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HuyCaoNgo CA2

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Huy Cao Ngo
Melissa Hurt
MMW15, Section A05
Final Paper
8 September 2023
Edward O. Wilson directly challenges the "exemptionalist" view that human
ingenuity can single-handedly solve environmental issues. He asserts that such
anthropocentrism is dangerous, stating, "The world is too complicated to be turned into
a garden. There is no biological homeostat that can be worked by humanity; to believe
otherwise is to risk reducing a large part of Earth to a wasteland" (Wilson). This critique
underlines the limitations of a human-centric approach, pointing out that ecosystems are
too complex for humans to fully control or restore once damaged.
John Seed goes further by questioning the very foundation of anthropocentrism
that places humans at the center of the ecological equation. He argues that this
perspective is flawed at its core, asserting, "We are not the conquerors of nature; we
are part of nature. To destroy nature is to destroy ourselves" (Seed). Seed's critique
calls for a shift from an anthropocentric to an eco-centric viewpoint, emphasizing the
intrinsic value of nature itself, apart from its utility to humans.
Vaclav Havel moves the critique into the ethical domain, positing that
anthropocentrism is not just ecologically damaging but also morally questionable. He
states, "The idea of dominion over nature stems from an arrogance that has led us to
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the brink of annihilating ourselves" (Havel). For Havel, the issue is not just about the
survival of the planet but about the ethical and moral fiber of humanity itself.
While Wilson, Seed, and Havel each critique anthropocentrism from different
angles, their arguments converge to form a holistic perspective that urges humanity to
reconsider its place in the ecological equation. Wilson’s biological theories, Seed’s
eco-centric viewpoint, and Havel’s ethical considerations together suggest that the path
forward isn't merely one of technological or scientific solutions. Instead, it demands a
fundamental philosophical and ethical shift towards a more integrative perspective that
values and considers non-human life as intrinsic to the ecosystem. In a world
increasingly impacted by climate change and biodiversity loss, these differing critiques
combine to urge a multi-faceted approach to ecological stewardship that transcends
human-centric models.
Both Fromm and Friedan would agree on the profound sense of isolation and
dissatisfaction that people, particularly women in Friedan's case, experience. Fromm
suggests that "The deepest need of man, then, is the need to overcome his
separateness, to leave the prison of his aloneness" (Fromm). Friedan echoes this
sentiment when she discusses the unspoken "sense of dissatisfaction, a yearning" that
plagued American women in the mid-20th century (Friedan). Both authors see this
isolation as a fundamental issue that needs to be addressed for genuine human
Where they diverge is in their understanding of the role and responsibility of the
individual in overcoming this isolation. Fromm sees love as the ultimate answer, stating
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that "Love is the active concern for the life and the growth of that which we love. Where
this active concern is lacking, there is no love" (Fromm). He posits that love acts as a
mechanism to unite individuals while allowing them to maintain their individuality,
describing it as a "union under the condition of preserving one’s integrity" (Fromm).
Friedan, on the other hand, might challenge this view as overly idealistic and
detached from the social realities that women in particular have to negotiate. She
argues that societal expectations have confined women to roles that prevent them from
fulfilling their true potential. Women were told "their role was to seek fulfillment as wives
and mothers," and for many, this became an isolating prison (Friedan). Thus, Friedan
might argue that overcoming this isolation and dissatisfaction cannot be achieved solely
through Fromm's philosophical conception of love. It would require a broader societal
transformation that acknowledges and addresses the specific challenges and barriers
women face.
In his seminal "Letter from a Birmingham City Jail," Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
criticizes the "shallow understanding from people of good will," decrying that it is "more
frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will" (King). King's critique
targets the moderate whites who advocate for a slower, more incremental approach to
racial justice. This caution and gradualism, he argues, serve as obstacles to achieving
immediate and meaningful change.
Jonathan Kozol's "Still Separate, Still Unequal" uncovers the modern educational
apartheid in America, a system that perpetuates racial and socio-economic inequalities.
Kozol's depiction of schools where "even the most pleasant and old-fashioned class
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activities of elementary schools have now been overtaken by these ordering
requirements" illuminates the institutionalization of inequity (Kozol). Like King, Kozol
criticizes the mainstream approach to resolving these issues, an approach
characterized by what King would call "shallow understanding."
