On Damaged and Regenerating Life: Spinoza and Mentalities of Climate Catastrophe

Taylor, Dan (2021). On Damaged and Regenerating Life: Spinoza and Mentalities of Climate Catastrophe. Crisis and Critique, 8(1) pp. 476–501.

URL: https://crisiscritique.org/uploads/09-07-2021/60e/...


This essay strategically intervenes in the ongoing climate catastrophe debate by considering how underlying mentalities that either emphasise Promethean technological fixes and individual behavioural change, or which misanthropically claim human extinction is inevitable, rely on capitalist norms of domination established in the early modern period. Amid a period of urgent hazard warnings, it begins with Adorno to explore the 'sickness' that naturalises and not historicises capitalist domination and calmly assents to business (or catastrophe) as usual. It then turns to Spinoza in three substantial ways: 1) in his apparent ontological critique of anthropocentrism, which has roiled the scholarly literature – the essay uses Spinoza’s critique of misanthropy and anthropocentrism in ethics and politics to argue for a new democratic, collegial anthropocentrism; 2) in his critical theory of ingenium (mentality), which underpins anthropocentric prejudice as well as shared forms of political domination; and 3) in his underexplored argument for democratic, collegial deliberation for overcoming the force of prejudice, fear and servitude. It places Spinoza in opposition to a theoretical Prometheanist line from Bacon to Boyle, Petty and early modern colonialism which emphasised subduing the Earth, indigenous peoples and labour discipline. It concludes with a speculative outline for a desubjectified, post-Anthropocene democratic praxis.

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