Why all the population control hate?

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Khawaga
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Sep 25 2011 16:36

LBird, population is only a problem in a social sense. Thus population is a social problem. Hence my argument that the demographic transition will take care of the "problem" (because, like it or not, for many families (arguably an categorical sub unit of population) having to feed a large number of mouths is a problem - typically a problem begot by the economic system). If I were to subscribe to the argument you accuse me of I would have to view population as something of nature rather than of society.

LBird
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Sep 25 2011 16:53
Khawaga wrote:
LBird, population is only a problem in a social sense.

But I'd say 'population is only a problem in an ideological sense'.

I think there are some difficult philosophical questions to be at least asked, even if I'm clearly not the person to answer them.

I'm content to let the issue rest now, because I'm obviously in a tiny minority (of one, it seems!), and perhaps the topic will arise again in the future, when the atmosphere is more suitable for a renewed discussion.

Thanks for your response, anyway, Khawaga.

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Khawaga
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Sep 25 2011 17:05
LBird wrote:
But I'd say 'population is only a problem in an ideological sense'.

Sure, when Western liberals say that the real problem of hunger and poverty in Africa is population rather than poverty being the problem of high rates of population growth, then it is ideological. But for families that have to feed themselves it cannot merely be ideological, it is a practical problem with a social and economic cause. This is when population is a social problem, which I believe can only be fixed through social and economic solutions. The families wouldn't have to worry about the number of mouths and the generations after that would likely have less children because they don't need a social safety net in their children when they get old. Thus the demographic transition will become complete and birth rates will go down.

What I am saying LBird, is that you overly idealize the issue of population. While it certainly is an ideological issue, it is also very much material.

LBird
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Sep 25 2011 17:38
Khawaga wrote:
What I am saying LBird, is that you overly idealize the issue of population. While it certainly is an ideological issue, it is also very much material.

If by 'material' you mean the humans suffering poverty is a material experience, I agree.

But 'population' is entirely an ideological issue. There is no 'population' problem, only a 'poverty' problem.

There is no 'material' content to the 'issue' (sic) of 'population'.

Isn't this where we all came in, so, so, very long ago?

tastybrain
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Sep 25 2011 18:44
LBird wrote:
tastybrain wrote:
Do you believe in global warming? Do you see that as a problem?

I'm forced to ask 'what sort of problem?', 'for whom?', 'caused by?', etc.

A major problem. For everybody, since it endangers the integrity of the very planet we live on. Caused by capitalism but potentially still a problem under communism since barring incredible advancements we will still be using fossil fuels and consumption of such will probably rise, given rising living standards.

LBird wrote:
tastybrain wrote:
I do appreciate your change in tone, however, and your offering of a better explanation of what you mean.

And I, in turn, appreciate your change in effort to read, however, and your starting to comprehend the offered explanations!

This is pretty damn condescending. I have carefully read every post you have made and addressed what you said, even as you have ignored much of the real content of my posts.

To everyone who has criticized LBird's debating style but agreed that population is not a problem; from this discussion I may have given the impression that voluntary, gradual self-reduction of population is more important to my politics than it actually is. I do not view it as absolutely central. And if the "problem" is defined simply as human survival, we still have some room to maneuver. However, if the problem is considered to be unnecessary destruction of non-human animals and environments than I don't see how reducing birth rates can really be a bad thing.

LBird
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Sep 25 2011 19:37
tastybrain wrote:
This is pretty damn condescending. I have carefully read every post you have made and addressed what you said, even as you have ignored much of the real content of my posts.

Yeah, you're probably right. But, honestly, I'm losing the will to live, saying the same thing, no-one bothering to read my posts, accusing me of 'bad faith', 'interrogation', etc.

You may think you've 'addressed what I've said', but you haven't. And to me, your 'real content' is nothing of the sort. That's the problem - it's a philosophical debate that's not happening.

tastybrain wrote:
...from this discussion I may have given the impression that voluntary, gradual self-reduction of population is more important to my politics than it actually is. I do not view it as absolutely central.

Sadly enough for our strained discussion, this is the closest you've come to saying the same as me: 'population' is not a problem.

It's only a short step to then saying: it doesn't matter if 'population' rises, and the real issue is the socio-economic context of that rise, and asking why there is such a strong, longterm strand of ideological bullshit in our society that 'population' size does matter (the inference being that it must be reduced, resources in short supply, etc. etc.).

The rich fuck with our minds, mate.

LBird
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Sep 26 2011 07:19

tastybrain, mate, something I'm sure that you'll recognise:

Quote:
The works of the roots of the vines, of the trees, must be destroyed to keep up the price, and this is the saddest, bitterest thing of all. Carloads of oranges dumped on the ground. The people came for miles to take the fruit, but this could not be. How would they buy oranges at twenty cents a dozen if they could drive out and pick them up? And men with hoses squirt kerosene on the oranges, and they are angry at the crime, angry at the people who have come to take the fruit. A million people hungry, needing the fruit-and kerosene sprayed over the golden mountains.� This action by the landowners outraged Steinbeck who wrote, �There is a crime here that goes beyond denunciation.�

Perhaps the most poignant part of the book came from Steinbeck�s unflinching words, �The people come with nets to fish for potatoes in the river, and the guards hold them back; they come in rattling cars to get the dumped oranges, but the kerosene is sprayed. And they stand still and watch the potatoes float by, listen to the screaming pigs being killed in a ditch and covered with quicklime, watch the mountains of oranges slop down to a putrefying ooze; and in the eyes of the people there is the failure; and in the eyes of the hungry there is a growing wrath. In the souls of the people the grapes of wrath are filling and growing heavy, growing heavy for the vintage.�

extract from:
http://www.thezephyr.com/bigreadkl.htm

A 'population control' problem, caused by 'natural limits'?

