The Forms of Life

I make an old paper of mine available here. It dates from before I had started on my reading of Henry Corbin. It has some value I think, and is very interesting for me to read now; also perhaps useful as I try again to articulate an "ecology of the imagination" with different and better tools than I had then.  It was my first foray back into writing philosophy after many years as a biologist. (I am hopeful that I don't write like that any more however. It's rather painful to read.) It begins with two epigraphs that I still like very much.

When we think about the future of the world, we always have in mind its being in the place where it would be if it continued to move as we see it moving now. We do not realize that it moves not in a straight line but in a curve, and that its direction constantly changes.  
- Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations.

No man is equipped for modern thinking until he has understood the anecdote of Agassiz and the fish:
A post-graduate student equipped with honors and diplomas went to Agassiz to receive the final and finishing touches. The great man offered him a small fish and told him to describe it.
Post-Graduate Student: 'That's only a sunfish.'
Agassiz: 'I know that. Write a description of it.'
After a few minutes the student returned with the description of the Ichthus Heliodiplodokus, or whatever term is used to conceal the common sunfish from vulgar knowledge, family of Heliichtherinkus, etc., as found in textbooks of the subject.
Agassiz again told the student to describe the fish.
The student produced a four-page essay. Agassiz then told him to look at the fish. At the end of three weeks the fish was in an advanced state of decomposition, but the student knew something about it.

- Ezra Pound, ABC of Reading

[Orange spotted sunfish - Lepomis humilis.]

"The Forms of Life: Complexity, History, and Actuality," Environmental Ethics, Winter, 1993, 293-311.

Forms of Life - Tom Cheetham , Environmental Ethics, 1993


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