Dean: Humans dominating wild nature "not working well"

Dean: Humans dominating wild nature "not working well"

Dean: Humans dominating wild nature "not working well"


Photo of James Sellmann

Dean James D. Sellmann of the University of Guam College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences is featured in the latest issue of Synkrētic, a journal for thought-provoking writing on Indo-Pacific philosophy, literature and cultures.

A professor of philosophy and Micronesia studies, Sellmann provided answers in a December 2022 question-and answer format on Synkrētic. The conversation stems in part from the publication of his thought-provoking paper in Pacific Asia Inquiry, published in 2021, in which he discussed Micronesian philosophy and correlative thinking. 

Synkrētic asked Sellman: “What can Westerners learn from Pacific philosophies?”

Sellmann answered in part that “modern peoples” across the continents can learn from Pacific philosophies about the climate crisis.

Indigenous ecological thinking

“The heart of Pacific philosophy is the beat and rhythm of the environment. Pacific philosophies are first and foremost environmental philosophies. The rest of the world needs to tune into indigenous ecological thinking because the dualistic model of humans dominating a wild nature is not working well.”

“Human society is part and parcel of the environment. Social and political harmony are rooted in environmental resources,” Sellman added, according to Synkrētic.

Sellmann, who holds a PhD in Chinese philosophy, also said, citing prior writing by W. Goodenough, that the “yin-yang” correlative thinking from China reached past Taiwan and Japan and had influence in Chuuk through the state’s divination practices. 

“So, we can say there was some direct transmission from the China mainland into the Pacific beyond Taiwan and Japan,” according to Sellmann.

Sellmann joined the University of Guam in 1992 to bring CHamoru studies into his discipline.

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