Defining EP, Part 2

Posted on April 12, 2009 by Amy Lenzo

by Robert Greenway

(continued from Part 1)
Thanks for all the interest in “defining” —  I think it very important, for a variety of reasons.   Not to “lock in ‘the field'”; not assuming that “nature” needs us to be conceptual or heady; not to provide public credentials (that after all serve a culture with symptoms of serious disjunction); not to push a certain philosophy over another; but simply as an “interim” tool — with which those who in fact have worked out a healthy “human-nature-relationship” can do more than blather incoherently (or eschew all guides and forward references) in service to a kind of naturalistic Boddhisatva vow — that we will not take our exploitative comforts and pleasures [for granted] until all humans and creatures and life can live in alignment with “nature”.

Of course there will be no one “conceptual framework” as long as we individualistically hide our basic assumptions. Somewhere, when basic assumptions are realized and revealed, we will find common ground — a very fluid common ground — always evolving — but something like an “interim” conceptual framework. The more this overlaps with our VERY diverse viewpoints,  and our very diverse actions and experiences, the more useful this field will be in helping humans turn the corner — away from what feels more and more like an inevitable destruction (or at best severe diminishment) of the glorious diversity of life on this planet.

So I urge us not to misread the idea of a common “conceptual framework”. We resist that because,  in recent times,  such conceptual frameworks have been limiting. (But think of those that have expanded — GREATLY expanded — our understanding — take Evolutionary theory — more or less one conceptual framework — yes of course the unresolved philosophical under- pinnings constantly arise in the form of disagreements and controversy.   But where would our understanding be,  at this critical turning point,  without a more or less unitary conceptual framework.

Such a framework — if broad and with enough depth — should only stimulate a diversity of actions; it can clarify such actions, and bring into action people who are paralyzed by confusion — a confusion born of an unexamined tool of analysis of the h-n-r. The central role of a unified conceptual framework for EP will, then, find it’s primary use as a means of communicating trends and insights crucial to our survival.

And yes, such a framework will be:  a way of ‘knowing (not only “collective” — that of course –) but also individualistic,  as we are a long way from understanding how a collective — a coalescence of minds — would work; a refuge for “practices” — but not only “service” (that too of course), but also of individual growth and healing;  a clear, solid philosophy (i.e.,  the revealing of assumptions) — which merges with the very “receptacle” that would BE what is called “ecopsychology”;  a psychology — with a variety of emphases (“connecting”  to be sure —  as “relationship” is at the heart of ANY real configuration of EP — but also of intention, motivation,  emotional life —  not to mention archetypes and the arising of consciousness from living cells,  and so forth;   NOT as a science,  dominated by the catechisms of science (just as NOT subservient to,  say,  The Church), but a user of data,  science-generated facts,  the beauteous “scientific method” whenever it can be useful — “systems”, yes, but the life-cycles of worms and the natural periodicities of lunar- human behavior as well; all drawn from experience —  as much from experience within culture as those increasingly rare forays “out of culture” into wilderness; perhaps wisdom will emerge — but I think only if we create a rich and diverse and strong enough conceptual framework; perhaps (or perhaps not) we will find that “love” is a “system motif” —  an inevitable emergent property of a relational system that denigrates no aspect of the universe within which we live; with such a conceptual framework,  our reality would of course “expand”; our sense of self — as with all interactions between an individual self and a group “self” — would both be strengthened at the core, and expansive into a wider embrace of all that is (with attendant management of vastly greater information inputs than we’re already overwhelmed with ….

EP as a path? I’m not sure that is its function, at all.  As a tool,  by which to communicate important (perhaps survival-crucial) moves — that may be it’s “highest and best” use. Motivation for a diversity of paths, perhaps. A map — temporary to be sure — of trails forward that enhance the possibility of survival…

Where I think “the” collective can be crucial — including our own “collective” — is to keep encouraging our selves not to settle for many dilemmas EP drops in our laps. “Let a thousand flowers bloom” —  and let there be a temporary coherent conceptual framework —  just another tool among the many needed for survival.

Robert Greenway,
Professor Emeritus in Psychology at Sonoma State University

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  1. Pingback: Defining Ecopsychology | Gatherings

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