Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Phil 320 (Environmental Philosophy) - Piousness as a Deep Ecology Solution to Environmental Challenges

 Piousness as a Deep Ecology Solution to Environmental Challenges

Considering roughly one third of the world is Christian and another fourth is either Muslim or Hindu, one can argue that the majority of the world's multi-billion population is religious (Johnson, Grim 10). And given that individual beliefs yield ethics, one could argue that finding ways in which "the role religion could play as an element in solving current environmental problems" is worthy of discussion and implementation inasmuch as it could be applied to 60% of the world's population (Jackson 11).

Arne Næss – founder of deep ecology philosophy – contends that many who support the deep ecology mindset are "partly motivated by basic philosophical or religious premises and feel that all living beings have intrinsic value” (Næss 239). He further relates this religious premise to the God described by Spinoza. And given this piousness or the love of God as a starting point, one may secure for himself a deep foundation from which he builds a strong belief system which is further tied to love of self and others, including all beings and ecosystems. From this belief system, one’s ethics can be applied in several ways.

One case study from India demonstrates how a religion "emphasizes the harmony of all religions" which bolsters its mission "to help the impoverished populations of India through education, medical service, and helping small villages in the field of rural development" (Jackson 21). While its mission does not directly focus on the environment, its efforts often "co-laterally help the environment" (21). Connecting piousness as a way of life to holistic environmental solutions shows how deep ecology thinking can be applied in a broad-ranging and impactful way throughout the religious world.

The basic premise of deep ecology stems from a reaction to what Næss called the “shallow ecology movement” whose objective was to “fight against pollution and resource depletion” which essentially benefited “the health and affluence of people in developed countries” (Brennan and Lo). Deep ecology, on the other hand, sought to shift the focus away from an anthropomorphic view to an ecocentric and biocentric emphasis, whereby it recognizes the intrinsic value of all living beings and ecosystems. The “deep” aspect of the deep ecology movement is precisely about removing the anthropomorphic view of humans and placing them in a perspective of interconnectedness with all things in the world. The philosophy “asks deeper questions about the place of human life” and strives to enlighten humans to conceive of themselves “as integral threads in the fabric of life” rather than agents endeavoring to dominate the world (Bhandari 810). While Næss took great efforts to explain his philosophy, he simplified his philsophy with what he called the Apron diagram with its four levels, with one of those levels being the 8 point deep ecology platform.

In sum, the Apron diagram is a four-level framework for organizing a discussion around premises, principles, policies and actions. Level 1 represents foundational “ultimate premises, worldviews, and ecosophies” (Næss 107). It is at this level where discussions around God, ontology and other aspects of the aim of life are discussed. Level 2 covers the eight-point deep ecology platform. The first five points emphasize the flourishing of all life and some delineation of human behaviors including the “substantial decrease of the human population” (111). The remaining three points highlight the need for changes in “economic, technological, and ideological structures” and policies which would place a greater emphasis on “life quality” as opposed to increased standards of living (111-112). Given this platform, one then derives “normative or factual hypothesis and polices” at level 3. And from these hypotheses and policies one can ultimately derive “particular rules, decisions, and actions” found at level 4 (107). Returning to level 1 of the diagram, Næss discovered a rich heritage in the ideas on God from Baruch Spinoza.

Næss succinctly explains the essence of Spinoza’s God when he discusses God as “complete” in that God is both “the creative and the created” (Næss 236-237). Spinoza viewed God as one whole. He argued God is “infinite … (self-caused), [and a] unique substance of the universe” and that God is this substance, and all else that exists in the universe is in God (Nadler, “Baruch Spinoza (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)”). Since everything is God, humans and objects in the cosmos are simply modes or affections (Benedictus De Spinoza et al., Ethics, Part 1, proposition 15). Næss later observes God is creativity “intimately interrelated … by particular beings” which have intrinsic value (Næss 238). He notes that “it makes sense to care for these beings for their own sake, as creative beings” (239). The Stoics’ concept of God or Nature was not unlike that of Spinoza. One prominent Stoic, the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius wrote, 

“All things are interwoven, and the bond that unites them is sacred, and hardly anything is alien to any other thing, for they have been ranged together and are jointly ordered to form a common universe. For there is one universe made up of all that is, and one god who pervades all things, and one substance and one law, and one reason common to all intelligent creatures, and one truth” (Book 7, chapter 9).