It makes me cry.

tastybrain
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Sep 27 2011 18:42

Ok, maybe I will take a stab at having the philosophical debate. I am trying to understand your philosophy and my own, please correct me if I'm misinterpreting you.

First of all, I would like to see you address Mons and Auld-Bod's contributions in posts #207 and #208. I though Mons in particular had a good summary of my position. I also think Auld-Bod is correct in criticizing your "the more the merrier" assertion.

As far as I can see the only real philosophical differences we have are in regards to "nature" and "the environment". Your position is that we are part of nature; I agree. However, we come to different conclusions based on this assumption. You seem to believe that our "natural-ness" justifies whatever we choose to do to the rest of nature. You state that you have no problem destroying forests or rivers for human purposes. I cannot stand with you on this issue. I think as long as such destruction is unnecessary (and it is unnecessary, since if we stabilized our reproductive rate we would not have to expand into new habitats) it is destructive and undesirable. Your arguments about humans being one with nature simply serve to justify wanton and unnecessary destruction of nature, something that I personally have seen enough of under capitalism. Your philosophy, while it is diametrically opposed to the capitalist/Christian ideology of Man being above and dominating nature, effectively justifies the exact same behavior which that ideology legitimated.

My philosophy is that since humans have consciousness and can think about our actions, we have a greater responsibility towards the rest of life on this planet. I challenge you to name another species in recent history that has caused as much destruction as we have, but even if you are able to find one it would still not justify us doing nothing about ecocide given that we have the ability to control our own behavior.

In regards to your post (#217), I would say that even though I do not view population as absolutely central, I still view it as somewhat important. As I've said, the more people there are on the planet, the more strain is placed on nature. This does not necessarily have anything to do with survival. Perhaps we could pave the entire planet, all live in high-rises, and grow our food hydroponically in the same types of buildings, and have 50 billion people living on the planet. However, I simply do not view this as a desirable future. I like open green spaces. I like mountains, I like trees, and I like having some solitude by myself or with a small group of friends. If we double or triple our population size, even if there are no other consequences we will encroach even further than we already have on these types of environments. So I view it as important to at least stabilize the population both for the selfish reasons of wanting green spaces and solitude and because I think these environments have inherent value outside of what they mean to us as human beings.

Addressing your post above (#218), I agree with you 110% that hunger and famine in this society are NOT caused by population or natural limits. I believe I have articulated that point in earlier posts. No, population is not an immediate issue of survival (although global warming does threaten our survival, and I believe there is both a societal and a population component to that problem. Abolish capitalism and we will have taken the first step towards solving it, but as long as we use fossil fuels the number of people using said fuels will be a factor in global warming). As I said, we might increase our population vastly and be ok for a while. However, as I have also previously stated, it is not just an issue of survival. It is an issue of respect for the rest of nature and restoring the balance between humanity and non-human nature, and encroaching less on the habitats of other creatures.

And that passage from Steinbeck also affected me deeply. When I first read it it was hugely influential in my rejection of capitalism. However, as I have said, the problem of hunger is not caused by population but other problems may in fact be caused by it.

I hope this helps and amounts to at least a contribution to the philosophical debate you say we need to have before "practical concerns" are addressed.

LBird
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Sep 27 2011 19:50
tastybrain wrote:
Ok, maybe I will take a stab at having the philosophical debate. I am trying to understand your philosophy and my own, please correct me if I'm misinterpreting you.

Thanks, tastybrain, for your generous attempt to further this discussion. All I’d say before we commence (again) is that we should be trying to identify our differences, rather than ‘prove’ each other ‘wrong’. I’ll be happy if we become clearer about our respective axiomatic bedrocks, rather than settle the political differences between us, at this stage.

tastybrain wrote:
First of all, I would like to see you address Mons and Auld-Bod's contributions in posts #207 and #208. I though Mons in particular had a good summary of my position. I also think Auld-Bod is correct in criticizing your "the more the merrier" assertion.

I’m not showing ‘bad faith’ here, but I’d rather leave the substantive political positions alone for now, and concentrate on our philosophical differences. I think if they become clearer, it will answer some of mon’s and Auldbod’s reasonable points.

tastybrain wrote:
As far as I can see the only real philosophical differences we have are in regards to "nature" and "the environment". Your position is that we are part of nature; I agree. However, we come to different conclusions based on this assumption. You seem to believe that our "natural-ness" justifies whatever we choose to do to the rest of nature. You state that you have no problem destroying forests or rivers for human purposes. I cannot stand with you on this issue.

Right, can we just start here for now, because once we go further too early perhaps we will be talking at cross purposes? I’m not ignoring the rest of your post, I’m just trying to keep our discussion to manageable proportion.

You say, “Your position is that we are part of nature; I agree. However, we come to different conclusions based on this assumption.”

It’s more accurate to say ‘My position is that we are nature'.

I then think that you wouldn’t agree with this, and so our conclusions will be different, based on differing assumptions. So we need to clear that issue up, first.

I should point out straightaway what I think that the effect of this position of mine will be on the rest of your statement.

You say, “You seem to believe that our "natural-ness" justifies whatever we choose to do to the rest of nature.”

