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News and resources on French thinker Michel Foucault (1926-1984)

Mylius, Ben, “Towards the Unthinkable: Earth Jurisprudence and an Ecocentric Episteme” AUJlLegPhil 8; (2013) 38 Australian Journal of Legal Philosophy 102-122

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This paper argues that Earth Jurisprudence aims to bring about a change in episteme, using the law, from our current anthropocentric episteme to a new ecocentric one: a process that requires a critique of current epistemic objects and methods, and a gradual articulation of alternative objects and methods for new legal and governance systems to draw upon.

The Prologue and Epilogue are literary reflections on Foucault’s concept of ‘the erasure of the human’, and its two readings: ‘the end of the human as species’, and ‘the end of the human as episteme. The Preliminaries section lays conceptual groundwork for subsequent sections, characterising the concept of episteme (1) as a priori configuration of mind; (2) as epoch in time; (3) as configured around ‘objects’ (all the ‘things’ that can be known) and ‘methods’ (all the ways of knowing them). It also characterises epistemic change (1) as abrupt and all-encompassing; (2) as positioned outside epistemology; (3) as involving the introduction of new objects and methods in a two-phase process. The section on Earth Jurisprudence’s Project discusses Earth Jurisprudence’s role in theorising and implementing potential new objects and methods using a critique of the existing episteme.

The final section begins such a critique. It proposes that current epistemic objects are configured by a dichotomy between Human and World, and critiques (1) the way this establishes and maintains false divisions and perpetuates hierarchies; (2) the way it stifles creative new approaches to interpreting the world, by confining the possible loci for meaning; (3) the way it valorises spatiality at the expense of the temporal. The critique also considers current epistemic methods as variations of the ‘Research Ideal’, examining (1) the way their push for ever-increasing specialisation hinders generalism and transdisciplinary work; (2) the way it leads to ‘knowledge of knowledge’ and insular, self-referential discourse; and (3) the way it valorises an unrealistic, unsustainable static model of a future world. Both critiques conclude with brief reflections on potential alternative objects and methods for a new episteme.

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