Thursday, June 17, 2010

Benign or malignant?

I am currently somewhat curious (in my usual desultory fashion) about Epicureanism, as I am reading this amazing translation of Lucretius' De Rerum Natura, which I have borrowed from a friend.

It seems to me, based on the inexpert poking around that I have been doing, that an important tenet of Epicureanism was (or is) the affirmation that nature is benign; that we have nothing to fear from nature.

I wondered in passing tonight, however, if this is a belief that is available to us today. I'm not sure it is plausible in this age to think that nature has a calm regularity. Rather, for us the relation between humans and nature is a nightmarish one, because humans are fucking things up, throwing everything into imbalance. We do not think of ourselves as being in accord with the cycles of the world, but are instead a big, stinking spanner thrown into the works, throwing the whole humans-and-nature machine out of kilter.

I stress that I am not endorsing this latter view (nor, much as I would like to, the Epicurean account of the order of things), just pointing out its greater plausibility.