Here, you separate humans (‘we’) from nature (‘rest of’), and the separation between which requires justification. That is an acceptable philosophical starting point, but it isn’t the one that I share with you.

From my starting point, that ‘we are nature’, anything that ‘we’ do is ‘nature’ doing it to itself. There is no question of ‘justification’ (to whom?), because that would be like asking you ‘what justification do you have for breathing?’ It’s a senseless question, from my starting point.

Furthermore, you go on to quite reasonably to conclude that ‘You state that you have no problem destroying forests or rivers for human purposes. I cannot stand with you on this issue’, But, for me, the notion of their being separate ‘human’ and ‘natural’ purposes is meaningless. There are only ‘natural purposes’, which are expressed through ‘natural consciousness’ or ‘humans’.

Obviously, you ‘cannot stand with me on this issue’.

That’s OK, we can disagree. But now we can both see why we disagree.

I hope this philosophical explanation of my understanding of our different positions makes some sense to you. Perhaps my understanding is faulty, or your position is different from the one I’ve tried to outline, or my explanation is too poor to be understood.

To take things further, you need to say whether you understand my explanation, firstly, and then secondly to say whether you agree with my explanation of our differences. This doesn’t commit you to agree with my philosophical position, because all we are trying to do is to identify our philosophical differences, rather than make a political point.

Over to you, mate.

tastybrain wrote:
And that passage from Steinbeck also affected me deeply.

Isn't it ironic that it's taken a shared feeling for art, not politics, to move our discussion forward? Humans, eh?

mons
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Sep 27 2011 20:33
Quote:
It’s more accurate to say ‘My position is that we are nature'

Could you explain the difference between saying this, and saying we are part of nature?

Quote:
Here, you separate humans (‘we’) from nature (‘rest of’), and the separation between which requires justification.

Does it require justification? I mean, take a cake with jam, sponge and icing. You can say the jam is part of the cake, and that does not mean that the jam is in any way separate to the cake, just that it is a component of it.

Quote:
From my starting point, that ‘we are nature’, anything that ‘we’ do is ‘nature’ doing it to itself.

Well, on one level, that's obviously true. But that's true from the starting point of 'we are part of nature' as well. It's just nature is not a homogeneous thing.

Quote:
Furthermore, you go on to quite reasonably to conclude that 'You state that you have no problem destroying forests or rivers for human purposes. I cannot stand with you on this issue’, But, for me, the notion of their being separate ‘human’ and ‘natural’ purposes is meaningless. There are only ‘natural purposes’, which are expressed through ‘natural consciousness’ or ‘humans’.

This seems pretty semantic tbh. tastybrain made no mention of two types of purpose, only one - 'human purpose' (something which you call 'natural purpose', but referring to the same thing). Using your semantics, when humans act they are, by definition, acting in harmony with nature, whatever they're doing. OK fine, but they can still do destructive things. I mean, couldn't humans detonate bombs that destroy all human life? It's the same with ecological destruction. Call it acting in harmony with nature if you like, or even call it nature acting, but then nature (expressed by humans) can act to destroy human life. We should act to try and prevent nature (as expressed by humans) destroying itself.

tastybrain
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Sep 28 2011 23:05
LBird wrote:
You say, “Your position is that we are part of nature; I agree. However, we come to different conclusions based on this assumption.”

It’s more accurate to say ‘My position is that we are nature'.

I then think that you wouldn’t agree with this, and so our conclusions will be different, based on differing assumptions. So we need to clear that issue up, first.

I should point out straightaway what I think that the effect of this position of mine will be on the rest of your statement.

You say, “You seem to believe that our "natural-ness" justifies whatever we choose to do to the rest of nature.”

Here, you separate humans (‘we’) from nature (‘rest of’), and the separation between which requires justification. That is an acceptable philosophical starting point, but it isn’t the one that I share with you.

From my starting point, that ‘we are nature’, anything that ‘we’ do is ‘nature’ doing it to itself. There is no question of ‘justification’ (to whom?), because that would be like asking you ‘what justification do you have for breathing?’ It’s a senseless question, from my starting point.

Furthermore, you go on to quite reasonably to conclude that ‘You state that you have no problem destroying forests or rivers for human purposes. I cannot stand with you on this issue’, But, for me, the notion of their being separate ‘human’ and ‘natural’ purposes is meaningless. There are only ‘natural purposes’, which are expressed through ‘natural consciousness’ or ‘humans’.

Ok yeah I think you have summarized my position accurately. The one caveat I would give is that I don't believe that humans are separate from nature in any essential way. The differences we have with other animals are differences of degree, not of kind. Other animals have culture, technology, emotions, and communication. The reason we aren't facing armed uprisings of machine-gun toting apes is because of massive differences in the degree to which we possess those things. The more we learn about other animals, especially primates, the more the "essential" differences melt away and we are left with mere differences in degree.

Now, the reason I choose to separate humanity from the rest of nature is purely an analytic one. I am looking at "humans" vs "nature" not because I believe there is some essential, deep-seated difference there but because we, like any other animal, operate by taking resources from our environment and in order to understand this process it is necessary to separate ourselves from this environment. For example, wolves were exterminated in Yellowstone National Park here in the U.S. Subsequently, the elk population grew out of control and began to overgraze, causing erosion and other serious problems. Later, wolves were re-introduced and the balance was restored,. Now, there is no deep-down, essential, philosophical difference between elk, wolves, and plants. They are all part of "nature". However, to understand the actual interactions between these various types of organisms, it is necessary to examine each one by itself and in relation to others. This can only be achieved through analytic separation.

