Philosophy Can Help Us

Paul Krugman, winner of the 2008 Nobel Prize for economics, and one of the most incisive critics of the evolution of world economy, recently wrote in a New York Times editorial that the next three or four months will possibly be the most important in the history of the United States.

I would add that perhaps they will be the most important for the future of all humanity. It is the moment to define the course of everything. Suddenly, humanity faces the question that had enormous resonance in the World Social Forum of Belem: «how to build a society where all can live together, nature included, on this small and already old planet?».

The issue is much too grave to leave it only in the hands of economists. In that which affects everyone, we all have the right to offer opinions, and to help decide.

In intellectual circles the conviction is growing that the occidental paradigm of modernity, now globalized, has entered into crisis due to exhaustion, and as a result of an implosion. It is like a tree that has reached its climax and then falls, because it has exhausted its vital energy.

Thus, to call it by its name, let’s say that capitalism has reached its end in two ways: its end, as the full realization of its potential, and its end as its final conclusion and death.

If we follow the internal debates of the groups organized by the UN -with such notable names as Stiglizt, Nobel Prize winner in economics, and others- in thinking about alternatives to the crisis, we logically come to see a general perplexity.

One tendency is to revive the corpse with neo-keynesianism, a mild form of neoliberalism, with a more organic presence of the State in the economy. Others suggest the path of eco-socialism, present in the WSF of Belem.

It is a promising option, but, in my opinion, it has not yet taken the complete turn-around that implies a new conception of the Earth as Gaia and the overcoming of anthropocentrism, by also granting citizenship to nature.

They want, not without reason, development that is ecologically respectful of nature, but they stay within the framework of development. However, we already know the voracious logic of development. What we need is a more sustainable retreat than just sustainable development. That could be the beginning of the realization of ecosocialism.

This is to say, with the technical and financial resources, and the material infrastructure created by globalization, the possibility exists of bringing about a way of life that would be sustainable for all. The Earth, given a sabbatical rest, could regenerate itself, and sustain us all. We could live longer, with less.

But, since we are culturally barbarians and ethically without pity, we are not making this political decision. We prefer to tolerate the death of millions, before we change paths. And this way, we continue happily consuming with no awareness that fairly soon, ahead, an abyss awaits us.

We can have and we deserve a better destiny. Such a destiny is not only possible, but necessary. And it is here where philosophers can help us. For decades they have been saying that the excessive use of reason in function of profit and of the mercantilism of everything, at the expense of the pillaging of the Earth, has brought us to the present crisis.

To recuperate the health of reason we need to enrich it with sensible, aesthetic and cordial reason, which is the foundation of ethics, and with a solidarity vision of life. It is what most fits the new phase of the encounter of cultures and of the unification of human history. Otherwise, we will continue on our tragic path, and with no return.

Theologian
Earthcharter Commission

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