’s
need to make use of environmental resources. Just as there
is an undeniable urgency to develop a model of consumer society that
seeks to make good use of these resources, preserving the environment, respecting its biodiversity, while simultaneously defending its economic growth. (Leff, 2006) To
create new bases and programs for sustainable development, aiming
at their regional suitability, sustainability of
its products and emphasizing participatory and citizenship like ways to manage, are apparently more
urgent tasks to deal with than the ones presented in this article. For ‘environmentalists’, its investing in these procedures, which is
believed to protect the harmony of man in the environment, providing him
with social inclusion as it becomes able to consume to ensure his survival and dignity. Finally,
one might think that from these practices
we would have one mode of operation that would respect the “ethical” boundaries with the environment, without incurring into
a predatory posture.
However, all these practices, products, calculations and plans for
ensuring a good acting, would be surface phenomena without
understanding that man is his environment. Well, just so we
understand that a relationship degrading the
environment is degrading himself and all
the others that co–inhabit. In
this co–inhabit resides
the fundamental principle of ethics, not one
that oscillates between the humanist discourse, speaking of equality and solidarity and mystical theology, referring to this one primitive sacredness or prescribing him mercy. The ethics involved
here, has in the Greek notion of ethos, a live in … a to be
familiar with … a stay in … so the first step towards an ethical act, in
this case is the clarification of the place that man has
a house, a reminder of the kind of relations that we used to have in this environment, the recognition that we become familiar with
it and, finally, be careful not to lose sight of this community when
interacting in this space of achievement. These contributions would
be proposed by a philosophical approach, if
we understand as Novalis does: “The philosophy itself as a longing for
the homeland-earth, an impulse to be everywhere at home" (Novalis cited in Heidegger, 1995, p. 7).
found that, usually, the environmental
discourse refers to the environment and its preservation in an anthropocentric way. This means that it often
given emphasis to the human dimension at the
expense of the environment (only possible by ignoring the bond that ties together the existential being-there to the world). The environmental issue is not resolved by a reversal of the premise (i.e., to make a pendulum that would
shift the emphasis to the detriment of the human environment). It is necessary to consider the concept of environment in its mode of being. Heidegger‘s phenomenology allows us to do this, it enables
us to treat the environment not just as nature (in a materialist or idealist sense), for the philosopher, the environment is a surrounding world which determines or at least conditions the human existence. To restore such a tie is the first step for us to address issues of environmental
preservation and conservation in a
truly ethical way. This means
that only understanding ourselves as beings–in-the-world with other
beings–in–the-world is an environmental
discourse that can legitimately be established. These indications are, however, only notes, or even starting
points for further reflection.
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