Environmental Philosophy

Volume 3, Issue 1, Spring 2006

Lawrence Cahoone
Pages 13-26

Our Recent Rousseau
On Paul Shepard

Paul Shepard, a Rousseau armed with modern evolutionary ecology, presents our most rational primitivism. In his work, ecology recapitulates mythology. His critique of civilization compares to 20th century critics of “alienation,” except for Shepard the break with “authentic” existence is not Modern industrialism but Neolithic agrarianism. His argument remains largely impractical. Yet his late work suggests a reasonable meliorism. He recognized that his “Techno-Cynegeticism” may find room in a postmodern society that is hostile to agro-industrial, but not to what Ernest Gellner called “Durkheimian” or pre-agrarian, social forms. Hope for the wild lies not in razing the modern “system” but in riddling it with restored wild lacunae. Or, paraphrasing Thoreau, the salvation of the world lies in the feral.