The coolest animal on earth is the one furthest from Extinction, which right now seems to be humans. Of course what is not so cool is that this animal seems hell bent on wiping out all the others. Why we became so disconnected from our environment to countenance such a state of affairs is unknown. But my suspicion is that it has something to do with the structure of the Western worldiview which by military and economic domination has asserted its unique structure on all other cultures and worldviews. What is interesting is that other worldivews and cultures are seem to be dying out almost as fast as other species. We can correlate the death of other worldviews to the death of other languages, which are vanishing very fast. Thus we can see that Otherness, what is other than the dominant worldview is perishing. And if Hegel is right then we can really only know ourselves through the other. And thus we are as Nietzsche thought entering into a time of oblivion, which he referred to as the blinking of the last man. One thing we can say is that a big part of the problem is our metaphysical understanding of things. There was Indo-european dominance during the Mythopoietic Era as seen by the expansion on horseback and chariot across the known world. And then again in the Metaphysical era there was colonialization in which the known world expanded to the entire globe. Now we are entering the post metaphysical era which I call Heterochronic and we can expect further globalization within this new era. And with all this creative and emergent expansion of the unique indo-european worldview there comes widespread death and destruction. Just like in the story of the Iliad in which the culmination was pillage, rape, and murder, we see the same thing happening globally with all the wars between colonial and post-colonial disrupted societies all over the world.
We hold up pictures of crazy species. or beautiful species which we think are cool, but the obverse of this coolness of what is still living, is the annihilation of the uncool, because very dead, species symbolized by the Dodo. The coolness of our fascination with the strange, wieird, or beautiful is the dual of the uncoolness of our killing off myraid of other species, i.e. Other than us, which forces us into Oblivion seen by the lack of mention of the myriad recent decimated wild species.
So I think it behoves us to look at ourselves carefully. And for me it means looking at the Western worldview which is implicated in this crime against other species. If there was a world court for species then we would definitely be at the dock for speciesocide (species genocide). What stands out to the philosopher is how the Western worldview has a unique language construct called Being that is unique to Indo-european languages. And the other think that is singular about the Indo-europeans is the use of technology in extreme forms to assert dominance. This can be seen in the use of the horse to invade the known world in prehistory, which is the precursor to global colonialization, and now globalization. When we look at other languages which are Other than Being, we see that they are either languages with copula only, or existence. For instance, Sumerian whose early interaction with the Indo-Europeans has left the trace of loan words in both languages had ME, which meant the copula as a verb and meant something like cultural tattvas as nouns (arts of civilization). The Sumerians battled the monstrosities of the KUR, which meant Hell, and also was the place where the Indo-europeans had their homeland (ancient Turkey, home of the Hittites, and other Kurgan peoples). Kurgans are the burial mounds of Kur. Even today cur means outcast which is perhaps a way that the settled peoples refer to the nomadic. Now that we know that this area of Turkey had monolithic sites from 12,000 BC we can guess that the Indo-europeans were an ancient people who just happened to live in a natural bread basket, where several natural “ecopatches” of grain of various species overlapped. Just harvesting this bounty of Eden would cause it to become domesticated and lead to agriculture. But it was the Sumerians that took this to its logical conclusion building the first civilization based on agriculture, which the Kurgans regularly invaded. That is until the Sumerians drove them off into the Steppes. In the Steppes they put their genetic engineering knowledge to work on breeding horses bigger, which was a genetic possibility hidden in their species DNA. Eventually the horses got big enough to pull chariots, and then after a while large enough to ride horseback. Out of this came a war machine of incredible might, based on the power of the horse, which we still use as the measure of power today. Kurgans using the horsepower looking like Centaurs set out to conquer the known world and managed to take over Europe, and India in their excursions across the globe. Much of warfare in recorded history are internecine warfare between various Indo-European rivals as recorded in the Iliad for example. This rivalry expressed itself in unprecedented technological warfare, i.e. developing war technologies and then using them to advantage to expand the territory of one indo-european group over another. When ever non-indo-europeans were involved they were mostly conquered, because they did not have the ongoing dynamic of technological innovation. Case in point is that the Chinese developed most inventions prior to the Renaissance a thousand years prior to their western counterparts. But they never synthesized inventions together. Rather they would invent, forget, reinvent, forget in a cycle. The odd thing about the Indo-europeans is that they would invent something, then combine it with other inventions, and the inventions would persist, especially if they had to do with war machinery, which were essential for dominance.
