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Frontiers of Philosophy in China

ISSN 1673-3436

ISSN 1673-355X(Online)

CN 11-5743/B

Postal Subscription Code 80-983

Front. Philos. China    2014, Vol. 9 Issue (3) : 358-369
research-article |
Marx on Nature
James Swindal()
Department of Philosophy, Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, PA 15282, USA
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Ecological Marxists argue that Marx forged a view of nature compatible with more recent models of environmentalism. John Bellamy Foster argues that Marx ascribed an ecological value to nature by asserting a co-evolution between man and nature. James O’Connor presents a more nuanced view in which Marx at best defended a conservationist defense of nature. I argue that such ecological views of Marx tend to overlook his abandonment of an ontology of nature as a totality of relations among physical objects with respect to their interactions and mutual preservation and order. He followed Kant in reducing nature, or the physical world, effectively to a regulative notion, thus reducing its value to a simply a heuristic one for judgments about and actions towards objects. But he also radicalized this reduction by envisaging nature only as a material field of fungible and consumable things, such that each thing is a mere locus of energy or force that human labor cannot substantively perfect but only change to a function. Labor in this view creates new arrangements of natural things for a singular ultimate purpose: the formation of associations of free labor. I conclude that Marx’s thinking thus cannot be utilized to support an environmental philosophy, such as deep ecology or eco-socialism, that would posit any intrinsic value to nature.

Keywords Kant      Marx      Engels      nature      ecology     
Issue Date: 23 September 2014
 Cite this article:   
James Swindal. Marx on Nature[J]. Front. Philos. China, 2014, 9(3): 358-369.
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