Analysis 1 And Explanation Of Those Quotes


You will write one long paragraph for each, with the thesis in the first sentence, at least three supporting ideas, other quotes or references to help analysis and explanation of those quotes, modern contextualization, and a concluding sentence.   Each paragraph should be 10 sentences minimum

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  • The quotes from other.
  1. “Quite rightly, we do not normally take the behavior of animals as a model for how we may treat them” (Singer & Mason 773).   
  2. “A land ethic, then reflects the existence of an ecological conscience, and this in turn reflects a conviction of individual responsibility for the health of the land” (Leopold – The Land Ethic p.124).
  3.  “With consistency, a great soul has simply nothing to do” (Emerson self reliance p.7). 
  4. “Yet he does not know what to do with the time he saves, and spends one part of his income to kill the time he is so proud of having saved” (Fromm 331).
  5. “It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity” (Du Bois – Of Our Spiritual Strings p.2).  
  • The Quotes from the book: A world of Ideas
  1. “Let us finally consider how naïve it is altogether to say: ‘Man ought to be such and such’” (Nietzsche – Morality as Anti-Nature p.350).
  2. “It is much safer to be feared than to be loved when one of the two must be lacking” (Machiavelli  – The Qualities of The Prince p.227).
  3. “If you want to govern the people, you must place yourself below them, if you want to lead the people, you must learn how to follow them” (Lao-tzu Thoughts from the Tao-te Ching p.213-214).
  4. “For to be subject to appetite is to be a slave, while to obey the laws laid down by society is to be free” (Rousseau – The Origin of Civil Society p.253).
  5. “As I read and contemplated the subject, behold! that very discontentment which Master Hugh had predicted would follow my learning to read had already come, to torment and sting my soul to unutterable anguish”  (Douglass – From Narrative of The Life p.334).

 I have attached the resources below and also highlight all of the quotes.

Emerson_self-reliance p.7.pdf



Ralph Waldo Emerson


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“Ne te quaesiveris extra.”

“Man is his own star; and the soul that can

Render an honest and a perfect man,

Commands all light, all influence, all fate;

Nothing to him falls early or too late.

Our acts our angels are, or good or ill,

Our fatal shadows that walk by us still.”

Epilogue to Beaumont and Fletcher’s Honest Man’s Fortune

Cast the bantling on the rocks,

Suckle him with the she-wolf’s teat;

Wintered with the hawk and fox,

Power and speed be hands and feet.

I read the other day some verses written by an eminent painter which

were original and not conventional. The soul always hears an admonition

in such lines, let the subject be what it may. The sentiment they instil is

of more value than any thought they may contain. To believe your own

thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true

for all men, — that is genius. Speak your latent conviction, and it shall

be the universal sense; for the inmost in due time becomes the outmost, —

and our first thought is rendered back to us by the trumpets of the Last

Judgment. Familiar as the voice of the mind is to each, the highest merit we

ascribe to Moses, Plato, and Milton is, that they set at naught books and

traditions, and spoke not what men but what they thought. A man should

learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind

from within, more than the lustre of the firmament of bards and sages. Yet


he dismisses without notice his thought, because it is his. In every work of

genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts: they come back to us with a

certain alienated majesty. Great works of art have no more affecting lesson

for us than this. They teach us to abide by our spontaneous impression with

good-humored inflexibility then most when the whole cry of voices is on the

other side. Else, to-morrow a stranger will say with masterly good sense

precisely what we have thought and felt all the time, and we shall be forced

to take with shame our own opinion from another.

There is a time in every man’s education when he arrives at the conviction

that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself

for better, for worse, as his portion; that though the wide universe is full

of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil

bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till. The power

which resides in him is new in nature, and none but he knows what that is

which he can do, nor does he know until he has tried. Not for nothing one

face, one character, one fact, makes much impression on him, and another

none. This sculpture in the memory is not without preestablished harmony.

The eye was placed where one ray should fall, that it might testify of that

particular ray. We but half express ourselves, and are ashamed of that divine

idea which each of us represents. It may be safely trusted as proportionate

and of good issues, so it be faithfully imparted, but God will not have his

work made manifest by cowards. A man is relieved and gay when he has

put his heart into his work and done his best; but what he has said or done

otherwise, shall give him no peace. It is a deliverance which does not deliver.

