The following text has been automatically reproduced by an Optical Character Recognition (OCR) algorithm. It may not have been checked over by human eyes. For matters of precision please consult the original pdf.

Ecology and Human Emancipation

Ecology and Human
Emancipation
Tim Hayward

Humanism vs Prometheanism
The entry of ecological considerations into political thought
raises new questions about the meaning of human emancipation.* In particular, traditional socialist conceptions of
emancipation as a move from a sphere of necessity to one
of freedom are rendered radically problematic from an
ecological perspective. i As usually understood, in the Marxist
tradition, for instance, the ‘sphere of necessity’ comprehends both the order of nature-imposed necessity and the
order of coercive and exploitative human relations. New
ecological socialists should readily affirm the aim of human
emancipation in the latter dimension, for this would be
something which distinguishes their position from certain
other forms of ecological politics. 2 But what the ecological
perspective casts doubt on is the possibility, and hence
desirability, of emancipation from nature-imposed necessity.

However, to appreciate the force of these doubts, and
their implications for any project of human emancipation,
it is necessary to distinguish at least three different meanings of the idea ’emancipation from nature-imposed .necessity’. For, I shall argue, they are not all equally obJectionable from an ecological standpoint.

Firstly, if overcoming natural necessity means engaging
in nature-transformative activities to meet human needs for
food, shelter, good health and so on, the aim need not be
ecologically objectionable so long as the transformation of
natural ecosystems involved is sustainable – i.e. is not such
as to undermine their capacity to reproduce themselves
without an application of non-renewable external energy
other than human labour. 3 In this way, then, it may be
possible, through the application of human ingenuity to
nature’s enabling conditions, to ‘push back’ the natural
limits to human productivity. We may call this the aim of

* This is a substantially revised and expanded version of a
paper given at a workshop of the Radical Philosophy
Conference at the Polytechnic ofCentral London in November 1990. 1 would like to acknowledge the contribution of
the participants at the workshop, and am especially grateful
to Ted Bentonfor his detailed comments on the text of the
earlier version.

Radical Philosophy 62, Autumn 1992

subsistence, recognising that levels and qualities of subsistence may be socially and historically variable.

However, a second and altogether different aim is that of
transcending natural limits. Even if few people would be so
foolhardy as to suppose humans can alter the laws of nature,
many nevertheless think and act as if they believed those
laws were not wholly binding: that is, they cherish the idea
that any obstacle nature throws in the way of the expansion
of human productive capabilities can and probably will be
surmounted by technological ingenuity.4 When this is taken
as axiomatic, it amounts to a belief in the possibility of
‘transcending natural limits’. This may be called the
Promethean aim.

In principle, then, we can distinguish between the aim of
pushing back natural limits and the aim of transcending
natural limits: the former may be possible, tqe latter is not. s
If we turn to consider Marx, it should be noted that,
whilst he did not deny the existence of absolute natural
limits, he did think they were of little relevance compared
to the relative scarcities whose origins lay in the social
relations of capita1. 6 Probably for this reason, he did not in
practice draw any clear distinction between the subsistence
and Promethean aims. Indeed, it seems that Marx saw the
meeting of subsistence needs as just a part of a process of
continuous expansion of human needs through which human fulfilment comes to be realized. In this context one can
recall his remark that ‘man produces even when he is free
from physical need and only truly produces in freedom
there from ‘ .7 Now this is just the kind of view which political
ecologists find suspect, for it invites a Promethean reading
which confirms that Marx was prepared to premise human
emancipation on an indefinite expansion of productive
forces.

However, whilst this may be a justified reading, both of
this quotation and of Marx’ s thought in general, it is
nevertheless only a partial reading. For when Marx speaks
of humans truly producing only in freedom from physical
need, he is clearly thinking not only of freedom from
constraints of ‘external nature’, but also, and more importantly, of freedom as an ‘internal’ quality of the fully
developed human being – a being who produces according
to self-chosen ends. Here, then, is a conception of ’emancipation from nature-imposed necessity’ which is quite
distinct from either the subsistence aim or the Promethean

3

aim: it is the emancipation of human creativity, the realization of freedom in a humanistic sense. So a complete
description of Marx’ s conception of human emancipation
includes, in addition to the aims of freeing humans from
coercive social relations and immediate physical want, the
aim of fully developing and realising human potentials affective, creative, aesthetic, spiritual, cognitive etc. This is
what I would call a distinctively humanist aim.

However, this humanist aim, like the Promethean aim,
may also be understood in terms of a transcendence of
nature-given determinants. Certainly, in the humanist aim,
‘transcendence’ has a different sense – it does not necessaril y
depend on viewing truly human potentialities as pitted
against nature. But it nevertheless does see them as autonomous of the order of natural causality. For this reason,
many ecological writers hold the humanist aim to be as
ecologically objectionable as the Promethean aim. 8
A central question is thus: does ecological socialism
have to renounce both aims?9 Reasons for renouncing the
Promethean aim are compelling: within a naturally limited
world, unlimited expansion of transformative activity is not
possible. But what of the humanist aim – is this also
vulnerable to criticism from an ecological perspective? I
shall argue that the most forceful objections to the humanist
aim are those which depend on seeing it as part and parcel
of the Promethean aim; but that if the two aims can be kept
distinct, the objections to the former may be answerable in
a way that objections to the latter are not.

4

Now it has to be acknowledged that when Marx himself
makes explicit the humanist aim, it does appear to be
inseparable from the Promethean aim. They are interconnected in his conception of self-realization through productive activity: humans fulfil themselves in the externalization of their species powers, in the medium of their
objectified products. This must now be considered questionable – not only to the extent that it implies exorbitant
assumptions about the possibility of ‘humanizing nature’,
but also because humans fulfil themselves in other ways
besides. However, whereas the former point serves as a
reason for rejecting the Promethean aim, the latter point is
consistent with the humanist aim – and suggests that it may
be susceptible of an ecological rather than Promethean
interpretation.

Such an interpretation, though, requires taking an explicit
critical distance from Marx. For what the ecological perspective reveals is that the possibility of human flourishing
can no longer be held to depend on the ability to force nature
to conform to human ends. So human emancipation ultimately has to be seen not in terms of an extension of
humans’ power over’ external’ nature, but rather in terms of
an attempt to develop human capacities of ‘internal’ development and adaptation. The emphasis shifts to considering the limits and possibilities for transforming human
ends.

What is at issue for ecosocialist theory is the basis for
such a transformation. In this article I focus on a tension
which has emerged from recent attempts to theorize the
meaning of human emancipation from the perspective of an
ecologically reconstructed Marxism.

