“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

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Tim versus Deep Ecology Master Arne Naess

The basic question is, how deep do you want? Because I think you could go at least a level deeper than Naess. In order to do so, however, you have to realize something about systems theory. Here's a quotation from some proofs I'm reading for an essay collection on Naess:

I need to part company with Naess a little bit, the aspects of his thought that seem to want to reduce the paradoxes I am hinting at, by reducing the lifeform to an underlying field of relations:

Organisms and milieux are not two things—if a mouse were lifted into absolute vacuum, it would no longer be a mouse. Organisms presuppose milieux. Similarly, a person is a part of nature to the extent that he or she is a relational junction within the total field. The process of identification is a process in which the relations which define the junction expand to comprise more and more. The “self” grows towards the “Self.”

But the mouse would still be a mouse in a vacuum, albeit a dead mouse. There is nothing about this fact that means we have to make the mouse less real than “the total field” of which it is “a relational junction.” Care for this specific mouse, whom I don’t wish to die in a vacuum, would ironically be precluded by cleaving to this blend of systems theory and Hinduism. Systems theory is a derivative of very advanced industrial society, while Hinduism is one way in which agricultural society explains itself to itself. To the extent that industrial society is an accelerated upgrade of the inner logics of agricultural “civilization,” systems theory is indeed in part a re-imagination of an ecologically violent set of beliefs, hardwired into agricultural social space. Both depend upon a widely accepted, but never rigorously proved, form of holism in which the whole is always greater than the sum of its parts. Space prevents me from delving into another way of thinking holism here, but I want to take this opportunity to say how urgent it is for ecological thinking to reconceptualize what we mean by holism. If the parts are always subservient to the whole, less real and less important, there is no way to care about the mouse as a mouse.


cgerrish said...

One of the interesting sections of Elizabeth Kolbert's book on the 6th mass extinction had to do with the dislocation of species via global trade. Species hitch a ride on trains and boats and end up in completely new ecological systems. Sometimes that ends badly for them and other times they thrive--sometimes to the point of throwing the whole system out of balance. The part dominates and ultimately destroys the whole. Undoubtedly there are microbes from earth who have hitched a ride on space vehicles. Some think when we discover life on Mars, it will be life we unknowingly placed there.

D. E.M. said...

Ergatives worry me.
Who is lifting the mouse into the vacuum?
As you say, too -- the alive experiment mouse into the place that will kill it?