So I don’t think it is going too far afield if we associate the uniqueness of having Being in the languages of the Indo-europeans, with this persistence and combination in synthesis of technological inventions which appears to be a sustained unique property of Indo-european societies and cultures. We are not saying that all Indo-european societies excelled in technological invention and combination in all periods, but that there was always some Indo-european society that was actively engaged in it, and so the baton of preeminence was passed from society to society throughout the millennia. Eventually this led to the preeminence of the European powers and world colonialization during the Metaphysical era, and now globalization.
So lets go back and think about this connection between Being and Technology. Heidegger building off of Nietzsche identifies Technology with Nihilism. Nietzsche had identified in the Will to Power nihilism as the fundamental driver within the Western worldview. Heidegger said the essence of Technology was nothing technological, but instead was Nihilism, and particularly the “enframing” together with the “standing reserve”.
“Unconcealing his questioning concerning technology further, Heidegger aims centrally at defining the modern technology’s essence, which he names “Gestell [enframing]” (324). Here, “Enframing means the gathering together of the setting-upon that sets upon man, i.e. challenges him forth, to reveal the actual, in the mode of ordering, as standing-reserve” (325). Put somewhat more lucidly, enframing refers to the calling out, impelling, or challenging-forth, of humans to reveal, or unconceal the “actual” (the aletheia/veritas/truth) as ever-present and “on call” (322) (the “standing-reserve”). Put differently, “Enframing, as a challenging-forth into ordering, sends into a way of revealing. Enframing is an ordaining of destining, as is every way of revealing. Bringing-forth, poiesis, is also a destining in this sense” (330). Enframing is “destining”, from which “the essence of all history is determined” (329). Enframing is the essence of modern technology, for Heidegger, because he roots modern technology in techne: it is a means for sourcing true forms and ideas that exist before the figures we perceive.”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The…
It is interesting that we do not demand a standing reserve of variety that is represented by species and language difference, but rather we are hell bent on destroying his very variety, even as we develop philosophies of difference like that of Deleuze or Badiou. Rather the Enframing is the destining of the fate of annihilation for all otherness, symbolized by English becoming the world dominant language, the new Latin, or Mandarin. What is clear is that the Emergent and Creative bringing forth of technology is intimately connected to the destruction of languages, cultures, worldviews, species globally. The symbol of this is the Winchester House in Santa Clara where the widow of the man who sold the Winchester rifle, which led to such destruction in America, especially of the Indians, went mad and created a labyrinth of death and destruction due to her guilt over the inheritance of blood money. In that house there are stairs to nowhere. Stairs that go right into the ceiling with no outlet. And I take this as an image of a basic trait of the Western worldview to have meta-levels of Being that lead to nowhere. Not only is Being itself unique to the Indo-european worldview but also the meta-levels of Being are also unique. These are Pure, Process, Hyper, Wild and Ultra Being. We get these by repeating meaningfully the word Being. So the Being of Being is becoming. Thus Heraclitus and Parmenides are both right. At the Pure Being level there is Static Being, while at the Process Being level (becoming) there is flux and dynamism as Hegel recognized following Heraclitus and the ancient Skeptics. This stairway to nowhere was know by Plato who recognized in the Timaeus the third way of being which was associated with the chora or the receptacle and its impregnation by the demiurge. Later it was rediscovered by Heidegger, and taken up by Derrida who called it Differance (differing and deferring). Paul Simon called it “slip-sliding away”. And thus we get the first intimations of strange difference between Process and Pure Being which leads to another weird kind of Being that is their difference in relation to each other, and at the same time a new and exotic kind of Being. It turns out that this kind of Being is the basis for creative emergent design of artifacts. (See http://emergentdesign.net). The dual of Hyper Being (The hyper-dialectic between Being and Nothingness according to Merleau-Ponty) is Wild Being. While Hyper Being is an expansion of being-in-the-world, so Wild Being is the contraction of being-in-the-world. Technology innovation is the expansion of being-in-the-world because it gives us new tools mostly for war, but for other purposes as well. The affordances of those tools give us new ways of interacting effectively in the world, like for instance with smart phones, the internet, and global communications. But with every emergent innovation there is a dark side which is the intensification of nihilism, which can be seen in the fact that most email is spam, meaningless automated chatter. When he looks at it the last man merely blinks. He is fascinated by the promise of the new and misses the fact that it just got slightly darker, and he became just a little more lost in oblivion. As languages die we blink as we consider what we will not watch on TV because we are lost in a myriad of channels that we surf. As species are lost we blink because are thinking about what is for dinner, without considering that the chicken we will be eating was grown in a box. We even read books called Blink, but it is what we do not take in in a moment of perception, that which we are blind to which is the scariest thing (the unknown unknown).