On one view, it may be argued that, if we conceive of
human emancipation in terms of learning to live within
natural limits, rather than seeking to overcome or continually push them back, this will mean the development of selfmastery, discipline, and a responsible exercise of freedom
such that distinctively humanist ends are pursued in ways
which do not depend on the Promethean aim. On this view,
the humanist aim is not anti-ecological per se, but only to
the extent that it is conceived in Promethean terms; the
pursuit of human goods is not intrinsically hostile to the
goods of the rest of nature, but only when human goods are
conceived in an ecologically ignorant or hostile manner.

This would be much the view of Richard Lichtman, who, as
will be seen in the next section, advocates the kind of critical
humanist approach that I am gesturing towards here except that he does not distinguish clearly enough between
humanist and Promethean aims.

It is this failure, I believe, which makes his position
appear particularly vulnerable to the kind of objections
made by Ted Benton. A critical appraisal of these objections,
and of Benton’ s alternative proposal – that ecological
socialism should formulate its aims not in a humanistic
discourse at all, but in naturalistic terms – occupies the
remainder of the article.

Benton argues that humanism is intrinsically at odds
with an ecological perspective for a number of reasons, but
perhaps most crucially because, in emphasizing the distinctness of humans vis-a-vis the rest of nature, it invokes a
distinction between human autonomy and natural neces-

Radical Philosophy 62, Autumn 1992

sity. For Benton, this kind of dualist thinking is idealist and
anti-naturalist; and, in effectively setting humans over and
against ‘nature’ (including other species), it goes against the
ontology of humans in and of nature, which should be
indispensable to ecological socialism. He further claims
that it cuts us off from sources of knowledge and values
which a more naturalistic approach could provide.

However, I shall take issue with these claims. Firstly,
because one may accept that the dualistic view is mistaken
at an ultimately ontological level (e.g. some kind of emergence account may be true), whilst nevertheless maintaining that there remain good reasons why human beings might
hold it – and that these reasons need to be accounted for. On
this score, I argue Benton’ s approach proves inadequate.

This may be because he overestimates the relevance of the
ontological issue to questions of value. For whilst, as he
rightly emphasizses, humans have to live within ecological
constraints, the question how humans are to live, within
them, cannot be determined by the constraints themselves.

Rather, this is a specifically human question which cannot
be fully answered by a naturalistic examination of human
nature. Hence I further argue, that his proposed naturalistic
description of human nature may not tell us as much as we
need to know politically as he supposes. Finally, in response
to his uptake of certain ecologistic themes – in particular,
the critique of anthropocentrism – which are already
problematic in their original context, I reaffirm that the
ecological challenge to socialism can be taken seriously
without accepting just everything ecologistic thinkers want
to argue.

The Malleability of Human Nature: Lichtman
The view that human nature cannot be fully described in
terms borrowed from the study of the rest of nature has
recently been put by Richard Lichtman. He argues that,
although non-human nature is ontologically prior to and
independent of human existence, human nature as such is
something which we acquire through acculturation. This is
the case ontogenetically, since children only develop to
maturity under the influence of culture – ‘human nature is
self-constituting because we are born incomplete’; 10 and also
phylogenetically, for the human species was partly constituted as a species through cultural mediations:

The final stages of biological development occurred
simultaneously (for a million years) with the origins
and initial stages of cultural history. Society is not a
fortuitous addition to individual psychology, but a
necessary constituent of its very possibility. I I
Culture, then, is an intrinsic component of human nature as
such; and it is not possible to specify human nature in purely
biological terms even in principle, for the human biological
organism itself did not reach its final evolutionary form
before the introduction of culture. The self-transformations
made possible for humans in society, therefore, cannot be
treated as derivations of underlying biological or psychological determinants, of an innate human nature:

were the veil of culture removed, we would confront
neither a noble nor a brutal savage but a proto-being
Radical Philosophy 62, Autumn 1992

without definable shape or function, unformed matter to the active potentiality of social definition ….

whatever in our being is not permeated by culture,
simple reflexes and primitive responses, is not distinctively human. 12
Now Lichtman is aware that this might look like leaving
human nature as a wholly indeterminate factor, as a tabula
rasa even. In order to dispose ofthis possible interpretation,
he points out that:

The very notion of human nature as tabula rasa is selfcontradictory. Even a blank slate must have such
properties as will permit the acceptance of the chalk,
as the wax accepts the stylus, the inscribing tool. 13
So the issue, he argues, is not whether there is a common
human nature – for there is necessarily a structure of
capacities, tendencies and sensibilities that humans bring,
incompletely formed, to their life world – but rather what
kinds of thing we can say about it. Lichtman asks what our
common human nature must be like for specific manifestations of it to be possible; and he deduces two general
characteristics. The first is the power to complete what is not
given in our nature. This works in various ways: for instance,
through
relations with other beings; the utilization of symbolic code; the capacity to transform the natural
environment for the sake of survival, reproduction
and expression; the opportunity to form the social
world which forms us; and engagement in a transcendent normative structure to order what would be
an otherwise formless and consequently impossible

life. 14
The second attribute of human nature is deduced from the
first:

since humans never create or appropriate social existence in general but always some particular, concrete
social existence, we must come to understand our
species’ capacities as abstract, meta-propensities to
enact and transform the presented materials of which
we make our life. 15
These are our self-reflexive capacities: we not only conceptualize our experience, we also reflect on our
conceptualization; we have self-consciousness and an
awareness of others’ self-consciousness and their awareness of our own. These second-order powers, though, do not
determine the specific character of our first-order powers:

that is, there is always a specific socio-cultural form to the
appearance of human nature.

Lichtman then cites anthropological evidence which
indicates how the view of human nature prevalent in contemporary Western societies – as possessive, individualist,
and egoistic – reflects only one way that human capacities
and propensities may actually develop; and how this particular view itself inverts the real relationship between
society and individual. Lichtman’ s principal theoretical
contention, though, is that we cannot draw general conclusions about human nature directly from a study of the
many particular ways of being human. An important corol5

lary of this is that there can be no list of fundamental (that
is, first- order, or empirically identifiable) human needs:

formation of a specific kind of human nature as more
appropriate to human well-being than any other. 21

All needs are sociall y mediated and therefore sociall y
constituted, not in the sense that they have no origin
in the disposition of individuals, but that what they
are dispositions for can only be granted through
culture …. In structuring needs society also prioritises
them, so that the basic principles determining human
activity cannot be derived from ‘needs’ but only from
the structure of values that confer form and meaning
to the needs themselves. 16

