August 13, 2022

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“The Path of Holistic Science” to a deep environment. Interview with Gloria Germani

From the Enlightenment onwards, we take for granted the separation between the self and what is outside, and what is outside must be known and adjusted for our benefit. “The Degrowth fact wants to show that the crises sweeping through us today, from the dictatorship of economics to globalization, are nothing but the influence of the nineteenth century and discredited ideas of matter, progressive time, and growth.”. still: “Western science has non-neutral epistemological assumptions that go hand in hand with technology and multinational corporations – the author explains – They rely mainly on anthropocentrism and on the rational abstraction of the Newtonian Cartesian scheme, and are based on the false separation of mind and matter, between the ego and the world. That is why he says in his book “The Truth of Decadence. Far From Holistic Science to Save the World”.

Gloria Germani, a Florentine by birth, is an environmental philosopher who has always been involved in the dialogue between Western and Eastern philosophy. He studied at the universities of Florence, Pisa and New York, traveled a lot in Asia and worked in the media for 30 years. She is the greatest expert on the thought of Tiziano Terzani, who also signed the preface to his book Mother Teresa and Gandhi (2016). His works are devoted to the critique of modern vision to illustrate a taboo subject: the colonization of the imagination that underlies the so-called “development”. He edited the Terzani volume for the series directed by Latouche, I Precursori della degrescita. Towards a revolution of consciousness (2014). Since 2000, he has been very interested in the field of education, attending the Steiner Schools as a father and activist for 7 years. Since 2017, he has been the Project Coordinator for the Alice School of Inclusive Education.

Where does the need to write this book arise?

Writing for me is a deep need. I feel the need to share what I think I have understood to give even a small drop in the sea to a better world for all. On the other hand, I strongly believe that groupthink affects us much more than we realize and that the well-being of the individual is implicit in the well-being of all.

What is wrong with the idea of ​​”progress” in Western societies?

The idea that we are moving forward is perhaps the most powerful idea of ​​modernity. We give it just as it is foolproof, but this certainty hides the power of legend, anything that has never been shown. With the idea of ​​progress we justify and justify any technological innovation that is brought to the market without respecting the principle of precaution. We thought in the past that asbestos, DDT, cigarettes, or infant formula proved to be completely harmful, but it was advertised with great success. Today I think very decisively the introduction of robotics, artificial intelligence, microchips in the body and machine learning, or just “technological solutions” to tackle climate breakdown.

It seems to me very important to stress that science par excellence, physics, teaches us today that time flows linearly into the future – progress simply does not exist. Shouldn’t we stop reciting “we must go on”? or “we can’t go back”? Back and forth are only illusions in our minds. Ancient wisdom acknowledged the impermanence of all things but saw it becoming an escalating process, and not as a single line leading to progress.

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It was Darwin’s theory of evolution that convinced us above all that modern Western civilization, like the higher civilization, is the most advanced. But even here the latest biology and epigenetics have taught us that the very long process of evolution occurred through the formation of harmonious societies and not, as Darwin believed, by the survival of the fittest. But Darwin’s theory was so successful because it was functional to modern economics and colonial epic (Social Darwinism), although today’s climate collapse casts doubt on the supremacy of industrial and commercial civilization.

Greed, capitalist economics, technical society, and GDP are all aspects that have a common epistemological origin: “Newtonian Cartesian science” which I defined as “a holistic science”. What was the cognitive error we were sitting on and why did you define it that way?

Scientific thought was born in the West around the eighteenth century, and to declare itself specifically as “science”, that is, objective and specific knowledge, is based on the assumption that mind is separate from matter. It therefore arises from the duality of mind and matter and from the absolute centrality of man, for which only man has a mind and everything else is to some extent matter. Let’s think about the meat farms of today, how would it be possible if we did not think of cattle as a simple matter, to be used as food?

Deep ecology taught us that we all belong to the same ecosystem. Man is an integral part of a complex system consisting of 30 million species. At the DNA level, the difference between humans and bonobos is less than the difference between a frog and a tree frog. Fritjof Capra and Vandana Shiva emphasized, particularly in the latter book, that the certainty of science depends precisely on the dualism between the ego and the world, that is, on the fact that the ego can be known objectively, without affecting the world outside of it and so can proceed empirically. Quantum physics has once again proven the error upon which modern science is founded. From Heisemberg onwards, we know that objective observation is not possible, and that just by looking at things, the mind changes things. Everything is interconnected as you know the eastern philosophies. Matter is not inert and dead as it is assumed by industry and technology, which constantly modify it.

