A ‘cult of reason’ is how the late Australian eco-feminist philosopher Val Plumwood described the justifications given for many of the most shameful of human acts; monological relationships designed to promote the polarisation of Others were used (are still used) to validate the irrationality – and therefore inferiority – of those subjugated in human history, including Nature itself.
The Others – those considered sufficiently different to the oppressor to be systematically denied are often those most systematically relied on. This remains true of the non-human world and often of those in roles which deserve the most celebration in our society but yet are systematically denied. For example, the role of woman in nurturing children, creating homes and providing much needed (but not yet sufficient) balance to a society where patriarchy still dominates decision-making; another example of the crisis of reason.
In opposition to many spiritual traditions and philosophical systems which try to inculcate egalitarianism through a sense of oneness or union, Plumwood argued that the recognition of Others ‘in their difference’ is the key to unlocking solidarity. She argued that a fundamental ‘oneness’ could actually be the path to justify exploitation; if you and I are indeed ‘one’ or if I am ‘one’ with a tree – do I not then have some license with which to treat you or it any way I like? I take Plumwood’s argument, but would counter it by saying that the very opposite could also be true; if you and I are indeed one, then why does the ‘Golden Rule’ not apply? I am ‘one’ with my body yet I do not use that fact as license to mistreat it.
Who are we each anyway? Except an Other relative to everyone else?