Earth BecomesWorld? Scientific Objects, Nonmodern Worlds, and the Metaphysics of the Anthropocene

Jochem Zwier, Bas De Boer

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In coming to grips with the advent of the Anthropocene, contemporary philosophers have recently pushed beyond its many physical implications (e.g., global warming, reduced biodiversity) and social significance (e.g., climate justice, economics, migration) to interpret the Anthropocene metaphysically. According to such interpretations, the Anthropocene imposes nothing less than a wholly new understanding of the world. This raises the question regarding the character of such an imposition. To develop this question, this article discusses three metaphysical interpretations of the Anthropocene: Clive Hamilton's, Timothy Morton's, and Bruno Latour's. Among many voices today, these authors are specifically relevant because they predominantly correlate the imposition of a new, nonmodern world with the scientific object "Earth"as it is developed in Earth system science. The purpose here is to elucidate the ways in which this correlation is made, and to inquire after the role of science-a modern activity par excellence-in the advent of the world of the Anthropocene. The critical question is how this role could be legitimated in the proclaimed absence of a modern framework ensuring science's status as a beacon of certainty and truth.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)64-86
Number of pages23
JournalEnvironmental Humanities
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2023


  • Anthropocene
  • Earth system science
  • metaphysics
  • modernity


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