The Death of Nature

16 Feb

Update: Ik ga naar Odense (Denemarken) om ons land te vertegenwoordigen op de internationale filosofie olympiade. Damn right!

Deze essay leverde mij een 4e plaats, eervolle vermelding en veel lof op na de filosofie olympiade bij het isvw. Als enige 4 havo leerling -en tevens een van de jongste als 16 jarige- ben ik erg te spreken over dit essay. Hierin verklaar ik de natuur als dood en analyseer ik het nut van natuurinterpretatie en geef ik een oplossing op onze ecologische conflicten met de natuur.

The Death of Nature.

“Nature consists of the elements given by the senses. Primitive man first takes out of them certain complexes of these elements that present themselves with a certain stability and are most important to him. The first and oldest words are names for ´things´. (…) The sensations are no ‘symbols of things‘. On the contrary the ‘thing‘ is a mental symbol for a sensation-complex of relative stability. Not the things, the bodies, but colours, pressures, times (what we usually call sensations) are the true elements of the world.”
Ersnt Mach, Die Mechanik in ihrer Entwickelung, Chapter 4, §4 (1883)

First of all. I disagree with the above citation. This essay hopefully can shed light on the problem of an interpretation of nature. As it is, I claim, the true danger for nature.

Modern society is disgustingly strong tied with nature. This dependence brings forth a sense of trust in nature. In today’s reality nature seems like an old passionate friend of ours. We treat it wrong, we beat it up, but always we seem to keep in touch with it by compensating this form of capitalist destruction (we need nature in order to build everything around us) by creation or conservation of more nature we can later abuse. We feel safe surrounded by nature, the fact that to us nature is an endless force makes it feel safe to interconnect our lives with it. This is completely wrong.

Nature is perhaps –instead of an old friend- our modern enemy, nevertheless we do not feel the necessity to realise such thing as the objective reality it truly is. Slavoj Žižek has presented a strong example of this danger in the use of oil: See for yourself, look around, see this room – do you know what it consist of? Do you know what most of our society consists of? Oil. Oil is derived from nature, but do you have any idea what form of horrible things must have happened to compose oil? Today’s oil is the product of a massive catastrophe. All things in nature that once existed are the very core of current oil. A complete world destroyed is the oil we use today. Oil is derived from the death of millions of animals, plants, and thus nature itself. Nature was our martyr before we were even around to exploit it as such.
With the knowledge that nature as it is is a complete build up from a (meaningless) catastrophe I would like to refer to the citation above: Nature consists of the elements given by the senses. (…) [what we usually call sensations are the true elements of the world]. This part signifies my disagreement with the quote. What it tries to say is that nature it the true real and our sensations are the interpretation of that and thus our reality. Here I can clearly see Lacans notion of the real and the symbolic real. Again the real (nature) is signified as everything we perceive but without our perception, the nature we see is not true nature but nature as perceived by our sense. The real therefore is nature but without any meaning we give it by signifying it with our sensations. The symbolic in this citation is yet defined by the sensations of the signifier of the real – man/we.

When Mach asks us to see nature as a representation of our own senses in a meaningful way he presents nature as something that must have meaning, something we need to interpret for it to truthfully exist. If we don’t give meaning to nature we can hardly give any meaning to ourselves (we very much depend on nature to exist, so if such an essential part of our lives can not be given meaning it becomes even harder for us to be given any). Here I see the factual embodiment of the human need to understand reality (I’d rather not be too Nietzschian about this, but in short it can be said that man feels a need to find objective meaning). An example of another, conceivably more clear, interpretation of nature is always seen in religion. After every big catastrophe (volcano eruption, hurricane, tornado and so on) mainstream media always shows us religious leaders and followers telling us the same thing: this punishment comes from our god because we somehow deserved this. The sinners have placed us under this spell of catastrophes. What they fail to realise is that they simply try to assign meaning to nature, alike the above quote. This act of signifying nature is only useful for ourselves, but in no way can it be the true essence of nature because we simply interpret it to be so.

I want to ask: why interpret nature? Why can mankind not accept Nature as something that is an –perhaps horrible- unstoppable force we must live with. We must not build a relationship with nature out of harmony or out of compassion but out of fear, the fear for the unknown is the only right approach towards nature for it has no meaning. And it can be given none without being dogmatic or euphoric. Nature is meaningless in the same way that death is (I again feel a strong Nietschian approach here).

If we accept the symbolic death of nature (discarding Machs buoyant furthermore erroneous notion of nature as our sensual interpretation of reality) perhaps comes another perspective; the true way to save nature. If we want to ´save´ nature (in the biological sense of saving the forest and the threatened animals and so on) we must simply let it function by itself. Let’s accept the fact that we form no part of today’s nature, we evolved to far away from to even try to. Today’s connection with nature is a simple formal abusive one, see the analogy of ´the friend´ above. If we let go of this connection science can perhaps find us an alternative to nature. Possibly we can then rightfully save nature by simply letting it function in its meaningless form without any human interaction nor interpretation. Only then can nature complete its only accurate meaning: the fact that it exist (which is true meaninglessness).
One can argue against this radical Zizekian approach of abandoning nature by stating that we are part of nature (perhaps pointing to Darwinism as an argument). I agree that on a biological level we rightfully are a functioning part of nature. But then we must realise that by having a rational consciousness we are functioning independent from nature and its unstoppable force; we have no meaning in the context of nature like spiders that eat up death leaves. In a way we have become our own unstoppable force. If we are in fact part of nature we are its bastard child. The unwanted and left alone child that must finally realize that its stepfather wants to be left alone to die or exist without being interpret or abused.

-Cesar Majorana – 4HAVO
(Excuse the abuse of the ´ character as an high comma or quotation mark, my keyboard is having some sort of existential crisis and refuses to fetch me the right characters at times)

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Geplaatst door op februari 16, 2013 in Blogs


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