The Idea of Sustainable Development in the Perspective of Henryk Skolimowski’s Philosophy

Problems of Sustainable Development, Vol. 4, No. 2, pp. 13-23, 2009

24 Pages Posted: 29 Sep 2009

Date Written: June 1, 2009


The paper analyses the meaning and implementation of the notion of sustainable development, from the view-point of Henryk Skolimowski’s ecophilosophy. The Polish thinker initiated his ecophilosophy 35 years ago, formulating radical criticism of Western civilisation with its dominating forms of rationality and the resulting technological implementations. They are accompanied by definite utilitarian axiological system which emphases efficiency and profit in the sphere of human activities, i.e. typical utilitarian values. In the philosopher’s opinion, this system is a source of imbalance both in nature and social life of people in the global scale, which results in various types of crises occurring in this civilisation model. They threaten with annihilation not only of human species but also all natural space on the Earth, they can also affect negatively evolutionary changes in the cosmic scale.

We will pay particular attention to the theoretical proposals formulated by the philosopher in his work entitled The Genius of Light and Sanctity of Life. He refers there to Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s vision of evolutionary philosophy, enriched with his own original philosophical ideas, well justified in numerous fields of contempo-rary science, but also in evolutionistic research tradition. De Chardin distinguishes three key breakthroughs in the evolution process on our planet and in cosmos, namely the vitalisation point, psychisation of matter and emergence of spiritual and rational creation, i.e. noosphere.

Skolimowski emphasises particularly the emergence of photosynthesis phenomenon, and subsequently logo- and theosynthesis in this process. He claims that these are the forms of light condensation, whose laws of development control our planet as well as the whole cosmos. Human species participates in this process in a specific way, taking part in the evolutionarily developing possi-bilities of transcendence and self-realisation. And relative balance in all transformations of this kind has its source in the metaphorical “physics and metaphysics” of condensing light, which controls teleologically the process of evolutionary changes in the dimension of the universe. This “Great Light” makes use of human reason, which genetically derives from nature and should be friendly to it, perceiving it religiously as a shrine.

As Skolimowski suggests, the process of self-realisation and transcending should manifest the character of con-scious self-limitation of man in his relations and interactions with nature and society. The idea of cosmic ethics developed by the philosopher is to serve this purpose. It has an imperative character: on the one hand it inspires man to creative transcendence in the name of sacred values in his life environment (habitat), and on the other imposes upon him the obligation of self-limitation and reverent attitude towards other man, other living creatures and their common life perceived as sacred being.

Note: Downloadable document is in Polish.

Keywords: sustainable development, ecophilosophy, environmental and universal ethics, ecological justice

JEL Classification: O13, Q20, Q32, Q41, R11, M14

Suggested Citation

Fiut, Ignacy S., The Idea of Sustainable Development in the Perspective of Henryk Skolimowski’s Philosophy (June 1, 2009). Problems of Sustainable Development, Vol. 4, No. 2, pp. 13-23, 2009, Available at SSRN:

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