The concept of ‘good life’ has strong roots in Western philosophy.

According to Aristotle, leading a meaningful, fulfilled life means reaching ultimate happiness, and thus is the final end of all human endeavour. Happiness in this sense does not mean to feel subjectively and momentarily happy but to reach a state of deep contentment. A ‘good life’, respectively, cannot be reached by striving for short-term pleasure, but requires exercising the uniquely human abilities and capacities, and cultivating good habits.

Current interpretations of the concept of good life, as for example in the context of the current Biodiversity Crisis, state that leading a good life also includes a respectful and balanced relationship with nature. This suggestion is in line with increasingly discussed approaches urging to overcome the separation of people and nature. The divide between nature and culture is rooted in Descartes’ postulate of a mind-body dualism, and is currently being challenged by several philosophical trends.

For example, the Actor-Network Theory posits that social and natural worlds are inseparable and linked in networks of relationships (Latour 2005), and the Object-Oriented Ontology rejects the notion that humans are privileged subjects (Harmann 2002).

In environmental ethics, relational approaches are gaining momentum, positing that humanitarian interests should not be played off against interests of environmental conservation, and instead both should be combined. Proponents of relational environmental ethics argue that the relationships people have with nature are not a means to an end but have value in themselves. Living in harmony with nature for them is a core element of good life (e.g. Chan et al. 2016; Eser 2016; Klain et al. 2017; Himes & Muraca 2018).

A recent suggestion matching these lines of argument is to stir society towards a new era which could be called the Symbiocene. In this era, that is supposed to replace the Anthropocene, humans and other living beings should mutually benefit from each other, like in a symbiosis.

These ideas are what triggered the formation of Symbio(s)cene. We would like to build on them, and engage in their refinement, substantiation and implementation.



Chan, K. M. A., Balvanera, P., Benessaiah, K., Chapman, M., Díaz, S., Gómez-Baggethun, E., . . . Turner, N. (2016). Opinion: Why protect nature? Rethinking values and the environment. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 113(6), 1462-1465. doi:10.1073/pnas.1525002113 

Eser, U. (2016). Inklusiv denken: Eine Kritik der Entgegensetzung von Humanität und Natur. In W. Haber, M. Held, & M. Vogt (Eds.), Die Welt im Anthropozän. Erkundungen im Spannungsfeld zwischen Ökologie und Humanität (pp. 81-92). München: oekom. [link]

Harmann, G. (2002). Tool-Being: Heidegger and the Metaphysics of Objects. Open Court Publishing. [link]

Himes, A., & Muraca, B. (2018). Relational values: the key to pluralistic valuation of ecosystem services. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, 35, 1-7. doi: [link]

Klain, S., Olmsted, P., Chan, K., & Satterfield, T. (2017). Relational values resonate broadly and differently than intrinsic or instrumental values, or the New Ecological Paradigm. Plos One, 12, e0183962. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0183962 

Latour, B. (2005). Reassembling the Social – An Introduction to Actor-Network Theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press. [link]


Image Source:

Gustav Adolph Spangenberg. Die Schule des Aristoteles, Fresko 1883-1888, Hetnet, Gemeinfrei,