From these fundamental, deep beliefs, one can derive principles and lived ethics.

If an individual views himself as a part of the Whole – a part of God – then one can not only derive a sense of self-love, but a sense of love for all beings, creatures and entities in the world. Næss observes “love of the immanent God is love of God’s expressions, not of a separable God. A being expresses God’s nature or essence; therefore, love of God cannot be different from love of such a being” (Næss 240). In the caring crossfire of the Whole loving its seemingly infinite parts, one begins to lose the sense of self-distinctiveness and pivots to a paradigm of identifying “I” with “all.” And if the “I” is lost in the “all” then individual actions are only self-serving to all. Returning to Marcus Aurelius, he noted a similar sentiment: “What brings no benefit to the hive brings none to the bee” (Book 6, chapter 54). In sum, piousness towards the Whole produces sound ethics for all.

One Indian religion’s ideology is similar to what Næss encouraged: things, including religions, are part of the Whole and are unified. The religion’s paradigm of “the unity of all religions” is further exemplified with its mission: “to work in service to man and to God” through “education, medical service” and the development of small rural villages (Jackson 21). Two projects which helped develop the villages were an electrification project and a land shaping project.

For the electrification project, the villages usually depended on gas generators for their electrical needs. To secure renewable sources of energy, the mission contracted electricians and engineering experts to procure and install “hundreds of solar home power units” (22). For the land shaping project, the goal was to increase agricultural efficiency while minimizing deforestation. By shaping the land and creating a system of “ponds and uplands” the village saw a 50% increase in crops and wider access to fisheries, thus reducing illegal hunting (22).

When the head monk of the mission was queried about these “environmental projects” he was perplexed (22).  The monk did not see these projects as solely benefiting the environment, but rather he was motivated “to work for one's own salvation, and for the welfare of the world” or in other words to “work for the greater good of humanity in order to better one’s own karma” which in turn is viewed as “honoring God” (23). In sum, this mission and the monk who leads it, did not simply isolate piousness and environmental sustainability, rather, they saw all things interconnected working in a unified effort to help themselves, others and to honor God.

While the vast majority of the world is religious, there is a growing number of populations which are leaning agnostic or atheist (Sherman). Is piousness applicable to this segment of the world? If one applies a traditional religious view of an anthropomorphic God, they may not think piousness is necessarily a good thing. And this is why, perhaps, Næss and the aforementioned Indian religion advocate for a wider pious paradigm. If one can imagine God as all-things, and focus on the interconnectedness of all things, then perhaps one may secure an all-encompassing piousness – an intellectual love of God.

In review, given most of the world’s population is pious, the philsophy of deep ecology can leverage this fundamental premise to form broad coalitions of beliefs across many religions, such as that which the mentioned Indian religion strives for. These coalitions in piousness can then be leveraged to institutionalize best practices which support ecological sustainment in developing countries, such as India. In brief, perhaps all we really do need is love, or as Spinoza wrote, “God’s love of men and the mind’s intellectual love of God are one and the same” (Nadler, Spinoza’s Ethics : An Introduction 273).

Works Cited

Aurelius, Marcus. Meditations. Translated by Robin Hard, Oxford University Press, 2011.

Benedictus De Spinoza, et al. Complete Works. Hackett Pub, 2002.

Bhandari, Rupsingh. “Deep Ecological Consciousness and Interconnectedness in William Wordsworth’s Tintern Abbey.” Technium Social Sciences Journal, vol. 27, no. 27, Jan. 2022, pp. 808–14, Accessed 3 Mar. 2022.

