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Human Energy: Philosophical-Anthropological Presuppositions of Anthropogenic Energy, Movement, and Activity and their Implications for Well-being

Roman Meinhold


In this paper I focus on rather neglected considerations regarding human energy, movement, and activity, instead of joining the well-developed discourse on sustainable electricity production and moderate energy consumption. Thereby the paper elucidates a more holistic understanding of energy, since it is usually assumed that when considering energy – in most cases – people engaging in this discourse, refer to electricity. The paper grounds the phenomena of human energy production and consumption on the anthropological fact that humans are active and moving – and essentially need to be moving, in one way or another and as long as they are alive – for the sake of their and others’ well-being. Such a philosophical anthropology of energy, movement, and activity can, for example, be traced back to philosophic-anthropological claims in the oeuvre of Aristotle who regarded different kinds of activities or movement (both understood here in a broader sense) as essential for the well-being of both individuals and society because they foster and actualize human creativity and fulfillment. Relating the anthropological centrality of human movement to the current discourse on (alternative) energy production and consumption, the paper develops a more holistic ontology of energy. The objective of this paper is to promote this holistic understanding of energy as activity and movement in order to encourage a more wisely selected and limited substitution of fuel- and electricity-powered machines with human-driven movement. Such a broader understanding of the energy concept will not only save electricity and fossil fuels, but will also potentially increase the well-being of humans, society, and the natural environment.


energy; philosophy of energy; energy ethics; anthropology of energy; energy humanities; sustainability; philosophical anthropology; well-being; aristotle; movement

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.7358/rela-2018-002-mein

Relations. Beyond Anthropocentrism
Registered by Tribunale di Milano (04/05/2012 n. 211)
Online ISSN 2280-9643 - Print ISSN 2283-3196

Executive Editor: Francesco Allegri
Associate Editor: Matteo Andreozzi 
Review Editors: Sofia Bonicalzi - Eleonora Adorni
Editorial Board:
Ralph R. Acampora - Carol J. Adams - Vilma Baricalla - Luisella Battaglia - Rod Bennison - Matthew R. Calarco - Piergiorgio Donatelli - William Grove-Fanning - Serenella Iovino - Luigi Lombardi Vallauri - Christoph Lumer - Joel MacClellan - Dario Martinelli - Roberto Marchesini - Alma Massaro - Barbara Muraca - Serpil Oppermann - Simone Pollo - Paola Sobbrio - Kim Stallwood - Sabrina Tonutti - Jessica Ullrich - Federico Zuolo