نوع مقاله : مقاله علمی پژوهشی
عنوان مقاله [English]
This paper examines different aspects of nature, both as a concept in philosophy and in popular culture. Why has our necessary—but equally ‘natural’—separation from nature been allowed to go as far as it has? Are we so alone in our modern troubles that we must cast off our human inheritance and pretend to reinvent the universe at every turn? The paper begins by sketching a picture of the present historical moment, which the specialists of history consider a historical anomaly. Although neither natural phenomena nor practical activities were part of the subject-matter of philosophy, by tradition, it argues, philosophy affords us the possibility to rediscover the qualities we observe about nature and the learned discourse on nature from an entirely different, philosophical perspective.
Nature along Man’s Journey of Return
Anthony F. Shaker
What is this ‘thing’ we call nature? When we notice it, it inspires us with its grace and beauty. Sensing its protective embrace, we break out in loud renditions of ‘Let’s save the Environment’; then, at the slightest inconvenience, we curse and mercilessly try to subdue it. Is it sensible even to call it a thing? If by ‘thing’ we intend nothing more than the rural and urban environments we happen to live in, then all the qualities we observe there would be too disparate to contribute to a proper definition in philosophy. They would be reducible to whatever appears agreeable or menacing to us at any given moment. But that is not the proper domain of philosophy. By tradition, philosophy has been entrusted with another mission than sorting out the particulars of every situation and then moralising about it. Digging deeper in a vein philosophical, as we shall try to do here, may nevertheless afford us the possibility to rediscover some of these qualities, but from an entirely different perspective.
By taking a philosophical approach, I neither mean to pit philosophy against ‘mysticism’, that catchall category invented in the ‘West’, nor to devalue the things of the spirit that the reader may deem important, perhaps, at a time of history when the crassest expressions of materialism pass for ‘spirituality’. Once a marginal countercurrent in the world’s main traditions, such hollow spiritualism more than anything else typifies the co-opting power of a novel kind of social formation and its extensions across the world. Cast as the apogee of an ‘enlightened modernity’ or ‘the end of history’ (Francis Fukuyama), this social formation could not survive long without hyper-consumption, predatory instincts and commodification of everything under the sun. This dependence on the base instincts has essentially reversed the order of the most familiar human qualities.
‘Western’ social scientists—like Christopher Lasch—have studied the sociopsychological and cultural expressions of this social formation ad naseam. We, on the other hand, shall approach the consequences of this species of societal expression, which are not limited to ‘Western society’, in the light of two factors which, while extraneous to philosophy, have impinged in one way or another on the philosophic treatment of ‘nature’: namely, history and the human inheritance, which I shall explain later. We shall never fully appreciate, I believe, the depth of humanity’s modern predicament without assistance from our inheritance, which stretches back thousands of years—in fact, since human beings first learned to be sedentary. If not for the universal reach of a long Islamicate learning tradition, in particular, notions like ‘West’ and ‘modernity’ would never have been invented in the course of the last century in the northern Atlantic coastal states (see Shaker, 2017). Before broaching the visible multiplicities, hidden unities and oneness of ‘nature’, according to philosophy, let me briefly sketch a picture of the very peculiar present moment that many specialists of history have considered a historical anomaly. I don’t think there is any warrant, even for the scholars of philosophy, to ignore this moment or its significance any longer.
An unusual moment of history: 1850 to 2023
Scientists have for decades been amassing data on millions of years of environmental changes. Today, they are able to provide us with a detailed picture of the extent and speed at which human beings have been turning this jewel of a planet into ash. In making this statement, I have no intention of moralising the issues as they have been in the unending and manipulative propaganda of the ‘Western’ media. Pretend as we want to stand above ‘nature’ as its proud conquerors, in emulation of the binary Puritan/hedonistic American mindset familiar to sociologists, no scientific expert I know of seriously claims that the earth’s average temperatures have always fluctuated in tandem with human activity. On a geohistorical timescale, we honestly do not measure up to very much. On the miniature canvas of human history, the greatest environmental impacts of our ancestors manifested themselves locally. In fact, the periodic swings in temperatures indicate no direct correlation with human activity at all before our time.
All this changes abruptly around 1850, however. From this date onwards, the two histories—man’s and Earth’s—converge into a single trajectory. All the data charts show an abrupt, almost vertical spike in temperatures that coincides perfectly with a historical anomaly familiar to historians. Historians treat 1850 as the pinnacle of the colonial era, after a handful of Atlantic mercantilist states had finally subjugated an unsuspecting humanity and dismembered its vast interconnected economy. There are many empirical reasons why this secession constitutes the true beginning of modern conditions, or ‘modernity’. But it is also the harbinger of a decline of a novel sort. It broke with the past first by plunging the European subcontinent to depths of internecine violence unseen since the Thirty Years War, before sowing chaos everywhere. All in all, the terrible environmental degradations to which we bear witness today offer an excellent measure of the concomitant decline to which I am referring.
Beaudelaire (d. 1867), the poet of Paris and one of the earliest to espy this strange and rather bewitching moment of history, portrayed the advent of what he called ‘modernity’—namely, France’s post-Revolutionary agony and decadence—with some of the most striking imageries of the devil. One is therefore justified in asking, perhaps in less emotive terms than his, why centuries of heavy borrowing from an advanced, ambient human civilization by the westernmost corner of the European subcontinent, bottled up since birth, have created an anomaly that also threatens the natural course of human civilization in midstream.
Instead of attempting to answer this huge historical question head-on, we shall try to view it more modestly through the lens of philosophy as philosophy has been practised until only recently.
ارسال نظر در مورد این مقاله