Nature: Grandiose Delusion (with Benny Hendel)

Uploaded 10/25/2022, approx. 10 minute read

Sam is these ideas, he came up with all kinds of philosophical breakthroughs like does nature exist? And here I am, then, with Nira, planning on going to the English countryside to see all the places where Wordsworth and Coleridge and Tennyson worked and walkedand Charles Darwin, who is better known as Lewis Carroll or Jane Austen, and you raised the question does nature exist? Of course it exists. We are putting all our money in going to that trip to see nature.

Which is precisely what's wrong with the concept of nature. You are going there as observers, not as part of nature, but as observers of nature.

It's as if men and nature are not the same thing, as if there were some external entity which men has nothing to do with and men can observe.

Over the millennia, there were three ways. Three ways had evolved to relate to nature.

Of course nature exists in the sense that physical reality exists. But men's relation to physical reality had acquired one of three flavors.

First, there was, of course, religion. Religion said men has dominion, men dominates nature, and men has the full right to exploit nature and to decide everything from naming nature to maiming nature. So nature is man's property. That was a religious approach.

But the religious approach permeates a lot of science as well. Because science regards nature as a resource, in effect.

When you say resource, it immediately leads to exploitation. Because what do you do with resources? You exploit them, you use them. It's a relationship of usage. And you have even philosophies within science. For example, the anthropic principle. The anthropic principle says that the cosmos was designed to yield humanity.

The anthropic principle has nothing to do with entropy.

Not entropy, but entropy.

Man at the center. Man's center.

Man is the center because the universe was designed to create men and to cater to the needs of men. It's a form of cosmic teleology or divine teleology.

But these are scientists. They're all physicists. The anthropic principle was created by physicists.

So we see that even within science, we have this religious approach. Nature belongs to us. It's our property and we can dispose of it any way we see fit.

That's the first approach.

The second approach is a romantic approach. Jean-Jacques Rousseau. The noble savage. Nature is perfection. It's ideal. It's beautiful. It's flawless and blameless and blameless. This idealization of nature is of course counterfactual. Nature is red in tooth and claw. Nature is cruel and savage.

Scientists were very far from ideal, people. There is a British understatement.

So the romantic view has nothing to do with real nature. It has to do with an image of nature which is essentially a fantasy.

Even there, there is a divorce between men and nature because it's about a fantasy.

And the third approach is what I call the decoupled approach.

Like there is men, the observer, men, the traveler in the British countryside, men, the physicist who observes nature and measures it and quantifies it. And so there is a decoupling approach.

Ironically, the decoupled approach where men is active, nature is passive, like in a museum, the decoupled approach started with idealism. When the idealists from the car to Hegel, when they said reality is actually only in the mind, they denied nature. They denied reality and they denied physicalism or materialism. And so they went the furthest in decoupling men from nature because they said the only reality is in your head. The rest...

So there is only man.

There is only man. The rest doesn't exist. So thought is only a mystic view.

Whichever way you choose, the religious domination narrative or scientific domination narrative, the romantic narrative, the decoupled observer observed schism, whichever way you choose, there is no nature. There's no such thing as nature because if you dominate nature, it's not nature, it's a resource. If you decouple yourself from nature, then there's no nature, only you exist. And if you are romantic about nature, then it's not nature, it's your fantasy.

Men's head has yet to come with a way to relate to nature, actually, believe it or not. Even environmentalism is an offshoot of the romantic movement. It's a form of romanticism.

Really, of course, environmentalism is a form of... It's not the science, it's romanticism. It's idealizing, believing that nature has some homeostatic, equilibrium, ideal state.

That can do with... That doesn't need man or that would be better off without man.

Either that, that is what is called radical or deep, deep environmentalism. These are the extremists.

But environmentalism has two elements in effect.

Men has an agency to change nature, to restore it, for example.

To safeguard it, safeguarded.

But if you stop to think about it, this patronizing approach, it's the same old religious scientific domination narrative. Only you are a benign dictator.

Yes, exactly. A benign dictator.

You're an enlightened tyrant. You are not destroying nature, you're nurturing nature, you're restoring nature.

But that still means that you own nature and control nature to do with as you please. It's still this narrative.

And coupled with romanticism. Because the environmental movement in all its strands, even the deep environmental movement, they say that there was a period, there has been a period where nature was different and better. Like an ideal period.

And all we need to do is revert. We need to just go back there. And we need to go back there by eliminating human agency and presence, or by modifying human agency and presence.

