• Janus
    8.7k


    The tendentiously rhetorical way you frame the idea notwithstanding, are you claiming that the ancients and medieval people of Europe did not generally understand there to be a providence at work in nature, an understanding which we moderns no longer generally hold?

    And are you also claiming that this shift has not been due to the rise of modern science predominately since the seventeenth century? Are you claiming that the rise of modern science and technology was not, at least in part, accelerated by the invention of steam power, and the consequently increasing discoveries of coal reserves and even more accelerated by the discovery of oil?

    Do you disagree that this rapid increase in the availability of cheap energy, coupled with the rise of the pharmaceutical and electronics industries and modern agriculture (all of which would have been impossible without petrochemicals) has enabled us to achieve a distance from nature hitherto impossible?

    Do you disagree that it is this distance from nature, coupled with the decline in the providential paradigm, has enabled us to view nature both human and non-human as a mere material resource? The idea expressed in Genesis that God created the earth and its animals for man, can just as well be interpreted as a call to stewardship as it can be interpreted as a license for exploitation.

    In any case Heidegger says the fall away from an understanding of being that would integrate humanity with nature, and tend towards an attitude of reverence rather than disregard towards nature, was already well underway with Plato and Aristotle.

    If you disagree with all these things then you disagree with Heidegger's understanding of the evolution of Western culture, an understanding which he was arguably the first to significantly elaborate. You haven't offered any textual evidence to support your reading of Heidegger as some kind of starry eyed, hopelessly romantic mystic, so why should anyone take your obviously biased opinion about Heidegger seriously?
  • Ciceronianus the White
    859
    I feel bad about hijacking this thread, but in for a penny...

    Certain of the ancients and probably most of those living in the middle ages thought there was such a thing as Providence. They also thought, generally, that we humans held dominion over the world, and considered the world to be a resource for use in achieving various goals. Our dominion was ordained byProvidence. I personally think it's something of a stretch to maintain that when Genesis speaks of subduing the world and having dominion over its creatures, it refers to kindly stewardship.

    Frankly, I think if we believe that there was a time that we didn't look upon the world as being available for our use, we fool ourselves. We necessarily use it, to live. We will do whatever is necessary in order to live. Certainly there have always been those who treated the world with reverence, but I doubt there was a time when all humans did so, just as I doubt there was a Garden of Eden. It's far more likely only a few were so enlightened. Any pantheistic view requires reverence for nature, and we know the Stoics to have been pantheists, for example. Otherwise, belief in providence or belief that certain powers or gods must be propitiated before making use of what we want to make use of doesn't amount to the kind of reverence I think is being referred to here.

    If Plato and Aristotle were falling away from this reverential attitude, just when does Heidegger think we had it? Sometime prior to recorded history? Someone who makes such a claim has the burden to establish it, and Heidegger does nothing to do so, though it seems to be essential to his argument, such as it is. To say we were "closer to nature" or more reverent towards it sometimes in the distant past and therefore our technology at that time was better or less dangerous, or we had a better attitude, isn't much of an argument or in my opinion.

    The problems we encounter with technology now don't arise from the fact our Being is out of joint. The problems result because we now have the capacity to use up resources very quickly and even lay waste to the world, there are a lot more of us than there has ever been, and we are greedy, thoughtless, and selfish That isn't being "more detached from nature." In fact, we've always been greedy, thoughtless and selfish. There's evidence that environmental degradation, soil exhaustion and deforestation were taking place in ancient Greece as the result of human activity. Studies indicate environmental degradation in Polynesia as a result of human colonization beginning about 1000 years ago; as a result of human activity in modern Turkey (Asia Minor) about 5000 years ago. The increase in population and trade and improvements in travel during the Roman Empire and resulting demands for food and commodities is said to have resulted in environmental degradation as well.

    Claiming there was a time when all revered nature and that we must become as we were then doesn't strike me as an intelligent way to address the dangers of technology and the problems we face, nor is it helpful to claim that "only a god will save us."

    You may of course think whatever you like regarding my views on Heidegger. But if you seek textual support, a better use of your time may be to try to find support in Heidegger's texts for the highly speculative claims he makes regarding humans and our evolution; that is to say, support from sources other than his own intuitions.
  • Janus
    8.7k
    I haven't actually claimed that nature was universally revered prior to the technological age, and I don't believe that idea can be rightly imputed to Heidegger, either, it just gives him too little credit.

    Despite your assertions I remain convinced that modern humanity has insulated its everyday life from the depredations of nature, and as far as possible it has domesticated nature, even if sometimes only within the imagination. I am not saying (and Heidegger does not say) that this is all bad either, or that humanity should return to a pre-industrial agrarian culture, the point is to be aware of what we are, and live accordingly.

    For me that this step away from nature is a defining feature of the human condition today is far less questionable than the idea that we have "always been greedy, thoughtless and selfish". I think the past instances of environmental degradation you mention can be put down to ignorance. There is much of self-interest in maintaining what you understand yourself to be critically dependent upon, but you need to understand how you might be having a negative effect on it in order to act. We have the ecological knowledge now, but I don't believe that any sense of our critical dependence on nature is so tangible to us today, as to be compelling.

    In any case, I think at this point, given that you feel guilty about hijacking the thread, we should simply agree to disagree; I can't see anything more of any value coming from this conversation.
  • Janus
    8.7k


    Ciceronianus, since this exchange, your enthusiasm and my curiosity has led me to do some reading of and about Dewey, and I must say that I agree with you that both his philosophy and his influence are vastly underrated. I am particularly impressed by the way he avoids the realism/ anti-realism polemic. So, thanks for influencing me to explore some new territory.
  • Ciceronianus the White
    859
    You're quite welcome. I've always been impressed with the way Dewey anticipated much that has been taken as "new" in philosophy. I think he's been ignored largely because pragmatism fell out of fashion, and because his writing style is uninspired, to put it kindly.
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