Commenced in January 2007
Frequency: Monthly
Edition: International
Paper Count: 71105
International Conference on Comparative Religion and Mythology

Authors: Mara Varelaki


In response to the challenge of the environmental crisis the discipline of environmental ethics examines the relation of human beings towards the environment and the value of the non-human constituents of the surrounding world. In the face of this crisis, assumptions regarding human and nature relations ought to be traced and reexamined because they can cause difficulties in diagnosing problematic attitudes towards the environment and non-human animals. This paper presents the claims that European and the Judea-Christian cosmogonic myths place the human figure in the core of the creation of the cosmos, thus verifying a hierarchical structure where humans occupy the top, and they establish a perception of nature as a non-human other. By doing so, these narratives provide some justification to the notion of the human-nature dichotomy and the human domination over other life forms and ecosystems. These anthropocentric assumptions evolved into what Hilde Lindemann terms master narratives and their influence extents to ecocentric ethical theories which attempt, and often fail, to shed the anthropocentrism of the western ethical tradition. The goal of this paper is (1) to trace the anthropocentric assumptions embedded in western thought and (2) articulate how they maintain their grip on our contemporary understanding of the human relation to and position within the environment, thus showing the need for a method of detecting and bracketing anthropocentric assumptions in social narratives and ethical frameworks.

Keywords: cosmogonies, anthropocentrism, human/nature dichotomy, master narratives, ecocentrism

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