5 Characteristics of Anthropocentrism

Anthropocentrism is a common characteristic of many Western knowledge and cultures. In general, its origin is linked to movements such as Humanism and the Renaissance.

Therefore, like any idea, anthropocentrism has ethical and political consequences in the world.

What is anthropocentrism

Anthropocentrism is a way of thinking that places the human being as an essence different from all other things in the world, and which is also the most important.

Thus, from the Greek, « anthropo » which means man, and « centrism » or « kentron » which means center, shows how humanity is placed at the center of everything according to this idea.

So what is an anthropocentric view?

For example, it is considering that only the human species has intelligence, or that all nature is made by man.

In this way, any non-human existence ends up occupying a lesser place in anthropocentrism.

Characteristics

Today, anthropocentrism can be seen in a wide variety of ideas and attitudes. However, historically, this way of thinking had a more specific origin and characteristics. Here are some of them:

  • The figure of God is removed as the central explanation of the universe.
  • Exaltation of reason or rationality as a human property.
  • Scientism, which values a type of science in which humans gain control of nature.
  • The end of things is man. Therefore, decisions must be made taking into account the consequences for human beings.
  • Essentialism, that is, that being “human” is an immutable, natural and central property that is not shared with any other species.

They are characteristics that draw attention in the movement in which the ideological foundations of the Middle Ages, that is, in the Renaissance, are questioned. However, some of these points are still present in modern anthropocentrism.

Anthropocentrism and theocentrism

Historically, anthropocentrism has its great milestone with the appearance of the Renaissance. Thus, one of the great objectives of the Renaissance was to criticize the ideas that supported the Middle Ages, which was about to come to an end.

Therefore, the Renaissance, with its anthropocentrism, opposed the theocentrism of ancient customs. Theocentrism means the exaltation and centrality of God for the explanation of the world.

On the other hand, with new times, man was placed at the center of things, previously occupied by the divine being.

Consequently, traditions and religiosity were considered irrational, so scientism, experimentation and Reason were exalted, which are all human works.

In short, anthropocentrism and theocentrism are two thoughts considered opposite.

However, if we follow the reasoning of the philosopher Feuerbach , we can think that both are two sides of the same coin. After all, for the author, the figure of God is a human projection, created to meet his needs. In this sense, the center of history would always have been Man.

Anthropocentrism and humanism

Anthropocentrism in the Renaissance produced humanism: that is, the idea that the “human” should occupy the centrality of people’s concerns.

At the time, this was a thought that managed to weaken the powers of the Catholic Church, giving way to new social transformations.

However, today this type of humanism can be considered inadequate. After all, the growth of the environmental movement and animal causes has precisely raised the need to see a world beyond the human.

Furthermore, in the Renaissance, the human being was thought of in terms of a masculine and European subject. Not coincidentally, several non-Western societies were colonized and even exterminated by European nations.

The West has always considered itself the representation of humanity and civilization.

Anthropocentrism and ethnocentrism

While anthropocentrism means exalting the human, ethnocentrism refers to the position of putting one’s own culture at the center and disparaging others.

Ironically or not, in the Renaissance both thoughts coexisted well. On the one hand, Europeans valued humanity, but they understood the human species in their own way: “civilized,” white, and literate.

On the other hand, any other human society was despised and considered irrational, barbaric and compared to animals.

Therefore, today, the criticism of ethnocentrism also makes us question what we understand by human. Today we know that humanity is plural and that all cultures and forms of existence must be respected.

Thus, although anthropocentrism is a problematic term today, it gives rise to several important debates. Therefore, it can be very useful to identify current anthropocentric ideas and discourses.