Books Life Reviews

Book Review: Enlivenment

Enlivenment: Towards a fundamental shift in the concepts of nature, culture and politics by Andreas Weber is an e-book published by the Heinrich Böll Stiftung which can be downloade here. Andreas Weber sees Enlivenment as a way to move beyond Enlightenment.

Enlivenment is a way to acknowledge the deeply creative processes embodied in all living organisms. It complements the rational thinking of the Enlightenment. Weber writes that rational thinking is an ideology that focuses on dead matter. It has no way of comprehending lived experience. We have forgotten what life means. It is a logical outcome of our rational culture.

Andreas Weber argues that lived experience and embodied meaning are key factors that cannot be excluded from a scientific picture of the biosphere. The experience of being alive connects us to all living organisms. Enlivenment is a set of deep ordering principles for how to perceive and act. It seeks to advance our freedom to be alive-in connectedness.

Feeling our needs and having them satisfied is directly related to our aliveness. All living beings are subject to the same natural dynamics. Sentience and felt expression is the way living beings exist. Meaning and expressiveness are deeply rooted in nature. Nature is a relational network between living beings who have individual interests to stay alive, grow, and unfold. Science must take these lived dimensions into account.

If we are convinced that we have to describe reality as non-living, life and living processes become highly problematic. If we see the biosphere as non-living, this will inevitably lead to a lack of concern toward life and indifference to lived experience. Seeing reality as a living process literally changes everything. This opens up a new view of the organic world in which organisms play a creative role.

The simplest organism displays the intention to maintain itself. An organism is a subject with a body. It expresses the conditions under which living processes take place. The experience of being alive and full of life is a fundamental component of reality. The desire for lived experience and to become one’s own full self is a fundamental part of reality.

Andreas Weber argues that nature is a commons. He mentions that self-organized communities of people are inventing their own forms of governance. Elinor Ostrom, who won the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2009, found that local freedom is a critical factor. Local freedom is necessary for the cohesion of the encompassing whole. Project that are sustainable long-term always satisfies the commoners in multi-dimensional ways.

Andreas Weber also refers to Manfred Max-Neef’s Matrix of Human Needs. Meeting needs and building community are combined in commoning. Weber is influenced by Christopher Alexander and describes commons as centers of aliveness. We all share lived experiences. We all know how it feels to be alive in the world. This is the deepest knowledge that we can access.

Living beings perceive value and meaning from within, and they manifest their desire to stay alive. Being a body and having feelings is an irreducible fact and experience. The key point is that all living beings share the experience of a meaningful core self that is concerned with what happens to it and strive to keep itself alive.

Many of our current difficulties is because we have built an entire civilization upon a flawed foundation. The world is inherently creative and alive. We need to be carefully observant of felt life. This is the switch from Enlightenment to Enlivenment.

Related posts:
Book Review: Matter and Desire
Book Review: Biology of Wonder
Book Review: Biopoetics

By Jan Höglund

I share my reading, book reviews, and learning in my blog.

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