In the attempt his genius deserts him; no muse befriends; no invention, no


Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string. Accept the place

the divine providence has found for you, the society of your contemporaries,

the connection of events. Great men have always done so, and confided

themselves childlike to the genius of their age, betraying their perception

that the absolutely trustworthy was seated at their heart, working through

their hands, predominating in all their being. And we are now men, and must

accept in the highest mind the same transcendent destiny; and not minors

and invalids in a protected corner, not cowards fleeing before a revolution,

but guides, redeemers, and benefactors, obeying the Almighty effort, and

advancing on Chaos and the Dark.

What pretty oracles nature yields us on this text, in the face and be-

haviour of children, babes, and even brutes! That divided and rebel mind,


that distrust of a sentiment because our arithmetic has computed the strength

and means opposed to our purpose, these have not. Their mind being whole,

their eye is as yet unconquered, and when we look in their faces, we are

disconcerted. Infancy conforms to nobody: all conform to it, so that one

babe commonly makes four or five out of the adults who prattle and play to

it. So God has armed youth and puberty and manhood no less with its own

piquancy and charm, and made it enviable and gracious and its claims not

to be put by, if it will stand by itself. Do not think the youth has no force,

because he cannot speak to you and me. Hark! in the next room his voice

is sufficiently clear and emphatic. It seems he knows how to speak to his

contemporaries. Bashful or bold, then, he will know how to make us seniors

very unnecessary.

The nonchalance of boys who are sure of a dinner, and would disdain as

much as a lord to do or say aught to conciliate one, is the healthy attitude

of human nature. A boy is in the parlour what the pit is in the playhouse;

independent, irresponsible, looking out from his corner on such people and

facts as pass by, he tries and sentences them on their merits, in the swift,

summary way of boys, as good, bad, interesting, silly, eloquent, troublesome.

He cumbers himself never about consequences, about interests: he gives an

independent, genuine verdict. You must court him: he does not court you.

But the man is, as it were, clapped into jail by his consciousness. As soon as

he has once acted or spoken with eclat, he is a committed person, watched

by the sympathy or the hatred of hundreds, whose affections must now enter

into his account. There is no Lethe for this. Ah, that he could pass again

into his neutrality! Who can thus avoid all pledges, and having observed,

observe again from the same unaffected, unbiased, unbribable, unaffrighted

innocence, must always be formidable. He would utter opinions on all passing

affairs, which being seen to be not private, but necessary, would sink like darts

into the ear of men, and put them in fear.

These are the voices which we hear in solitude, but they grow faint and

inaudible as we enter into the world. Society everywhere is in conspiracy

against the manhood of every one of its members. Society is a joint-stock

company, in which the members agree, for the better securing of his bread

to each shareholder, to surrender the liberty and culture of the eater. The

virtue in most request is conformity. Self-reliance is its aversion. It loves not

realities and creators, but names and customs.

Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist. He who would gather

immortal palms must not be hindered by the name of goodness, but must


explore if it be goodness. Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your

own mind. Absolve you to yourself, and you shall have the suffrage of the

world. I remember an answer which when quite young I was prompted to

make to a valued adviser, who was wont to importune me with the dear

old doctrines of the church. On my saying, What have I to do with the

sacredness of traditions, if I live wholly from within? my friend suggested,

— “But these impulses may be from below, not from above.” I replied,

“They do not seem to me to be such; but if I am the Devil’s child, I will live

then from the Devil.” No law can be sacred to me but that of my nature.

Good and bad are but names very readily transferable to that or this; the

only right is what is after my constitution, the only wrong what is against

it. A man is to carry himself in the presence of all opposition, as if every

thing were titular and ephemeral but he. I am ashamed to think how easily

we capitulate to badges and names, to large societies and dead institutions.

Every decent and well-spoken individual affects and sways me more than

is right. I ought to go upright and vital, and speak the rude truth in all

ways. If malice and vanity wear the coat of philanthropy, shall that pass?

