The Philosophy of Global Warming

If you are interested in the relationship between the human species and the rest of life on Earth, individual and collective human purpose, evolution, cosmology, the nature of reality, astrology, spirituality, and how all of this relates to global warming & the environmental crisis of modernity, then I am sure that you will like my new book 'The Philosophy of Global Warming'. In the post below I have provided the book description, the list of contents and the first two sections of the book. You can find out how to get hold of the book by clicking on this link:

The Philosophy of Global Warming

Friday, 21 June 2013

The Three Questions & the Philosophical Worldview

In most of my recent posts there has been an emphasis on global warming. The reason for this is that human-induced global warming has a particularly important place in my philosophical worldview. If one was to read some of these posts without being aware that the discussion of global warming is part of a philosophical worldview, and that the need for geoengineering the temperature of the atmosphere falls out of this worldview, then one will be missing the point. More than this, one might be bemused, confused, one might find the writings to be strange, obviously wrong, or even incomprehensible.

Why is this? It is because the dominant contemporary worldview concerning the relationship between the human species and the Earth is very different to my worldview. Furthermore, the fact that the appropriate response to global warming, and the 'environmental crisis' in general, is wrapped up in a philosophical worldview is barely even realised or discussed. In other words, the discussion of the appropriate response to global warming standardly takes place firmly within a dominating worldview, a worldview whose existence pervades the thought of the participants without them even realising that this is so. This dominant worldview is the 'Destroyer
Worldview' which I outline in my latest book:

Saviours or Destroyers: The relationship between the human species and the rest of life on Earth 

If you are unfamiliar with talk of 'worldviews' then a simple example with help. When the first pioneers realised that the Earth revolves around the Sun, the dominant worldview was that the Earth was the centre of the universe. This dominant worldview was so all pervading that the vast majority of people ridiculed the ideas of the first pioneers. The dominant worldview so pervaded the thought of the vast majority of people that they couldn't comprehend how that view could be wrong; the pioneers were surely crazy people, thought the masses. The masses didn't even entertain the possibility that their beliefs were simply a philosophical worldview; their beliefs seemed to be so self-evidently true that they weren't something which needed to be thought about or discussed. In other words, as with the dominant contemporary 'Destroyer Worldview', the worldview was so powerful that its existence wasn't even realised (it was taken to be a self-evident fact not a challengeable construction of the human mind) until it was initially challenged and ultimately shown to be utterly false.

So, with this in mind, I thought I would share with you the basic outline of my philosophical worldview as it currently appears on Wikipedia. I can confirm that the entry as it currently stands is an accurate description of my view. The rest of this post is from my Wikipedia page, but you can find additional information on that page:

The Three Questions

  1. Does the human species have an important place on the planet?
  2. If the human species has an important place on the planet, how does this relate to the environmental crisis and human-induced global warming?
  3. How does all of this relate to the decisions and actions of individual humans?
Cummins claims that these three questions are deeply interrelated. The human species has an important place on the planet and this is deeply related to the environmental crisis and human-induced global warming. Furthermore, individual humans have been endowed with certain feelings/motivations by the universe; most humans act in accordance with these feelings/motivations and this ensures that human culture has an evolutionary trajectory towards human-induced global warming and planetary geoengineering.