Human nature is left too malleable by Lichtman, and he
allows ‘no room for the specification of limits to human
adaptability to different socio-cultural or environmental
conditions … ‘ .22 The only limit to cultural relativism which
Lichtman appears to admit, says Benton, is the order of
external nature. But why, he asks,

This is the crucial point of Lichtman’ s argument, and one at
issue in the controversy which ensues. It yields the implication that
The knowledge most necessary to emancipation
grasps the openness of our future and our responsibility for its determination. 17
Yet the critical import of this affirmation can be mis-read,
partly due to the hyperbole that Lichtman allows himself in
stating his case against the view that our nature is formed
innately – as, for example, when he states:

we collectively elicit, form and educate the possibility
of our human existence, creating in the process
something that has never before existed. 18
Or:

We remain what we make ourselves, except as we are
made against our own enlightened self-determination. 19
In such passages the reader gets a sense that enlightenment
values are pitted against nature, reproducing the Promethean
ideology expressed with greatest hubris by the idea that
‘Man produces himself’. This view, which seems also to
perpetuate the modernist devaluation of nature, is one
which political ecologists find fundamentally unacceptable.

My underlying concern in the following sections is to
inquire whether such a view is really entailed by Lichtman’ s
central argument that political principles can be derived
only from values, which are not reducible to needs.

Benton’s Naturalistic Specification
of Human Nature
Ted Benton has offered a critical response to Lichtman’ s
article, and a consideration of this will provide a useful way
into his alternative approach to the question of human
nature.

One main objection which Benton levels against
Lichtman’s account is that he gives little or no elaboration
of just what our common human nature consists in.20 Thus,
although Lichtman’ s is not a ‘tabula rasa’ view of human
nature, his emphasis on malleability and cultural variability
is nevertheless likely to have comparable consequences to
such a view:

if there are no ‘given’ or ‘innate’ dispositions of a
positive kind, then there would seem to be no grounds
for regarding one social or cultural framework for the

6

should we regard this as the only limit to relativism?

… why should it be assumed a priori that human
development – becoming concretely human – is
something possible and even indifferently possible
across an indefinite range of socio-natural contexts?23
Lichtman’s emphasis on culture, in Benton’ s view, gives
short shrift to the biological component of human nature:

It seems to me that a theory of human nature appro-

priate to our historical moment – characterised by
actual and impending ecological disaster in our relations with ‘external’ nature, and by a self-destructive consumerist pathology (so well described by
Lichtman) – must focus on precisely these questions
of the cultural and natural conditions of social and
biological sustainability and of the conditions and
limits of bodily and psychological adaptability and
flourishing.24
Benton also believes that Lichtman’ s emphasis on the
differences between humans and the rest of nature goes
against much of what we should be learning from ecology
– in particular, that humans are a part of and not apart from
nature – in order to overcome the ‘domination’ oof nature,
and alienation from our own natural being. As in the by now
familiar ‘ecological’ critique of Western metaphysics,25
Benton argues that various kinds of oppression are implicated in the set of pervasive dualisms which play a
foundational, structural role in modem Western thought:

for example,
the valuation of mental over manual labour, of
masculinity (,cultured’) over femininity (,natural’),
of reason over sentiment, of ‘mind over matter’, and
of the ‘civilised’ over the ‘savage’. 26
This criticism, Benton believes, can be applied to aspects of
Marx’s work too, as he argued in an earlier article, ‘Humanism = Speciesism?’. Central to Benton’s project of an
ecological reconstruction of Marx is a critique of the latter’s
perpetuation of a human/animal dualism. This dualism,
Benton believes, undermines the promise of other aspects
of Marx’s thought in which a transformation of our relation
to nature is seen as central to the process of human emancipation itself. So where Marx, and Western thought generally, concentrates on what distinguishes humans from
(other) animals, Benton wants to highlight their
commonality. Thus he notes, for example, how certain
supposedly human-specific characteristics are also to be
found in the animal world: in particular, the capacity for and
disposition to social coordination of their activities.

Moreover, he also notes, there are many significant differences between animal species. Recognising such points
Radical Philosophy 62, Autumn 1992

should encourage us to look at humans as one species
among many others, not as an ontologically distinct and
privileged entity.

Perhaps, however, the most telling arguments against
the dualist aspects of Marx’ s early work, writes Benton,
‘relate to the dualism within human nature which follows
from the external dualism of the animal and the human’ .27
It is characteristic of the dualistic tradition, Benton remarks,
to accept that the human is an animal, but an animal with a
special ‘something’ extra (soul, will or reason, for example).

Among the consequences of this is that some human needs
are then seen as ‘truly human’ and others as ‘merely
animal’. Benton believes that the supposed differences
between humans and other animals need to be seriously
qualified – and here a naturalistic perspective commends
itself:

a naturalistic approach begins with the common
predicament of natural beings and moves from that
basis to render intelligible their specific differences
in constitution, structure and modes of life. 28
A naturalistic specification of ‘human nature’ must start
from a recognition of the ‘natural beinghood’ which we
share with other living creatures; it would then proceed by
differentiating out and elaborating what is specific to humans.

If this differentiation is not to slide into the dualistic mode,
though, it will not present the powers, potentials, requirements etc. of humans as something they possess ‘over and
above’ those they share with animals. Thus, without denying
that there are certain things which only humans do (e.g.

composing symphonies or constructing weapons of mass
destruction), Benton argues that
those things which only humans can do are generally
to be understood as rooted in the specifically human
ways of doing things which other animals also do. 29
Here we have the key idea which perhaps most clearly
distinguishes Benton’ s approach from Lichtman’ s.

So what kinds of thing does this approach specify about
human nature? Benton suggests that, as natural beings,
there are three interconnected features which humans share
with other natural beings:

First, they have natural needs whose objects lie
outside themselves, independent of them …. Second,
all living beings have natural powers which enable
them to satisfy these needs. … Third, this needsatisfying activity in relation to external objects is
essential to the ‘confirmation’ or ‘manifestation’ of
the essential powers of the species. 30
Once it is granted that any species has its own distinctive
‘species-life’, it is possible – and possible for any living
species (plants as well as animals), not only for humans – to
distinguish between conditions necessary for mere organic
survival and conditions for flourishing.

This distinction between survival and flourishing, Benton
then argues, will allow an ecological re-reading of Marx’ s
theory of alienation which avoids the tendency of Marx
himself to speak, at times, of the alienated condition as one
where humans are reduced to the level of ‘merely animal’

Radical Philosophy 62, Autumn 1992

needs or activities. Benton puts it thus:

Under regimes of private property, conditions which
enable the survival of workers are provided but the
conditions for them to confirm their powers and
potentials in the living of their characteristic ‘specieslife’ are denied to them. 31
He then argues that
precisely the same framework of analysis can be
applied in the critique of the mode of life imposed
upon many of the other living species caught up in
this distorted mode of human life. 32
This extension, he believes, involves no loss at all of the
ethical force of Marx’ s original critique, but involves a
significant gain in allowing the ‘human’ to be understood as
a qualification or specification within the natural, rather than
its opposite.

