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  • Morin's Ecology of Ideas and Derrida's Limitrophy:(Re-)Envisioning a Post-Human Ethics
  • Keith Moser (bio)


Despite the myriad of differences between Edgar Morin and Jacques Derrida, this essay demonstrates that both thinkers expose the dangers of lingering, anthropocentric, binary logic in the modern world. Specifically, Morin and Derrida posit that various types of pervasive dichotomous thinking that run counter to contemporary scientific erudition are currently preventing global society from formulating a meaningful response to the impending environmental crisis. Indeed, one of the most salient features of Morin's ecology of ideas and Derrida's exercise in limitrophy is the deconstruction of simplistic dichotomies that conceal the richness and complexity of reality. Given that many dualities such as "human" and "animal" and "man" and "nature" perpetuate myopic, deadly illusions of ontological grandeur, Morin and Derrida decry the "influence of disjunctive, reductive and linear thought" (Morin 2006, 140). In an age that is increasingly defined by an ecological calamity of epic proportions, they compel us to "give up our linear binary vision" of the biosphere and our place in it (Marion 2015, 217). Morin and Derrida's philosophy attempts to reconnect us to the so-called "world of things" to which we are inextricably linked in an interdependent and interconnected cosmos. Along with Michel Serres, Félix Guattari, and Gilles Deleuze, Morin and Derrida are pioneers in the French tradition of environmental thought who propose "a dramatically renovated version of animal studies, extending across the disciplines and linked to the theoretical project of 'posthumanism'" (Fraiman 2012, 91). This present investigation reveals that the ubiquity of oppositional thinking is a serious problem connected to the ideological underpinnings of our parasitic relationship with the rest of the biotic community of life. In the face of stern warnings from scientists, [End Page 297] Morin and Derrida maintain that certain homocentric binaries must be challenged at all costs.

Morin's "Complex Thought" and Derrida's Limitrophy in his Late Philosophy

In his encyclopedic, wide-ranging philosophy spanning several decades, Morin expresses a profound mistrust related to any philosophical position that is predicated upon the shaky edifice of binaries. It is in this sense in which Morin's notion of "complex thought" that he has been honing for more than half a century should be understood. In stark contrast to dualistic logic that breeds academic insularity by creating sharp ontological and epistemological divisions, Morin's transdisciplinary method of engaging in philosophical inquiry strives to "reorganize knowledge and rethink the fragmented disciplines" (Morin 1999, 132). In this regard, Morin reminds us of the etymology of the word "complex." Although it is often misused interchangeably as a synonym for words like "complicated," the term "complex" originates from the masculine declension in Latin "complexus." Resuscitating all of the historical linguistic nuances of this term, Morin's "complex thought" refers to "[t]hat which is woven together" (Montuori 2013, 14). Morin's approach weaves connections between strands of knowledge that disciplinary demarcations have compartmentalized into a proliferation of tiny little boxes that exist in relative isolation from each other.

According to Morin, this sort of "[f]ractured thinking" is one of the main reasons why our antiquated intellectual paradigms have proven to be woefully inadequate for dealing with the gravity of the anthropogenic dilemma that confronts humanity on a global scale (Morin 1999, 130). In order to realize a different way of being and living in the world, Morin argues that our outdated thought systems must evolve and (re-)discover ways of dialoging with each other to combat the nefarious effects of this separation. Not only have we become disconnected from the true nature of knowledge itself, but Morin asserts that we are also utterly divorced from the fundamental material realities of the universe that govern the existence of every sentient and non-sentient being on this planet. In essence, we have forgotten what and who we are as a result of this kind of fragmentation. As an antidote to this ecological amnesia associated with over-specialization and isolation, Morin tries to repair the missing threads in the web of knowledge by delivering a proverbial coup de grâce to concepts that do not stand up to...


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pp. 297-312
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