Desconstruction of the Moderinistic Myth in Quinn's Ishmael

Desconstruction of the Moderinistic Myth in Quinn's Ishmael

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Desconstruction of the Moderinistic Myth in Ishmael  

When I read Daniel Quinn’s works, Ishmael, Providence, The Story of B, and My Ishmael, I find a common theme woven throughout which is to desconstruct the moderinistic myth that we are apart from nature and therefore not subject to natural law. I don’t find Quinn’s ideas to be much different from what I read into David Orr’s Earth in Mind or David Ehrenfeld’s books Beginning Again and The Arrogance of Humanism.

I doubt that Quinn, as a writer, thinks for one minute that we are no different from other species who inhabit Earth. Language separates us, and writers probably know that better than the rest of us. Maybe I shouldn’t have grabbed his quotes out of context. Or maybe you had some other reason to be so quick to criticize Quinn.

If the use of the word “stewardship” really “instills a healthy dose of love and responsibility for the natural world,” as you suggest it does, I don’t believe Quinn or Ehrenfeld or Orr would have many problems with our using it as platform for discussion to move forward. But I suspect that all three writers are fearful that most of us don’t differentiate between “stewardship” and “dominion,” also that our “stewardship” will likely not be practiced with enough humility--e.g. use of “precautionary principles,” recognition of how little we really know--to make it a useful starting point. If we stay with "stewardship" it will be up to us to prove them wrong. Assuming, of course, that they would agree with what I’ve alleged on their behalf.

Does this mean we ought to throw away science or management, or even abandon the word “stewardship?” No, at least "no" with regard to science and management. I still wonder about our choice to use the word “stewardship.” Mostly I’m OK with it, but only if we take time to work through the baggage it carries. Mainly, though, we need to challenge theories, assumptions, and try to make sure they are grounded.

“Grounding” theory and practice in pluralistic reality is what my favorite postmodern writers seem to be challenging us to do. But herein hides a problem. My problem. Perhaps the writers I am referring to – Anderson, Borgmann (Crossing the Postmodern Divide), Ehrenfeld, Merchant (The Death of Nature, Ecology: Key Concepts in Critical Theory), Orr, Quinn and others – don’t fit the label “postmodern deconstructionists.

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” Or maybe some of them do and some don’t. Help me out here. Quinn is different in one sense from the others – he isn’t a traditional educator or practitioner. But his stories do have something in common with the other writers: they place a punctuation mark on our tendencies toward “individualism” and “domination of nature.”


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