The biocentrism is an ethical-philosophical theory that postulates that all living beings are deserving of respect for their intrinsic value as forms of life and have the right to exist and develop.
The term biocentrism arises associated with the approaches of deep ecology, postulated by the Norwegian philosopher Arne Naess in 1973. Naess, in addition to raising respect for all living beings, postulated that human activity is obliged to cause the least possible damage to other species.
These Naess approaches are opposed to anthropocentrism, a philosophical conception that considers the human being as the center of all things and postulates that the interests and well-being of human beings should prevail over any other consideration..
There are two tendencies within the followers of biocentrism: a radical and a moderate stance..
Radical biocentrism postulates the moral equality of all living beings, so other living beings should never be used through an overvaluation of the human species over other species.
According to this trend, all living beings should be "treated morally", not causing them any harm, or underestimating their chances of existence and helping them to live well..
Moderate biocentrism regards all living beings as worthy of respect; proposes not to intentionally harm animals, since they "have high capacities and attributes", but distinguish a "purpose" for each species, which is defined by the human being.
According to this purpose, man is allowed to minimize damage to other species and the environment.
In the first version of deep ecology of 1973, Naess postulated seven principles based on respect for human and non-human life, which, according to him, distinguish the deep environmental movement from the predominant reformist superficial environmentalism.
Naess pointed out that the current environmental problem is of a philosophical and social nature; that reveals a deep crisis of man, his values, his culture, his mechanistic vision of nature and his industrial civilizing model.
He considered that the human species does not occupy a privileged, hegemonic place in the universe; that any living being is as worthy and deserving of respect, as man.
Naess argued that Darwin's concept of survival of the fittest should be interpreted as the ability of all living beings to coexist, cooperate and evolve together and not as the right of the fittest to kill, exploit or extinguish the other..
Naess concluded that the only way to overcome the current environmental crisis is through a radical change in the cultural paradigm.
The principles of the original 1973 version of deep ecology are as follows:
Since the mid-1970s, a group of thinkers and philosophers studied Naess's ideas was formed..
Philosophers such as the American Bill Deval, the Australians Warwick Fox and Freya Matheus, the Canadian Alan Drengson and the French Michel Serres, among others, debated the approaches to deep ecology and contributed their ideas to enrich it..
In 1984, Naess and the American philosopher George Sessions, reformulated the first version of deep ecology.
In this second version, Naess and Sessions deleted the original principles 4 and 7; eliminated the demand for local autonomy, decentralization and also the anti-class stance, considering that both aspects are not strictly within the competence of ecology.
Then came the call Platform Movement for the Principles of Deep Ecology, as an ecological proposal of eight principles mentioned below:
Critics of biocentrism include contemporary American philosopher and climatologist geologist Richard Watson..
Watson in a 1983 publication stated that the position of Naess and Sessions is neither egalitarian nor biocentric, as stated in Principle 3.
He also pointed out that the principles of radical biocentrism are not politically viable, since local autonomies and decentralization could lead to a state of anarchy. According to Watson, economic considerations for human survival make radical biocentrism completely unviable..
Watson concluded by pointing out that he is in favor of defending an ecological balance that is beneficial for human beings and for the entire biological community..
Among the contemporary ecologists and philosophers who have addressed the philosophical problem of Biocentrism, are: Bryan Norton, American philosopher, recognized authority on environmental ethics, and Ricardo Rozzi, Chilean philosopher and ecologist, another intellectual recognized for his work on "biocultural ethics.".
In 1991, the philosopher Norton emphatically pointed out the complementarity between the two approaches, anthropocentrism and biocentrism. It has also called attention to the need for unity between the different positions and environmental groups, in a common goal: to protect the environment..
Norton pointed to biocentric egalitarianism as not viable, unless it is complemented by an anthropocentric stance aimed at the pursuit of human welfare. Finally, this philosopher raised the need to generate a new "ecological worldview" based on scientific knowledge..
In a 1997 publication, Rozzi proposed an ethical-philosophical vision that transcends the approaches of anthropocentrism and biocentrism as antagonistic tendencies, to also integrate them in a new conception as complementary.
Rozzi took up the approaches of the ecologist Aldo Leopold (1949), the philosophers Lynn White (1967) and Baird Callicot (1989). In addition, it rescued the ideas proposed by Biocentrism, in the following considerations:
"Nature is not a material good that belongs exclusively to the human species, it is a community to which we belong", as expressed by Aldo Leopold.
From the anthropocentric vision, Rozzi was based on the following premises:
The philosopher and ecologist Rozzi, criticized two aspects of Norton's proposal:
Rozzi points out that a moral transformation is necessary to build a new way of relating to nature. This new approach to nature should not assign a hegemonic role to science, but should include art and spirituality.
In addition, it states that ecological valuation should not only study biological diversity but also cultural diversity; allowing biocentric and anthropocentric perspectives to coexist. All this without ignoring the serious environmental impact that humanity is causing.
In this way, Rozzi elaborated his approach where he integrated the philosophical positions Anthropocentrism and Biocentrism, proposing them as complementary and not opposite.