I shall return to evaluate this re-reading of Marx in the
final section. Before that, though, I want to draw attention
to some difficulties internal to Benton’ s naturalistic alternative to Lichtman.

Critique of Benton
One difficulty with Benton’ s proposed naturalistic approach
to human nature is that, whilst it may allow illuminating
comparisons between humans and other animals, it may not
provide an adequate treatment of aesthetic, cognitive, normative – in other words ‘cultural’ – dimensions of human
needs. Indeed, ifhis interpretation were taken to involve the
strong claim that all natural beings have similar fundamental needs and all that distinguishes them is the specific way
in which they are satisfied, then it would look decidedly
vulnerable to a charge of reductionism. Benton recognises
this:

Surely not all of human cognitive and aesthetic activity is displayed in the practices through which
physical needs are met, nor yet even in those practices
through which we meet the whole range of needs
which we share with (some) other animal species?

What of those needs – self-realisation needs – which
appear to be peculiar to self-conscious and historical
beings?33
The response he offers, though, while making clear that he
is not committed to a strong reductionist claim, seems to
weaken quite considerably the potential of his position as a
distinct alternative to Lichtman’s. Not wishing to deny the
‘self-realisation’ needs, he says:

the commitment is to viewing them as in some sense
consequential upon those needs which are common
to natural beings, or upon the species-specific ways
in which those common needs are met. 34
However, nobody but the most extreme idealist would
attempt to deny that ‘higher’ human needs are in some sense
consequential upon ‘animal’ needs; and I am not sure that
a dualist would need to. At any rate, the point would be,
precisely, to spell out that sense. 35

7

If ‘in some sense consequential’ is to mean something
more than the uncontroversial point that certain basic biological needs (e.g. eating) have to be satisfied before other
(cultural) needs (e.g. composing symphonies) can be satisfied, or can even arise, then it might be interpreted in one
or other of the following ways. (a) The fulfilment of a
‘higher’ (or, as Benton calls it, ‘supervenient’) need is eo ipso
the fulfilment of a ‘more fundamental’ need – e.g. a kind of
sublimation. But if this were so, presumably the basic need
could also be directly fulfilled without such a mediation; in
which case, there would be nothing left of the ‘higher’ need
which really has the impelling quality of a ‘need’ at all. If
alternatively (b), it is consequent on the fulfilment of basic
needs that higher needs arise, as qualitatively new needs, then
it would not appear to be possible to explain the latter in
terms of the former, since they would no longer be specific
ways of meeting some more general need, but entirely
irreducible, ‘autonomous’ needs.

Now presumably Benton would not wish to draw either
of these conclusions, since the former would be reductionist
(and he distances himself from it in the passage cited
above), while the latter is dualist (severing the connection
he is anxious to maintain between human and animal
needs). Apparently, then, he has in mind some third way,
perhaps thinking in terms of complex needs which retain
elements of more basic simple needs, but also incorporate
a further, ‘higher’, element such that the whole need is
something more and other than the sum of its parts – an
emergent need which is neither reducible to the simple basic
need nor entirely autonomous of it. That is, higher needs
might be thought of as, or on analogy with, ’emergent
properties’ .

However, promising as this line of reasoning might at
first appear, it will not resolve the problem. One reason is
that on Benton’ s own account it would appear to be the
species powers which are emergent properties, not the
needs. Thus, for example, whilst it makes sense to say that
the human species has developed the power to compose
symphonies or construct weapons of mass destruction, it
cannot be said that the species, or even many (if any)
individuals or groups, have a need to do so. So even if one
allows, with Benton, that species powers develop as a
response to need, nevertheless, at least in the human case,
once these powers are developed, they are not necessarily
directed to need-fulfilment. This, in fact, is precisely the
reason why Benton wants to develop a theory of needs in the
first place – in order to distinguish, in the critical evaluation
of human practices, between those directed to need-fulfilment, on the one hand, and the ‘pathological’ or at least in
some way infelicitous exercise of human powers, on the
other.

However, it seems to me that Benton expects more from
a theory of needs than it will be able to yield, and is seeking
to hold together an unsustainable set of claims: that the
development of human species powers gives rise to new
needs; that only some of these needs are ‘real’; and that a
naturalistic account of how powers develop new needs will
tell us which of these are really needs. The question this
leaves us with is how any (normative) distinction between
real and apparent needs can be generated from an account

8

which would show that all new needs are produced by the
development of species powers.

So, whilst one might accept that species powers are
emergent properties which may be accounted for
naturalistically, this does not tell us what uses they might or
‘ought to’ be put to. This is the kind of point I take Lichtman
to be making when he speaks of human potentialities as
‘meta-propensities’. The particular way in which such
potentialities may be actualised in the future is, for Lichtman,
a question of specifically human practice – practice guided
by values. His view is that a normative critique cannot be
based on an account of needs, and that one must recognise
the irreducibility of values as humanly, culturally, created
ends. Now it is on this score that Benton criticises Lichtman
for a tendency towards cultural relativism. However, I am
not convinced that Benton offers a satisfactory alternative;
and, as I shall argue in the next section, his attempt to do so
on the basis of an ontology of needs simply disguises how
talk about needs is shaped by prior value commitments not
derived from within the theory.

Nature, Value and Political Standpoint
The possibility of drawing normative distinctions between
needs delineated on a naturalistic basis is central to Benton’ s
project, and is advanced as a major advantage of his approach
over Lichtman’ s. Benton criticises Lichtman’ s theoretical
standpoint for its insufficiently determinate or positive
characterisation of our common human nature, and argues
that such indeterminacy is particularly problematic in a
political context – that is, if one wishes ‘to criticise one’s
own, late capitalist civilisation from the standpoint of a
future possibility that would be preferable’. 36 Benton’ s
claim that his naturalistic approach promises clearer guidance on this will now be critically examined.

Because he wants to avoid a biology/culture dualism,
Benton is committed to the view that biological sciences
will yield knowledge which will give unequivocal guidance
as to the appropriate kinds of preference in the cultural
sphere. However, he does not want to make the reductive
suggestion that one can simply read off what is ‘preferable’

in a normative sense from biological data. Indeed, within
biology, the term ‘preferable’ might reasonably be taken to
mean something like ‘more apt for survival’; and, as we
have already seen, to avoid reductionism in his account of
the full range of human needs, and to accommodate their
normative dimension, Benton wants to distinguish between
‘survival’ and ‘flourishing’ – so that judgements as to what
is preferable would refer not to mere survival but to conditions
forJlourishing. To maintain the naturalistic character of his
account, though, he argues that this distinction holds for
non-human beings too.