Now, you state:

Quote:
From my starting point, that ‘we are nature’, anything that ‘we’ do is ‘nature’ doing it to itself. There is no question of ‘justification’ (to whom?), because that would be like asking you ‘what justification do you have for breathing?’ It’s a senseless question, from my starting point.

I agree, on one level, that everything we do is nature doing something to itself, because of course we are a part of nature. (The reason I say "part" of nature is not to say we are part nature, part something else. We are fully "natural". We are a part of nature because we are not the only organisms on the planet!). But I don't think this gives us a carte blanche to pollute as much as we want, destroy as many non-human animals' habitats as we want, etc. Who must we justify it to? Ourselves, obviously. Each other. Our children. We have to ask "is such-and-such a development project worth wiping out a natural habitat that we and other animals could previously enjoy?" "Is skipping the hassle of changing cultural habits and attitudes and perhaps applying some democratic social pressure really worth melting ice caps, decimated forests, etc". I know that, if I have a child, and we haven't done anything about ecocide, and the problem has gotten worse, I will have trouble explaining to him or her why he or she doesn't get to experience the same joy in experiencing wild spaces that I have (occasionally) been able to enjoy.

"Oh when I was a kid I loved hiking in the forest"
"what's a forest, daddy?"
"well we bulldozed them all to make room for Goods Distribution Centers. And besides, we ARE nature, so you're not missing much"

To me it doesn't sound too good.

I believe non-human nature (and you must make that distinction yourself, or you would apologize every time you stepped on a blade of grass and be a militant vegan. I assume you're not a vegan?) has inherent value. I think the small sacrifices we would have to make to protect it are well worth it.

Hope this helps.

Also, this:

mons wrote:
Using your semantics, when humans act they are, by definition, acting in harmony with nature, whatever they're doing. OK fine, but they can still do destructive things. I mean, couldn't humans detonate bombs that destroy all human life? It's the same with ecological destruction. Call it acting in harmony with nature if you like, or even call it nature acting, but then nature (expressed by humans) can act to destroy human life. We should act to try and prevent nature (as expressed by humans) destroying itself.
LBird
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Sep 29 2011 07:43

Tastybrain and mons, thanks for your contributions towards helping this philosophical discussion to go forward. I’ll try to address your points together in the same post.

tastybrain wrote:
Ok yeah I think you have summarized my position accurately. The one caveat I would give is that I don't believe that humans are separate from nature in any essential way.

Thanks for your confirmation of my summary.

Now, I have to test out the meaning of your ‘caveat’, ‘essential’, because I think it is obscuring a big difference between us.

tastybrain wrote:
Now, the reason I choose to separate humanity from the rest of nature is purely an analytic one. I am looking at "humans" vs "nature" not because I believe there is some essential, deep-seated difference there but because we, like any other animal, operate by taking resources from our environment and in order to understand this process it is necessary to separate ourselves from this environment.

This ‘separate’, to me, contradicts your position of ‘essential’, although you argue that it is only an ‘analytical’ separation. I don’t think it is a mere analytical separation, which of course I agree we have to do sometimes to analyse phenomena, but that it goes deeper than a temporary analytical separation. This becomes manifest when you say:

but because we, like any other animal, operate by taking resources from our environment

Two points: first, we humans are not ‘like any other animal’ in the sense that we create by labour our environment, and secondly we do not passively ‘take resources’ from nature, but are nature changing itself. Our environment is more and more a socially-created environment, a changing environment changed by nature itself (natural consciousness).

tastybrain wrote:
Now, there is no deep-down, essential, philosophical difference between elk, wolves, and plants.

But ‘elk,wolves, and plants’ plunged into an ‘environment’ of, say, 20,000 years ago, would continue their existence entirely the same. But for humans, this would be disastrous. The ‘environment’ of the past is entirely different, physically and socially. Ten modern wolves transferred into a field then would just lope off and continue their existence unchanged, as it is now. Ten humans transferred into a field then, stripped of modern technology and scientific knowledge, would either perish immediately or have to change their existence utterly. Our modern ‘environment’ is a socially created one, unlike for those animals.

For humans to speak of a ‘natural’ world, outside of the ‘nature’ we have created, is meaningless. We are nature amending its existence.

mons wrote:
Using your semantics, when humans act they are, by definition, acting in harmony with nature, whatever they're doing. OK fine, but they can still do destructive things. I mean, couldn't humans detonate bombs that destroy all human life? It's the same with ecological destruction. Call it acting in harmony with nature if you like, or even call it nature acting, but then nature (expressed by humans) can act to destroy human life. We should act to try and prevent nature (as expressed by humans) destroying itself.

Yes, mons, I agree. Nature can destroy human life. We should act to try and prevent nature destroying itself.

And since ‘nature’ is far more destructive than ‘humans’ (as I think we all agree, and if not we should discuss that), it makes sense for nature (expressed through its consciousness) to take steps to prevent its self-destruction. But that means nature consciously changing nature, and humans are that natural consciousness.

tastybrain wrote:
I believe non-human nature (and you must make that distinction yourself, or you would apologize every time you stepped on a blade of grass and be a militant vegan. I assume you're not a vegan?) has inherent value.

Yes, I agree. But ‘value’ is a human concept, so nature’s valuation of things is our valuation of things. Nature mindlessly and constantly destroys valueless species and, indeed, valueless worlds. Human concepts are nature’s attempt to value itself.

