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It is empirically undeniable that in Western society today there has developed an overt and
palpable tension in the shift from ecological individualism to ecological holism. The wave of
Veganism and the hostility confronting it is particularly interesting and symbolic of this
aforementioned shift. Entire eco-systems and species, the human one included, are on the
brink of mass extinction. Yet, bafflingly, people are seemingly being more resistant to
practically applied Holism than they are being towards an extinction level event. The
question at hand for us all, is why?
In this paper, I explore the possibility that the resistance that this Holistic Paradigm Shift is
experiencing stems from a misguided fear that Holism demands a loss of Personal Identity.
The dominant idea of Identity in the West is intimately bound up with the idea of people as
exploitable resources. And, in order for the human entity to be accepted as an exploitable
resource, we have been culturally reduced to static things. Holism asks us to sunder our
relationship with a static notion of Identity and marry ourselves to existence as a fluid, ever-
changing process. When we ask people to make Holistic shifts, Veganism par example, it
seems as if we are asking them to sunder their relationship with what they know to be
I challenge this fear, considering it to be the result of a reductive concept of Identity
reinforced by Capitalism in order to maintain people as exploitable resources. I draw largely
on the ideas of Simone Weil to assert that this exploitative framework does not do justice to
Identity, which is experientially more akin to a process than anything static. Weil's notion of
Decreation and the danger of the Collective, show this static idea of Identity to be partly
underpinning the fear of Holism.
The paper firstly explores that resistance to Holism is, in part, a fear response to the idea
that it requires a loss of Identity. Such a fear stems from Western attempts to reduce Identity
to something ontologically isolated from the rest of the world; an inert, exploitable thing. This
has entangled the notion of Identity with the idea of stasis which is constantly reinforced by
what Weil called the Collective. From this then, stems a misguided fear that a Paradigm Shift
towards a more Holistic relationship with the world, would entail a loss of one’s own Identity.
From there, the paper challenges that misconception by evoking Hydrofeminist philosophy
as a better way of making sense of our experience of Identity. What is empirically apparent
to us is that Identity is fluid. We are shaped by the world just as much as we shape it.
Thusly, this fear fostered by the West of change erasing Identity, is itself shown to be
unfounded in the human experience. We have a Holistic relationship with the world by virtue
of being-in-the-world. Weil’s practice of Decreation is here vital for making sense of how
Identity is not undone but formed through the act of change. I hope to demonstrate that
under fluid notions of Identity, the misguided fear of losing oneself to the world dissolves,
and our tense relations with Holism dissolve with it.
(Philosophy, Manchester Metropolitan University)