His position, then, hinges on the possibility of offering
a naturalistic account of flourishing. But there is room for
scepticism regarding this idea, and I shall instead suggest:

firstly, that we can only know what flourishing means in the
human case, since such knowledge depends on an
intersubjective relation; secondly, that knowledge of flourishing cannot be had naturalistic ally even in the human
case, because the meaning of flourishing has irreducibly

Radical Philosophy 62, Autumn 1992

cultural determinants; and finally, that the kind of naturalistic knowledge Benton is interested in would give no clear
or unequivocal guidance regarding political desiderata.

Firstly, then, I would dispute the possibility of learning
anything about human flourishing from comparisons with
other species, and suggest, on the contrary, that, insofar as
we can talk about flourishing in other species at all, it is only
to the extent that we can draw an analogy with what
flourishing means in the human case. Thus, for example, it
may be plausible enough to speak of non-human flourishing
in cases where particular animals are so directly caught up
in the purposivity of industrial production as to evoke clear
parallels with humans – e.g. the animal victims of factory
farming or laboratory experimentation. But outside such
relatively clear and narrow bounds, wherein human sympathies are quite easily transferable, it seems doubtful
whether the concept of ‘flourishing’, as something distinct
from survival, will be at all practicable or helpful. This does
not entail denying that non-human beings can flourish, but
simply points to the limits of possible human knowledge
regarding what flourishing can mean for them. Flourishing,
in any sense adequate to the purpose Benton assigns it, has
an irreducibly subjective dimension. Knowledge related to
flourishing, therefore, can only be had of beings with whom
some kind of intersubjective relation is possible.

It is not necessary here to enter into controversy concerning the range of beings with whom intersubjective
relations are possible for humans, because even such relations are only a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for
knowledge of what others’ flourishing means. Hence,
perhaps more important is the second point: that even
between beings who relate intersubjectively (and here we
need only consider humans), there is not necessarily agreement as to what flourishing means. We know that conceptions of human flourishing, or of the’ good life’, vary quite
considerably according to time, place, social location etc.

Now of course Benton does not deny the existence of
cultural differences, but he does want to contest the view
that they are in principle unresolvable: the aim of his
naturalistic project is to undercut cultural relativism, to
restrict the range of possible conceptions of flourishing
whose fulfilment would be acceptable in a future which was
preferable.

But does Benton mean (a) preferable for anyone at all, or
(b) preferable for those committed to ecosocialist aims and
values? This makes a difference, since (b) is clearly the less
ambitious aim: to measure a preferable future against
ecosocialist principles is obviously less problematic than
having to measure it against any possible set of principles.

If we assume that ecosocialist aims are given, then naturalistic
knowledge will undoubtedly assist in formulating the politics
to realise them. If, more realistically, ecosocialist aims are
not straightforwardly given, but rather are incompletely
formed, contested or in some way mutually inconsistent,
naturalistic knowledge may still assist in reforming them
and moving towards a consensus. But in either case, the
naturalistic knowledge is helpful because the values are,
essentially, presupposed. The knowledge does not dictate
the values, it informs us as to conditions for their realisation.

But this kind of knowledge is insufficient in principle for

Radical Philosophy 62, Autumn 1992

judging what (real) future is preferable ufiless what is
(ideally) preferable is already agreed. This, I think, is
Lichtman’s point. However, given that Benton wants to
differentiate his position from Lichtman’s precisely on this
point, we must assume that his claim is the more ambitious
one, (a), mentioned above: that his naturalistic approach
will yield knowledge of what would be a future preferable
for anyone at all, which entails that naturalistic knowledge
helps formulate the values themselves. Only if he makes
this stronger claim would he be justified in asserting an
advantage over Lichtman in terms of determinacy. However, this stronger claim is vulnerable to Lichtman’ s
countercriticisms to the effect that this is not possible in
principle, and that the attempt is liable to mean imposing
one culturally-specific conception in the guise of a naturalistic specification. For on Lichtman’ s view, conditions of
flourishing are essentially contested. To say this is not to
advocate cultural relativism, but to recognise that if a
cultural consensus is to be arrived at it will be through a
cultural process whose unfolding can be neither predicted
nor prescribed in advance.

This is perhaps the core of Lichtman’s, and my, disagreement with Benton:

Benton seems to believe that if we could specify
human nature and its needs, we could then determine
‘what it needs’, that is, what is good for it. But this
naturalistic view of value seems to me a fundamental
mistake that has plagued Marxism from its inception.

9

In an understandable attempt to avoid transcendental
idealism, Marxism has too often collapsed into a
narrow, reductionist search for the ‘really existing’

foundations upon which normative theory can be
securely constructed. Discover what is basic in human nature and you will know how to deal with it that is the unfortunate contention. 37
Benton puts much weight on the role of the kind of positive
knowledge sought by sciences such as ethology and ecology. Lichtman does not deny the necessity of this kind of
knowledge. But he does deny that it would be sufficient for
thinking through future possibilities, for this involves other
necessary conditions: in particular, distinctively human
values, such as justice. As he writes in his rejoinder to
Benton:

Nothing in my position precludes definite socialpsychological laws of human development. Social
life and, therefore, human life would be impossible
without them. But laws do not determine their own
instantiation and that is what makes human creativity
and freedom possible. 38
Thus, he observes:

Societies can exist without justice, for example; large
numbers of them have. For justice is not a want that
must be satisfied if humans are to survive, but a
transcendent value that determines what in the social
order is worth surviving. 39
Here Lichtman has restated one of the distinctive points of
ecological socialism, in contrast to some other forms of
ecologism: that ecological sustainability is not necessarily
incompatible with social injustice. For this reason ecological and ethological knowledge can not inform us directly as
to which future possibilities will be preferable. 40
Benton thinks that Lichtman’ s view of the future as ‘a
completely open possibility space’ is no use at all. But there
is an issue of democracy here, and a risk in Benton’ s
wanting to close down some of the possibilities in advance.

Lichtman does not say much about human nature, but we
should not lose sight of the (political) importance of the
little he does say – that its fulfilment depends on transcendent
normative and institutional structures, such as freedom and
justice. As concepts, these are essentially contested; in
practice the contest can only be decided by the participants.

