Transcendental philosophy and ecology
For a jurisprudential approach to environmental issues.
Arbury Road re-publishes the manifesto of the Research Group “Metamorphosis of the transcendental” of the University of Padua. You can find them here: https://en.mdtphilo.com/
The dramatic consequences of the ecological crisis, from global warming to the progressive depletion of environmental resources, from migration flows to the spread of unprecedented waves of pandemics, cannot but challenge philosophical reflection. In fact, we believe that the era of the so-called Anthropocene requires a radical rethinking of all the assumptions that have supported the modern era and the formal structures of modern thinking. It is our belief that a transcendental perspective allows us to shed light on contemporaneity not only from the perspective of the ongoing material processes, but also from the point of view of the conceptual premises, within which the ecological issues are placed. In this sense, our commitment as a research group on transcendental philosophy is directed as much to the critique of mainstream paradigms as to the opening of new philosophical and political perspectives.
In its urgency, the current ecological crisis clearly shows how a transcendental kind of thinking can possibly lead to a political stance. However, this does not imply neither a specific kind of ideological adhesion nor a new subordination of philosophy to militant commitment. On the contrary, we believe that only the full awareness of the autonomy of philosophy can allow to criticize all those common-sense devices, that dominate the public opinion with regard to the ecological crisis. In order to be up to what is happening, transcendental philosophy is called to move against the modern and post-modern semantics of political representation, towards what we call a plurality of jurisprudential practices.
The complexity of the so-called ‘ecological transition’ reveals the shortcomings of the conceptual framework of modern political science. That is not simply inadequate, but rather, it is itself part of the problem. From our point of view, if philosophy wants to effectively deal with the questions at stake, it seems necessary to go over the constitutional lexicon of liberal political thinking, which is still based on the reciprocity between popular representation and the sovereignty of the State. In fact, the traditional framework of public law was inextricably linked to a sort of metabolic exchange, grounded on private appropriation on the one side, and boundless extractivism on the other. That is why we think that the new forms of mobilization and struggle characterizing the most significant ecological claims urgently require a conceptual shift in political thinking, which we propose to conceive of in terms of jurisprudence. That is, a politics of “cases” and legal disputes (see, for example, the Royal Dutch Shell case),  which does not neglect nor disregard the importance of contexts and institutional actors, but rather assumes them as part of a plural field of forces where multiple relationships and new alliances are grafted. These latter are not shaped under the banner of alleged identity affiliations, but set up through sharing of material and environmental goals, with regard to specific claims and contexts. Therefore ‘politics’, conceived of as a collective exercise of jurisprudence, should imply the ability to build associations in order to socially sustain legal ecological issues and to file them to national and international courts, but should no longer imply the ‘conquest of the State’ as its ultimate telos.
At the same time, such a politics should face the Anthropocene highlighting its socio-economic roots and its intrinsic relation to a historically determined mode of production. In this sense, we reject any approach that understands ecology as detached from the critique of economic relations within the processes of contemporary capitalist valorization. We also reject a de-historicized, and therefore ideological perspective, promoting a reified and hypostatic conception of “nature” as alien to human social and political relations. We rather refer to those theoretical approaches that, in recent years, have denounced the capitalist substrate of the Anthropocene: below the Anthropocene, we find the Capitalocene. Precisely because of this conceptual shift, we believe that a politics as jurisprudence must necessarily take as its crucial topic the dimension of social reproduction, namely of all those practices and relationships of care and work that, although removed from the logic of capitalist production, preside over the reproduction of life and society.
Given this theoretical framework, we think the following programmatic points to be essential:
The ecological issue is a political issue, insofar as it involves the status and the forms that preside over common agency and social relationships.
There is no real way out of the “ecological crisis” without a critical rethinking of the economic-productive structure, models of socialization, forms of political government, and legal system. For this reason, we reject any rhetoric of “sustainable development.”
The critical rethinking of the economic-productive structure and the forms of politics necessarily calls into question the exercise of philosophical practice as a dismantle of the ideological assumptions of the dominant order of discourse and, at the same time, as the creation of a new conceptual toolbox. In this sense, our philosophical proposal moves within the horizon of a new transcendental philosophy.
The processes of politicization are no longer articulated on the basis of modern legitimacy and representation, but are produced at the level of interference between the institutional level and the concrete contexts in which disputes and mobilizations are activated. For us, the ecological challenge does not end with summits, proclamations, and international conferences. On the contrary, it is played out at the level of targeted regulatory interventions, specific political stances, and molecular claims: court decisions of all levels, committees and associations formed from below for local claims, contextual alliances, self-organization and self-government of territories.
 Accepting the appeal filed by environmental associations, non-governmental organizations, and more than 17,000 citizens, the District Court of The Hague (trade and business section) ordered Shell, in a ruling dated May 26, 2021, to reduce CO2 emissions by 45% from 2019 levels by 2030.