The Josias Podcast, Episode IV: Nature, Natural Ends, and the Enlightenment (Part 2)

A continuation of the discussion of natural teleology on The Josias Podcast.

One thought on “The Josias Podcast, Episode IV: Nature, Natural Ends, and the Enlightenment (Part 2)

  1. Pater Edmund,

    Regarding the part of the talk relating to “Laudato Si’,” I have a question. It also concerns the part where you talk about maximizing profit as a trait of modern capitalism. Even if we posit a pre-modern worldview that is qualitatively better than the modern worldview, where is the evidence that pre-modern men did not “exploit nature” the way you and your collaborators describe as “modern”? To my knowledge, there was no concern to preserve wild animals, unless the King or some noble wished to hunt them, in which case Forest Laws would severely punish poachers in ways that we find “medieval” in privileging the King’s sport over “social justice.”

    Where men could tame nature and make it work for them, they did. The ranges of the elk (i.e. moose), the bear, the wolf, the aurochs, the wisent, and other other beasts retracted more slowly than in modern times, but retract they did. There was no concern to preserve any state of nature, unless it provided some good or benefit for man. Dog-baiting, bear-baiting, bull-baiting — all sorts of varieties of cruelty toward animals were wildly popular. Ancient forests fell before the ax, then the sediment washing off the bare mountains clogged the rivers, creating upland deserts and lowland malarial swamps.

    In other words, granting that pre-modern man lacked the technological skill that modern man possesses, in what way did pre-modern man actually *behave* differently toward natural resources? Offhand, I can’t think of any. Turning to the capitalistic zeal for profit, when I think of the Hanseatic League or the merchants of Italian maritime republics, I see men who were concerned with profits. Modern man is more systematic in his exploitation of natural resources, and he is more systematic in maximizing profits, but it’s unclear to me whether the fundamental goal/drive/motive is actually different between pre-modern and modern man. Ideology and philosophy don’t always drive events or everyday life, however appealing it may be to suppose that they do.

    Thank you.


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