Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Consilience: A Philosophy for Green Politics

It surprises me that I've only now read Edward O Wilson's book Consilience. The unity of knowledge. It was, after all, published in 1998!

In Consilience Wilson takes an uncompromising position on the superiority of the scientific method to other ways of establishing knowledge. This is a strong claim but one that I entirely accept. Science, unlike appeals to authority, personal revelation or popular opinion gives us knowledge that we can safely rely one. Or at least it does so more often then  the others!

Wilson then argues that the areas of study not usually seen as part of science - from literature and the arts to ethics - should both adopt similar methods and seek consistency - which he calls consilience - with the findings of physical science. There's is much to be said for this. Anyone who has read what passes for scholarship in, say, cultural studies, will recognise the need for a strong dose of scientific scepticism. And if I cannot, in the end, agree with all his claims, especially about ethics, I do think he's much more right than wrong.

He also makes a claim for the relevance of science to politics (page 313 et seq of the Abacus paperback). His distinctive position here is to insist that politics - the use of power in society - should be understood within a scientific account of what is possible given the resources we have. This leads him to a fairly conventional account of the planetary crisis. 

But the framing of politics as subordinate to the environment is profoundly correct and important. It requires, at once, a longer, wider and deeper view than is available from mainstream politics. It requires, in short, a Green, ecological approach to politics.

1 comment:

  1. Green Politics is a new term to me. I liked reading the article and now i am going to read and understand more about the points i have made a note of.