In this sense, ‘completely open possibility spaces’, so
useless in Benton’ s view, may be seen as necessary conditions
for continuing the contest.

Ecology, Marxism and Critical Humanism
If Benton is right that a distinction between survival and
flourishing is important for a political project of human
emancipation, then I think he is mistaken in supposing that
a humanist discourse can or should be ousted in favour of a
naturalistic discourse.

In humanistic traditions, including Marxist humanism,
the distinction between survival and flourishing has been
presented in terms of subsistence and dignity – the two
‘non-Promethean’ aims of emancipation from nature-im-

10

posed necessity which, I argued in the opening section, give
content to the aim of social emancipation. This is the sort of
distinction Lichtman draws in the passage cited above between survival and those transcendent values for which it
is worthwhile surviving. In making this point, though, he is
making a strong distinction between needs and values
which Benton finds objectionable on account of its dualism.

Such dualism may indeed be vulnerable to criticism, but in
this final section I want to make the point that criticism
which acknowledges the relative force of the distinction is
to be distinguished from an abstract rejection of the distinction itself. For a resistance to the very distinction is
characteristic of a now quite familiar ecological objection to
humanism. In effectively restating this objection, Benton
leaves himself open to the kind of countercriticism which
can be levelled at many environmental ethicists: in particular,
that their emphasis on ecological limits is not matched by an
appreciation of the limits of human knowledge.

The view objected to is given particularly clear expression
by Kant when he states that only rational beings can be
considered ends in themselves, while all other beings in
nature can be considered as means only. Some ecological
critics see this as the epitome of anthropocentric arrogance.

But such an interpretation misses the point that if other
beings are ends in themselves it will be in ways of which we
can have no knowledge. For, whilst we, as rational beings,
can know our own ends subjectively, we cannot know other
beings’ ends in this way. On the one hand, such natural ends
as are posited or inferred by biological sciences are known,
if at all, only objectively; on the other hand, positing subjective ends in nature, on analogy with our own, not only
proceeds without any assurance that the analogy holds, but,
furthermore, may introduce a more insidious
anthropocentrism. This is a familiar irony of critiques of
‘anthropocentrism’. So, when Benton wants to take up
criticisms of anthropocentrism, and use these as a central
aspect of his re-reading of Marx, this is, I think, a mistake.

This brings me to my underlying worry about Benton’s
understanding of what an ecological reconstruction of
Marxism amounts to.

It appears that what Benton seeks is a synthesis of
environmentalism’s normative anti-humanism with a
Marxism which is understood as a theoretical anti-humanism.

For this reason, the provocative question which provides
the title of Benton’ s article, ‘Humanism = Speciesism?’,
warrants a considered answer. 41 There are ecological writers who equate humanism with anthropocentrism and with
speciesism; and Benton himself does not appear to observe
any clear distinction between the three terms. So it is worth
emphasising that ‘anthropocentrism’ need not always be
‘speciesist’ ;42 and it is arguable that actually to purge
anthropocentrism would be at the same time to remove
anything recognisable as ethics. 43 But, however that may be,
the suggestion that ‘humanism’ might necessarily be
‘speciesist’ is more contentious still. For placing an affirmative valuation on humanity does not entail any particular
value commitment (negative or otherwise) as regards the
rest of nature.

It is true that humanism sees humans as something more
than just a biological species – as cultural, enlightened

Radical Philosophy 62, Autumn 1992

beings – and it is this which lays it open to criticisms
concerning dualism. Yet speciesism does not necessarily
follow from dualism; and it would only follow if dualism
automatically entailed the domination of one pole over the
other. Benton appears to follow a dominant trend in contemporary ecological thinking in assuming that it does. But,
given that difference and domination are two separate
aspects of dualism, it cannot simply be assumed – on pain
of fallacious reasoning – that this ontological distinction
entails a specific evaluative preference. 44 To the extent that
domination does go along with the difference it is due to
social or cultural mediations – something emphasised by
Lichtman, like Marx before him.

Benton criticises Marx, when writing in a humanistic
vein, for presenting the realisation oftrue humanity in terms
of raising itself above its ‘merely animal’ mode of existence.

To the extent that this means attributing positively valued
potentialities to our ‘truly human’ nature, and negative
potentialities to our ‘merely animal’ nature, this is, as
Benton rightly objects, an indefensible form of ‘speciesist’

special pleading. Yet this particular objection might be met
by conceding that Marx’ s conception of animal existence
may simply be wrong, while nevertheless maintaining that
this only means recognising that other animals might do
something humans do, not that humans do not do it;45 and
what it is that humans do, among other things, is formulate
their own ends. These ends must include reference to needs,
but cannot, I think, be reduced to them.

So, whilst sympathising with Benton’ s concern to avoid
cultural relativism, I would resist the view that the way to do
so is by ousting humanism in the name of naturalism. For it
seems that any account of human needs elaborated on a
naturalistic basis will stop short of being an adequate
account of human emancipation. This is because, at root,
there is a fundamental difference of basicness between
needs related to survival and those related to flourishing. A
theory which focusses on the insufficiency of survival for
flourishing, rather than on its necessity, is oflimited relevance
to an appreciation of the needs of the poorer four-fifths of
humans in the world who are struggling even to survive. The
question of what need-fulfilment means for them is quite
different from what it means in affluent parts of the world
where there is a superfluity of ‘needs’ of a quite different
order to sort out. Here, by contrast, an appropriate political
objective is to seek to scale down the material dimension of
needs, to sift out ‘compensatory’ needs, and enrich their
‘spiritual’ or ‘truly human’ aspects. But how useful would
a naturalistic theory of needs be here? It might lead us to
state that many of our perceived needs – e.g. for three colour
TVs in the house – are not really needs and do not help one
flourish. But merely stating this will not remove the ‘need’.

To transform needs means undertaking how they are/armed
in the first place. For this, I would suggest, you need a
cultural theory of how needs are constructed. This would
seem to be the task which follows from Lichtman’ s approach
to human nature, and is also more consonant with Marx’ s
anti-essentialist view of human nature as realised via the
‘ensemble of social relations’.

So, in conclusion, I would also suggest that the reasons
for socialism’s traditional scepticism about the political

Radical Philosophy 62, Autumn 1992

uptake of theories of human nature are not wholly obviated
by ecological concerns. Whether or not the ‘ecological’

critique of anthropocentrism is, as I believe, something of
a red herring, it is surely an error insofar as it means
neglecting how what is wrong with anthropocentrism can
be specified in Marxist terms. ‘Anthropos’ – or ‘Man in
general’ – is an abstract category which can be used to deny
differences of race, gender and class. The radical critique of
this category is crucial, and any attempt to find a unified
theory of general needs which disregards it risks playing
down the various kinds of social differentiation and their
causes. Benton’ s approach, it seems to me, may precisely
risk rejecting the one aspect of a ‘critique of
anthropocentrism’ which has a sure validity.

