Date of Award

Winter 2003

Project Type


Program or Major

Natural Resources and Environmental Studies

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

John E Carroll


Thomas Berry's "intimacy with the natural world" is not an alternative to the anthropocentric-biocentric dispute, which belong to the same rationality. The frontier story and environmentalism are both part of the same rationality because they ignore people. While anthropocentrism is focused on the utilization of natural resources, biocentrism is focused on nature's conservation. The frontier and environmental narrative provides the explicit genealogy of intimacy-alienation, which are always in counterpoint with each other. Further still, if intimacy means only "intimacy with the natural world", then it is a hypostatization of "wilderness" that indicates more alienation. Nevertheless, in my interpretation, intimacy has become inherently humanistic. Because intimacy and alienation represent the dialectical naturalization of humans and humanization of nature, they configure more an appositional polarity than an oppositional dualism. If intimacy is taken out from its biocentric encasement and moved to a humanistic perspective, then it seems to be a plausible normative concept. Since the evolution of humanism coincides with the three hermeneutical cycles (Renaissance humanism/frontier story: 1500--2000; Enlightenment humanism/Industrial Revolution: 1800--2000; Existentialism/Environmentalism: 1960--2000), I retain its major tenets, such as autonomy, moral choice, thinking, the search for meaning, and virtues. The critique on Western tradition should not be centered on being humanistic as in its distorted anthropocentric capitalist drive. Capitalism is oriented to satisfy itself rather than people's needs. Economy depends on politics, which depends on ethics. As such, they are oriented to care for human life in first place and subsequently to preserve and sustain the production and reproduction of all life. Hence, population growth and the development of human life is the only source of meaning. Rather than an obstacle, it should be the variable through which we should program any project. Malthusianism is axiologically eliminated from this analysis. Transformed urban, rural, and natural landscapes are "normative and moral landscapes" that ought to support life in general and humane life in particular. The ethics of liberation has life as guiding principle and opposes to alienation. Intimacy has finally acquired a new meaning as the liberation of the victim's oppression.