If an angry bigot assumes this bountiful cause of Abolition, and comes to

me with his last news from Barbadoes, why should I not say to him, ‘Go

love thy infant; love thy wood-chopper: be good-natured and modest: have

that grace; and never varnish your hard, uncharitable ambition with this

incredible tenderness for black folk a thousand miles off. Thy love afar is

spite at home.’ Rough and graceless would be such greeting, but truth is

handsomer than the affectation of love. Your goodness must have some edge

to it, — else it is none. The doctrine of hatred must be preached as the

counteraction of the doctrine of love when that pules and whines. I shun

father and mother and wife and brother, when my genius calls me. I would

write on the lintels of the door-post, Whim. I hope it is somewhat better

than whim at last, but we cannot spend the day in explanation. Expect me

not to show cause why I seek or why I exclude company. Then, again, do not

tell me, as a good man did to-day, of my obligation to put all poor men in

good situations. Are they my poor? I tell thee, thou foolish philanthropist,

that I grudge the dollar, the dime, the cent, I give to such men as do not

belong to me and to whom I do not belong. There is a class of persons to

whom by all spiritual affinity I am bought and sold; for them I will go to

prison, if need be; but your miscellaneous popular charities; the education at

college of fools; the building of meeting-houses to the vain end to which many

now stand; alms to sots; and the thousandfold Relief Societies; — though I


confess with shame I sometimes succumb and give the dollar, it is a wicked

dollar which by and by I shall have the manhood to withhold.

Virtues are, in the popular estimate, rather the exception than the rule.

There is the man and his virtues. Men do what is called a good action, as

some piece of courage or charity, much as they would pay a fine in expiation

of daily non-appearance on parade. Their works are done as an apology or

extenuation of their living in the world, — as invalids and the insane pay a

high board. Their virtues are penances. I do not wish to expiate, but to live.

My life is for itself and not for a spectacle. I much prefer that it should be of

a lower strain, so it be genuine and equal, than that it should be glittering

and unsteady. I wish it to be sound and sweet, and not to need diet and

bleeding. I ask primary evidence that you are a man, and refuse this appeal

from the man to his actions. I know that for myself it makes no difference

whether I do or forbear those actions which are reckoned excellent. I cannot

consent to pay for a privilege where I have intrinsic right. Few and mean as

my gifts may be, I actually am, and do not need for my own assurance or

the assurance of my fellows any secondary testimony.

What I must do is all that concerns me, not what the people think. This

rule, equally arduous in actual and in intellectual life, may serve for the whole

distinction between greatness and meanness. It is the harder, because you

will always find those who think they know what is your duty better than

you know it. It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy

in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst

of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.

The objection to conforming to usages that have become dead to you is,

that it scatters your force. It loses your time and blurs the impression of your

character. If you maintain a dead church, contribute to a dead Bible-society,

vote with a great party either for the government or against it, spread your

table like base housekeepers, — under all these screens I have difficulty to

detect the precise man you are. And, of course, so much force is withdrawn

from your proper life. But do your work, and I shall know you. Do your work,

and you shall reinforce yourself. A man must consider what a blindman’s-buff

is this game of conformity. If I know your sect, I anticipate your argument.

I hear a preacher announce for his text and topic the expediency of one of

the institutions of his church. Do I not know beforehand that not possibly

can he say a new and spontaneous word? Do I not know that, with all this

ostentation of examining the grounds of the institution, he will do no such

thing? Do I not know that he is pledged to himself not to look but at one


side, — the permitted side, not as a man, but as a parish minister? He is a

retained attorney, and these airs of the bench are the emptiest affectation.

Well, most men have bound their eyes with one or another handkerchief,

and attached themselves to some one of these communities of opinion. This

conformity makes them not false in a few particulars, authors of a few lies,

but false in all particulars. Their every truth is not quite true. Their two

is not the real two, their four not the real four; so that every word they say

chagrins us, and we know not where to begin to set them right. Meantime

nature is not slow to equip us in the prison-uniform of the party to which

we adhere. We come to wear one cut of face and figure, and acquire by

degrees the gentlest asinine expression. There is a mortifying experience in

particular, which does not fail to wreak itself also in the general history;

I mean “the foolish face of praise,” the forced smile which we put on in

company where we do not feel at ease in answer to conversation which does

not interest us. The muscles, not spontaneously moved, but moved by a low

usurping wilfulness, grow tight about the outline of the face with the most

disagreeable sensation.

