“Was not their mistake once more bred of the life of slavery that they had been living?—a life which was always looking upon everything, except mankind, animate and inanimate—‘nature,’ as people used to call it—as one thing, and mankind as another, it was natural to people thinking in this way, that they should try to make ‘nature’ their slave, since they thought ‘nature’ was something outside them” — William Morris

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Darwin 101—Death Eats Survival

Tibetan Buddhist Wheel of Life (in the jaws of Death (Yama))

Survival is not the bedrock of existence. Substantial portions of my body and brain don't care if I live or die—even enjoy the pleasurable sensations that kill me: there must be some minimal pleasure in ceasing to breathe at night or in grinding your teeth. Your body wouldn't do it if it was irritating. Freud was onto something with this death drive business. DNA reproduces because the molecule is "seeking" equilibrium--reproduction is merely a byproduct of that, almost a sort of side effect. Life is a side effect of the death drive—I'm afraid that in his latest, Chronophobia, Martin Hagglund regresses on this score. A species doesn't "want" or even "try to" survive. Why? It doesn't exist. Survival only means your genome was copied before you died. Hagglund's definition is teleological—ironically, nowhere near minimal enough despite claims that it's foundational.

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