Brennan, Andrew, and Yeuk-Sze Lo. “Environmental Ethics (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy).”, 3 Dec. 2021,

Jackson, Timothy, and Ba Bs. Deep Ecology in Action: A Cross-Cultural Series of Case Studies on the Conservation Efforts of Monks and Religious Leaders in India, Mongolia, and Thailand. 2009,

Johnson, Todd M., and Brian J. Grim. The World's Religions in Figures : An Introduction to International Religious Demography, John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated, 2013. ProQuest Ebook Central,

Nadler, Steven M. “Baruch Spinoza (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy).”, 2016,

---. Spinoza’s Ethics : An Introduction. Cambridge Univ. Press, 2009.

Næss, Arne. Ecology of Wisdom : Writings by Arne Naess. Edited by Alan R Drengson and Bill Devall, Counterpoint, 2010.

Sherman, Bill. "Report: Atheism Rate Growing Worldwide." McClatchy - Tribune Business News, Aug 25, 2012. ProQuest,

Tuesday, June 27, 2023

Rel 411: Friedrich Nietzsche: Saying, “yes, yes!, YES!!” to Your Life

Friedrich Nietzsche: Saying, “yes, yes!, YES!!” to Your Life

Toti se inserens mundo” is how Seneca described someone who lives life to its fullest (Ad Lucilium Epistulae Morales Letter 66). Pierre Hadot analyzed this passage from Seneca and translated this phrase as “plunging oneself into the totality of the world” which meant “to go beyond the self, and think and act in unison with universal reason” (Hadot 207-208). In a sense, this is a challenge and a call to the individual who would strive in life, to feel the anxiety and challenge of living the best life he can, and not be timid, but “out of joy [plunges his soul] into chance” (Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra 167). Nietzsche contends that this striving to overcome all is at the root of every human’s desire and is the will to power. He further offers a tantalizing thought experiment, known as the eternal recurrence, which the individual can use to spur himself to constantly question if he is living the best life. If the individual can exclaim “yes” to his fate and his challenges in life, time and time again, then he is overcoming all and exerting his will to power. As Nietzsche writes in The Gay Science, “all in all and on the whole: some day I want only to be a Yes-sayer!” (157).

The concept of the will to power certainly is varied and complex. But there is one thread which is woven throughout Nietzsche’s works: the power to overcome – to exert one’s will. One scholar of Nietzschean philosophy cites The Anti-Christ in explaining what is good or bad in Nietzsche’s philosophy. “What is good?—All that heightens the feeling of power, the will to power, power itself in man. What is bad?—All that proceeds from weakness.  What is happiness?—The feeling that power increases—that a resistance is overcome.” (Wilkerson).

The author further explains that exerting one’s will to overcome is as much an effort at self-mastery and is a matter of who the individual obeys and to whom he listens. If one can command oneself, then one exerts his will to power (Wilkerson). This concept of self-mastery is further bolstered by Nietzsche’s ideas on “strict schooling at the proper time” (Nietzsche The Will to Power 516). He is a proponent of a strict education, but also notes that without it, some men are still fortunate to have the school of hard knocks teach them in “the form of a long, lingering illness, which demands the utmost will-power and self-sufficiency; or in the form of a calamity which suddenly befalls him and his wife and child at the same time, forcing him to take action in such a way as to restore his energy and resilience, strengthening his 'moral' fibre and his will to live” (516). In sum, the common theme in the will to power is the idea of the individual assuming radical self-discipline, “to be capable at any time of taking the lead; to prefer danger to comfort,” to say “yes” to any trial or challenge life throws at him and to be the one who both commands himself and obeys himself (516). And while the individual’s will to power relies on self-mastery, one must also recognize his place in the world, a place which Nietzsche calls “a monster of energy, without beginning or end” (585).

This world, according to Nietzsche, waxes and wanes and is “forever changing, forever rolling back, with enormous periods of recurrence” and eternally self-creates and self-destroys and “has no aim if it does not lie in the happiness of the circle” (585). He concludes this passage by explicitly stating “This world is the will to power – and nothing besides! And even you yourselves are this will to power – and nothing besides!” (586). The eternal recurrence is another topic intertwined throughout Nietzsche’s philosophy. In the preceding passage, he connects the idea of the will to power for the individual with the will to power for the world. On another occasion, he uses the idea of eternal recurrence to prod the individual to question whether he is using his will to power to create the best life possible for himself.

