The way we see the world

Attention Conservation Notice: Coupla quotes, from good books, coupla links to other Dwight Towers posts. The point is, we see what we want/expect/need to see.

How do we conceive of “Nature”? How do these conceptions change?

Wrong. Nature in the Middle Ages was a hierarchy, a chain of being, a pyramid from the many at the base to the One at the top. A description that mirrored the society that described it. For the first industrialists and the Age of Reason it was a machine, an engine, a thing of many distinct parts held together by checks and balances like the American Constitution, and expected to work like a clock or a factory. For Charles Darwin Junior, for AFI, Nature is a state of war, of endless ruthless competition between the strong, and repression and exploitation of the weak by the strong. But what is she really? An endlessly, incomprehensibly complex web of interactions, of dependencies in which the whole is infinitely greater than the sum of the parts, and where no parts are intrinsically more important than any of the others. Is that really what she is? Or is that Nature the way a socialist society might want to see her? Deep thoughts, and, of course, because of them, I lost the way…
page 290 of Zdt by Julian Rathbone

And this law of the jungle? This thing we fear?

It’s a story in which to be human is to be Other, even though it confers special powers. Mowgli loves the jungle and loves the freedom and community it gives him. The humans in their nearby village are to be pitied, for they do not understand the language and law of the jungle. Far from being a term for lawlessness or survival of the fittest, as is commonly understood, the law of the jungle in Kipling is a complex body of learning and behaviors that allow most of the animals to get along. The exceptions are the monkeys who are fickle and uncooperative, aspiring as they do to be more like humans.
Page 36 of Fiona Capp “My Blood’s Country

It’s naive realism, innit?

Naïve realism is the conviction that one sees the world as it is and that when people don’t see it in a similar way, it is they that do not see the world for what it is. Ross characterized naïve realism as “a dangerous but unavoidable conviction about perception and reality”. The danger of naïve realism is that while humans are good in recognizing that other people and their opinions have been shaped and influenced by their life experiences and particular dogmas, we are far less adept at recognizing the influence our own experiences and dogmas have on ourselves and opinions. We fail to recognize the bias in ourselves that we are so good in picking out in others.

See also
The “Nature” of the “Beast”
On the Reality of Nature and the Nature of Reality
Dodgy Science in Tabloids Shocker

Read Also
Kingfisher Lives, by Julian Rathbone

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3 Responses to The way we see the world

  1. Antonio Dias says:

    Good overviews. Just one quibble. Socialist, Communist, Capitalist or Fascist; they all saw nature the same way, fundamentally from within the Industrial model. The new conception is as hopelessly inadequate as any of the others in providing an accurate model – though it’s the first one to admit that! –It is a reflection of now-cutting-edge thinking. The difference is that just as those others were in some form useful to the cultures that came up with them, this one might be useful now. What is certain – as far as anything can be! – is that the now outmoded conceptions are no longer useful and are in fact extremely destructive.

    Just because something is conditional doesn’t mean distinctions don’t matter.

  2. dwighttowers says:

    Hi Tony,

    indeed, the industrial model – of Nature as a place to extract from and dump to was shared by the Communists and the Capitalists and all the varieties either side. But I would say it’s also been pre-industrial – there’s a great book by Evan Eisenberg called the Ecology of Eden… that points out that our stupidity didn’t start in 1780.

    Also, Alfred Crosby on “Ecological Imperialism”


  3. Antonio Dias says:

    Full agreement, including the sigh.

    The longer telescope does show us how little changed with the Enlightenment and Modernity. They’ve just been the final acts of the whole civilization thing.

    Thanks for two more solid links!

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