Tag: Stephen Jay Gould

Decentring the Human View

Rather than extending from human centred preferences on outward, what would happen if we decentred human interests and made them exactly equivalent and on the same level as all other interests, living and non-living?

In practice, we are at the centre of our own individual experiences, just as our DNA is at the centre of our evolutionary potential.

Yet, as I have shown, there are serious problems with considering ourselves as boundaried entities when a consideration of how we relate to, and even co-evolve with, other species shows that those boundaries are, at the very least, perceptual tricks of the light, edges against which we can pit our survival skills – but only if we also recognise that the boundaries themselves are somewhat illusory. This reminds me of the status of colour – an impossible phenomenon, in terms of physics, but as real and fundamental to our experience, and as essential to our own survival, as any other sensory feedback.

It’s unsettling to consider our interests as having no more inherent imporance than those of a virus, particularly when, emotionally, virii, cockroaches and other species we consider as competitors engender negative emotional reactions. Can we really achieve such a level of impartiality? Isn’t it counter to our very natures? Our very survival depends, surely, on outcompeting such monsters? How can we possibly consider them to have concerns which have the same status value as our own?

The paradox is that when we cultivate a more objective, less emotional response to microbes and other organisms around which we have, let’s face it, an evolved disgust, we can begin to observe and study without the accompanying horror, and that creates the space to understand them. With understanding comes the ability to consider their interests purely as systematically relational, and this, in turn, gives us the possibility to consider ways in which both interests may be served. This is not always going to be possible, of course. Yet the rapidly evolving HIV virus is, in a sense, an aggressive symbiote. Do I dare suggest that we might be able to see such a traditional enemy as such? Rather, for instance, than attempting to wipe out the ‘parasite’ that generates Malaria with increasingly aggressive and expensive drugs (to which the microbe, evolving faster than we can react, will always develop eventual resistance) we an think of the ecology of that lifeform, the pools that are required by mosquitos to breed: we can ensure that there are none near human settlements, we can ensure that nets to protect humans while they are sleeping are widely distributed, and most fundamentally, we can look into biological relationships between the microbe and other elements of the ecology.

Not so radical, after all, is it? Just basic common sense, instead of all out war.

Getting Somewhere … Else

I’m going to attempt to move things around today so I have more of a sense of what belongs where. It’s beginning to feel as though I have the bones of a narrative outline, so I’ll put that in one page, and then I have much of the outline of a literature review, so I’ll put that in another. Then I have to think about how to order the arguments but I think a heirarchical approach is (ironically, given I’m talking about anti-hierarchies) probably the most sensible, so that even though I’ve talked about respect and self respect in the outline and review, I’m then going to go back to deal with the detail of the problems of dualism (and relate this to the problem of environmental ethics), the development of understanding in the context of Evolutionary theory, comparing this, scientific, approach, with that of Zen and in particular, with the writings of Dogen, and then putting all this into the context of respect and self-respect and the environment.

I may need some help!

I want to create pages for all the posts I’ve written on the outline and the review, and then begin to think about how to organise posts on dualism and environmental ethics, Evolutionary theory and the scientific approach, Dogen, Zen and the empirical approach, and self respect and the environment.

I’ll begin by just categorising and I’ll upload some of the other work I’ve been doing over the last short while… this might be very messy, so please bear with me as I attempt to let some patterns emerge!