From Autoarchy to Naturachy: Pope Francis and Michel Serres

Michel Serres

The Global compact on education launched by Pope Francis talks of bringing about an alliance between the earth’s inhabitants and our common home, the earth. The holy father places humans at the center and presents integral education as a way of actualizing this alliance. This study wishes to examine how the natural contract of Michel Serres, a French philosopher appears to be close to the alliance promoted by the new humanism of Pope Francis. Although the natural contract promoted by Serres appears to have several semantic and other differences with the global alliance of the holy father, we can still find many common elements between the two. One of the apparent differences that we can immediately spot is in the manner Serres speaks of post-humanism which accepts the embodied and embedded nature of humanity and accepts nature and its beings as having legal rights. If one takes care to scrutinize Serres’s position, we may be able to discern how his decentred human position in the scheme of nature is not far removed from that of the holy father. To come to this position, we may have to pass the posthumanism and the new humanism of Pope Francis into a semiotic black hole and arrive at a sufficiently desemiotized space, a locus that is in-between that will enable a dialogue between the natural contract and the global alliance. This will show that both a natural contract as well as a global alliance for the care of our common home has the same objectives and involves a profound transformation of human understanding that anthropocentrically thinks humans as the only subjects who are the inheritors of the earth ( Universe, Multiverse) and its resources. This indicates that humanity is not the owner or inheritor but the shepherd or the care taker of our common home that we share with other inhabitants of the earth. This means both Pope Francis and Serres contests the monarchical ( autoarchical ) subject of modernity and present what may be called the naturarchical subject that is ready to care for our common home and will in harmony with the non-humans. This will mean that earth and its inhabitant are mere background or stage for human activities and life. Such a position has brought us to the threshold of self-destruction that is coming on the wings of climate change. Hence, the new humanism that is calling us to new ways of being human and Christian as well as the natural contract of Serres becomes an invitation to give up oppositional thinking that sets up humans as triumphant subjects against the objectified nature. It also challenges us to give up binaries like human/nature, nature /culture etc. It forces us to move away from the mastery to mystery paradigm of our relationship with nature and the divine.

This reimagination of the human, nature and the divine maybe be able to save us from the impeding natural disaster that is fast approaching us. the earth may survive a post-human scenario but humanity has the responsibility to save itself by saving the earth and its inhabitants. This is why we need the natural contract of Serres or the Global alliance of Pope Francis to bring about a new relation with the earth and its inhabitants. Indeed, we have to decolonize the earth from the chains of mere human-centric development. To achieve this goal, we may have to accept what Serres tells us when he calls us to rearticulate the sovereignty of the nature. This is not far away from reading the Gospel of creation taught by Pope Francis in his encyclical Laudato Si. This means nature no longer can be simply a background for our ways of being human in the world but has to be given a status of being an active partner in our society. Therefore, autoarchy has to be replaced by naturarchy. We do find it is on the naturarchy that new humanism of Pope Francis is on the same page with the natural contract of Serres.

To actualize this new alliance with nature, we need a new cosmoliteracy. Pope Francis rightly puts his emphasis on Global compact on education to bring about a new alliance with nature. Such an education will enable us to accepts the given-ness or facticity of nature and move us away from instrumentalizing it to suit what is called development socially engineered by a competitive market. Such an education has a promise to understand what Serres calls process of homination beyond the predication of the human which is already tainted by monarchical autoarchy. This in its turn will bring back nature which was objectified and expelled from the scene of human action. Humans are parasitic on nature. Everything is dependent on everything else. One can draw a parasitic unilateral line that joins everything that inhabits our common home. Serres tells us that his unilateral parasitic line can only be disrupted by a totally new force. Could the impeding climate change be that force? Will it bring about a new struggle for survival where the earth is fast getting ready for a post-human life? What will be that earth without human beings? Perhaps, in that post-human nature, nature will reclaim its sovereign space. Waters, soil, plants and animals will reclaim their place on earth that is today taken away form them by what we call development. This is why we have an urgent and inevitable need for a global alliance or natural contract. Otherwise we shall continue to remain under our blind autocracy which is unfortunately taking us towards thanatocracy (total annihilation of humanity ). Hence, it is for our own sake we have act fast. We have no choice but to submit to the sovereignty of nature and God. We have been distributing death in the name of development. it is high time that we come to the life giving ways of being human as well as Christians in our common home. To do this the new humanism of Pope Francis and the natural contract of Serres open us the door. It is for us to choose life and shun aside the culture of death that has taken its hold over us.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao