path: root/books/history/death-of-nature.md
diff options
authorSilvio Rhatto <rhatto@riseup.net>2019-09-22 16:56:53 -0300
committerSilvio Rhatto <rhatto@riseup.net>2019-09-22 16:56:53 -0300
commit86817b97e7f40d6a7c062c0cd34e343b31098942 (patch)
tree60864000784674d1448ace8cd64f2f1d4fcc5bde /books/history/death-of-nature.md
parent0155b92590d1b242bf94dfac6efe52aa1be47639 (diff)
Adds some partial book reviews: death of nature and torture and truth
Diffstat (limited to 'books/history/death-of-nature.md')
1 files changed, 310 insertions, 0 deletions
diff --git a/books/history/death-of-nature.md b/books/history/death-of-nature.md
new file mode 100644
index 0000000..47f94ab
--- /dev/null
+++ b/books/history/death-of-nature.md
@@ -0,0 +1,310 @@
+[[!meta title="The Death of Nature"]]
+## Topics
+* Bohm's process physics.
+* Ilya Prigogine new thermodynamics.
+## Excerpts
+ Between the sixteenth andseventeenth cerfturies the image of an or-
+ ganic cosmos with a living female earth at its ceriter gave way to a
+ mechanistic world view in which nature was reconstructed as dead and
+ passive, to be dominated and controlled by hufuans. The Death efNature
+ deals with the economic, cultural, and scientific changes through which
+ this vast transformation came about. In seeking to understand how people
+ conceptualized nature in the Scientific Revolution, I am asking not about
+ unchanging essences, but about connections between social change and
+ changing constructions of nattlre". Similarly. when women today attempt
+ to change society's domination of nature, 1:\1~¥.,~e acting to overturn
+ moder_n constructions of nature and women as culturally passive and
+ subordinate.
+ [...]
+ Today's feminist and ecological consciousness can be used to examine the
+ historical interconnections between women and nature that devel-
+ oped as the modern scientific and economic world took form in the
+ sixteenth and seventeenth centuries-a transformation that shaped
+ and pervades today's mainstream values and perceptions.
+ Feminist history in the broadest sense requires that we look at
+ [...]
+ My intent is instead to examine the
+ values associated with the images of women and nature as they re-
+ late to the formation of our modern world and their implications for
+ 'our lives today.
+ In investigating the roots of our current environmental dilemma
+ and its connections to science, technology, and the economy, we
+ must reexamine the formation of a world view and a science that,
+ by reconceptualizing reality as a machine rather than a living or-
+ ganism, sanctioned the domination of both nature and women. The
+ contributions of such founding "fathers" of modern science as
+ Francis Bacon, William Harvey, Rene Descartes, Thomas Hobbes,
+ and Isaac Newton must be reevaluated. The fate of other options,
+ alternative philosophies, and social groups shaped by the organic
+ world view and resistant to the growing exploitative mentality needs
+ reappraisal. To understand why one road rather than the other was
+ taken requires a broad synthesis of both the natural and cultural
+ environments of Western society at the historical turning point.
+ This book elaborates an ecological perspective that includes both
+### Terminology
+Nature, art, organic and mechanical:
+ A distinction was commonly made
+ between natura naturans, or nature creating, and natura naturata,
+ the natural creation.
+ Nature was contrasted with art (techne) and with artificially cre-
+ ated things. It was personified as a female-being, e.g., Dame Na-
+ ture; she was alternately a prudent lady, an empress, a mother, etc.
+ The course of nature and the laws of nature were the actualization
+ of her force. The state of nature was the state of mankind prior to
+ social organization and prior to the state of grace. Nature spirits,
+ nature deities, virgin nymphs, and elementals were thought to re-
+ side in or be associated with natural objects.
+ In both Western and non-Western cultures, nature was tradition-
+ ally feminine.
+ [...]
+ In the early modern period, the term organic usually referred to
+ the bodily organs, structures, and organization of living beings,
+ while organicism was the doctrine that organic structure was the
+ result of an inherent, adaptive property in matter. The word organi-
+ cal, however, was also sometimes used to refer to a machine or an
+ instrument. Thus a clock was sometimes called an "organical
+ body," while som~ machines were said to operate by organical,
+ rather than mechanical, action if the touch of a person was in-
+ volved.
+ Mechanical referred to the machine and tool trades; the manual
+ operations of the handicrafts; inanimate machines that lacked spon-
+ taneity, volition, and thought; and the mechanical sciences. 1
+### Nature that nurtures and thats also uncontrollable, replaced by "the machine"
+ the organic theory was the identification of nature, especially the
+ earth, with a nurturing mother: a kindly beneficent female who pro-
+ vided for the needs of mankind in an ordered, planned universe. But
+ another opposing image of nature as female was also prevalent:
+ wild and uncontrollable nature that could render violence, storms,
+ droughts, and general chaos. Both were identified with the female
+ sex and were projections of human perceptions onto the external
+ world. The metaphor of the earth as a nurturing mother was gradu-
+ ally to vanish as a dominant image as the Scientific Revolution pro-
+ ceeded to mechanize and to rationalize the world view. The second
+ image, nature as disorder, called forth an important modern idea,
+ that of power over nature. Two new ideas, those of mechanism and
+ of the domination and mastery of nature, became core concepts of
+ the modern world. An organically oriented mentality in which fe-
+ male principles played an important role was undermined and re-
+ placed by a mechanically oriented mentality that either eliminated
+ or used female principles in an exploitative manner. As Western
+ culture became increasingly mechanized in the 1600s, the female
+ earth and virgin earth spirit were subdued by the machine. 1
+### Mining and the female body
+ The image of the earth as a living organism and nurturing
+ mother had served as a cultural constraint restricting the actions of
+ human beings. One does not readily slay a mother, dig into her en-
+ trails for gold or mutilate her body, although commercial mining
+ would soon require that. As long as the earth was considered to be
+ alive and sensitive, it could be considered a breach of human ethical
+ behavior to carry out destructive acts against it. For most tradition-
+ al cultures, minerals and metals ripened in the uterus of the Earth
+ Mother, mines were compared to her vagina, and metallurgy was
+ the human hastening of the birth of the living metal in the artificial
+ womb of the furnace-an abortion of the metal's natural growth
+ cycle before its time. Miners offered propitiation to the deities of
+ the soil and subterranean world, performed ceremonial sacrifices,
+ · and observed strict cleanliness, sexual abstinence, and fasting be-
+ fore violating the sacredness of the living earth by sinking a mine.
+ Smiths assumed an awesome responsibility in precipitating the met-
+ al's birth through smeltin,.g, fusing, and beating it with hammer and
+ anvil; they were often accorded the status of shaman in tribal rit-
+ uals and their tools were thought to hold special powers.
+Is there a relation between torture (basanos), extraction of "truth" and
+mining gold out of a mine? See discussions both on "The Counterrevolution"
+and "Torture and Truth".
+### Hidden norms: controlling images
+ Controlling images operate as ethical restraints or as ethical sanc-
+ tions-as subtle "oughts" or "ought-nots." Thus as the descriptive
+ metaphors and images of nature change, a behavioral restraint can
+ be changed into a sanction. Such a change in the image and de'-
+ scription of nature was occurring during the course of the Scientific
+ Revolution.
+ It is important to recognize the normative import of descriptive
+ statements about nature. Contemporary philosophers of language
+ have critically reassessed the earlier positivist distinction between
+ the "is" of science and the "ought" of society, arguing that descrip-
+ tions and norms are not opposed to one another by linguistic sepa-
+ ration into separate "is" and "ought" statements, but are contained
+ within each other. Descriptive statements about the world can pre-
+ suppose the normative; they are then ethic-laden.
+ [...]
+ The writer
+ or culture may not be conscious of the ethical import yet may act in
+ accordance with its dictates. The hidden norms may become con-
+ scious or explicit when an alternative or contradiction presents it-
+ self. Because language contains a culture within itself, when lan-
+ guage changes, a culture is also changing in important way~~ By
+ examining changes in descriptions of nature, we can then perceive
+ something of the changes in cultural values. To be aware of the in-.
+### Renaissance: hierarchical order
+ The Renaissance view of nature and society was based on the or-
+ ganic analogy between the human body, or microcosm, and the
+ larger world, or macrocosm.
+ [...]
+ But while the pastoral tradition symbolized nature as a benevo-
+ lent female, it contained the implication that nature when plowed
+ and cultivated could be used as a commodity and manipulated as a
+ resource. Nature, tamed and subdued, could be transformed into a
+ garden to provide both material and spiritual food to enhance the
+ comfort and soothe the anxieties of men distraught by the demands
+ of the urban world and the stresses of the marketplace. It depended
+ on a masculine perception of nature as a mother and bride whose
+ primary function was to comfort; nurture, and provide for the well-
+ being of the male. In pastoral imagery, both nature and women are
+ subordinate and essentially passive. They nurture but do not control
+ or exhibit disruptive passion. The pastoral mode, although it viewed
+ nature as benevolent, was a model created as an antidote to the
+ pressures of urbanization and mechanization. It represented a ful-
+ fillment of human needs for nurture, but by conceiving of nature as
+ passive, it nevertheless allowed for the possibility of its use and ma-
+ nipulation. Unlike the dialectical image of nature as the active uni-
+ ty of opposites in tension, the Arcadian image rendered nature pas-
+ sive and manageable.
