Ecocentrism: Resetting Baselines for Virtue Development

Abstract: From a planetary perspective, industrialized humans have become unvirtuous and holistically destructive in comparison to 99% of human genus existence. Why? This paper draws a transdisciplinary explanation. Humans are social mammals who are born particularly immature with a lengthy, decades-long maturational schedule and thus evolved an intensive nest for the young (soothing perinatal experience, responsive care, extensive breastfeeding, multiple responsive caregivers, positive social support, self-directed free play with multi-aged mates in the natural world). Neurosciences show that evolved nest components support normal development at all levels (e.g., neurobiological, social, psychological), laying the foundations for virtue. Nest components are degraded in industrialized societies. Studies and accounts of societies that provide the nest, particularly nomadic foragers, the type of society in which humanity spent 99% of its genus history, indicate a more virtuous human nature than that industrialized societies think is normal or possible. Nest-supported human nature displays Darwin’s moral sense whereas unnested individuals show dysregulation and a degraded moral sense—a species-atypical human nature. Original virtue is about flourishing—of self, human community and the more than human community—within all circles of life, based in a deep awareness of humanity’s dependence on the rest of nature to survive. The pillars of original virtue include relational attunement (engagement ethic), communal imagination, and respectful partnership with the natural world. All are apparent in human societies that provide the nest to their young, fostering connectedness throughout life. They maintain communal imagination through cultural practices that enhance ecological attachment and receptive intelligence to the natural world.

Read the article:

Narvaez, D. (2020). Ecocentrism: Resetting baselines for virtue development. Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, 23, 391–406.