Vandana Shiva defined this scientific paradigm as “chauvinistic and patriarchal science” not so much for its regulation as the origin of gender-based cognitive violence. Do you share this definition?

Undoubtedly, beginning in the eighteenth century, he imposed a self-separating kind of thinking, wanting to know nature, understood as “dead matter”, to control it and use it to make human life more comfortable. I totally agree with Vandana Shiva that this situation is violent in nature. It can be defined as patriarchal or masculine chauvinistic, as it differs from the attitude of caring and supportive relationships that are more typical of women. However, I do not think that men in all civilizations are distinguished by these traits. Feminine and masculine are qualities that are present to varying degrees in all individuals and in the book I also speak of the circumstances that have historically highlighted the prevalence of the separatist and violent attitude that seems to me typical of the West since the eighteenth century. .

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Do dualism and anthropocentrism continue to characterize our present? Where did it originate and in what intellectual currents do we see it “evolved”?

Dualism and anthropocentrism are reinforced today by what I call holistic sciences. They make up his heart. We believe that the modern European and American West possesses the only true science. Various deviations such as economic sciences, medical sciences and biotechnology sciences are exported everywhere as the only true knowledge and thus will have a universal value. But this is not the case at all. The so-called “globalization” is precisely a manifestation of this belief. We know that “economic sciences,” like “biotechnology,” have many negative consequences. Endless growth, which is the goal of all current governments, is simply impossible on a finite planet. However, we ignore this evidence and increasingly seek technological and scientific solutions such as those unfortunately proposed by the current transhumanist programme.

“Covid will make us better” has been the media mantra we’ve been seeing for a year. Are we better today, or are we at the mercy of renewed forms of colonialism?

As I said above, the trend that is unfolding today is not to truly heal the ecosystem with genuine concern for the environment and our immune system, which is intrinsically linked to the environment. On the other hand, we want to impose technological solutions that are the children of the faulty Western Cartesian-Newtonian model. But this solution does not work: the increasingly advanced climate breakdown illustrates this.

What is the big difference between Western-style reductionist science and Eastern-style totalitarian science? Can the East get us out of this cultural crisis that we are living in even before it is environmental and systemic?

If we had the humility to study Eastern civilizations, we would surely have found many ideas to address our crisis which are above all cultural things, she says. Thus we will be able to search for the true meaning of life rooted in emotional relationships and in the arduous (but possible) union of our individual and only mind that understands and transcends us. The philosophy of non-dualism, Advaita Vedanta1, has supported civilizations such as the Indian or the Chinese that have survived for 4 or 5 thousand years. They correspond to the drugs, social structures, literature, and values ​​that have been committed, demonstrating their “sustainability” with the living ecosystem. Think of Ayurvedic medicine or Chinese acupuncture, or the moral concept pervasive across the Indian subcontinent known as Karma Yoga, where each person must act according to the common good and never personal success as a goal. Only through this kind of work can the ego be expanded by reaching higher states such as empathy, compassion and knowledge of true peace and happiness. On the contrary, the pursuit of happiness through material possession, capitalist materialism, has now shown all its limits and the massive use of psychotropic drugs is in progress, especially in the United States (more than 60% of citizens use them). disease sign.

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In the book I refer to another point on which the comparison with the Orient can be very fruitful. The modern West undoubtedly believes in the ability of the rational and rational mind to understand external reality. This belief goes back to Aristotle who established the principle of non-contradiction precisely to refute what Heraclitus and other naturalists said: “You will never swim in the same river.” If we instead take the second noble truth or the principle of the “conditional origin of all things” of Buddhism, or the Hindu Maya theory, we are in the same situations as quantum physics, and therefore the names we traditionally use do not work for everything – grasping the essence of reality are only approximations To use it with caution. Studying these different visions laid down by other civilizations will greatly help us to trace new paths, perhaps more peaceful and in harmony with nature.

What is the reality of declining growth? Why is it seen as a utopia?

Gandhi called his fight against modernity Britain’s “truth force”. In fact, I believe that nonviolence is simply based on the fact of non-dualism. The revolution of quantum physics, confirmed today by all recent sectors of research, assures us, like Gandhi, that reality is a complete interconnection, so in the end everything is one, we are all part of a single complex system. On the contrary, it was precisely dualism that led to the supremacy of economic science and the dominance of economic growth as the highest value shared by all. If we embrace the reality of de-growth, we abandon dualism and can embark on new paths different from those we have traveled in the last 300 years. Is it a utopia? I do not believe. However, it will not be easy because this approach will force us to abandon many industries, many useless products that are fueled by artificial desires. We must find and engage in simpler jobs more suitable for interconnectedness and the web of life. The logical functions of which we are a part.