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Dillard: the rough picture of fecundity

October 20, 2016

Some elements in the textured and very rough picture of fecundity that Dillard draws in chapter 10. As she says, “it’s rough out there”–and remember the lesson from fractal geometry, the texture of nature is rough, not smooth (as in the vision of classical science and Euclidean geometry). So, perhaps we can think of this entire chapter as a fractal image.

OED entry on fecund:

fecund, adj.

Etymology:  < French fecond, < Latin fēcundus fruitful. In the 16th cent. the spelling was refashioned after Latin.(Show Less)

a. Of animals, the earth, etc.: Capable of producing offspring or vegetable growth abundantly; prolific, fertile.In recent use distinguished from fertility n.   (see quot. 1904). Cf. fecundity n.   Otherwise somewhat arch.

c1420   Pallad. on Husb. i. 77   Make a dyche, and yf the moolde abounde And wol not in agayne, it is fecounde.
c1420   Pallad. on Husb. i. 985   That wol make all fecundare On every side.
1537   tr. Latimer’s 2nd Serm. bef. Convocation i. 42   He was so fecund a father, and had gotten so many children.
1676   Philos. Trans. (Royal Soc.) 11 594   Animals fecond enough.
1678   R. Cudworth True Intellect. Syst. Universe i. iv. 489   The most Benign and Fecund Begetter of all things.
1682   N. Grew Anat. Plants i. iv. App. 33   Thorns, from the outer, and less fecund Part.
1721   R. Bradley Philos. Acct. Wks. Nature 30   The Nourishment and Growth of the Embrio Seed after its Germe is made fecund.
Energy spontaneously tends to flow only from being concentrated in one place
to becoming diffused or dispersed and spread out.
Dillard’s “poet” of the “force that through the green fuse drives the flower” :

The force that through the green fuse drives the flower

by Dylan Thomas
The force that through the green fuse drives the flower
Drives my green age; that blasts the roots of trees
Is my destroyer.
And I am dumb to tell the crooked rose
My youth is bent by the same wintry fever.

The force that drives the water through the rocks
Drives my red blood; that dries the mouthing streams
Turns mine to wax.
And I am dumb to mouth unto my veins
How at the mountain spring the same mouth sucks.

The hand that whirls the water in the pool
Stirs the quicksand; that ropes the blowing wind
Hauls my shroud sail.
And I am dumb to tell the hanging man
How of my clay is made the hangman's lime.

The lips of time leech to the fountain head;
Love drips and gathers, but the fallen blood
Shall calm her sores.
And I am dumb to tell a weather's wind
How time has ticked a heaven round the stars.

And I am dumb to tell the lover's tomb
How at my sheet goes the same crooked worm.
The Second Law of Thermodynamics: in short, entropy. In more figurative terms (also evoked by Dillard), the arrow of time moves only in one direction, toward disorder,, loss and death. As Dillard tells us, it’s rough out there.
Environmental Ethics: Anthropocentrism vs Ecocentrism (Biocentrism):

Environmental philosophy

Anthropocentrism has been posited by some environmentalists, in such books as Confessions of an Eco-Warrior by Dave Foreman and Green Rage by Christopher Manes, as the underlying (if unstated) reason why humanity dominates and sees the need to “develop” most of the Earth. Anthropocentrism is believed by some to be the central problematic concept in environmental philosophy, where it is used to draw attention to a systematic bias in traditional Western attitudes to the non-human world.[3]Val Plumwood has argued[4][5] that anthropocentrism plays an analogous role in green theory to androcentrismin feminist theory and ethnocentrism in anti-racist theory. Plumwood calls human-centredness “anthrocentrism” to emphasise this parallel.

One of the first extended philosophical essays addressing environmental ethics, John Passmore‘s Man’s Responsibility for Nature[6] has been criticised by defenders of deep ecology because of its anthropocentrism, often claimed to be constitutive of traditional Western moral thought.[7] Defenders of anthropocentrist views point out that maintenance of a healthy, sustainable environment is necessary for human well-being as opposed for its own sake. The problem with a “shallow” viewpoint is not that it is human-centred but that according to William Grey: “What’s wrong with shallow views is not their concern about the well-being of humans, but that they do not really consider enough in what that well-being consists. According to this view, we need to develop an enriched, fortified anthropocentric notion of human interest to replace the dominant short-term, sectional and self-regarding conception.” [8]

It is important to take note that many devoted environmentalists encompass a somewhat anthropocentric-based philosophical view supporting the fact that they will argue in favor of saving the environment for the sake of human populations. “We should be concerned to promote a rich, diverse, and vibrant biosphere. Human flourishing may certainly be included as a legitimate part of such a flourishing.”[9]Biocentrism has been proposed as an antithesis of anthropocentrism.[10] It has also been proposed as a generalised form of anthropocentrism.[11]

A creationist description (a site called Answers in Genesis) for truths and myths about praying mantises. Which raises the question, since Dillard clearly invokes the discussion of evolution and refers repeatedly to the creator: is this an account of an evolutionist or creationist?

So. What’s the picture that emerges?

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