Corazonar’, ‘Self-Transformation’, ‘Bio-centrism’: from Western Universality to Global Pluriversality?

Waldmueller, Johannes M. (2014). ''Corazonar', 'Self-Transformation', 'Bio-centrism': from Western Universality to Global Pluriversality?' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, 2-5 September 2014, Athens, Greece.

Departing from a decolonial critique of Western rationality and philosophy, this paper seeks to introduce and engage with 'non-Westernocentric' philosophical contributions for the purposefulness of rethinking notions such as '(human) development', 'development ethics' and, inherently linked, 'agency'. The concept of 'homeomorphous equivalents', as developed by Raimon Panikkar (1990) within the tradition of Intercultural Philosophy serves as the methodological frame for this envisaged dialogue. The distinction between 'Westernocentric philosophy' (at least in its positivist and neo-positivist forms) and 'non-Westernocentric philosophies' is frequently drawn by characterizing the former as aiming at the universalization of distinct ontological and epistemological categories, based on paradigmatic divides between human (culture) and nature, individual and collective, subject and object as well as mind and sensation.

In contrast, 'non-Western philosophies', explicitly reflecting on experiences of development, have always emphasized to take into account, first, a plurality of ontologies, and second the possibility to perceive and structure life not merely around Foucauldian notions of power, principles of inclusion/exclusion and individual and collective growth, but rather in terms of 'balancing', 'guarding', 'caring', 'mutual connectedness' and primordial 'completeness'. Such approaches offer a profound critique of prevalent forms of utilitarianism, sometimes by explicitly engaging with Amartya Sen and Martha Nussbaum writings. At the same time they permit to critically reposition the role of philosophers with regard to the field of development. Selected examples to be introduced and mutually engaged with stem from Latin America, India and Africa: Andean philosophy or 'cosmic consciousness' (drawing on the works of Estermann 1999, 2012; Attawalpa 2012; Arias 2010), Gandhi-inspired 'self-transformation and encompassing responsibility' (Giri 2002; who wrote extensively on the human development approach) and interpretative approaches to human-nature epistemology and ethics, in particular by the Nigerian philosopher Ekwealo (2013); following Latour (1993); Descola (2013), etc.

In order to employ actual experience and not (only) logico-rational abstraction as the main focus for reflecting on one's being and aspirations, concepts such as 'corazonar' (from Spanish: corazón – heart; pensar – thinking) will be explored, accounts of virtue ethics such as Giri's concept of 'responsible self-transformation', transcending the individual-collective divide, and bio-centrism, i.e. to take life as such at the center of ethical, political, economic, and social consideration and planning in a metabolic understanding.

Discussing these approaches critically not only permits to rethink any universalizing account of human development – in this sense contributing to an ethical contextualization of it – but in particular to expand the notions of capabilities and functionings beyond anthropocentric conceptualizations, be them individual or collective. Ascribing potentialities and factual realizations also to non-human beings, such as mountains, rivers or even objects, therein seeking to undo the notion of 'resources', could point the way forward to metabolic conceptions of human-nature rights. 'Pluriversality' - as introduced by Mignolo in his book from 2011 and understood as alternative to 'universality' -, will therefore be eventually presented as a more tentative, yet promising, approach to global justice and development.

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