Decentering Humanism in Philosophy and the Sciences: Ecologies of Agency, Subversive Animism, and Diffractional Knowledge

Kocku von Stuckrad*

*Corresponding author for this work

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1 Citation (Scopus)


The idea that humans are clearly distinguished from other animals and from the natural world in general is a cornerstone of European philosophy and culture at least from the sixteenth century onward. Often, this idea is related to understandings of ‘humanism’ that emerged in that period and legitimized regimes of power and control over non-European cultures; it also sanctioned the exploitation of the natural world in the form of extractive capitalism. Critiques of Eurocentric mindsets hinge on certain understandings of ‘humanism,’ arguing for a transformation or even abandoning of humanist traditions in the sense of ‘posthumanism’ or ‘critical posthumanities.’ In their selective interpretation of European humanism—exemplified with Immanuel Kant’s philosophy—the current critique shows elements of an Occidentalist construction of humanism. If we want to overcome the idea that humans—and within that group particularly the white, male, educated Europeans—are the ‘masters of the world,’ we are confronted with conceptual challenges that need philosophical and theoretical reflection. The ontological and epistemological implications of non-anthropocentric ways of thinking and knowing provide a clear alternative to some problematic aspects of European philosophy and humanism. Engaging with new interpretations of other-than-human agency, relational understandings of animism, and intra-active production of knowledge can provide a relevant contribution to the ongoing discussion across intellectual, cultural, and political fields, an approach that takes the specificity of human animals seriously without identifying them as the center of knowledge and power.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)709-722
Number of pages14
Early online date5-Dec-2023
Publication statusPublished - Dec-2023

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