A Philosophical Anthropology for the Capitalocene

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Søren Mau


University of Copenhagen


DKK 1,163,404




Reintegration Fellowships


Critics of the concept of 'the Anthropocene'-the idea that we have entered a geological epoch defined by the impact of humanity on planet Earth-have rightly argued that global warming is the result of capitalism rather than human nature, and that 'the Capitalocene' is a more accurate term for our era. Such an analytical displacement does not, however, dispel with the need for new answers to the old question of philosophical anthropology in light of the climate crisis: what is the nature of the human being and its place in the world? On the basis of Karl Marx's critical theory of human corporeality and the philosophical anthropology of Arnold Gehlen, this project will offer a materialist theory of human subjectivity, freedom, and historicity attuned to the needs of a warming world.


This project aims to establish a connection of insights from three theoretical traditions which are seldomly combined: first, the 'corporeal turn' in critical humanities and social sciences in recent decades, i.e. the effort to break with the tendency in Western intellectual history to ignore the body: second, contemporary eco-Marxist theories of the relationship of the human being to the rest of nature: third, the philosophical anthropology of Arnold Gehlen. Such a combination will allow for new perspective on three classical philosophical concepts: freedom, subjectivity, and historicity.


As a philosopher concerned with the construction of concepts and theories, my research takes the form of reading, thinking, discussing, and writing. By means of critical and close readings of the writings of Karl Marx and Arnold Gehlen and relevant contemporary research, the aim of this project is to build a conceptual apparatus which will enable us to better understand the implication of human nature in the climate crisis. On a more concrete level, the project will result in a series of conference papers, public talks, a special issue of a journal, a conference, and three peer-reviewed articles in international journals.

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