From Project Persephone

PmWiki: Biophilia

biophilia - love of living things or living systems.

"... biophilia is everywhere: people walking their dogs and stroking their cats, kneeling in their gardens. The love of homeland that is celebrated in so much of our art and literature. Children(s love of animals, their affection even for reasonable replicas of living things'teddy bears and rubber ducks. The furry seal-eyed robots used to comfort elderly people in Japanese nursing homes. Biophilia enters human hearts and minds in many ways." (Walter Truett Anderson)1

Origins of the term

"Biophilia" was apparently coined by the social psychologist and humanistic philosopher Erich Fromm.2 Fromm did not specifically bring ecological concerns to his discussion (ref. Anderson). However, in his analysis of the Judeo-Christian creation myth, he identified an allegory that was not just negative, but positive as well: it gave human beings the freedom to "to make [their] own history, to develop [their] human powers, and to attain a new harmony with nature."

Evolution of the term

Entomologist and popular science author Edward O. Wilson reinvented the term biophilia and hypothesized in his 1984 book Biophilia: The Human Bond with Other Species that biophilia was an innate, evolved trait. The debate over his hypothesized sociobiological underpinnings overshadowed much of the discussion of the idea.

It's been hypothesized that the Overview Effect is a manifestation of biophilia. This is particularly interesting because, from space, no individual living thing on the ground is visible. Like the Overview Effect, Biophilia remains an intuitively appealing but scientifically debatable hypothesis.


Evolutionary governance is richly and unavoidably participatory. It is not even restricted to human activities -- predators govern the growth of populations they prey on -- but humans, with their ability to make and use tools, organize societies to hunt and gather, burn forests to create pasture, domesticate and breed animals, intervened in countless new ways. And even today, although the inequities in human power are enormous, even the humblest peasant farmer manipulates the lives of the plants and animals in his or her domain; that is what agriculture is. (Walter Truett Anderson)3

Tanzania? farm

Project Persephone is, among other things, an experiment in the limits of biophilia as a motivation for participatory governance. Does the limited range of species possible in exovivaria also limit affection? What about the distance to exovivaria, the fact that they can be only seen, not touched, and perhaps communication delays as well? Which affective motivations do the Project's modes of interaction and governance attenuate? Which do they enhance?



1 Walter Truett Anderson, "The Making of a New Biophilia: Evolutionary Governance and the Modern Creation Myth", Metanexus Institute, 2009

2 In his 1964 book The Heart of Man: Its Genius for Good and Evil

3 Andersen, op. cit.

Further Reading

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Page last modified on October 29, 2019, at 04:26 AM