I’m sorry if I haven’t addressed anything that either tastybrain or mons feel should be covered, because I’m sure you are aware that there’s lots to cover, and I can only say so much in a post. If there is anything that you think needs particularly addressing, please ask.

My main point in this post has been simply to question your identification of ‘humans and nature’. I still think you ‘essentially’ separate the two. This has political implications, but that discussion is a long way down the line. It’s better that, for the present, we continue this philosophical discussion. Thanks again for your contributions.

tastybrain
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Sep 30 2011 01:37

LBird, I think perhaps we should simply drop the concept of "nature" from the conversation all together, as it is extremely confusing and perhaps ultimately meaningless. Maybe a human-created environment where everything is paved over and non-human life is rare (this already describes vast swathes of the industrial world) is entirely "natural"; nonetheless, I would prefer to halt and reverse the replacement of wild green spaces such as mountains, meadows, forests, and wetlands with an industrial environment we create. I believe one of the ways (among many) we could do this is to non-coercively, democratically reduce our reproductive rate so that we could live a materially abundant lifestyle and still be able to enjoy the awesomeness of environments akin to those our species has spent most of its existence in.

Quote:
And since ‘nature’ is far more destructive than ‘humans’ (as I think we all agree, and if not we should discuss that), it makes sense for nature (expressed through its consciousness) to take steps to prevent its self-destruction. But that means nature consciously changing nature, and humans are that natural consciousness.

No, I do not agree with your first statement. Yes, a bajillion species have gone extinct in the past without humans (a fact the logging industry and other ecocidal maniacs love to speciously trot out when they are criticized), but this is over a period of millions of years. Our species has only existed for around 200,000 years and we have cause far more than our fair share of destruction. Again, I challenge you to name another species that has eliminated so many other types of animals in such a short time span. Meteors, volcanic eruptions, and other planets in the universe being destroyed have no relevance here.

It seems from the second part of your statement, ("it makes sense for nature (expressed through its consciousness) to take steps to prevent its self-destruction. But that means nature consciously changing nature, and humans are that natural consciousness.") that you essentially agree with me that humans should halt the destruction of nature, or ourselves, or however you want to phrase it. If this is the case, it seems to me the most recent part of our discussion has been a mere argument over language and labels which, frankly, I fail to see the value of in this context.

LBird
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Sep 30 2011 05:34
tastybrain wrote:
LBird, I think perhaps we should simply drop the concept of "nature" from the conversation all together, as it is extremely confusing and perhaps ultimately meaningless.

I think this displays that we are getting close to the incompatible bedrock of our respective philosophical positions. That's fine: after all, that's what we set out to do with our comradely discussion.

For my position, questions of 'nature' and its identity with 'human consciousness' are absolutely central. This is axiomatic for understanding the world, and so can't be ignored.

For your position, it's an unnecessary distraction from the 'real issues', causes confusion rather than enlightens and is merely meaningless semantics.

tastybrain wrote:
No, I do not agree with your first statement. Yes, a bajillion species have gone extinct in the past without humans ...but this is over a period of millions of years. Our species has only existed for around 200,000 years and we have cause far more than our fair share of destruction.

This, to me from my perspective, is an extremely confused statement. You state that 'nature' is far more destructive than 'humans', but you then say you don't agree with my earlier statement that '...‘nature’ is far more destructive than ‘humans’'. You then introduce caveats about 'time', 'species' and 'fair shares', which from your position help to illustrate the problem, but from my position just obfuscate the issue. Of course, you then also dismiss entirely the evidence, as irrelevent, that proves my position: 'Meteors, volcanic eruptions, and other planets in the universe being destroyed have no relevance here.' Not surprisingly, neither do you mention tsunami, pests like locust, or pandemics like the influenza outbreak at the end of the First World War, by which 'nature' in a few short months killed more humans than four long years of humans machine-gunning and shelling each other. Time periods and nature, eh?

Hopefully, you can now start to see the difficulties of trying to reconcile our philosophical bases.

tastybrain wrote:
It seems from the second part of your statement... that you essentially agree with me that humans should halt the destruction of nature, or ourselves, or however you want to phrase it. If this is the case, it seems to me the most recent part of our discussion has been a mere argument over language and labels which, frankly, I fail to see the value of in this context.

This entirely encapsulates our problem, tastybrain.

I do agree that humans should try to 'halt the destruction of nature'.

But, what counts as 'destruction' and what counts as 'nature'?

The resolution of that question is a philosophical issue, not semantics.

Of course, for you, that question is 'valueless', because the answer is obvious. You're dealing with the 'real world' of 'nature' being 'destroyed'.

I'll leave to you to consider which political philosophy places great stress on the 'real world' and sees philosophical examination of issues as 'idle speculation'.

We're getting closer to the 'heart of darkness', mate.

tastybrain
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Sep 30 2011 07:08

It's late here but I'm all jacked up from criticizing some dude's Marxist blog so maybe I'll take a shot at responding.

LBird wrote:
tastybrain wrote:
LBird, I think perhaps we should simply drop the concept of "nature" from the conversation all together, as it is extremely confusing and perhaps ultimately meaningless.

I think this displays that we are getting close to the incompatible bedrock of our respective philosophical positions. That's fine: after all, that's what we set out to do with our comradely discussion.

For my position, questions of 'nature' and its identity with 'human consciousness' are absolutely central. This is axiomatic for understanding the world, and so can't be ignored.

