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(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Webster's dictionary gives three meanings for the word anthropocentrism. Taken together, they lead to a specific mode of religious thought that has affected the course of human history.

1. Considering man to be the central or most significant fact of the universe. 2. Assuming man to be the measure of all things. 3. Interpreting or regarding the world in terms of human values and experiences.

Pantheism, on the other hand, is the belief that one absolute reality exists everywhere and in everything. Indigenous pantheistic religions that view humans as part of a whole, neither more nor less important than the animals and plants existing in the environment, tend to view Earth as a living, breathing entity. In this view, Earth is the very body of the divine, so the sacred becomes feminine, the goddess, from whose womb all life springs.

This view is by no means limited to primitive people. Recently one name for the goddess, Gaia, has been resurrected by science to describe the contemporary unifying principle of the earth itself as a living organism, with all systems of life and energy combining to produce the "balance of nature" as we experience it (see Gaia Principle). The Gaia principle is what some religions have called Mother Earth or the Divine Mother Goddess.

But once humans become the center and culminating fact of creation (anthropocentrism), the psychology of religious thought immediately changes. Rather than becoming a living framework for the very existence of the balance of nature, Earth becomes a smorgasbord of natural resources put here for human consumption and exploitation. Humans then live "on" Earth rather than "in" it.

This view is expressed in the first chapter of the Jewish/Christian Bible:

God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground. I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food." (Gen. 1:28, 29)

It is probably not a coincidence that once this view became scriptural dogma, and wherever it was introduced into indigenous cultures, conditions quickly changed. Masculine-dominated religious systems quickly replaced the feminine. Nature became something to subdue "by the sweat of your brow," in the words of Genesis 3. Pantheism, respect for Mother Earth, and worship of the goddess became worship of the God. Humans were now separate from nature, and religions developed hierarchical structures.

An example of these conflicting religious views can be seen in the European invasion of New England beginning in the seventeenth century. Puritan preachers such as Cotton Mather thundered warnings from their Boston pulpits about the "howling wilderness" where "wild creatures" (meaning American Indians, presumably without souls) worshiping the "fiery worm who flies by night" practiced all sorts of "abominations." The wilderness was to be tamed. Wolves, trees, bears, panthers, and Indians were to be removed because they hindered the spread of humans who were put on Earth "to subdue it." It became the "Puritan ethic" to work hard to subdue a wild land for the glory of God. The concept of manifest destiny spread this doctrine from sea to shining sea in less than two centuries.

Deep Ecology environmentalists today place what they consider to be exploitation of natural resources into the realm of religious holy war (see Deep Ecology). They believe that both so-called tree-huggers and oil-drilling companies are products of certain religious ideologies.

English historian and philosopher Arnold Toynbee said it this way:

If I am right in my diagnosis of mankind's present-day distress, the remedy lies in reverting from the world view of monotheism to the world view of pantheism, which is older and was once universal.



the view that man is the center and the highest aim of the universe. Anthropocentrism is one of the most consistent expressions of teleology—that is, the ascription of extranatural goals to the world. In ancient philosophy, anthropocentrism was formulated by the Greek philosopher Socrates; later, representatives of the patristics, scholastics, and certain modern philosophers (for example, the German philosopher C. Wolff) espoused it. Certain elements of anthropocentrism may be seen as the theoretical orientation from which existentialism follows.

References in periodicals archive ?
The direct result of human/nature is anthropocentrism that privileges homo sapiens and their interests over other species.
In this regard, the text suggests that a purely anthropocentric view is fatally solipsistic, while at the same time revealing that a purely ecocentric worldview is problematic due to language's inherent anthropocentrism.
And yet when one looks into what Donna Harraway famously called "the animal mirror" (32) and one sees a diminutive insect staring back, distortions of scale provoked by analogical relationships between human and the sovereign bee force us to ask if we are encountering anthropocentrism or apian exceptionalism.
Though the attribution of greater intrinsic value to humans might make some environmentalists nervous, I would argue that this stance is not an example of "speciesism" or anthropocentrism in a pernicious sense.
Anthropocentrism regarded humankind being in the centre of the world, and existence, welfare, and well-being as the ultimate aim of the universe.
In his continual endeavor to demystify anthropocentrism, Calvino now attacks the faculty of "reason" that is attributed to human beings by The Enlightenment.
It is the botanist Matthew Hall who has likely devoted the most attention to the ethical problem of the plant: his 2011 book bears the provocative title Plants as Persons, and its central arguments fall somewhere between the "animal liberation" philosophy associated with writers like Peter Singer and the critical animal theory that so often attacks that movement for its fundamental anthropocentrism and "ethical provincialism," to borrow Steel's perhaps overly dismissive phrase (3).
These include the relationship of the Bible and the environment, and the charge of anthropocentrism.
Cerocchi proposes to illustrate the processes of secularization and anthropocentrism in Duecento and Trecento Italian culture through an analysis of the thematic and mimetic role of music in the works of the tre corone, Dante, Petrarca, and Boccaccio.
I would only add that Frye himself came to distrust such anthropocentrism although, to my knowledge, he never uses such a shifting understanding as an occasion to reflect critically upon his earlier views such as in The Educated Imagination where he comments that "the limit of the imagination is a totally human world" (cw 21:444).
Dianne Bergant looks at anthropocentrism in the Scriptures through a reading of the Book of Job and the Wisdom of Solomon.