What is Anthropocentrism?

Meaning of Anthropocentrism

Anthropocentrism is a way of thinking that places the human being as an essence different from all other things in the world, and it is also the most important .

Thus, from the Greek, “ anthropo ” means Man , and “ centrism ” or “ kentron ” shows how humanity is placed in the center of everything according to this idea.

Anthropocentrism is a feature common to many Western knowledges and cultures . Its origin is usually linked to movements such as humanism and the Renaissance .

Therefore, like any idea, anthropocentrism has ethical and political consequences in the world.

Anthropocentric view

So what is an anthropocentric view? For example, it is to consider that only the human species has intelligence , or that all of nature is made for Man.

In this way, any existence that is not human ends up occupying a less important place in anthropocentrism.

Characteristics of Anthropocentrism

Currently, anthropocentrism can be observed in the most varied ideas and attitudes. Historically, however, this way of thinking had a more specific origin and characteristics. Here are some of them:

  • Withdrawal of the figure of God as the central explanation of the universe;
  • Exaltation of reason or rationality as a human property;
  • Scientism, valuing a type of science in which human beings gain control of nature;
  • The end of things is man. Therefore, decisions must be made taking into account the consequences for human beings;
  • Essentialism, that is, being “ human ” is an immutable, natural and central property that is not shared with any other species.

These are characteristics that called attention to the movement in which the ideological bases of the Middle Ages were questioned, that is, in the Renaissance .

However, some of these points are still present in modern anthropocentrism .

Anthropocentrism and Theocentrism

Historically, anthropocentrism has its greatest milestone with the rise of the Renaissance. Therefore, one of the great objectives of the Renaissance was to criticize the ideas that supported the Middle Ages, which was about to end.

Thus, the Renaissance with its anthropocentrism contrasted with the theocentrism of the old ways . Theocentrism means the exaltation and centrality of God for the explanation of the world.

Instead, with the new times, Man was placed at the center of things , previously occupied by the divine being.

Consequently, traditions and religiosity were considered irrational, so that scientism, experimentation and reason , which are all human works, were exalted.

In short, anthropocentrism and theocentrism are two thoughts considered opposite .

However, if we follow the reasoning of the philosopher Feuerbach, it is possible to think that both are two sides of the same coin .

After all, for the author, the figure of God is a human projection , created to meet his needs. In this sense, the center of history would always have been Man.

Anthropocentrism and Humanism

Anthropocentrism in the Renaissance produced a humanism: that is, the idea that the “ human ” should be at the center of people’s concerns.

At that time, this was a thought that managed to weaken the powers of the Catholic Church , giving way to new social transformations.

However, today this type of humanism can be considered inadequate. After all, the growth of the environmental movement and animal causes has raised the need to see a world beyond the human .

Furthermore, the human in the Renaissance was thought of in terms of a masculine and European subject. It is no accident that various non-Western societies were colonized and even exterminated by European nations.

The West has always seen itself as representative of humanity and civilization .

Anthropocentrism and Ethnocentrism

While anthropocentrism means exalting the human being , ethnocentrism refers to the attitude of placing one’s own culture at the center and looking down on others.

Irony or not, in the Renaissance the two thoughts coexisted well. On the one hand, Europeans valued humanity, but understood the human species in their own way: “ civilized ”, white and literate.

Therefore, on the other hand, any other human society was despised and considered irrational, barbaric and compared to animals.

This was the case of indigenous peoples. Therefore, currently, the criticism of ethnocentrism also makes us question what we understand by humans.

Today we know that humanity is plural and that all cultures and modes of existence must be respected.

Therefore, although current anthropocentrism is a problematic term , it raises several important debates. Therefore, it can be quite useful to identify anthropocentric ideas and discourses today.

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