Topics: Age of Enlightenment, Science, Western culture Pages: 27 (9417 words) Published: January 6, 2011


1. INTRODUCTION This dissertation examines some ecofeminist critiques of modern conceptions of nature. It focuses on the re-evaluation of the nature conception within western thought, following the emergence of science in the Enlightenment period. It looks at the analysis that some ecofeminist critics have elaborated in relation to the work of two of the “founding fathers” of modern science, Francis Bacon and Rene Descartes, to understand how they re-conceptualised nature and re-associated it with the new conception of women. The focus is on the Enlightenment era because the ideas, then constructed, brought about intellectual, political and economical revolutions that are now considered to be the foundations of our modern western society, economy, politics and beliefs. These have been constructed in a way that is so disengaged from nature that a fatal destruction of nature and a deterioration of social relations have been allowed. Whilst the analysis will be concentrated in the area of science and its epistemology of rationalism, it is recognised that they do not exist in a vacuum and are relevant and inter-connected to other topics, such as religion, economy, politics, etc.

The analysis will use the ecological feminist critiques elaborated in the last few decades by theorists, such as, K. Warren, V. Shiva or M. Mies, and contemporary postmodern approaches, to reject and deconstruct these and any other discourses attempting to establish an absolute ground for knowledge and therefore a breeding ground

1 for patterns of domination. I aim to show that underlying these conceptions of woman and nature there are dualistic constructions that have proved to be most destructive to life and our relationships with nature and other humans. This dissertation supports the ending of ‘all universal ideologies based on a universal concept of human beings and their relation to nature and other human beings’ because they have been deconstructed as being eurocentric, egocentric, androcentric and materialist (Mies & Shiva: 1993: 11). People on the streets, the academic world, the green movement, indigenous peoples and even some novel scientists are criticising western environmentally destructive policies. It is not argued here that the ideology of science and modernity are solely responsible for the current environmental crises or the nature of patriarchal domination, as their roots go way back in history, but it will be argued that they did allow for the unprecedented acceleration of abusive practices which have now escalated into a holocaust against creation. Vandana Shiva described the current situation in these disturbing terms: "The earth is rapidly dying: her forests are dying, her soils are dying, her water is dying and her air is dying" (1989:xv).

It is this situation of destruction, which these ideologies have caused, that has compelled me, and many others, to look for alternative approaches to life. In order to effect life-enhancing change one must first reach some understanding of what it is that needs changing in the dynamics of western culture. Gandhi was once asked ‘what do you think about western civilization?’ to which he replied ‘I think it would be a very good idea’.

The Enlightenment period was an age of fundamental and influential thinking. It has been ‘generally agreed that this period was marked by an important and continuos trend of thought which effected a revolutionary change in the outlook of Europe’ (Cobban, 1960: 28). However, the only revolution that materialised for women, animals or nature was that their already oppressed positions were to be ever further entrenched The philosophical,...

Bibliography: Adorno, Theodor & Horkeimer, Max Enlightenment (1944) London: Verso (1997) Dialectic of the
21 Bordo, Susan (1986) ‘The Cartesian Masculinisation of the Thought’. Signs, Vol.11: 439-56. Clark, Stephen R. C. (1984) The Nature of the Beast Oxford: Oxford University Press. Cobban, Alfred (1960) In Search of Humanity: The Role of the Enllightenment in Modern History London: George Braziller Franklin, Benjamin (1780) 'Letter to Joseph Priestley ' in Kramnick, Isaac (ed.) (1995) The Portable Enlightenment Reader. London: Penguin. Giddens, Anthony (1996) Capitalism and Modern Social Theory: An Analysis of the Writings of Marx, Durkheim and Max Weber (1971) Cambridge: Cambridge University Press Hekman, Susan J. (1990) Gender and Knowledge: Elements of a Postmodern Feminism. Cornwall: Polity Press. Jay, Martin (1984) Adorno. Harvard University Press: Massachusetts. Kaplan, E, Ann (1997) Looking For the Other: Feminism, Film and the Imperial Gaze. London: Routledge Kramnick, Isaac (ed.) (1995) The Portable Enlightenment Reader. London: Penguin. Keller, Evelyn Fox (1982) 'Feminism and Science ' in Keller, Evelyn F. & Longino, Helen E. (ed.) (1996), Feminism & Science Oxford: Oxford University Press. Keller, Evelyn Fox (1985) Reflexions on Gender and Science. New Haven: Yale University Press. MacCormack, Carol & Strathern, Marilyn (eds.) (1980) Nature, Culture and Gender. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Mason, Jim (1993) An Unnatural Order: A Manifesto For Change New York: Continum Masson & McCarthy (1996) When Elephants Weep. London: Vintage Mellor, Mary (1997) Feminism & Ecology. Cornwall: Polity Press. Merchant, Carolyn (1980) The Death of Nature: Women, Ecology and the Scientific Revolution. San Francisco: Harper & Row. Mies, Maria & Shiva, Vandana (1993) Ecofeminism. London: Zed Press. Outram, Dorrida (1995) The Enlightenment. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Plumwood, Val (1991) ‘Nature, Self and Gender’ in Warren, Karen J. (ed.) (1996) Ecological Feminist Philosophies Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Shiva, Vandana (1989) Staying Alive: Women, Ecology and Development. London: Zed Press. Tiles, Mary (1987) 'A Science of Mars or of Venus? ' in Keller, Evelyn F. & Longino, Helen E. (ed.) (1996), Feminism & Science Oxford: Oxford University Press.
22 Voltaire, Francois-Marie (1733) 'On Bacon and Newton ' in Kramnick, Isaac (ed.) (1995) The Portable Enlightenment Reader. London: Penguin. Warren, Karen J. (1996) ‘Introduction to Ecofeminism’ in Warren, Karen J. (ed.) (1996) Ecological Feminist Philosophies Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Weber, Max (1970) The Protestan Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (1930) tr. Parsons, Talcott. London: Unwin University Books. WEBSITES: Plumwood, Val (1996) 'Environmental Ethics and the Master Subject ': Rogers, Karl (1996) 'Ecological Politics Since The Death of God ':
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