Wendell Berry's Middle Ground?
31 January 2015
Consider two of Berry’s seven principles for the preservation of wilderness, which he presents in Home Economics (1987) as a middle ground between the “nature extremists” and the “technology extremists”:
5. It is not possible (at least, not for very long) for humans to intend their own good specifically or exclusively. We cannot intend our good, in the long run, without intending the good of our place — which means, ultimately, the good of the world.
This principle stuck out to me because if it is true, then it makes deep ecology into a kind of pragmatism. If it is true that the only way to successfully protect human beings in the long run is to aim to protect all living things — or even all things, period? including rocks? including industrial wastes? what does it mean to protect a rock, or an atom? how does one protect (or intend the good of) a “place” in general, or decide what deserves protection, and what protection means? — then biocentrism is anthropocentrism, and pragmatism without biocentrism isn’t actually pragmatic after all.
But on what basis does Berry believe this principle to be true? Faith? It certainly would be pleasing for a deep ecologist to believe that principle number 5 is true. But what is the evidence, and is the evidence persuasive?
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