Warwick Fox (born 1954) is an Australian philosopher and ethicist. He is the author of Toward a Transpersonal Ecology and A Theory of General Ethics: Human Relationships, Nature, and the Built Environment.
Fox was a Research Fellow at the Centre for Environmental Studies at the University of Tasmania from 1990 to 1998, when he took up an appointment at the Centre for Professional Ethics at the University of Central Lancashire.
He has been a consulting editor of The Trumpeter: Journal of Ecosophy since 1988.
In recent years Fox has distanced himself from his original deep ecology based views put forward in his earlier works.
Fox's ethical theory attempts to develop principles of a 'General Theory of Ethics'. He cites influence from system and complexity theory, and develops a taxonomy of three types of organising principles: Fixed cohesion, responsive cohesion and, coining the term, discohesion.
A state of Responsive Cohesion can be said to exist when a system's elements are mutually modifying; they 'respond' to each other. the relational quality of responsive cohesion may be said to exist whenever the elements or salient features of things can be things can be characterised in terms of interacting (either literally or metaphorically) with each other in mutually modifying ways such that these mutually modifying interactions serve (at least functionally if not intentionally) to generate or maintain an overall cohesive order...responsive cohesion is cohesion that arises through the mutual responsiveness of the elements or salient features of the matter under consideration. A Theory of General Ethics: Human Relationships, Nature and the Built Environment
This is contrasted to Fixed Cohesion, where strict order between elements exists, such that they are not mutually determining. Fox likens this to a conversation of 'going through the motions', where little or no change occurs in a relationship. At the other extreme to Fixed Cohesion is Discohesion, which is a situation of disorder, where system elements stand in no relation to each other.
However, for Fox, these latter relational qualities are not as far from each other as they would seem. He visualises them as bordering each other, but sharply so, so that any change between the two is not gradual but abrupt and shocking.
...fixed forms of cohesion can also shatter or collapse into their apparent opposite, that is, discohesion. We see this in the domain of politics, for example, every time a dictatorship is overcome by a revolutionary movement that initiates a period of chaos and lawlessness. In fact we see it when any rigid structure is overwhelmed by internal or externally imposed forces and shatters into pieces. Thus, rather than representing any kind of “move in the direction of” discohestion, this kind of change from fixed cohesion to discohesion is typically abrupt...Equally, order can forcefully be imposed upon a chaotic situation, as, say, when a new dictatorial regime emerges from civil chaos and imposes a strict order overnight.
- Fox, Warwick (1986). Approaching Deep Ecology: A Response to Richard Sylvan's Critique of Deep Ecology. Centre for Environmental Studies, University of Tasmania.
- See also Fox, Warwick (1985). "An Overview of my Response to Richard Sylvan's Critique of Deep Ecology". The Trumpeter: Journal of Ecosophy 2 (4): 17–20. Retrieved 2009-07-29. PDF of complete issue.
- Fox, Warwick (1990). Toward a Transpersonal Ecology: Developing New Foundations for Environmentalism. Boston and London: Shambhala Publications.
- Also reprinted 1995, State University of New York Press, ISBN 0-7914-2775-7, ISBN 0-7914-2776-5.
- See also Fox, Warwick (1991). "Transpersonal Ecology and the Varieties of Identification". The Trumpeter: Journal of Ecosophy 8 (1): 3–5. Retrieved 2006-04-29.[dead link] PDF of complete issue.
- Fox, Warwick (ed), ed. (2001-02-15). Ethics and the Built Environment. London: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-23878-1.
- Also available as a Microsoft Reader ebook.
- Fox, Warwick (2006-09-01). A Theory of General Ethics: Human Relationships, Nature, and the Built Environment. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. ISBN 0-262-06255-0.