For your position, it's an unnecessary distraction from the 'real issues', causes confusion rather than enlightens and is merely meaningless semantics.

Well yes. I was using nature as a concept in the commonly understood sense of flora, fauna, and ecosystems which are not domesticated and which have only a limited human presence or are affected by humans in only a limited way (obviously the line is very blurry using this definition. A national park might be considered "nature" but there is of course human incursion, trails, campsites, etc. The crucial difference between this and a strip mall is the fact that in this case humans do not totally dominate and destroy anything at will, but make some effort to restrict their impact). This to me is a common sense definition of nature --- it is not a concept which can be rigorously defined.

Your definition of nature which includes humans, industrial environments, non-living actors and events like tsunamis and meteors in space, seems so broad as to make the concept entirely without content. Since you insist on this definition I fail to see the merit of continuing to reference the idea, as "nature" now encompasses pretty much everything.

LBird wrote:
tastybrain wrote:
No, I do not agree with your first statement. Yes, a bajillion species have gone extinct in the past without humans ...but this is over a period of millions of years. Our species has only existed for around 200,000 years and we have cause far more than our fair share of destruction.

You state that 'nature' is far more destructive than 'humans'

When did I state this?

LBird wrote:
You then introduce caveats about 'time', 'species' and 'fair shares', which from your position help to illustrate the problem, but from my position just obfuscate the issue.

My point was that humans stand alone among animals (to my knowledge, which is far from complete) in having the dubious distinction of having annihilated more varieties of our fellow organisms than any other species. In my mind this is an aberration and in part justifies the distinction between humans and nature. Going back to my Yellowstone Park example, wolves have been killing elk for millions of years and have never wiped out elk as a species. Humans, in a tiny geological time span, have wiped out scores, probably thousands, of species. Again, this behavior, to my knowledge, is unique to humans compared to all other animals. Obviously non-living "natural" forces like meteors are capable of greater destruction but we can hardly prevent this so I do find it irrelevant to the debate.

LBird wrote:
Of course, you then also dismiss entirely the evidence, as irrelevent, that proves my position: 'Meteors, volcanic eruptions, and other planets in the universe being destroyed have no relevance here.' Not surprisingly, neither do you mention tsunami, pests like locust, or pandemics like the influenza outbreak at the end of the First World War, by which 'nature' in a few short months killed more humans than four long years of humans machine-gunning and shelling each other. Time periods and nature, eh?

You have insisted earlier in this thread that everything humankind does be seen as "social" and that humans "create their environments", and now you seem to forget this. Why did influenza kill so many humans? I'm guessing it was the population density of an urbanized Europe combined with post-war material devastation, poverty, poor sanitation, and so on, which gave the disease such an ideal environment. I don't see how you can dismiss "natural limits" and focus solely on social conditions in one context and then insist that an influenza outbreak after WWI was an entirely "natural" phenomena. Catastrophes stemming from tsunamis and locusts are also partially "social" phenomena as well. I bet many of the people living on the vulnerable coastlines in tsunami-prone areas do so for a variety of "social" reasons stemming from capitalism, and that industrial-style agriculture and overuse of DDT are implicated in many locust plagues. In fact, none of the incidents you cite wiped out the human species, so callous as it may sound, viewed from a long-term, "natural" perspective humanity is still more destructive than any of these events.

LBird wrote:

I do agree that humans should try to 'halt the destruction of nature'.

But, what counts as 'destruction' and what counts as 'nature'?

I have already explained to you what I mean by these terms. In less value-laden language it might be expressed as "the replacement of ecosystems with a limited human presence by environments which are dominated by humans and human-made modifications to these environments which result in the large-scale destruction of non-human life."

Examples of this abound and do not really need to be reiterated. One that pops out in my mind because of the sheer arrogance and disregard it represents is "mountaintop removal", a practice which is common in the United States (and which sometimes garners significant outrage from the local working classes, partially because they, like me, enjoy experiencing non-human dominated landscapes and environments). This entails literally destroying the entire summit of a mountain, blasting it off with explosives, grabbing the coal, and sometimes superficially "regrading" the mountain into a facsimile of its former self. As I'm sure you can imagine, this does not restore the area to anything close to its original state. In my view, it is fairly easy to discern, in these kinds of practices, what counts as "destruction" and what counts as "nature". If we absolutely must continue our pillaging and eradication of wild or quasi-wild spaces for human welfare than so be it, I want people to survive. But I view most if not all of this sort of pillaging as unnecessary, for reasons I have already explained.

I don't know how to phrase my convictions in a more "philosophical" way. I simply find these sorts of practices abhorrent (again, for reasons I have already explained) and am interested in discovering if and how they can be discontinued.

LBird
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Sep 30 2011 07:33
LBird wrote:
I'll leave to you to consider which political philosophy places great stress on the 'real world' and sees philosophical examination of issues as 'idle speculation'.

We're getting closer to the 'heart of darkness', mate.

.

tastybrain wrote:
Well yes. I was using nature as a concept in the commonly understood sense ... This to me is a common sense definition of nature --- it is not a concept which can be rigorously defined.

And, as I've alluded mate, which political philosophy deals in 'common sense' definitions?

Closer, and closer...

tastybrain
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Sep 30 2011 08:11

Double Post

tastybrain
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Sep 30 2011 08:11
LBird wrote:
LBird wrote:
I'll leave to you to consider which political philosophy places great stress on the 'real world' and sees philosophical examination of issues as 'idle speculation'.

