The story of a human retreat from this world, either to the stars above or the virtual realm within, can mask a disregard for or resignation about what is done with the world we do have, both in terms of the structures of human societies and the non-human world within which they are rooted.
Great thoughts, as always. I think that this view (let's call it Illich's watersheds) is much more helpful in understanding our predicament and our path forward than rejecting outright everything that has come before. At least as an intellectual exercise, it should not be a matter of rejecting science, capitalism, reductionism, industry, even specism... ; instead, it would be wonderful if we could pay attention to and recognize the points after which the drawbacks of all of these "ideas" and their consequences overwhelm the advantages that we get from them --and stop, and change, and explore other paths. We should do that urgently.
I always find wonderful pointers and references in your posts, and they trigger all sorts of explorations. I thought I might return the favor by recommending some sources that came to mind as I read today's post:
You might enjoy Andreas Malm's "The Progress of this Storm" (https://www.amazon.com/Progress-This-Storm-Society-Warming/dp/178873940X), where he talks about the urgency of relating to Nature in a different way (to say the least) in a warming world, analyzing several of these almost absurd post-modern views of Nature (Latour's included) from a Marxist perspective. It is really well written and full of extended notes that take you in many different directions.
There's also "The Death of Nature" (https://www.amazon.com/Death-Nature-Ecology-Scientific-Revolution/dp/0062505955), the 1980s classic by Carolyn Merchant, examining how the Scientific Revolution and its mechanistic view of the world prepared the path for capitalism. In that sense, it goes very well with Albert Hirschman "The Passions and the Interest" (https://www.amazon.com/Passions-Interests-Political-Arguments-Capitalism/dp/0691160252), describing the "political arguments for capitalism before its triumph". And with Ellen Meiksins Wood's "The Origin of Capitalism" (https://www.amazon.com/Origin-Capitalism-Longer-View/dp/1786630680), which also traces the changes in the relationship with Nature.
I am now beginning Kate Soper's "Post-Growth Living" (https://www.amazon.com/Post-Growth-Living-Alternative-Kate-Soper/dp/178873887X) --for an "alternative hedonism", proposing a new view of Progress and The Good Life ... I haven't read much yet, but I think you'd be interested. (This, of course, goes well with Hartmut Rosa's "The Uncontrollability of the World", of which you've written an excellent review before.)
Coming from the side of art/literature, there's alsways Olga Tokarczuk's beautiful work --I'd recommend for example "Drive your Plow..." (https://www.amazon.com/Drive-Your-Plow-Over-Bones/dp/0525541330) and/or "Premieval" (https://www.amazon.com/Primeval-Other-Times-Olga-Tokarczuk/dp/8086264351/). But you can get an excellent description of her efforts and goals from her own Nobel Prize speech (https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/literature/2018/tokarczuk/lecture/)
So many hares to chase! V rich. One thought - when scuba diving, a totally artificial activity, one is at the same time constantly and acutely aware of one’s breath, it’s about the only thing you hear, apart from the rice Krispy crackle and pop of the corals, and the bubbles of air escaping to the surface. You are also very aware of the weight and bulk of your oxygen tanks. And the deeper you go, the more aware you become of your utter dependence on this “artificial” technology for your survival. A nice example of Latour’s thought.
I’ve long been interested in the way words seem to degrade over time, and always in negative direction (I think). So artificial once simply meant it was an artefact, something made deliberately, with some degree of skill. Nice used to mean, precise, exact, to the point - now it’s become a rather disparaging term of faint praise. Impertinent used to mean simply that’s not relevant, not to the point, whereas now it usually just means rude. (Sorry, a bit random)
Thanks for airing these excellent interlinked topics, much food for thought. Here’s another take, inspired by your words, possibly challenging them too/8
I define reality as continuously unfolding in three-dimensional space, where its contents can be known to all the relevant senses.
Thus, I walk into town, see a panoply of human and non-human. It would be possible in principle to touch, smell and hear them. The only thing which limits my apprehension of the moving scene is my attention. I see what I want to see. I might be lost in thought. I might or might not be aware of my body from the inside. But reality is there, offered to me unfiltered.
In one sense, this kind of perception is all I know of the world. The rest is hearsay: filtered, selective; brought to me by any kind of technology you care to name, including handwritten correspondence sent through the mail.
Walking through town, I prefer to wear glasses and hearing aids, to get the most reality I can. These sophisticated devices expand rather than limit my perceptions.
Technology causes harm:
—through its destructive capabilities (weapons, pollution of earth, air & ocean)
—when e.g. news and social media are consulted for expanding our knowledge of reality and “what to think”, and we find ourselves unable to take into account what has been filtered or distorted
—when it temptingly allows us to do things not in the best interests of Nature, however defined
But speaking of “us” reminds us that technology is constantly being <em>pushed</em> by “them”: powers not motivated by the best interest of the overwhelming majority called “us”.
I often finish reading or listening to reflections here expecting four more acts to follow. I’d like to hear you address implications, suggest solutions. I ask my essay-writing students to answer “What?” “So what?” and “Now what?” Seen another way, your provocative essays give us the first statement of a law case: fact pattern, prosecution, defense. As one scholar once noted, Shakespeare’s five-act plays subtly borrowed the structure of Elizabethan court trials: I: facts, law, parties, prosecution & defense opening statements; II: prosecution’s argument and evidence; III: defense’s argument and evidence; IV: counters; V: closing statements and judgment.
I’d like to see the rest of the play!