It is still anthropocentric. Still man is at the center. It's like we decide everything. We are the masters of nature.

Question is, is there another possibility?

The problem is that we had failed to relate to nature because we are nature. As long as we refuse to accept that this distinction is totally artificial, then we can revert to one of these three positions all the time.

What you're saying is that we are nature.

This sounds like a shallow cliche, but it's not. When I say we are nature, I mean these cameras are nature. A beaver builds dams. Ants build mounds. We build high rises. We build cameras. This is nature. All our technologies, everything is nature. Our products are as natural as the products of bees. Bees create honey. You wouldn't say they're not natural. They have a honey factory. Factories, cameras, automobiles, television sets, smartphones, everything is totally natural.

When we start to look at nature this way, then I think we will lose, I hope we will lose, these three dysfunctional ways of looking at nature, which are essentially a power play. These ways, the romantic way, the domineering or dominant domination way, and the decoupled way, they are power plays.

Who is in charge? Who is there?

How do we mend our ways according to your view?

I am saying that there's no such thing as artificial. That it's an artificial distinction to say there's natural and artificial. Everything humans create is a soul. That leads to a prescription. Nature, as long as we decouple from nature, nature is fighting back. Nature is fighting back in three ways.

A Malthusian way, epidemics, pandemics, wars. This is nature's way of winnowing humanity out, culling humanity, reducing the numbers and so on and so forth. This is one way, one mechanism.

There is a mechanism of assimilation. We assimilate the damage that we do. If we pollute, if you pollute the air, you breathe this air. You assimilate this destruction. It becomes self-destruction. Nature is fighting back our negative agency, negentropic agency, is fighting back in a Malthusian way, reducing our numbers. It also forces us to digest and assimilate the outcomes of our pernicious activity.


Because we are nature. Whatever we are doing to a tree, you are doing to yourself.

But there's a third way. The third way is the cognitive way. We are endowed with cognition.

For example, we invented the contraceptive pill. Contraceptive pill had reduced the number of humans more than all wars and famines and pandemics combined. And it's our invention. We invented it.


Because we are part of nature. If it is nature's interest to control our numbers, because we are part of nature, because we are nature, we are going to control our numbers. We are nature's agents and we are an integral part of nature. If nature has a will, metaphorically speaking, if nature has a will, we are that will. If nature wants to reduce our numbers, it will send us a virus. But it will also send us the contraceptive pill.

It will also send us homosexual car accidents. Or homosexuality.

Or car accidents.

So in other words, if nature wants to limit our activity and especially our nefarious activity, it's going to use a variety of agents, including us. We are also nature's agents in this sense. Exactly like a virus.

So all you're saying is that we should be aware of the fact that man and nature are one, and we're actually acting in the world that is one.

Yes, and this is two implications. Not dichotomics. This is two implications.

One, everything we do is natural. Everything we produce is natural. Enough with this nonsense. This is artificial, this is natural. Factories are not good. Cars are not good. This is nonsense. Everything we produce and do is, by definition, natural. Should nature wish to somehow limit our activities, redirect them, transform us, it has its ways. And its greatest agent is us.


Nature is going to use us to limit us because we are nature.

So if nature wants us to limit the population, it will send us a virus, but it will also send us the contraceptive pill. It is nature that sends us the contraceptive pill, not pinkus and gerasi. Nature did it. It used the agency of pinkus and gerasi, but it was nature that did this.

I have a metaphor strengthening, maybe your theory. If a Martian came along and looked at what happens here on the globe, he or she would see small particles going along veins and stopping somewhere. And then they would pick up this car and say, oh, this is an interesting organism. It has a nucleus which probably controls this thing.

It's beautiful.

And this is the nature of this globe.

And should the Martian come here and submit a report, of course, to the Martian High Council, the report will say there are numerous life forms on this planet. One of them is, and they'll make a list, and there will be gorillas and chimpanzees, and one of the life forms will be humans.

Or no cars with human nuclei.

They will, I think, ultimately realize that cars are manufactured by this life form.


But let's assume that they're highly intelligent. But they will list humans as one of the life forms, and they will say beavers create dams, bees create hives, and human beings create cars. It will not occur to them that there is some privileged position to a specific organism.

So if we refer to the first question, does nature exist? You say, of course, nature exists.

But not the way we see it.

But not distinct from us.

As distinct from us. But we are part of it.

We are nature.

Whatever we do, we should be...

Does nature exist? Yes, it does. Of course it does. It's sitting opposite me.


Of course.

Enjoy your trip.

Thank you.

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