The Material Worldview and Where It Leaves Us


  • Tom Stedall


This chapter explores the Anthropocene as an encounter of human consciousness with the ecological, and it examines the encounter of the material worldview with the ecological and with consciousness, to provide a perspective on our conscious engagement with the contemporary ecological crisis. The material worldview is particularly understood in the sense of the regard for matter as the sole constituent of things, with science as offering the principle methods in engaging with it, and the pre-eminence of lower levels of complexity as points of engagement for explanation and manipulation. The encounter with the the ecological is explored in detail through the example of food production and its ecological and economic aspects, with particular reference to agroecology. Key developments in the history and philosophy of science that have informed the present encounter with the ecological are then traced. The encounter with consciousness is explored in terms of the deep paradoxes it presents. The discussion emphasises the difficulty of both encounters given the scientific trajectory and the deep and often implicit nature of our assumptions under a worldview, and further argues that understanding of  the material worldview is a valuable point of engagement for more sustainable and healthy occupation of the planet.