Notes
The present article is concerned with the question as to what
conception of human emancipation is most commensurable
with a commitment to the aims of ecological socialism. It thus
presupposes that, though problematic, the possibility of a discourse of emancipation is not fatally undermined by
‘postmodernist’ considerations: cf. Kate Soper, ‘Feminism,
Humanism and Postmodernism’, Radical Philosophy 55 (1990),
pp. 11-17.

2

Ecological socialism is most obviously distinguished on this
score from the ecological neo-Malthusianism ofEhrlich, Hardin,
et all: see, e.g., Ted Benton, ‘Marxism and Natural Limits: An
Ecological Critique and Reconstruction’, New Left Review 178
(19889), pp. 51-86, and references therein. But there is not such
a straightforward opposition between ecological socialism and
other Green or environmentalist positions, since a majority of
the latter do tend towards the left on social questions (see, e.g.,
Robert C. Paehlke, Environmentalism and the Future of Progressive Politics, Yale University Press, 1989″; and Andrew
Dobson,GreenPoliticaIThought, UnwinHyman,London, 1990).

Here the difference is not so much one of political values as of
social theory: see, e.g., Michael Goldman and James O’Connor,
‘Ideologies of Environmental Crisis: Technology and its
Discontents’, Capitalism, Nature, Socialism 1 (1988), pp. 91106.

3

The ideas in this sentence are presented in extremely compressed fonn – and as such may appear to beg a number of
questions. For one thing, the meaning of’ sustainability’ may be
more complex and problematic than is apparent here: see e.g.

Michael Redclift, Sustainable Development (Methuen, 1987).

For another, I have used the idea of ‘nature-transfonnative
activities’ in a very broad sense, where a more differentiated
account of the kinds of practical relation between humans and
nature would use the tenn in a narrower sense: see e.g. Ted
Benton’s ‘Marxism and Natural Limits’, where the term
‘transfonnative’ is reserved for activities which tend not to be
ecologically benign, whilst for more sustainable activities other
descriptions such as ‘eco-regulation’ are employed; and Linda
Nicholson’s ‘Feminism and Marx: Integrating Kinship with the
Economic’, in S. Benhabib and D. Cornell (eds.), Feminism as
Critique (Polity, Cambridge, 1987), which further distinguishes
various kinds of productive and reproductive activity. However,
my theoretical aim here is limited to marking a straightforward
distinction, also drawn by Benton in ‘Ecology, Socialism, and
the Mastery of Nature: A Reply to Reiner Grundmann’, New
Left Review, forthcoming, between the ‘Promethean project, on
the one hand, and the much more readily defensible notion of
mastery of, or control over our human interchange with nature,
on the other’.

4

This Promethean assumption was virtually taken as axiomatic
within orthodox Marxism, but it is now generally recognised, at
least by ecological socialists, to be untenable. Surprisingly,

11

though, Reiner Grundmann, in ‘The Ecological Challenge to
Marxism’, New Left Review 187 (1991), pp. 103-20, effectively
reaffirms that assumption (see p. 108) – and on this issue I would
wholly side with Benton. Elsewhere in this article, Grundmann
makes some salutary points about how the ecological case
against Marx is sometimes overstated; but the basic problem, it
seems to me, is that, whereas Benton rejects humanism along
with Prometheanism, Grundmann appears to think it necessary
to defend Prometheanism in order to save humanism. In the
present article I seek to offer an alternative to both these
positions by distinguishing humanism from Prometheanism.

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

In practice, of course, it may be very difficult to draw a hard and
fast line between sustainable and unsustainable practices, for the
. amount of ecological knowledge required would be formidable.

However, between the two aims there is a very clear distinction
– and so there is good reason to think that the trajectories of
practices guided by these aims will be vastly different.

This was briefly discussed in Tim Hayward, ‘Ecosocialism:

Utopian and Scientific’, Radical Philosophy 56 (1990), pp. 810; for a fuller discussion see Benton’s ‘Marxism and Natural
Limits’.

Karl Marx, ‘Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts (1844)’

in Lucio Colletti (ed.), Early Writings (Penguin, Harmondsworth,
1975).

The objections to humanism are not always as explicit as in
David Ehrenfeld, The Arrogance of Humanism (Oxford University Press, 1978), but it is widely assumed, by ecologistic
writers, that humanism must be anti-ecological, or ‘speciesist’,
due to an association of ideas which runs something like this. In
starting from perceptions of the distinctiveness of human beings,
humanists overemphasise their uniqueness vis-a-vis the rest of
nature, and this leads them to see humans as apart from rather
than a part of nature; a corollary of this is to view humans as ends
in themselves, and the rest of nature as means only; and this in
turn serves as a legitimation for the Promethean project of
‘mastering’ nature. Still, it is not obvious that any of these ideas
necessarily follow from the starting point. It might also be noted
that seeing human beings as ‘ends in themselves’ does not
preclude moral consideration of non-human beings (see, e.g., W.

K. Frankena, ‘Ethics and the Environment’ in K. E. Goodpaster
and K. M. Sayne (eds.), Ethics and the Problems of the 21 st
Century (University of Notre Dame Press, Notre Dame, 1979);
and as regards ‘mastery of nature’ one can distinguish, as Leiss,
following Marcuse and Benjamin, does, between Promethean,
or ‘repressive’, domination of nature and a liberatory mastery of
the relationship between nature and humanity (William Leiss,
The Domination ofNature , George Braziller, New York, 1972).

It might be queried whether socialists, especially Marxists,
would necessarily subscribe to the humanist aim as I have
described it either. However, it seems to me that this can only be
avoided if it is assumed to be obviated by the accomplishment of
social emancipation. But for sustainable social justice to be
possible, conflict over scarce resources must be resolved – and
a non-coercive resolution could occur only through production
of abundance (the Promethean aim) or through a more or less
spontaneous limitation of pressure on them (the ecologicallytutored humanist aim). So to the extent that Marxism can avoid
reference to a humanist aim, it is because of a commitment to the
Promethean aim – hence the problem discussed in the text.

Richard Lichtman, ‘The Production of Human Nature by Means
of Human Nature’, Capitalism, Nature, Socialism 4 (1990), p.

18.

Ibid., p. 22.

Ibid., pp. 24-25.

13
14
15

Ibid., p. 23.

Ibid., pp. 25-26.

16

Ibid., p. 45.

Ibid., p. 50.

