Orwell on food technology and modernity

by Chris Bertram on July 25, 2003

I posted a pointed to to a moderately pro-GM report the other day. But in the comments section I got pretty revolted by the suggestion that one day we might synthesize all our food. As I said there, I want my potatoes from the earth and my apples from a tree. I don’t think there’s anything especially “green” about feeling this and I’m somewhat embarassed, as someone who is supposed to live by good arguments, by how hard I find it to get beyond the raw data of feeling, intuition and emotion when I try to think about what is of value.

The best I can do, is, I think to notice how much of that is of value in human life has to do with an engagement with the natural world and a recognition of the uniqueness and (sorry about this word) the ‘otherness’ of the world beyond the human. I’m not just thinking about raw untamed nature here (Lear on the heath) but also about the way in which an artist has to work with the natural properties of pigments, a gardener has to work with plants and their distinctive characteristics, and a cook has to work with ingredients. Architects too have to work with materials, with stone, wood and so on.

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In praise of plodders

by Micah on July 25, 2003

There was an article a couple days back in the “Chronicle of Higher Education”:http://chronicle.com/ called “What People Just Don’t Understand About Academic Fields.” (Unfortunately, I can’t link to it because apparently you have to be a subscriber–but it doesn’t really matter for this post.) The article included a few paragraphs from a handful of professors in different fields each talking about what most people don’t seem to understand about what they do or why they do it. None of the entries struck me as all that interesting, but they did remind me of an essay by Isaiah which has been bothering me for awhile. The essay is called “Philosophy and Government Repressession” (1954) and was printed in “The Sense of Reality”:http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0712673679/qid=1059082425/sr=12-8/104-8064233-2395929?v=glance&s=books. In trying to correct what he thinks is a common “misunderstanding of what philosophy is and what it can do,” argues that second- and third- rate philosophers are essentially worthless, except as obstacles to be overcome by truly great thinkers.

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