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Artificial or not, early crafts such as metalworking, glass-making, and dyeing alike had the task of imitating Nature, and of creating products which were indistinguishable from the best natural materials. The metal-workers of Alexandria, for instance, produced silver and copper alloys having the appearance and properties of gold; and they developed for this purpose a whole range of techniques for depositing a durable golden colour on a relatively cheap alloy. Men were paying for the appearance, not the “atomic weights,” so the craftsmen and customers alike were entitled to be satisfied with the results.

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Despite their great engineering feats, there was no reduction of food cultivation from a craft to an industry. Conversely, in societies where plows, animals, grains, and great irrigation systems formed the bases for agriculture, primordial communal institutions were still retained together with their communal distributive norms. These societies and their values persisted either without developing classes or by coexisting, often ignominiously, with feudal or monarchical institutions that exploited them ruthlessly — but rarely changed them structurally and normatively. It is important to remember that class society is not the creation of humanity as a whole.

Because hierarchy threatens the existence of social life today, it cannot remain a social fact. Because it threatens the integrity of organic nature, it will not continue to do so, given the harsh verdict of “mute” and “blind” nature. But social ecology provides more than a critique of the split between humanity and nature; it also poses the need to heal them. Incipient, potentially hierarchical elites gradually evolve, each phase of their evolution shading into the succeeding one, until the first firm shoots of hierarchy emerge and eventually mature.

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In any case, to bring together the natural history of mind with the history of natural mind is to raise a host of questions that can probably be answered only by presuppositions. We may choose to confine mentality strictly to the human cerebrum as a Galileo and Descartes would have done, in which case we have committed mentality completely to the vaults of our skulls. Or we may choose to include the natural history of mind and expand our vision of mind to include nature in its wholeness, a tradition that includes the era of philosophic speculation from the Hellenic to the early Renaissance. But let us not deceive ourselves that science has chosen its way on the basis of presuppositions that are stronger or more certain than those of other ways of knowing. But experience has thoroughly deflated scientistic images of matter as a merely passive substrate of reality, technics as strictly “technical,” and abstract labor as a social desideratum. The fact that the natural world is orderly (at least on a scale that renders modern science and engineering possible) has long suggested the intellectually captivating possibility that there is a logic — a rationality if you will — to reality that may well be latent with meaning.

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How easily we can slip into a conventional historical stance can be seen from recent fervent controversies around the meaning given to the concept of scarcity. It has become rather fashionable to describe scarcity simply as a function of needs so that the fewer our needs and the smaller our tool-kit, the more “abundant,” even “affluent,” nature becomes. Actually, by emphasizing material affluence per se in terms of needs and resources, this functional approach to scarcity subtly capitulates to the very economistic stance it is meant to correct.

Hence nature, even as the matrix and source of ethical meaning, does not have to assume such delightfully human attributes as kindness, virtue, goodness and gentleness; nature need merely be fecund and creative — a source rather than a “paradigm.” The ambiguity created by this Janus-faced development of reason, science, and technics leads to an all-pervasive sense that this triune is meaningless as such unless the three are reevaluated and restructured so that each one’s latent liberatory side is rescued and its oppressive side clearly revealed. To return to irrationality, superstition, and material primitivism is no more desirable than to defer to the value-free and elitist rationalism, scientism, and technocratic sensibilities that prevail today. The need to rescue reason as an ethically charged logos of the world does not conflict with its use as a logic for dealing with that world.

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Marcion would not have accepted this prototypic notion of the “elect,” which infected not only official Christianity but also many of the radical “heresies” that were ideologically related to gnosticism. Things being what they are, only the few — an elite by nature modeled partly on Plato’s “guardians” (albeit without their “asceticism” and “communism”) — are free to indulge their every appetite. If gnosticism had been left at this point, it would have retreated back to a questionable libertinism that could no longer be identified with Marcion’s generous libertarian message. Justice slowly transformed the patriarch’s status, first by turning the feared father into the righteous father, just as it transformed Yahweh from a domineering, jealous God into a just God. It became juridical authority that was answerable to certain precepts of right and wrong. By turning the crude, warrior morality of “might is right” into the rule of equivalence and the lex talionis of equity, justice produced the transition from mere arbitrary coercion to coercion that must be justified.

The specious rationality involved in producing the object is foisted on the rationalization of the subject to a point where the producer’s subjectivity is totally atrophied and reduced to an object among objects. The emergence of a possibility, to be sure, is not a guarantee that it will become an actuality. To draw upon Pottier’s lines in his inspired revolutionary hymn, “The Internationale,” how will a new society “rise on new foundations”? In view of the stark alternatives that faced the Adamites and “military” or “war” communism in modern, authoritarian contexts, how can human society now produce a sufficiency of goods for everyone (rather than an elite) and provide the individual the freedom to choose among needs as well as products?

Society itself may be a case in point, at least in terms of its abiding basic elements, and human associations that extend beyond the blood tie may reflect more complex forms of natural evolution than the highly limited biological kinship relations. If human nature is part of nature, the associations that rest on universal human loyalties may well be expressions of a richer, more variegated nature than we hitherto have been prepared to acknowledge. As a unique product of natural evolution, humanity brings its powers of reasoning, its creative fingers, its high degree of conscious consociation-all qualitative developments of natural history-to nature, at times as sources of help and at other times as sources of harm. Perhaps the greatest single role an ecological ethics can play is a discriminating one-to help us distinguish which of our actions serve the thrust of natural evolution and which of them impede it. That human interests of one kind or another may be involved in these actions is not always relevant to the ethical judgments we are likely to make. It is not in this book that the reader should expect to find the “concrete universals” that will stimulate imagination and evoke the details of reconstruction, but rather in the interchange of utopian views that still awaits us.

Left on this superficial level, it becomes an almost personal adaptive enterprise that fails to account for the need of all species for life support systems, be they autotrophic or heterotrophic. Traditional evolutionary theory tends to abstract a species from its ecosystem, to isolate it, and to deal with its survival in a remarkably abstract fashion. Even large carnivores that prey upon large herbivores have a vital ,function in selectively controlling large population swings by removing weakened or old animals for whom life would in fact become a form of “suffering.” Finally, the Modern Synthesis, to use Julian Huxley’S term for the neo-Darwinian model of organic evolution in force since the early 1940s, has also been challenged as too narrow and perhaps mechanistic in its outlook. The image of a slow pace of evolutionary change emerging from the interplay of small variations, which are selected for their adaptability to the environment, is no longer as supportable as it seemed by the actual facts of the fossil record. Evolution seems to be more sporadic, marked by occasional rapid changes, often delayed by long periods of stasis.