17
12

Ibid., p. 26.

18
19
20

Ibid., p. 50.

Ibid., p. 25.

Benton, ‘On the Limits of Malleability’, Capitalism, Nature,
Socialism 4 (1990), pp. 68-71, points out that ‘human nature’ is
used in two distinct senses in Lichtman’ s account. It refers, on
the one hand, to a single set of potentialities common to all
human beings; and, on the other, to a multiplicity of actualities
(human nature as manifested differently in different cultures).

Benton objects that, since Lichtman says little about the former,
it remains a subordinate moment with respect to the latter, so that
the emphasis on multiplicity ends up hardly distinguishable
from cultural relativism.

21
22

Ibid., p. 69 .

Ibid., pp. 69-70.

Ibid., p. 70
Ibid.

For a brief overview see J. Baird Callicott, ‘The Metaphysical
Implications of Ecology’, Environmental Ethics 8 (1986), pp.

301-316.

Ted Benton, ‘Humanism = Speciesism? Marx on Humans and
Animals’, Radical Philosophy 50 (1988), p. 12.

23
24
25

26
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
34
35

36
37
38
39
40

41

42

Ibid.,
Ibid.,
Ibid.,
Ibid.,

p. 12.

p. 13.

p. 14.

p. 13.

Ibid.

Ibid.

Ibid., p. 15.

Ibid., emphasis in the original.

Benton does not pursue this question further in the article under
discussion. Nevertheless, in his conclusion he affirms his belief
that ‘explanatory strategies in relation to such supervenient
needs would be to make them intelligible .in terms of the
(ontologically) more fundamental common needs’ (p. 15). He
claims that this broad naturalistic approach would provide the
beginnings of a methodological defence for some already existing explanatory strategies and offer a promising direction for
future developments. He cites, for instance, Gould’s notion:

‘that biological modifications which are adaptive may bring in
their wake a train of consequences which are non-adaptive is an
important concept for this strategy’ (ibid.). However, as I go on
to argue in the text, I think Benton ‘s uptake of this point might
depend on confusing needs with powers.

‘The Limits of Malleability’, p. 69.

Richard Lichtman, ‘Response to Comments’, Capitalism, Nature, Socialism 4 (1990), pp. 73-74.

Ibid., p. 74.

Ibid.

For this reason Lichtman sees the treatment of this question as
a subordinate moment in the delineation of human nature. As
Lichtman observes regarding the contention that ‘nature grounds
value’: ‘In truth, the opposite is closer to the truth: know what is
good and you will better know what human nature is, since to be
human is to be capable of recognising and realising value. Value
determines what is human in human nature, and which needs are
therefore worthy of being realised and which are not’ (ibid., pp.

73-74).

The question mark did not appear in the title of the original
Radical Philosophy article: this was due to a typographical
oversight, I understand, and was rectified in the reprint of the
piece in S. Sayers and P. Osborne (eds.), Socialism, Feminism
and Philosophy (Routledge, London, 1990), pp. 235-274.

Among the reasons why anthropocentrism is not necessarily
speciesist are those provided by Bryan G. Norton, ‘Environmental Ethics and Weak Anthropocentrism’, Environmental Ethics
6 (1984), pp. 131-48.

Radical Philosophy 62, Autumn 1992

,
I

43

A striking illustration is provided by the notorious conclusions
of members of the Earth First! group that the AIDS virus should
be welcomed as nature’s solution to overpopulation, while
Mexican immigrants should be chased out of the US for the same
reason.

A theoretical point is that moral consideration of individuals
(human or non-) can be incompatible with moral consideration
of supra-individual entities (e.g. ecosystems). Goodpaster, for
instance, articulates this problem, saying we require a new
understanding of what it is to be a bearer of moral value (K. E.

Goodpaster, ‘From Egoism to Environmentalism’ in Goodpaster
and Sayle (eds.), Ethics and the Problems of the 21st Century)
– but such an understanding has not yet been forthcoming.

Meanwhile, as Attfield, for instance, acknowledges, we have to
make some assumptions about the value of humans, and reason
by analogy to non-humans, in order to get environmental ethics
off the ground (Robin Attfield, A Theory of Value and Obligation, Croom Helm, London, 1987).

Apparently less mindful of the dilemma – anthropocentrism or
arbitrariness – are those who rhetorically distance themselves
from anthropocentrism, and enlightened human self-interest,
only to end up appealing to it: see e.g. Callicott, ‘The Metaphysi-

44

45

cal Implications of Ecology’, or Holmes Rolston, ‘Is There an
Ecological Ethic?’, Ethics 85 (1975), pp. 93-109, who argues to
the effect that we have a duty to preserve the natural world
because we are one with it.

On difficulties which emerge in attempts to establish an intrinsic
connection between dualisms and evaluative hierarchies see Val
Plum wood, ‘Ecofeminism: an Overview and Discussion of
Positions and Arguments’, Australian Journal of Philosophy,
Supplement to Vo!. 64 (1986), pp. 120-38.

In ‘Humanism = Speciesism?’, at p. 11, Benton makes the
stronger claim that Marx must deny capacities in the animal case
to sustain his ethical critique of human estrangement – but I am
not convinced that textual references to the human-animal
contrast in Marx suffice to show that precisely this contrast
grounds his critique. It seems to me that the critique might
function just as well without any reference to ‘animal nature’.

Thus one might simply speak of ‘less than truly human existence’ in more neutral terms; or one could say that in an alienated
condition humans are reduced to a ‘machine-like’ existence, for
example, thereby admitting the possibility of speaking about
exploited or ill-treated animals in the same way.

Sixth Annual Conference sponsored by Free Association Books,
The Human Nature Trust and the Sociology Department, University of East London (UEL)

PSYCHOANALYSIS
and the

PUBLIC SPHERE
Friday and Saturday 30 -31 October, 1992
University of East London Conference Centre
Duncan House, High Street, Stratford, London EI5

PLENARY TOPICS
‘Frantz Fanon: the Struggle for Inner Freedom’ F akhry Davids
‘The Perverse?’ Mandy Merck

WORKSHOP THEMES
This year’s theme of ‘Power and Difference’

will be addressed by workshop papers within one of the following streams:

Gender and Sexuality
Ethnicity, Racism and Nation
Marginalization and Mental Disorder
• Small-group discussions • Friday evening social • Lunch and Refreshments •
Registration fee £65 (£40 UB40 and NUS)
Registration forms from: Conference Organizers, Department of Sociology,
University of East London, Longbridge Road, Barking, Essex RM8 2AS

Radical Philosophy 62, Autumn 1992

13

Buy the newest RP in printDownload the PDF