Tag Archives: Nature

Some Thoughts on The System of Nature and the Ethics of Survivalism

In one of Reid’s recent posts, he linked to the following TEDTalk given by Michael Pollan:

There is so much I love about this Michael Pollan piece. First is his claim of coevolution and his disdain for Descartes. I also appreciate his “from the plants perspective” methodology which I shared with Graham some time ago as a potential OOP-pairing. Though I wonder now if it isn’t closer to a vitalism than OOP would like. One of my problems with OOP has been with its lack of conatus, will, or drive. While Graham has gone to great lengths to explain how change can occur, arguing against the changeless relationists, he provides no reason why change occurs. This is why I begin with a system of drive, with the idea that things perpetuate themselves. Reid’s recent posts on genes, memes, and temes (a general theory of memetics) are helpful here.

Repetition, perpetuation, is a property of existence.

This outlines exactly what I was trying to convey in my recent post on Camazotz. As I have said numerous times before, I am an avowed anti-humanist, both in the sense that I am against the essentialism of humanism (that there is a fixed human nature), but also in the sense that I do not accept that humanity is the height of nature. The example Pollan gives of rice is excellent in this respect; we are not “more evolved” than rice simply because we have consciousness (indeed, the idea of anything being more or less evolved is ridiculous).


There is no “top” to nature, no king of the hill. This is why an ethic of domination (a la Nietzsche and the stereotype of vitalism in general) is inadequate and simply empirically wrongheaded. A true vitalism ethic would be one of mutual survival, not a species-centric will to power. It is for this reason that I have provisionally dubbed such an ethic survivalism. Of course, the term is already in use, though not philosophically. From Wikipedia:

Survivalism is a commonly used term for the preparedness strategy and subculture of individuals or groups anticipating and making preparations for future possible disruptions in local, regional, national, or international social or political order.

I have adopted this term because I think it is rather fitting. Vitalism is a system of order, of systematics themselves. Survivalism as the preparedness and anticipation of chaos or disruptions to order would work in much the same way philosophically as an ethic of networking, of rebuilding order in chaos, or conversely, could likely become more widespread in the sense of becoming a political tool for sustainability. This would be an ethic of creativity, productivity, repetition, and growth. It would be inherently anti-fascistic in the sense that by taking nature as its example (since it is an outgrowth of nature), it must be cooperative (nature is an egalitarian system of flows, no one is on top).

This of course is entirely natural, though it may seem to go against standard human behaviour. We see such systems of cooperation in nature all the time. The above photo of the bee provides one of the most obvious examples. Though it is human-made, my favourite example of cooperation (though I don’t know why…) is that of the Three Sisters (beans, squash, and corn), who form their own tight-little-system of cooperation and mutual prosperity. Native Americans found these foods desirable and also found that through companion planting, the three plants all benefit each other. Not only that, but the combination of the three benefits the human caretaker by providing him or her with a balanced and healthy diet. Survivalism could be exactly such a system-building system, one which seeks out sustainability and grows more nature.


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Nature Always Wins

This is one of the few mantras that I have: “Nature always wins.” It comes from a seminar on Heidegger from a few years ago, when we were discussing the later Heidegger, “The Question Concerning Technology” and “Building, Dwelling, Thinking.” It’s stuck with me ever since and really reflects my own anti-humanism.

I came across this photo over at Sweet Juniper, and I think it expresses pretty well the dominance that Nature has over us tiny humans.


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