A Philosophical Journey into the Anthropocene: Discovering Terra Incognita presents the Anthropocene not only as a geological epoch, but rather as the potential métarécit of our age and the most faithful expression of the current zeitgeist. Insofar as the Anthropocene establishes that the human agency as technological omni-power represents a “global geophysical force” capable of altering the destiny of the Earth system, the coming of this new epoch shows that technology now embodies the subject of both history and nature. In this totalized form, technology achieves the status of an integral epochal phenomenon: the new environment for human life. Agostino Cera argues that the “technisches Zeitalter” (age of technology) outlined by twentieth-century philosophical thought is fully realized in the Anthropocene and that a more appropriate name for this planetary framework is, therefore, Technocene. The book develops along four basic directions: epistemological, ontological, anthropological, and ethical. It argues that the Anthropocene is something radically new, a terra incognita or an “epistemic hyperobject with a (geo-)historical barycenter,” giving rise to: an unprecedented form of reification of nature (“pet-ification of nature”); an unexpected version of anthropocentrism (“Aidosean Prometheanism”); and an unpredictable ethical paradox (“paradox of omni-responsibility”).
Agostino Cera is assistant professor of theoretical philosophy in the Department of Humanities at the University of Ferrara.
Introduction: “Invitation au Voyage” (“Guide to an Off-road Journey”)
Part 1: What Is the Anthropocene? (An Epistemic-Ontological Journey)
Chapter 1: An Epistemic Journey
Chapter 2: An Ontological Journey
Part 2: Who is the Anthropocene? (An Anthropological-Ethical Journey)
Chapter 3: An Anthropological Journey
Chapter 4: An Ethical Journey
Conclusion: End Station (On the Bank of a River)
In this well-argued and fascinating book, Cera takes us on a challenging, multi-layered journey, away from the ‘highroads’ of urgent Anthropocene environmental problems such as climate change and biodiversity loss, and along ‘backroads’ that get us to confront questions such as what the world is and how we know it, who we are and how we should live. He has thus written a ‘puzzling’ and ‘difficult’ book – in the best possible sense. Cera makes an impassioned and convincing case that we should be puzzled about the Anthropocene, and that we face an even deeper difficulty than we think: that, in trying to solve the urgent environmental problems that human activity has caused, we are in danger of fatally impoverishing our understanding of nonhuman nature and of ourselves.
This is the most genuinely philosophical meditation on the Anthropocene that I have yet read. It is a remarkably well conceived and ambitious effort to cut deeper pathways into a contemporary thicket of discourse, an effort to turn aside from without ignoring techno-political issues, and to think epistemologically and ontologically the epochal happening within which we find (or do not yet find) ourselves.