Nietzsche describes the “idea of eternal recurrence” as “the highest formula of affirmation that can possibly be attained” (Stolz 188). As described in The Gay Science, he asks the reader to imagine a demon confronting him with the proposition of living his life repeatedly for eternity, in all aspects – “every pain and every joy and every thought and sigh and everything unspeakably small or great … in the same succession and sequence” (Nietzsche 194). What would his reaction be? Would he exclaim “Yes!” or would he be “crushed” by the thought (194)? The experiment and one’s reaction to it is meant to spur one to action and evaluate their state of life to the point of affirming they love their life or to the point of making profound changes.

The thought experiment of eternal recurrence is meant to be “the great cultivating thought” which reveals “’what one is’ now (being), and who they could become (becoming)” (Stolz 192). It is meant to be a “weapon” or “hammer” to crack open the shell of the individual raised in “the herd animal status quo” and prompts them to “become strong in character through the revaluation of all values” (192, 197, 193). Much of this work ought to be developed “in a state of solitude” precisely in order to unlearn what one has been taught in school systems and colleges or “sites of student conformity into animal consciousness” (196, 198). Furthermore, as one repeats this thought experiment often through their life, they must apply discerning self-inspection, heeding how they feel about their character, and then committing to discard undesirable qualities and vowing to enhance those they wish to strengthen (195). Through a life-long process, their life becomes a “singular work of immortal art” as a “plan to express their superiority” (194). Their lived philosophy turns into a “YES!!” in response to fate.

In conclusion, Nietzsche contends that striving to overcome all is at the root of every human’s desire and is the will to power. He further offers a provocative thought experiment, known as the eternal recurrence, with which the individual spurs himself to constantly question if he is living the best life. If the individual can exclaim “yes” to his fate and his challenges in life, time and time again, then he is overcoming all and exerting his will to power. He can confidently judge his life thus: 

“Have you ever said Yes to one joy? Oh my friends, then you also said Yes to all pain. All things are enchained, entwined, enamored -

– if you ever wanted one time two times, if you ever said ‘I like you, happiness! Whoosh! Moment!’ then you wanted everything back! 

– Everything anew, everything eternal, everything enchained, entwined, enamored, oh thus you loved the world – 

– you eternal ones, love it eternally and for all time; and say to pain also: refrain, but come back! For all joy wants – eternity!” (Nietzsche Thus Spoke Zarathustra 263). 

Works Cited

Hadot, Pierre. Philosophy as a Way of Life : Spiritual Exercises from Socrates to Foucault. Edited by Arnold I Davidson, Translated by Michael Chase, Blackwell Publishing, 2017.

Nietzsche, Friedrich. The Gay Science. Edited by Bernard Williams, Translated by Josefine Nauckhoff, Cambridge University Press, 2001.

---. The Will to Power : Selections from the Notebooks of the 1880s. Translated by R Kevin Hill and Michael A Scarpitti, Penguin Books, 2017.

--. Thus Spoke Zarathustra. Translated by Adrian Del Caro, Cambridge University Press, 2006.

Seneca. “Ad Lucilium Epistulae Morales.” (PhiloLogic4), University of Chicago, Accessed 17 June 2023.

Stolz, Steven A. “Nietzsche, Eternal Recurrence and Education: The Role of the Great Cultivating Thought in the Art of Self‐Cultivation (Bildung).” Journal of Philosophy of Education, vol. 55, no. 1, 2021, pp. 186–203,

Wilkerson, Dale. “Nietzsche, Friedrich | Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.” Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy,

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Rel 411: Nietzsche on Slave Morality and Herd Mentality

To understand slave morality, one must understand master morality.

Master morality begins with an aristocrat (someone who possesses power in the form of hereditary monarchy or someone who is in power in government or wealth) and he sees himself as "noble, powerful, and strong" (Kirwin). Thus being in power, possessing nobility, power and strength, is defined as "good" in the master morality code of ethics.  The "bad" of master morality is anything low-class found among the "ill-born masses" (Kirwin).

