Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Review of Mary Midgley's The Myths We Live By

Mary Midgley's The Myths we Live by is a series of tirades against things that Midgley doesn't like. That is of course not to say that it is a series of unconnected tirades. There is much coherence among them leading essentially to some form of flaky holism about people, animals, and the earth.

Early on she complains that there is a sort of intellectual imperialism (everything for her, mind you , is an "imperialism") favoring the "method over the aim" of the activity. (p13) She claims we fetishize some particular type of reasoning, and favor it over the substance and the conclusion we are supposed to want. And she makes sure she doesn't fall in to the same trap by avoiding any form or reasoning altogether. Ignoring reason, of course leaves us with her opinion, which is completely uninteresting. Any smelly hippy can tell you the same thing she does, and be more amusing too.

She starts ranting about how the social contract is not sufficiently inclusive of animals, as if we should have asked if they wanted to join any government we formed, and more or less faults us for not having them at America's constitutional convention as signatories. From there the book is down hill with loads of rants about how scientists who are insufficiently spiritual describe the world in these mechanistic terms and somehow miss some main points. There are the obligatory anti-reductionism chapters, anti-behaviorism chapters (as if people still believe in that), and discussion of what she calls a megalomaiacial materialism. Memes too are singled out for scorn for some reason.

I found one piece particularly interesting. After making a long complex (and very shallow) case for the fact that pigs and Gaia are as morally relevant as humans, she spends a chapter defending the practical contingency that we sometimes might have to thin some herds and cull the herds. She claims that she is not ashamed to advocate killing off some animals, or even forcibly inducing birth-control measures on animal populations. I would be very surprised if she would, in the name of any sort of equality, advocate doing this for humans too. I strongly suspect that there is no way she can even believe the drivel she spouts when talking about how alike baboons are to humans, unless she thinks that it might be a good idea to sometimes kill of whole cities of humans because we are trying to save humanity or the environment.

I was bored by this superficial discussion of pop earthy touchy feely animal loving tree hugging nonsense.

3 comments:

Malaika M said...

How do people get this kind of crap published?!?! Who gave her money for this shyte?!?!

Hey, do YOU have any books or articles we can read? Maybe you should put them on this blog?

Shosh said...

I suspect you skimmed the book, rather than read it? I would hate to think that you spent more time than absolutely necessary on that crap.

Erica said...

Well, I must admit, you've certainly picqued my curiosity ...
I'll tell ya man, whatever herd she's from needs to be thinned out. I don't think she's human.