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War & the Noble Savage

Gyrus
Gyrus
Gyrus Writer, publisher, web developer at home

This is a talk given as part of the Ecology, Cosmos & Consciousness series at the October Gallery, London, on 27th October 2009. It coincided with the launch of the book of the same title, which explores the history of the concept of the "Noble Savage", and its role in recent debates about primitive war, conservation among indigenous peoples, and the ways in which "evolutionary" models influence our sense of progress. More information can be found at http://dreamflesh.com/projects/war-noble-savage/ (Thanks to Mark Pilkington for doing the recording)

War & the Noble Savage

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W A R  &  T H E  N O B L E  S A V A G E Gyrus  ~  The October Gallery  ~  27 th  October 2009
Charles Darwin (1809-1882)
 
 
[In pre-state societies] there is no place for industry, because the fruit thereof is uncertain: and consequently no culture of the earth; no navigation, nor use of the commodities that may be imported by sea; no commodious building; no instruments of moving and removing such things as require much force; no knowledge of the face of the earth; no account of time; no arts; no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short. —  Thomas Hobbes,  The Leviathan , 1651
“ The Noble Savage” ? —  Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778)

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War & the Noble Savage

  • 1. W A R & T H E N O B L E S A V A G E Gyrus ~ The October Gallery ~ 27 th October 2009
  • 3.  
  • 4.  
  • 5. [In pre-state societies] there is no place for industry, because the fruit thereof is uncertain: and consequently no culture of the earth; no navigation, nor use of the commodities that may be imported by sea; no commodious building; no instruments of moving and removing such things as require much force; no knowledge of the face of the earth; no account of time; no arts; no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short. — Thomas Hobbes, The Leviathan , 1651
  • 6. “ The Noble Savage” ? — Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778)
  • 7. “ The Noble Savage” ? — Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) I am as free as Nature first made man, 'Ere the base Laws of Servitude began, When wild in woods the noble Savage ran. — John Dryden, The Conquest of Granada , 1672
  • 8. “ The Noble Savage” ? — Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778)
  • 10. John Crawfurd (1783-1868) Charles Darwin
  • 11. John Crawfurd (1783-1868) Charles Darwin Natives of Tierra del Fuego (from J.G. Wood’s Uncivilized Races of Men , 1871)
  • 12.  
  • 13. “ The 3 Modern Dogmas” • The Blank Slate (the mind has no innate traits) • The Noble Savage (people are born good and corrupted by society) • The Ghost in the Machine (each of us has a soul that makes choices free from biology)
  • 14. Based on Lawrence Keeley, War Before Civilization , 1996
  • 15. Keeley’s evidence for prehistoric violence
  • 16.
  • 17.
  • 18.
  • 19.
  • 20.
  • 21.
  • 22.  
  • 23.  
  • 24.  
  • 25. The “nightmare past” that Hobbes envisioned in which individuals lived in continual fear of violent death clearly never existed. On the other hand, an effort to locate ethnographic instances of societies in which conflict is absent and utopia concretely exemplified invites disappointment. — Raymond C. Kelly
  • 26. The seeming peacefulness of such small hunter-gatherer groups may therefore be more a consequence of the tiny size of their social units and the large scale implied by our normal definition of warfare than of any real pacifism on their part. — Lawrence Keeley, War Before Civilization
  • 27. The seeming peacefulness of such small hunter-gatherer groups may therefore be more a consequence of the tiny size of their social units and the large scale implied by our normal definition of warfare than of any real pacifism on their part. — Lawrence Keeley, War Before Civilization As hunting reduces the numbers of some species, the foragers shift their aim toward other more common animals because the cost, in time, of getting the rare ones is too high. But this is not conservationist behavior. It is behavior that is focused on the short term. Deciding to stop hunting a species that has become rare differs from consciously hunting that animal so lightly that it does not become rare. The true conservationist will not kill a rare species, even when it is easy to do so. — Steven LeBlanc, Constant Battles
  • 28. It is no surprise that revisionist assaults on “noble savages” and “wilderness” come at the historical moment when the global culture’s unsustainable cultural imperative of perpetual capital accumulation is reducing the earth’s stocks of water, soil, forests, and fisheries to dangerously low levels and disrupting ecosystems and natural cycles on an unprecedented scale. — John H. Bodley