The Milieu

The Milieu as Common Grounds for Global Environmental Ethics

Doctoral dissertation – Abstract

This doctoral dissertation develops the concept of milieu (fūdo) inspired by the Japanese Philosopher Watsuji Tetsurō and applies it in the fields of environmental ethics and global political philosophy. It aims at building a motivational framework that supports sustainable ways of life and that can be consensual in the global context of pluralism of worldviews. The concept of milieu captures how we act within and perceive our surrounding environment as covered by webs of meanings and values that are culturally, historically and geographically situated. It covers the external dimension of relational interdependence, the internal dimension of phenomenological experience, the temporal dimension of dynamic changes and the spatial dimension of global interconnection. Individuals are shaped by and shaping the milieus they are living in. Insofar as individual phenomenological agents contribute to shaping their milieu, they are morally responsible for the imprints left by their ways of life. Individual moral responsibility for environmental harm is thus rooted in the inseparable relation between individuals and their milieu, and directed towards sustainability. Further, if flourishing human life is concretely intertwined with meaningful adaptable and nurturing milieus, then these must be included in the definition of sustainability. Finally, as most environmental problems have a global scope that goes beyond situated milieus, the question of how to build common grounds in the context of pluralism of worldviews is addressed.

Keywords: environmental ethics, common grounds, milieu, global ethics, vulnerability, fūdo, sustainability, individual moral responsibility, consensus, interventionism, globalization, transmission, decision-making.

Defended on February 6th 2020, by Laÿna Droz-dit-Busset. Doctoral Program in Global Environmental Studies (April 2017 – March 2020), Kyoto University, Graduate School of Global Environmental Studies (GSGES), Laboratory of Global Environmental Policy, Under the supervision of Makoto Usami, Professor.

Download here a preview of my doctoral dissertation. Some parts are removed for copyright reasons and in-progress publications.

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(Under construction. Meanwhile, see Research and Academic Papers)

Watsuji Tetsuro (1889-1960) ’s concept

The milieu is the “environment” as it appears covered by web of significations and symbols from the standpoint of a subjective human. We are constantly in dynamic cycles of codetermination with the milieu.

The concept of milieu recognizes the diversity of cultures anchored and mutually influencing in different milieus, and how these mutually shape each others. But it has some limitations in the form developed by Watsuji: Bounded communities assumption, no mention of responsibility and internal mechanisms of oppression and domination, no mention of sustainability.

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