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Some further remarks on the origin of anthropocentrism

There is a sense in which anthropocentrism goes hand in hand with patriarchy – or the domain of a man over goods and people - and with corelationism (the Corpernican Revolution or rather the Ptolomaic Counter-revolution). Descola suggests the former link in his chapter on the domestic and the wild (in Par déla Nature et Culture), and at least in two occasions. First, when he talks about the Roman domus and its concentric force separating out everything that is not in it (the central and the peripheral, as in the soul as a core and the body as its provinces, its extensions). Second, towards the end of the chapter, when he compares the Roman ways to the Greek and German ones. The Germanic, for example, wouldn’t quite entertain a dualism between the center and the periphery: the forests were always a space for hunting and hunting and collecting was integrated into agriculture. Anthropocentrism and patriarchy seems to result from the specifics of the Neolithic revolution that encompassed the middle east and the Mediterranean. In the Americas (and in Australia and the polynesia) the neolithic transition was different: no cattle herding - no domesticated animals - and no sharp distinction between the agricultural land and the agrinatural land (the space of the forest). In fact, in the Americas, plants were introduced amid existing ones and were made to co-exist with them.

Anthropocentrism has similarities also with the operation Kant made of keeping the grammatical structure of the proposition while making it revolve around a subject that forces substantiality into the subject. Substantiality becomes less of an independent other (like in a monadology or in a garden with many gardeners, like among the Achuar Descola studies) and becomes issued out of a central subject. Kant's centrality of the subject completes the Modern trajectory towards an exorcism of full-blooded non-human subjects. The transcendental subject is the legitimate centrally governing force of the domus around which everything else is organized. The subject is the transcendental source of necessity: nothing is imposed from outside and all accord is reached from within - from within a subject.

It is of course hard to do more than just point at these rough similarities, but they are thought provoking. It is not enough to suggest a historical link between these practices and ideas, but there is hope for some light on the vagaries of the origin of these otherwise strange sharp distinction between nature and culture.

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  1. why doesn't anthropocentrism start with the evolution of human-consciousness?

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