For nonconformity the world whips you with its displeasure. And there-

fore a man must know how to estimate a sour face. The by-standers look

askance on him in the public street or in the friend’s parlour. If this aver-

sation had its origin in contempt and resistance like his own, he might well

go home with a sad countenance; but the sour faces of the multitude, like

their sweet faces, have no deep cause, but are put on and off as the wind

blows and a newspaper directs. Yet is the discontent of the multitude more

formidable than that of the senate and the college. It is easy enough for a

firm man who knows the world to brook the rage of the cultivated classes.

Their rage is decorous and prudent, for they are timid as being very vulnera-

ble themselves. But when to their feminine rage the indignation of the people

is added, when the ignorant and the poor are aroused, when the unintelligent

brute force that lies at the bottom of society is made to growl and mow, it

needs the habit of magnanimity and religion to treat it godlike as a trifle of

no concernment.

The other terror that scares us from self-trust is our consistency; a rever-

ence for our past act or word, because the eyes of others have no other data

for computing our orbit than our past acts, and we are loath to disappoint


But why should you keep your head over your shoulder? Why drag about

this corpse of your memory, lest you contradict somewhat you have stated


in this or that public place? Suppose you should contradict yourself; what

then? It seems to be a rule of wisdom never to rely on your memory alone,

scarcely even in acts of pure memory, but to bring the past for judgment into

the thousand-eyed present, and live ever in a new day. In your metaphysics

you have denied personality to the Deity: yet when the devout motions of

the soul come, yield to them heart and life, though they should clothe God

with shape and color. Leave your theory, as Joseph his coat in the hand of

the harlot, and flee.

A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little

statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has

simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on

the wall. Speak what you think now in hard words, and to-morrow speak

what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing

you said to-day. — ‘Ah, so you shall be sure to be misunderstood.’ — Is

it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and

Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton,

and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be


I suppose no man can violate his nature. All the sallies of his will are

rounded in by the law of his being, as the inequalities of Andes and Himmaleh

are insignificant in the curve of the sphere. Nor does it matter how you gauge

and try him. A character is like an acrostic or Alexandrian stanza; — read it

forward, backward, or across, it still spells the same thing. In this pleasing,

contrite wood-life which God allows me, let me record day by day my honest

thought without prospect or retrospect, and, I cannot doubt, it will be found

symmetrical, though I mean it not, and see it not. My book should smell

of pines and resound with the hum of insects. The swallow over my window

should interweave that thread or straw he carries in his bill into my web also.

We pass for what we are. Character teaches above our wills. Men imagine

that they communicate their virtue or vice only by overt actions, and do not

see that virtue or vice emit a breath every moment.

There will be an agreement in whatever variety of actions, so they be

each honest and natural in their hour. For of one will, the actions will be

harmonious, however unlike they seem. These varieties are lost sight of at a

little distance, at a little height of thought. One tendency unites them all.

The voyage of the best ship is a zigzag line of a hundred tacks. See the line

from a sufficient distance, and it straightens itself to the average tendency.

Your genuine action will explain itself, and will explain your other genuine


actions. Your conformity explains nothing. Act singly, and what you have

already done singly will justify you now. Greatness appeals to the future. If

I can be firm enough to-day to do right, and scorn eyes, I must have done

so much right before as to defend me now. Be it how it will, do right now.

Always scorn appearances, and you always may. The force of character is

cumulative. All the foregone days of virtue work their health into this. What

makes the majesty of the heroes of the senate and the field, which so fills

the imagination? The consciousness of a train of great days and victories

behind. They shed an united light on the advancing actor. He is attended as

by a visible escort of angels. That is it which throws thunder into Chatham’s

voice, and dignity into Washington’s port, and America into Adams’s eye.

Honor is venerable to us because it is no ephemeris. It is always ancient

virtue. We worship it to-day because it is not of to-day. We love it and

pay it homage, because it is not a trap for our love and homage, but is self-

dependent, self-derived, and therefore of an old immaculate pedigree, even if

shown in a young person.

I hope in these days we have heard the last of conformity and consistency.