Slave morality is a reaction against master morality; Nietzsche calls it a "slave revolt in morality" (Lanier). Based in religion, priests lead the revolt and call anything "evil" which the master morality calls "good." And what is "good" in the slave morality is "meek, mild, and servile—qualities which the slave class possess of necessity, but which they now cast as the products of their own free choice" (Kirwin). As a result, the so-called goods of the world (i.e. power, wealth, authority) are not to be obtained in this life, but that ultimate justice will be attained for the slaves in the after-life (Kirwin). What is preached in slave morality is "those who suffer and are oppressed on earth will receive their reward in heaven, while the evil masters will face an eternity of punishment in hell" (Kirwin).

Related to slave morality is herd mentality.  To understand herd mentality, one must understand the two different types of beings Nietzsche categorized: "the higher human beings" and "those who belong to the herd" (Academy of Ideas). The higher human beings strive for creativity and have a "unifying life project" which effects will be felt by humankind long after the higher human being passes away. This creativity and independence of the higher human being demands solitude from the herd.

The individuals of the herd seek "only comfort and contentment" (Academy of Ideas). Parts of the herd also retain a strong resentment of the higher human beings. They are envious of the higher human beings and instead of using that envy to better themselves, they seek to tear down the higher human beings. One form of tearing down the higher human beings is the concept of slave morality, as described above.

Works cited

Academy of Ideas. “Nietzsche and Morality: The Higher Man and the Herd.”, 30 Jan. 2017, Accessed 30 Mar. 2022.

Kirwin, Claire. “Nietzsche’s Ethics | Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.” The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy,

Lanier, Anderson R. “Friedrich Nietzsche (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy).”, 17 Mar. 2017,

p.s. I though the Academy of Ideas video was so good, I've embedded it here below - it's worth the 13 minutes of time!

Feedback from professor Dr. Achilles Gacis:

Moral reasoning, for Nietzsche, in western cultures is infused with Christian morality which he postulates is inspired by deep resentment from when the Hebrews were slaves in Egypt. When Nietzsche talks about “morality” he is ​referring to Judeo-Christian morality because that​ is the dominant sense of morality in 19th century ​Europe at the time.​ Since we are all trying to assert ourselves in the world, Nietzsche thinks that Judeo-Christian morality is also a “will to power” in much the same way.​ Nietzsche wants to understand the history of morality and how terms like good and evil emerged. ​

On the Genealogy of Morals, Nietzsche​ draws an analogy. This is how “morality” begins:​

That the lambs dislike the birds of prey does not seem strange: only it gives no ground for reproaching these birds of prey for bearing off little lambs. And if the lambs say among themselves, "These birds of prey are evil, and he who is least like a birds of prey, who is rather its opposite, a lamb,— would he not be good?" There is no reason to find fault with this institution of an ideal, except perhaps that the birds of prey might find it a little ironically and say "We don’t dislike them at all, these good lambs, we even love them: nothing is more tasty than a tender lamb."

By way of analogy, just like the lambs, Judeo-Christian morality is born out of resentment - a desire to enact revenge on the predators, but an inability to directly do so. So they psychological revenge in the form of morality. That's certainly one way to assert one's will-to-power, and Nietzsche admires this clever move.

Nietzsche’s point is that if you were a lamb you could imagine and probably even want a different moral universe. Getting killed by a bird of prey isn’t preferable! But now imagine the moral view of the birds of prey. It seems unlikely that predators would want or even need to imagine a moral universe. They are, after all, just doing what wolves do. Life as a predator is what it is. They don’t dislike the lambs, they are just living out the will-to-power.

The lambs, however, have a very good reason to want a different moral universe. For starters, a world where lambs can just be lambs without having to worry about predators all the time. But since the lambs can’t physically confront the situation the only option is a psychological shift. ​By convincing the birds of prey that predatory behavior was bad wrong, perhaps they’d stop feeding on lambs. But that’s pretty unlikely at this stage, so another option is to convince yourself and other lambs that predator-like behavior is bad and evil. ​This would by default, then show the lambs to be good and moral. Why?  Because they aren’t acting like predators.​ Suddenly, the life of a lamb has much more meaning and worth because they are moral and righteous.​ This, according to Nietzsche, is where the genealogical roots of Christian morality begins.  

