Presentation Details

The Second International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities

Is Environmentalism a Humanism?

Prof Lewis Hinchman, Sandra K. Hinchman.

Environmental writers have blamed the devastation of the natural world on what one calls "the arrogance of humanism." But humanism has in fact been something quite different from what its critics imagine it to be. The humanist tradition has had many parallels with, and even influences upon, the "green" project. Environmentalism developed, among other sources, from the invention of natural history in the 18th century and has always retained a strong historical bent.
Humanism has always been about the effort to establish and conceptualize historical continuities, recover past experience and language, situate knowledge in specific contexts. In short, both movements locate human existence within richly concrete temporal matrices. Yet writers on each side of the divide have employed concepts and categories that--rightly-- seemed unacceptable to those on the other. The present essay attempts to overcome the estrangement between them by showing that the most objectionable assertions on each side may be abandoned without loss. Humanists may jettison the rigid Kantian preoccupation with the dualism of mind and nature (and the implicit deprecation of the latter). Environmentalists may give up their flirtation with sociobiology and its tacit rejection of human freedom without compromising the principle that humans are "part of" the natural world and subject to its constraints. Rightly understood, environmentalism will have strong affinities with both the methods and the ethical concerns of humanism.


Prof Lewis Hinchman  (United States)
Faculty of Liberal Arts
Clarkson University

Sandra K. Hinchman  (United States)

  • Environmentalism
  • Humanism
  • History
  • Freedom
  • Phenomenology

(30 min. Conference Paper, English)