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Respecting Nature: a Maori Perspective

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image of Worldviews: Global Religions, Culture, and Ecology

This paper presents a distinctively Maori version of the idea that we should respect all creatures. At the heart of this philosophy is the concept of mauri, a life force which unites all creatures and enables them to flourish. By acknowledging this sort of connectedness we accept limitations to human domination of the environment: our actions must respect or enhance the quality of natural items, not simply further human or personal interests. A philosophy of respect for mauri asks us to respect and even enhance the essence or character of each creature and of each habitat. For this we need to understand them. While respect for mauri does not prevent us from using other creatures for food and other real needs, we humans are not seen as sovereign over nature, there being no fundamental dichotomy. According to this philosophy we should seek to live in harmony with nature, not to dominate it, harming other creatures only when we really need to. I end by arguing that those who find the idea of mauri hard to accept can work instead through the more familiar idea of mana, as the mauri of a creature would not be thought to matter unless its mana were acknowledged. Further, both mauri and mana involve an acknowledgment of the unity of all things, as well as their individual importance. The mana or standing of any creature depends on that of many others. The central thread of this Maori philosophy for the environment then is that we acknowledge and care about the special character of each creature, its mana and its mauri.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Philosophy Massey University Palmerston North, New Zealand

10.1163/156853598X00064
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/content/journals/10.1163/156853598x00064
1998-01-01
2016-12-10

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