The Philosophical Worldview

  1. The Earth and the Sun, like all other parts of the universe, are ageing entities.
  2. The Universe is divided into two parts – life and non-life.
  3. The entire Universe is pervaded with states of feeling (panwhat-it-is-likeness).
  4. Life is a good state of feeling for the Universe to be in.
  5. Life, and complex life in particular, require certain conditions in order to survive.
  6. When life arises it strives to stay in existence by spreading out over the planet it arises on and by regulating the temperature of that planet’s atmosphere to keep it favourable for its continued existence (as described in James Lovelock's Gaia Theory).
  7. As the Sun’s energy keeps on increasing the point will come when, in the absence of a technological species, the ability of life to regulate the temperature of the planet’s atmosphere will cease.
  8. In order to survive non-human-induced global warming life needs to evolve a technological species.
  9. Becoming technological entails the opening of a division, part of the universe has to see itself as 'non-natural' and as opposed to 'nature'. Becoming technological also involves manipulating the 'natural' to the extent that an environmental crisis and technology-induced global warming are generated.
  10. On the Earth the human species is that part of life which is technological.
  11. The purpose of the human species is to be the saviour of life through developing and deploying the technology which regulates the temperature of the Earth’s atmosphere.
  12. Individual humans, just like all parts of the universe, naturally act/move in a way that maximises their state of feeling (towards pleasure and away from pain). The majority of humans acting in accordance with their feelings gives the trajectory to human culture which ensures that the human species fulfils its purpose.
  13. The human species is special because it is the technological saviour of life on Earth.
  14. The human species will fulfil its purpose because of concerns about, and the reality of, human-induced global warming.
  15. This is the only reason that the human species is special ('raised up above' all of the non-human life-forms of the Earth). The human species isn't special because of rationality, consciousness, spirituality, language, culture, tool use, or any other 'unique' attribute.
This view is outlined by Cummins in his first book: 'Is the Human Species Special?: Why human-induced global warming could be in the interests of life'.[2] He is also the founder of the paradigm of 'panwhat-it-is-likeness'. According to this view, mind and consciousness are very rare attributes in the universe, but states of what-it-is-likeness pervade the universe. The 'panwhat-it-is-likeness' view is developed in detail in: 'An Evolutionary Perspective on the Relationship between Humans and their Surroundings: Geoengineering, the Purpose of Life & the Nature of the Universe'.[3]

Panwhat-it-is-likeness is best thought of as different to panpsychism as the latter implies that psyche or mind or consciousness pervades the universe. In accordance with the Buddhist Theory of Atoms, Cummins contends that smells/tastes/feelings pervade the universe, and that only two senses evolve in humans - seeing and hearing.


Practical Implications

In 'Saviours or Destroyers: The relationship between the human species and the rest of life on Earth'[4] Cummins describes how we are living through a painful technological birthing process; life is bringing forth 'technological armour' to help ensure its future survival. He claims that there are two implications which follow from his philosophical worldview:
  • That if we realise that that the universe/life is 'inevitably' moving towards a better state through this current transitional stage of a painful technological birthing process then we can act differently. We cannot stop the process, but we can reduce the suffering it involves (for humans and for non-human life-forms). He claims that resources can be focused on geoengineering the temperature of the atmosphere, and resources that are currently being used trying to avoid this outcome can be more fruitfully deployed (they are wasted resources because not only can the outcome not be avoided, it is actually a positive outcome). Resources can be redeployed to other pressing environmental and developmental issues which need to be dealt with at the surface of the Earth.
  • As parts of the ‘feeling universe’ (panwhat-it-is-likeness) we can seek to be more effective at living ‘in tune’ with our feelings and thereby effortlessly move to an optimal state of feeling – one that maximises our health and happiness. He claims that if one uses one's thought processes to ‘disobey’ one's feelings one will not be optimally happy. One should simply let the universe do its thing within one and thereby let the universe naturally move to the highest/best state of feeling.


Price's response

In 2012, Peter Xavier Price, from the Sussex Centre for Intellectual History (University of Sussex), wrote a response to Is the Human Species Special?: Why human-induced global warming could be in the interests of life.[5] This is some of what Price had to say:
"Cummins' account of what he calls the 'trajectory of human evolution from hunter-gatherer to technological society' —indeed, the very thread upon which his whole argument is based—appears, in truth, to be little more than the eighteenth-century Scottish 'four-stages-theory', albeit in slightly modified form. Had Cummins acknowledged this interesting fact, he might even have reached the conclusion that we may now be entering (or already find ourselves in) a quinquennial, climatical phase of a potential 'five-stage theory', replete with its own conundrums and challenges."


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