A Review Essay on Marti Kheel’s Nature Ethics and Its Implications for a More Integrative Approach to Transpersonal Psychology
In Nature Ethics: An Ecofeminist Perspective (2008), ecofeminist Marti Kheel critically analyzes the contributions of four holistic environmental philosophers. Kheel argues that in basing their moral recognition of the value of other than human beings and the natural world on abstract constructs (e.g. species, ecosystems, or the transpersonal Self) these scholars have held masculinist orientations that neglect to adequately care for individual beings. This review essay will focus on Kheel’s criticisms of Warwick Fox’s (1995) Toward a Transpersonal Ecology and concepts from the field of transpersonal psychology more generally. Drawing from feminism, animal advocacy, environmental ethics, and holistic philosophy, Kheel suggests an approach to an ecofeminist holist philosophy, which “never transcends or denies our capacity for empathy and care, our most important human connection with the natural world” (p.251). Kheel emphasizes the importance of empathy and care for specific individual human and other than human beings, which entails enactment through concrete actions. In the following paragraphs brief overviews of Fox’s transpersonal ecology and transpersonal psychology will first be presented. These will be followed by a summarization of Kheel’s criticisms, which will be followed by a discussion of these in the context of ongoing debates and dialogues between proponents of the deep ecology movement and ecofeminist and transpersonal scholars, including a call to address the ecological crisis. Fox’s Transpersonal Ecology
In the prologue to Toward a Transpersonal Ecology (1995), Fox stated his hope the book will inspire in readers further interest in gaining an ecocentric, i.e. nature-centered worldview and the lifestyles and political actions that might flow from such an orientation. Fox introduced the term transpersonal ecology as his own particular ecocentric approach. In Toward a Transpersonal Ecology Fox presented a comprehensive overview of literature on the ecophilosophical movement referred to as deep ecology, and argues for its re-articulation as transpersonal ecology. Norwegian philosopher Arne Naess originally conceptualized what he defined as a “deep ecology movement” in 1973. Naess (1973) coined the term deep ecology in response to the shallow ecology of environmentalists and others who were relating to environmental problems from the limited perspective of nature as resource for affluent individuals in developed countries. Naess introduced principles of a deep ecology movement that would to more comprehensively and fundamentally reorient dominant worldviews associated with the ecological crisis. A central component of Naess’s (1973) vision was a process of deep questioning through which individuals could develop an ecosophy based on their personal values as apprehended through intuition, or spiritual, religious, philosophical, or scientific beliefs. Fox (1995) noted that Naess’ own personal ecosophy was inspired by the philosophies of Gestalt psychology, Advaita Vedanta, Mahayana Buddhism, and Spinoza and centered on a concept of Self-realization which entailed naturally emergent psychospiritual processes that increase identification with the world and its constituents and included a motivation to enact compassion for other beings and to recognize the inherent value of the natural world. In Toward a Transpersonal Ecology Fox (1995) argued that Naess’ personal concept of Self-realization is the only characteristic that differentiates the deep ecology movement from other environmental philosophies. Consequently, in conceiving transpersonal ecology Fox focused on Naess’ concept of Self-realization, with which he saw strong parallels in the conceptualizations of psychospiritual development in transpersonal psychology. Drawing from transpersonal psychology and...
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