The mainstream response to Kozol's educational apartheid often manifests as
well-intentioned but inadequate policies that focus on metrics rather than meaningful
reform. Kozol describes how inner-city schools are replete with "rubrics for filing" and
other rigid, empirical measures that miss the larger issue, stating that "there is no
misery index for the children of apartheid education" (Kozol). This focus on quantifiable
outcomes at the expense of qualitative experience reveals a shallow understanding
similar to the lukewarm acceptance King critiques. Such policies, aiming to "change the
face of reading instruction from an art to a science," as one education secretary
assistant claimed, signify not progress but complacency (Kozol).
Dr. King's critique finds haunting resonance in Jonathan Kozol's observation of
"educational apartheid" in America today. The lukewarm acceptance that King deplored
has mutated into a complacency that is content with segregated, unequal schools. Just
as King argued that it was the white moderate who impeded civil rights progress, so too
does Kozol imply that it is the acceptance of educational inequality by those who are not
directly affected that perpetuates the system.
The entanglement of the University of California with federal weapons labs, as
described by Gregg Herken, serves as a tangible illustration of President Dwight D.
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Eisenhower's prescient warning against the unbridled growth of the military-industrial
complex. In Herken’s account, the collaboration between the University of California and
the Atomic Energy Commission was “a union of convenience” where the “university
connection allowed Los Alamos to attract and hold talented scholars” (Herken). The
result was not only the deep integration of academia with military aims but also the
erosion of ethical considerations and independent oversight.
Herken describes how San Francisco attorney John Neylan and the Special
Committee "chose to defer to those whose opinion they trusted most," leading to "the
president and regents of the University of California unanimously—and evidently
unknowingly—approved funding for the construction of the world’s first hydrogen bomb"
(Herken). This example perfectly captures Eisenhower's concern that educational
institutions might abdicate their duties of critical examination and moral reasoning in the
pursuit of federal funding and national security.
Eisenhower, in his "Farewell Address," admonished the nation to "guard against
the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the
military-industrial complex" (Eisenhower). The lack of scrutiny and discussion before
enormous decisions of ethical import, as was the case with the University of California,
reveals how the military-industrial complex can compromise both governance and
Herken’s case study serves as a real-world substantiation of Eisenhower’s
warnings against the military-industrial complex. The ethical lapses and compromised
integrity at the University of California exemplify how academic and governmental
institutions can fall prey to the dangers Eisenhower foresaw. Their combined
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perspectives illustrate that vigilance against the undue influence of the military-industrial
complex is not just a policy issue, but a moral and intellectual one. They argue for the
preservation of independent oversight and ethical reasoning in all institutions, academic
or otherwise, as a safeguard against unwarranted influences.
In both Benito Mussolini's "The Doctrine of Fascism" and Adolf Hitler's "Mein
Kampf," the rejection of pluralistic democracy in favor of a state that prioritizes "quality"
over "quantity" is evident. Mussolini explicitly states that unlike the "impure form of
democracy that equates a nation to the majority," the Fascist State is the "purest form of
democracy" because it emphasizes the "quality rather than the quantity" of its
constituency (Mussolini). This distinction illuminates the Fascist notion that the state
exists not to serve the majority but to elevate a select group that embodies the nation's
highest virtues.
Similarly, Hitler in "Mein Kampf" articulates that the "state is a means to an end"
and that end is the "preservation and advancement of a community of physically and
spiritually similar creatures" (Hitler). This notion aligns closely with Mussolini's idea of
prioritizing "quality." Hitler's argument for the state's role being to preserve the Aryan
race implies a governance model not beholden to the majority but rather committed to
sustaining the "quality" of a select racial group. The focus on "quality over quantity" in
both Mussolini's and Hitler's ideologies has far-reaching implications. It served as a
justification for exclusionary politics, oppressive measures, and even genocidal policies.
By advocating for the quality of a nation's people, they could easily marginalize or
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eliminate those deemed 'inferior,' thereby consolidating power and perpetuating social
Mussolini and Hitler both propagate a disturbingly skewed notion of 'quality over
quantity,' but they employ it to serve different but equally sinister ends. While Mussolini’s
focus on the 'quality' of the nation aims at ideological purity, Hitler's emphasis is on
racial purity. Both ideologies lead to exclusionary politics that marginalize or even
exterminate those deemed 'inferior,' showing the dangers of any doctrine that
emphasizes an elite 'quality' at the expense of democratic inclusion. Understanding
these ideologies as two sides of the same coin warns against the allure of demagoguery
that prioritizes a selective notion of 'quality,' providing critical insights into the
far-reaching implications of such worldviews in contemporary society.