An Object-Oriented Integral Ecology?

by C.S. Lammer-Heindel

Many things have to change, but it is we human beings above all who need to change. We lack an awareness of our common origin, of our mutual belonging, and of a future to be shared with everyone. This basic awareness would enable the development of new convictions, attitudes and forms of life. A great cultural, spiritual and educational challenge stands before us, and it will demand that we set out on the long path of renewal.

—Pope Francis, Laudato Si’ (sec. 202)

Where apocalypse is the contemporary horizon of thought, the task becomes one of thinking […] the material reality of dwelling, for what is needed is a subjectivity attentive to how we are situated in the ecology of the world. The thought of dwelling, in its turn, is an ontological thinking. And with this ontological thinking we must conceive of a pedagogy, a practice that would cultivate forms of subjectivity attentive to the veiled being of dwelling.”

—Levi Bryant, “For an Apocalyptic Pedagogy” (p. 47)

Pope Francis describes his encyclical, Laudato Si’, as an urgent appeal directed to “the whole human family” about the ecological crisis that threatens the earth, “our common home” (Francis 2015, sec. 13 and 14). Specifically, he argues that we have a moral imperative to bring about a change of subjectivity; we must replace the reigning “technocratic paradigm” by developing different ways of conceiving of ourselves and the world of which we are a part. Moreover, he explicitly aims to encourage dialogue not only among the faithful, but all people, as we seek to articulate what this new form of subjectivity would amount to. Significantly, such dialogue is a multifaceted exchange in which all parties can seek to grow and modify their perspective. Hence, he writes, “science and religion, with their distinctive approaches to understanding reality, can enter into an intense dialogue fruitful for both” (Francis 2015, sec. 62).

It is in keeping with this spirit of a mutually revelatory exchange of ideas that I want to bring the “integral ecology” developed in Laudato Si’ into dialogue with the object-oriented ontological perspective developed in recent years by Levi Bryant and others. My desire to bring these two perspectives into conversation reveals that I believe that each offers unique insights worthy of synthesis. However, this project will face certain challenges, for they are radically at odds with one another on the question of God’s existence. Whereas Francis is obviously operating within a Catholic onto-theological framework, Bryant explicitly rejects onto-theology and goes so far as to claim that there cannot be a being (God) to whom all things are present and known (Bryant 2014, pp. 115-116). Nevertheless, there are many points of similarity between the two views, and I believe that thoughtful dialogue between the two perspectives may be a productive means of developing a version of what Bryant has called an “apocalyptic pedagogy.” Such a pedagogy would be ordered toward the goal of bringing about the “change in humanity,” suggested by Francis, which is required if we are to tackle the root causes of the ecological disasters that seem to be on the horizon.

More to come!

Works Cited

Bryant, Levi (2014). Onto-Cartography: An Ontology of Machines and Media. Edinburgh University Press, 2014.

——— (2015). “For an Apocalyptic Pedagogy.” Chiasma: A Site for Thought 2 (2): 46–60.

Francis (2015). Laudato Si’. Encyclical Letter on Care for Our Common Home.