We're getting closer to the 'heart of darkness', mate.

.

tastybrain wrote:
Well yes. I was using nature as a concept in the commonly understood sense ... This to me is a common sense definition of nature --- it is not a concept which can be rigorously defined.

And, as I've alluded mate, which political philosophy deals in 'common sense' definitions?

Closer, and closer...

Is that seriously all you have to say? Yeah, it's a common sense definition, one that the vast majority of the population would understand and accept. I don't think that means there is some bourgeois "heart of darkness" lurking in my thinking.

I could not be less interested in abstract, metaphysical debates about the meaning or validity of the concept of "nature". I have already explained over and over again what I am actually concerned with. Yes I am interested in practical problems and questions, if this makes me bourgeois then I'm bourgeois.

If you actually think this sort of (IMO) meaningless philosophizing "nature" is somehow important then explain why you think so. Again, I am taking as my starting point in all of this communist revolution and a classless society, so you can't accuse me of ignoring class or looking at abstract humanity. Explain to me why I need to provide a satisfactory philosophical bedrock or whatever before we consider the practical problems and solutions which you are effectively dismissing.

LBird
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Sep 30 2011 08:32
tastybrain wrote:
Is that seriously all you have to say? Yeah, it's a common sense definition, one that the vast majority of the population would understand and accept.

Oh, I see. A bit like the 'common sense' definition of, err.., say, err... 'the free market', for example?

It's not a very profound philosophical position to emphasise 'common sense' and what 'the vast majority' believe under capitalism, is it?

tastybrain wrote:
I could not be less interested in abstract, metaphysical debates about the meaning or validity of the concept of "nature".

We're Communists, who try to use the scientific method of uncovering a 'hidden nature', which is not directly understood by 'experience'.

Heraclitus: 'nature hides itself'

Einstein: 'the theory determines what we observe'

tastybrain wrote:
Again, I am taking as my starting point in all of this communist revolution...

What is 'Communism' to you? From which philosophical point of view?

tastybrain wrote:
Yes I am interested in practical problems and questions, if this makes me bourgeois then I'm bourgeois.

You came to this conclusion, mate. I didn't say it.

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Khawaga
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Sep 30 2011 09:41

Holy shit LBird. So you're actually just interested in a "philosophical" understanding of nature, not really about the destruction of the living habitat? What's the point of that sort of "philosophy" (it's more like sophistery)? Isn't the point to change the world rather than simply talk about it? The whole discussions seems pretty empty after these last few posts. You're arguing for argument's sake, which results in mystification rather than any uncovering of a "hidden nature" (and you think you look pretty smart doing it). Your argumentation, as Tasty has pointed out, is exactly the sort of banal argument that the right engages in in order to explain why there is really no need at all to cut CO2 emissions, stop clear cut logging, taking all the fish out of the sea etc. That's bourgeois, not the concern about what can be done about it.

piter
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Sep 30 2011 11:16
Quote:
LBird wrote :
We're Communists, who try to use the scientific method of uncovering a 'hidden nature', which is not directly understood by 'experience'.

if we are discussing "philosophy" this looks like dualism (a bit like in Kant and Hegel rightly criticized it with his dialectical thinking...), in a materialistic point of view there is only one world, not a world we see and another one which is "hidden"...

anyway philosophy must be criticized as such, there is no materialistic philosophy, scientific materialism (like Marx materialism) implies a materialist critique of philosophy, not advocating a materialist or communist philosophy...

LBird
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Sep 30 2011 12:05
Khawaga wrote:
Holy shit LBird. So you're actually just interested in a "philosophical" understanding of nature, not really about the destruction of the living habitat? What's the point of that sort of "philosophy" (it's more like sophistery)? Isn't the point to change the world rather than simply talk about it? The whole discussions seems pretty empty after these last few posts. You're arguing for argument's sake, which results in mystification rather than any uncovering of a "hidden nature" (and you think you look pretty smart doing it).

Look, Khawaga, when you were explaining to me about Marx and Value, I admitted I was ignorant, and tried to follow your posts.

Why, then, when you're clearly ignorant about something yourself, don't you just admit it, and ask questions?

And there's no need for the snide remark, very similar to an earlier one by Tojiah, about me 'thinking I look pretty smart'. This, again for you as for Tojiah, says more about your motivation in posting on subjects, than it does mine.

I think I'm sometimes trying to learn and to dispel my ignorance (Capital, for eg.), and sometimes trying to help fellow Communists learn things that have taken me a long time to discover, because I'm keen to help. I don't give a fuck how either of these things make me appear. In fact, that's not true. In truth, I don't care if I look stupid, but I do care that supposed comrades are so concerned about individual egos.

My advice, Khawaga. Try leaving 'value' alone for a period, leave your opinions of me in your head, and try studying some philosophy for a change.

piter wrote:
...in a materialistic point of view there is only one world, not a world we see and another one which is "hidden"...

I think I'll leave the answer to this to someone else, piter:

Karl Marx, Capital, Volume III, p. 956 wrote:
It should not astonish us, then, that vulgar economy feels particularly at home in the estranged outward appearances of economic relations in which these prima facie absurd and perfect contradictions appear and that these relations seem the more self-evident the more their internal relationships are concealed from it, although they are understandable to the popular mind. But all science would be superfluous if the outward appearance and the essence of things directly coincided.

http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1894-c3/ch48.htm

piter
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Sep 30 2011 12:29

yes LBird, but essence is not an "hidden" nature". nature as it is essentially and nature as it appear are the same nature.

speaking about a "hidden nature" is confusing.

speaking about a materialist philosophy is also confusing.

materialism is critique of philosophy as such (in the same way that there is no marxian political economy but a marxian critique of political economy as bourgeois ideology (see your Marx quotation above...)).
materialist philosophy is just another kind of idealism...

but we're going OT...

