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Fluminism: Summary of its place in epistemology of environmental ethics.

In correspondence with my tutor…
“The big point I am making, is that unlike holism, deep ecology, Naess, I am suggesting it is the interconnections/processes, the doing, the perpetuation of life, love as a doing word, not the overall ecosystem which require the vital protective emphasis and focus. The problem with holism is that it reduces the worth of the individual. For example, farming is a kind of holism, ecocentrism (Leopold), but species are worth killing for the good of the idea of what is ‘whole’ by the farmer. Instead, by valuing the processes, individuals are generally indispensible. I disagree with the main tennet of deep ecology that the whole, including non-organics, is worth more than the individual. I have been highly biocentric as a rule, but I also think that biocentrism does not recognise the dynamic nature of nature. So I have come up with something I cannot find reference to. It is new, I think. This is the reason for the neologism, fluminism.”
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4 Comments

  1. I haven’t read enough on deep ecology to comment on that – but is holism/deep ecology really a conceptual tool – a handy lens to explore, examine, offer explanation? I like thinking of ‘isms’ in that way… So you are offering us fluminism, a new conceptual tool that focuses on processes and interconnections, thus valuing both the individual and the whole? Have I got it right? I like that very much <3

  2. Rowena, thank you! This ‘isms’ are really cases made in environmental ethics as to how best to value and relate to nature. In a practical sense, this may determine how we conserve, protect and behave. And, yes, by focusing on protecting the processes in between, the flow of all life, the individual and the whole + the human and non-human, are valued. I am glad you like it!

  3. Ginny, I think this is really interesting. As you probably know, Timothy Morton makes a similar point about the whole being less that the sum of the parts. I have two thoughts. One is that the phrase ‘the whole is more than the sum of the parts’ is a gross oversimplification of a complex idea, unfortunate also because ‘more’ is a quantifier, as if the parts and the whole were to be measure on the same scale. But with the development of complexity theory, surely we now understand that the whole often has emergent properties that are not evident in the parts. So water has qualities and properties that neither oxygen or hydrogen have on their own; Gaia, the Earth System, has properties of self regulation that are not evident in either the rocks or the living beings but emerge out of close coupling. Once we see this not as a quantitative difference but a qualitative one we can see that ‘more’ is not necessarily ‘better and think more clearly about the moral question of how we value the whole and the parts; and I think this as with all moral questions is complex, and depends on your philosophical choices. In some circumstances it seems the right moral choice to sacrifice the part of the whole: if, for example, my arm is gangrenous and threatens the existence of the whole in most cases one would chose to amputate the arm: a straightforward utilitarian choice is right. But if the part is dependent on the whole, the utilitarian choice becomes complex, to say the least, and probably the wrong approach. What about if the life of a woman with three children is threatened by her growing, viable foetus? It is right to sacrifice the emerging child for the sake of the family as a whole? I suspect most of us would find this impossible to calculate in utilitarian terms and would need to bring a wider kind of wisdom. As you point out in your post, the sense of what is the ‘whole’ depends on the viewpoint taken. And at the level of whole ecologies (farming aside) the individuals are part of the whole and totally dependent on its integrity: there is an interdependency that makes any discussion of ‘parts’ and ‘whole’ rather narrow.
    Many thanks for the stimulating post!
    Peter

    • Many thanks for engaging so thoughtfully, Peter! Your last sentence summarises so well. An ethic of care assumes uniqueness of and from complexity. One needs to look at relationships, in support or by their absence. By valuing those interconnections, and proliferating what is good/life/love, then the argument individual v whole gives way to something of the essence of what life is ~ dynamic and symbiotic. Fluminism, a form of love. x

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