Nature in McCarthy's Novels

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  • 21 Nov 2012 at 1:41 am #2442

    Greg S.
    Member

    I wanted to drop off this interesting snippet from an interview between Francis Fukuyama and Jürgen Habermas at http://theglobaljournal.net/article/view/695/.  The interview is about Europe, but Fukuyama asked an interesting question that led to an even more interesting response about nature.

    FF:  “I very much appreciated your discussion of the genesis of the modern understanding of human dignity, which corresponds to mine: that it is rooted in a Christian moral perception; was secularized and universalized by Kant; and is inextricably linked to recognition. One of the characteristics of Western concepts of dignity, however, is the sharp line drawn between the moral status of human beings and that of the non-human natural world. This stood in sharp contrast to many Eastern religions, which tended to place both human and non-human nature on a continuum, in which the former lost its special privileged status while spiritual characteristics were even attributed to inanimate objects. This led both to a lower level of protection of human rights, but a greater sense of responsibility for non-human nature. We in the West now seem to be moving in, so to speak, Eastern direction in blurring the line. I wonder how you react to this; whether and how that bright line can or should be eroded.”

    JH:  “That is an extremely interesting question. The intercultural discourse over human rights has indeed got under way over the past twenty years. My impression is that the West with its Christian-Jewish heritage (and the Arab world?) could benefi t from a good dash of the kind of “communitarianism” we know from the civilizations of the East shaped by Buddhism and Confucianism. Western capitalism needs a corrective to the selective libertarian, at least liberal-individualist interpretation of liberties. I defend the position that we should stress the co-originality of liberal and democratic civil rights as well as the systematic connection between these classical civil rights and the social and cultural basic rights. As to your question, I would like to differentiate between a dubious spiritual reenchantment of nature, on the one hand, and the desirable unearthing of buried moral sensibilities vis-à-vis tormented natural creatures, on the other. Don’t the Asian civilizations also have to take the step, albeit in their own manner, accomplished by Western modernity with the transition from metaphysical-cosmological worldviews to postmetaphysical thinking? In our culture this step provided the foundation for a non-instrumental relation to science – to science as an integral component of our self-understanding – and, on the other hand, for a rational understanding of morality and law. Morally sensitive treatment of animals and plants, and of nature as a whole, does not depend on religious and metaphysical worldviews, after all – in other words, it does not depend on projecting the I-You relation of linguistic communication onto the world as a whole.”


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    21 Nov 2012 at 2:48 am #2443

    cantona
    Member

    Greg,

    I like this, especially: Don’t the Asian civilizations also have to take the step, albeit in their own manner, accomplished by Western modernity with the transition from metaphysical-cosmological worldviews to postmetaphysical thinking?

    Today I was discussing the ‘carrying the fire’ motif in ‘The Road’ with my Korean students; not so much ‘what does it mean?’, the answer to this can be found on all kinds of web discussion forums, but why is it presented, in the book, in the form of a question. The Habermas/Fukuyama passage is helpful.

    By the way, cracking game between Juventas and Chelsea last night. The passing from Juve had me purring.

     


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    21 Nov 2012 at 1:47 pm #2445

    Greg S.
    Member

    Cantona, yeah, that idea about Asia was quite interesting.   Trying to situate McCarthy’s attitude towards nature in the context of Habermas’s thinking is quite difficult.  Sometimes he seems to wallow in mystery, at least through his Western trilogy, but occasionally even in later works such as The Road (the prose poem at the end).  On the other hand, as we know, he is a great skeptic and man of science.  On the other hand, spirituality, give or take religion, certainly is a theme in his works.   Plenty to think about.  Too bad I’m a null at philosophy.

    I’ve not had much time to watch soccer lately and miss the CL games.  I’m happy to see the German teams doing well.  This is an exciting season with some occasional brilliant displays of one touch.  Not just Bayern Munich, but Dortmund, Schalke, and even Eintracht Frankfurt, straight out of the second league, have put on some great shows this far.


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    21 Nov 2012 at 6:00 pm #2449

    Glass
    Member

    Super interesting. Greg, good point about McCarthy embracing the mystery of it all while at the same time being a man of science. I love this sort of thing and spend quite a bit of time exploring these ideas. Currently, I’m with Thomas Nagel of What Is it Like to Be a Bat? fame in that while science is obviously a great and wonderful thing that can tell us a lot it will never be able to explain it all. McCarthy’s fiction might lean that way as well. Thanks for posting the great stuff with Habermas.
    Here’s Nagel’s influential paper for anyone interested: http://evans-experientialism.freewebspace.com/nagel.htm
    I should note another heavyweight in contemporary philosophy, Brian Leiter, cannot stand Nagel’s new bok. For some of that, go here: http://leiterreports.typepad.com/blog/2012/10/thomas-nagels-new-book-mind-and-cosmos.html


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    23 Nov 2012 at 3:49 am #2456

    Greg S.
    Member

    Thanks for the links, Peter.  Looks like you are a fair bit further down this path than I.


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    22 Dec 2012 at 6:08 pm #2722

    Glass
    Member

    “Naturalists think that there is a single reality, the natural world, without any supernatural component.” (Sean Carroll)

    Some really great stuff on naturalism at a recent conference from some heavy hitters in academia. McCarthy’s friend the physicist Lisa Randall was scheduled to speak but had to cancel. Check it out: http://www.preposterousuniverse.com/blog/2012/12/11/moving-naturalism-forward-videos-and-recap/


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