Nietzsche is critical of this form of morality because it’s particularly pernicious. It’s pernicious mainly because we are no longer slaves like the ancient Hebrews, and so there’s no need for this type of ‘ressentiment.’ Most importantly, resentment-based morality lacks the capacity for growth and creativity because it’s essential form is to simply be *against* things rather than standing for any particular affirmative values. 

Nietzsche also seems to be stating something about how our moral frameworks embody values themselves. This turns the idea that our morals come from values on its head. Nietzsche thinks some moral frameworks are healthier than others, more capable of being "life affirming" than others.

In this way too, Nietzsche is challenging the idea that moral reasoning can be purely rational and objective in applying moral principles.

Monday, June 12, 2023

Rel 411: Finite and the Infinite

The finite and the infinite are two views of the self.  According to Kierkegaard, the aim is to not be stuck in the finite nor admiring ad nauseum the possibilities of the infinite.  One must find a way to make oneself "concrete" by combining the two. As he writes in The Sickness Unto Death, "The self is the conscious synthesis of infinitude and finitude which relates itself to itself, whose task is to become itself, a task which can be performed only by means of a relationship to God. But to become oneself is to become concrete. But to become concrete means neither to become finite nor infinite, for that which is to become concrete is a synthesis" (chapter 3).

He describes the finite as "narrow-minded and mean-spirited" (chapter 3). To live this way is to be silent in the day-to-day drudgery of life. His colorful language describes a man's will as virtually non-existent and one which dare not cast its gaze into the abyss of infinite possibilities.  He writes of the finite existence: "precisely by losing his self in this way, [he] has gained perfectibility in adjusting himself to business, yea, in making a success in the world. Here there is no hindrance, no difficulty, occasioned by his self and his infinitization, he is ground smooth as a pebble" (chapter 3). To be stuck in the finite is to go about business as usual and don't cause any waves which might cause difficulties. The finite is a life which "occasions no embarrassment but makes one’s life easy and comfortable" (chapter 3).

The infinite, on the other hand is unlimited imagination.  Kierkegaard writes, "The fantastical is doubtless most closely related to fantasy, imagination, but imagination in turn is related to feeling, knowledge, and will, so that a person may have a fantastic feeling, or knowledge, or will. Generally speaking, imagination is the medium of the process of infinitizing entranced by the, wild, endless possibilities" (chapter 3).  While thrilling, one can become dizzy and distracted about all the things he could do. And if he spends all his time in imagination, he will forget to live and strive to make any of these possibilities a reality.

The aim, therefore, is to "synthesize" the two into the "concrete." In other words, one must choose from the infinite possibilities and escape the silent business-as-usual life and then make that possibility into a reality. He writes, "The man’s concrete self, or his concretion, has in fact necessity and limitations, it is this perfectly definite thing, with these faculties, dispositions, etc." (chapter 3).

Work cited

Kierkegaard, Sören. “The Sickness unto Death – Religion Online.” Religion Online, Princeton University Press, 1941, Accessed 12 June 2023.

reply from Dr. Achilles Gacis:

It’s easy to see how Kierkegaard's existential philosophy is influenced by Socrates and the idea of the examined life.

As an existentialist, Kierkegaard sees the primary problem of philosophy the problem of being... the problem of being human. Kierkegaard thinks that the tools of philosophy are important not so much for knowledge in general, but for sorting out how to be, how to live one's life. The descriptives offered by Soren are indeed eloquent, yet articulation and terminology is limited when it comes to experiential and even subjective knowledge that is sought after in the spiritual and/or holistic.           

If we look at Kierkegaard as the created (human) questioning the creator (God) as God being the author of being, then where does any notion of “free will” and “self-determination” come in? How fulfilled can one be merely using their own consciousness? How can the created that operates within a finite dimension define the creator, who is infinite and without limitation? 

One can delve further, but this is not an exercise to invalidate Kierkegaard but just to understand how we can maximize our own approach of a holistic existentialism.