Health in an Ecological Civilization: Towards a Process Understanding of the Dialectics of Health


  • Glenn McLaren Swinburne Unviersity


health, ecological civilization, process philosophy, dialectics, holism


The past one hundred years has seen major advances in medical knowledge, care and technology, but has this been healthy? These advances have been underpinned by over-simplified misconceptions of reality in the form of mechanical and atomistic metaphysics. These views effectively abstract us from nature and each other while obscuring the holistic roots of the word health. They have provided justification for our drive to harness the potential energy of non-renewable fossil fuels which has allowed us to augment the living conditions for some on our planet, but at the expense of the conditions for life itself. We are now seeing the consequences of our profligate use of energy in the emergence of environmental problems such as the melting of our polar ice caps, extremes of weather conditions and life threatening pollution more generally. Climate scientists are speculating that due to irreversible positive feedback loops, the most complex levels of life could be extinguished on our planet in sixty or seventy years. This destruction is happening partly due to growth-obsessed economies generating greater dependence on energy intensive technologies, but healthcare is following this trend towards even greater dependence on technology adding to the growing demand for energy globally. This trend is unhealthy as increasing energy use generates larger, more intractable health problems such as Type Two Diabetes. What is needed are further arguments for holistic approaches to health which create the conditions for self-healing rather than energy intensive, entropy accelerating interventions. Such approaches have long been practiced by the healthiest peoples in the world in what are called the ‘Blue Zones.' To cultures fragmented by mechanical metaphysics, however, holism no longer makes sense. In this paper, therefore, I will argue for holistic approaches drawing upon what physics understands to be the nature of the Higgs Field and fields in general to reveal the complex nature of our connectedness with all in the universe. I will show holism's ontological primacy through understandings in process metaphysics and modern physics and biology. I will further argue that to avoid extinction we will need to create an ecological civilization which helps heal our dysfunctional relationships with nature.  This will require an education in dialectics in order to understand the relationships between contradictory arguments and the implementation of an ethics and politics of eco-poeisis to generate a feel for the whole that so many today fail to experience. This will create and maintain our connections to our communities. Such deep connections will be necessary for us to take responsibility for continually generating the future potential for diverse, healthy life. A condition for this will be the creation of a holistic health field which, being based in process metaphysics, will act as a higher level constraint to condition more holistic thought and practice.

Author Biography

Glenn McLaren, Swinburne Unviersity




How to Cite

McLaren, G. (2019). Health in an Ecological Civilization: Towards a Process Understanding of the Dialectics of Health. Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy, 15(1), 427–484. Retrieved from