These stair steps to no where reveal the Fragmentation of Being within the Western worldivew. In other words the western worldview has an Achilles heel. What we discover is that at the core of Being at this highest meta-level which is meta-level five we break into existence. There we see Ultra Being the singularity, i.e. the way Being looks like from the outside as a thing found when it is no longer encompassing us. This is the deepest secret of our worldivew. For all its dominance and its destructive arrogance at its core it is empty. And this was discovered by the Buddhists long ago, and this core was called emptiness (sunyata). Enlightenment was seen as escaping from the illusion production of Being into Existence. But that place was were all other languages were already at, i.e. they did not have to escape from Being, because they were already outside of it. The heresy of Buddhism tries to take us back to the state of existence prior to the advent of Being. This is called Wu (Void) in Taoism. However, you cannot get back to the primordial condition so easily and so there is an essential difference that makes a difference (ala Bateson) between emptiness and void which is a non-intuitive result. So for instance deep ecology is different from primordial undisturbed wilderness. Deep ecology is a reservation, like we put the Indians in hoping they would die. If that did not work we gave them infected blankets. A reserve for animals not touched by humans is different from untouched wilderness that has not yet been explored. The untouched reserve is a standing reserve of wildness. It is part of the enframing. While untouched wilderness is prior to the enframing.
So somehow we need to find a nondual solution to this problematic of the Western worldview which generates nihilism though its creative destruction that produces emergent artifacts leading to the intensification of nihilism, as for instance Peace Studies being supported by the Military Industrial Complex and myriad other nihilistic (unnatural extreme) opposites produced by the Western worldview. You can see that in the production of genetically engineered fish that glow in the dark. They are animals of our fantasies distorted from their natural genetic foundations. But as Zizek says there is no pure condition to refer to. For instance they found that wildfires on the prairies were set by hunting humans, and that the ecosystem needed that. Not having wildfires occasionally actually degraded the environment, so parks had to start to have burn offs in order to keep the prairie healthy. Humans already in history had had an impact on ecology, and the ecology was adapted to that impact. And so in reality if there was a deep ecology sanctuary, for it to run properly we would probably have to intervene on a regular basis to maintain the purity of the ecosystem.
So when we look at these odd animals that seem so strange, or the beautiful animals that capture our fantasy, we are looking at the extremes we are fascinated by, and already that is a nihilistic projection on nature which is intertwined with our fundamental approach to nature that destroys it. Somehow we have to get out of that nihilistic attitude which underwrites the destruction of species, ecologies, languages, societies, cultures other than that generated by the Western worldview. Some how we need to take a nondual position, which entails doing no harm, even the harm done by helping to save the declining species that are dropping off into oblivion.
This is a stark contrast to all the other answers. You really got into it…geez man.
Anthony Smith • • 5:58pm on Wednesday 2011.4.14
This answer addresses the why of the question itself. How can we ask such a question? What does that question say about us? What in our worldview leads to facile questoins like this in the face of planetary disaster of species annihilation? What we see in these answers says more about us than the species that are pictured.
Kent Palmer • • 2:04pm 2011.4.14