+### Undressing
+ An allegory (1160) by Alain of Lille, of the School of Chartres,
+ portrays Natura, God's powerful but humble servant, as stricken
+ with grief at the failure of man (in contrast to other species) to
+ obey her laws. Owing to faulty supervision by Venus, human beings
+ engage in adulterous sensual love. In aggressively penetrating the
+ secrets of heaven, they tear Natura's undergarments, exposing her
+ to the view of the vulgar. She complains that "by the unlawful as-
+ saults of man alone the garments of my modesty suffer disgrace
+ and division."
+ [...]
+ Such basic attitudes
+ toward ·male-female roles in biological generation where the female
+ and the earth are both passive receptors could easily become sanc-
+ tions for exploitation as the organic context was transformed by the
+ rise of commercial capitalism.
+ [...]
+ The macrocosm theory, as we have seen, likened the cosmos to
+ the human body, soul, and spirit with male and female reproductive
+ components. Similarly, the geocosm theory compared the earth to
+ the living human body, with breath, blood, sweat, and elimination
+ systems.
+ [...]
+ The earth's springs were akin to the human blood system; its oth-
+ er various fluids were likened to the mucus, saliva, sweat, and other
+ forins of lubrication in the human body, the earth being organized
+ "'. .. much after the plan of our bodies, in which there are both
+ veins and arteries, the former blood vessels, the latter air vessels ....
+ So exactly alike is the resemblance to our bodies in nature's forma-
+ tion of the earth, that our ancestors have spoken of veins [springs]
+ of water." Just as the human body contained blood, marrow, mu-
+ cus, saliva, tears, and lubricating fluids, so in the earth there were
+ various fluids. Liquids that turned hard became metals, such as
+ gold and silver; other fluids turned into stones, bitumens, and veins
+ of sulfur. Like the human body, the earth gave forth sweat: "There
+ is often a gathering of thin, scattered moisture like dew, which from
+ many points flows into one spot. The dowsers call it sweat, because
+ a kind of drop is either squeezed out by the pressure of the ground
+ or raised by the heat."
+ Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) enlarged the Greek analogy be-
+ tween the waters of the earth and the ebb and flow of human blood
+ through the veins and heart
+ [...]
+ A widely held alchemical belief was the growth of the baser met-
+ als into gold in womblike matrices in the earth. The appearance of
+ silver in lead ores or gold in silvery assays was evidence that this
+ transformation was under way. Just as the child grew in the
+ warmth of the female womb, so the growth of metals was fostered
+### Matrix
+ The earth in the Paracelsian philosophy was the mother or matrix
+ giving birth to plants, animals, and men.
+### Renaissance was diverse
+ In general, the Renaissance view was that all things were permeat-
+ ed by life, there being no adequate method by which to designate
+ the inanimate from the animate.
+ [...] but criteria by which to differentiate the living from
+ the nonliving could not successfully be formulated. This was due
+ not only to the vitalistic framework of the period but to striking
+ similarities between them.
+ [...]
+ Popular Renaissance literature was filled with hundreds of im-
+ ages associating nature, matter, and the earth with the female sex.
+ [...]
+ In the 1960s, the Native-American became a symbol in the ecol-
+ ogy movement's search for alternatives to Western exploitative atti-
+ tudes. The Indian animistic belief-system and reverence for the
+ earth as a · mother were contrasted with the Judeo-Christian heri-
+ tage of dominion over nature and with capitalist practices resulting
+ in the "tragedy of the commons" (exploitation of resources avail-
+ able for any person's or nation's use). But as will be seen, European
+ culture was more complex and varied than this judgment allows. It
+ ignores the Renaissance philosophy of the nurturing earth as well
+ as those philosophies and social movements resistant to mainstream
+ economic change.
+### Mining as revealing the hidden secrets
+ In his defense, the miner argued that the earth was not a real moth-
+ er, but a wicked stepmother who hides and conceals the metals in
+ her inner parts instead of making them available for human use.
+ [...]
+ In the old hermit's tale, we have a fascina,ting example·of the re:·
+ lationship between images and values. The older view of nature as a
+ kindly mother is challenged by the growing interests of the mining
+ industry in Saxony, Bohemia, and the Harz Mountains, regions of
+ newly found prosperity (Fig. 6). The miner, representing these
+ newer commercial activities, transforms the irnage of the nurturing
+ mother into that of a stepmother who wickedly conceals her bounty
+ from the deserving and needy children. In the seventeenth century,
+ the image will be seen to undergo yet another transformation, as
+ natural philosopher Francis Bacon (1561-1626) sets forth the need
+ for prying into nature's nooks and crannies in searching out her se-
+ crets for human improvement.
+ -- 33