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Neither Realism nor Anti-Realism: How to approach the Anthropocene?

Heike Egner


Taking the hypothesis of the Anthropocene as a starting point, the paper challenges traditional epistemologies and indicates fundamental changes within scientific concepts.

Initially suggested in 2000, the hypothesis that we have entered the new geological era of the Anthropocene has started an intense debate on its plausibility and on the evidence the era could be based on. The hypothesis of the Anthropocene implies a concept fundamentally different from many precursors: It is assumed that humans and their societies no longer have a symbiotic relationship with nature but rather modify and transform natural processes to such an extent that humans have to be acknowledged as a natural force. Taking the assumptions of the Anthropocene seriously, a fundamental revision of almost every concept of the relation of societies, humans and nature would be required, as well as of our concepts of ourselves as humans and our responsibilities as scientists. The paper focuses on the question of epistemology and argues that epistemologies rooted in dualistic thinking are not suitable in the Anthropocene. Thus, neither realistic nor anti-realistic approaches are adequate any longer.

© 2017 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Munich/Boston
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