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Frans C. Verhagen “Worldviews and Metaphors …”

September 8, 2011 1 comment

Verhagen, Frans C. 2008. Worldviews and Metaphors in the Human-Nature Relationship: An Ecolinguistic Exploration Through the Ages. – Language & Ecology vol. 2 no. 3

THE ANTHROPOCENTRIC WORLDVIEW

Nature as scala naturae

Generally translated as the Chain of Being, scala naturae, which literally means the Ladder or Stairway of Nature, goes back to classical Greek culture. (4)

Nature as machine

This metaphor, which also represents human dominion over Nature, separates pre-modern and modern views of the human-Nature relationship. It may be considered to construe and communicate the major content of the present day worldview in the Western world.  (5)

In sum, the Nature as machine metaphor views the Earth not as an animate creature, but as a vast machine which, initially, was believed to be created and maintained by the Great Engineer, but which was later explained to be maintained by scientific processes. With the advancement of the industrial age and its factory system, the machine metaphor and its several variants became ever more entrenched in the predominantly mechanistic mode of thinking of Western societies. (6-7)

THE BIOCENTRIC WORLDVIEW

Nature as mother

While the metaphor of Nature as mother had mostly disappeared by the 17th century, today it has re-emerged in the Gaia theory, named after the Greek Earth goddess, Gaia. The Gaia theory considers the Earth to be a self-organizing or autopoietic organism, not an object, but a subject. It assumes that life is characterized by a striving against the pressures of entropy and, therefore, that it organizes itself to overcome entropy and disorder. (7)

Nature as web

Nature as web refers to the interdependence of all Earth beings or, considering Nature in its cosmic dimension, the interdependence of all Being. […]Implicit in the metaphor, Nature as web, is the notion of biocentric equality. Similar to Thoreau’s vast community of equals, it holds all organisms and entities in the biosphere to be parts of an interrelated whole and, therefore, equal in intrinsic worth. (8-9)

Nature as measure

Nature as measure is a metaphor that has been used throughout the ages to characterize Nature as a guide for human endeavor or as a standard against which to measure human endeavor. (9)