LBird
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Sep 30 2011 12:40
piter wrote:
yes LBird, but essence is not an "hidden" nature". nature as it is essentially and nature as it appear are the same nature.

.

Marx wrote:
...internal relationships are concealed... But all science would be superfluous if the outward appearance and the essence of things directly coincided.

I think I'll go with Marx on this one, piter, if you don't mind. If something is 'concealed' and doesn't correspond directly to its appearance, I'd call it 'hidden'. And as Einstein and Heraclitus seem to agree, I'm in good company if I'm proved wrong.

piter
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Sep 30 2011 12:50

my point was that if there is a hidden nature it implies there is another one...
but that's just semantics...I also agree with Marx (and notice he don't use the formulation "hidden nature". even if what you wanted to say was not it seems, it sounded a bit dualistic to me, talkin' bout a "hiden nature" is a bit different from talking about essence and appearance of reality which is one, but anyway...)....

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Sep 30 2011 13:13
LBird wrote:
Look, Khawaga, when you were explaining to me about Marx and Value, I admitted I was ignorant, and tried to follow your posts.

Why, then, when you're clearly ignorant about something yourself, don't you just admit it, and ask questions?

Well, you were asking questions so I tried to help. With this topic I don't need help. I'm not ignorant. My whole view on society/nature is pretty standard Hegelianism/Marxism. It's all about the species-being. But your philosophy is not something to use as a base for dealing with some very real problems. There's not that much hidden beneath the fact that desertification is occuring, the polar caps are melting etc. all we need to know about that is that it is occuring, that the current social system is largely responsible and that if we don't start being more precautionary about nature we'll likely be fucked. Environmental problems are not just appearance. And in any case, solving these problems don't rely on us uncovering some natural consciousness; it is NOT equivalent to Marx's trying to uncover the essence of capitalism as the law of value operating beneath the surface appearance of the movement of the things we produce.

Quote:
And as Einstein and Heraclitus seem to agree, I'm in good company if I'm proved wrong.

Thing is, you've set it up so that you can't be proved wrong. So I guess you're in really poor company then and you can go away feeling very good about yourself.

LBird
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Sep 30 2011 13:15
piter wrote:
...essence and appearance of reality which is one...

Yeah, piter, if you mean ' the essence and appearance of a reality which is one reality', I agree with you.

But that still leaves us with trying to describe with words the difference between 'essence' and 'appearance'. I think the term 'hidden' captures it quite well, especially if we stress that the scientific method allows us to 'expose' to humans what is 'hidden' from us if we merely try to use our senses.

If we just say 'reality is one reality, and the essence and the appearance of that one reality are the same', then we are not saying anything really, are we? They are not the same: the 'appearance' of an incomplete reality appears to our senses, but the 'essence' is uncovered by our theorising and then confirmed empirically.

This isn't dualism. There is no 'spirit' outside of matter.

LBird
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Sep 30 2011 13:26
Khawaga wrote:
But your philosophy is not something to use as a base for dealing with some very real problems.

Well, it is, but we never get that far, do we?

We both know that 'some very real problems' are 'occuring': the problem is, mate, identifying the 'problems'.

'Population numbers' is not a 'problem', and trying to explain that to tastybrain, and others of a 'green' persuasion, requires some philosophical discussion. I have to say that you're not helping.

Khawaga wrote:
Thing is, you've set it up so that you can't be proved wrong.

But if you actually know any philosophy of science, Lakatos argues that that is precisely what all scientists do: they have a 'hard core' which is impervious to empirical refutation.

Khawaga wrote:
...you can go away feeling very good about yourself.

Stop being a childish bastard, and stick to making your points.

piter
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Sep 30 2011 13:39
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If we just say 'reality is one reality, and the essence and the appearance of that one reality are the same', then we are not saying anything really, are we? They are not the same

yes of course they are not the same, we agree on this of course.

just I find that talking about a "hidden nature" can be confusing, but that's not so important, especially since you've clarified your point...

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Sep 30 2011 13:41
LBird wrote:
But if you actually know any philosophy of science, Lakatos argues that that is precisely what all scientists do: they have a 'hard core' which is impervious to empirical refutation.

Sure, even Latour makes a similar argument, but more around amassing allies so that it becomes impossible to refute a constructed fact even if holes could be poked through it. If you can't get other scientists to ally with you to support an attack on the other fact, you might as well give up. And this is Latour's point. It's not that the fact is is impervious to empirical refutation, but that given the structure of academia, it becomes near impossible to do it. It's not about the empirical fact itself, but how it is constructed as fact.

Quote:
Well, it is, but we never get that far, do we?

We both know that 'some very real problems' are 'occuring': the problem is, mate, identifying the 'problems'.

Sure, I agree with that. But for stopping the drastic decline of the ecosystem we don't need your philosophy to identify the problems. They've already been identified more or less (even the bourgeois scienctists get it right sometimes), what is lacking is the will to do it because it clashes with the accumulation of capital.

Quote:
Stop being a childish bastard, and stick to making your points.

I might very well be crasser in what I write, but in essence I am doing exactly the same as you're doing.