Let the words be gazetted and ridiculous henceforward. Instead of the gong

for dinner, let us hear a whistle from the Spartan fife. Let us never bow and

apologize more. A great man is coming to eat at my house. I do not wish

to please him; I wish that he should wish to please me. I will stand here for

humanity, and though I would make it kind, I would make it true. Let us

affront and reprimand the smooth mediocrity and squalid contentment of the

times, and hurl in the face of custom, and trade, and office, the fact which is

the upshot of all history, that there is a great responsible Thinker and Actor

working wherever a man works; that a true man belongs to no other time or

place, but is the centre of things. Where he is, there is nature. He measures

you, and all men, and all events. Ordinarily, every body in society reminds

us of somewhat else, or of some other person. Character, reality, reminds

you of nothing else; it takes place of the whole creation. The man must be

so much, that he must make all circumstances indifferent. Every true man

is a cause, a country, and an age; requires infinite spaces and numbers and

time fully to accomplish his design; — and posterity seem to follow his steps

as a train of clients. A man Caesar is born, and for ages after we have a

Roman Empire. Christ is born, and millions of minds so grow and cleave

to his genius, that he is confounded with virtue and the possible of man.

An institution is the lengthened shadow of one man; as, Monachism, of the

Hermit Antony; the Reformation, of Luther; Quakerism, of Fox; Methodism,


of Wesley; Abolition, of Clarkson. Scipio, Milton called “the height of Rome”;

and all history resolves itself very easily into the biography of a few stout

and earnest persons.

Let a man then know his worth, and keep things under his feet. Let

him not peep or steal, or skulk up and down with the air of a charity-boy, a

bastard, or an interloper, in the world which exists for him. But the man in

the street, finding no worth in himself which corresponds to the force which

built a tower or sculptured a marble god, feels poor when he looks on these.

To him a palace, a statue, or a costly book have an alien and forbidding air,

much like a gay equipage, and seem to say like that, ‘Who are you, Sir?’ Yet

they all are his, suitors for his notice, petitioners to his faculties that they

will come out and take possession. The picture waits for my verdict: it is not

to command me, but I am to settle its claims to praise. That popular fable

of the sot who was picked up dead drunk in the street, carried to the duke’s

house, washed and dressed and laid in the duke’s bed, and, on his waking,

treated with all obsequious ceremony like the duke, and assured that he had

been insane, owes its popularity to the fact, that it symbolizes so well the

state of man, who is in the world a sort of sot, but now and then wakes up,

exercises his reason, and finds himself a true prince.

Our reading is mendicant and sycophantic. In history, our imagination

plays us false. Kingdom and lordship, power and estate, are a gaudier vo-

cabulary than private John and Edward in a small house and common day’s

work; but the things of life are the same to both; the sum total of both is

the same. Why all this deference to Alfred, and Scanderbeg, and Gustavus?

Suppose they were virtuous; did they wear out virtue? As great a stake

depends on your private act to-day, as followed their public and renowned

steps. When private men shall act with original views, the lustre will be

transferred from the actions of kings to those of gentlemen.

The world has been instructed by its kings, who have so magnetized

the eyes of nations. It has been taught by this colossal symbol the mutual

reverence that is due from man to man. The joyful loyalty with which men

have everywhere suffered the king, the noble, or the great proprietor to walk

among them by a law of his own, make his own scale of men and things, and

reverse theirs, pay for benefits not with money but with honor, and represent

the law in his person, was the hieroglyphic by which they obscurely signified

their consciousness of their own right and comeliness, the right of every man.

The magnetism which all original action exerts is explained when we

inquire the reason of self-trust. Who is the Trustee? What is the aboriginal


Self, on which a universal reliance may be grounded? What is the nature

and power of that science-baffling star, without parallax, without calculable

elements, which shoots a ray of beauty even into trivial and impure actions,

if the least mark of independence appear? The inquiry leads us to that

source, at once the essence of genius, of virtue, and of life, which we call

Spontaneity or Instinct. We denote this primary wisdom as Intuition, whilst

all later teachings are tuitions. In that deep force, the last fact behind which

analysis cannot go, all things find their common origin. For, the sense of being

which in calm hours rises, we know not how, in the soul, is not diverse from

things, from space, from light, from time, from man, but one with them, and

proceeds obviously from the same source whence their life and being also

proceed. We first share the life by which things exist, and afterwards see

them as appearances in nature, and forget that we have shared their cause.

Here is the fountain of action and of thought. Here are the lungs of that

inspiration which giveth man wisdom, and which cannot be denied without

impiety and atheism. We lie in the lap of immense intelligence, which makes

us receivers of its truth and organs of its activity. When we discern justice,

when we discern truth, we do nothing of ourselves, but allow a passage to

its beams. If we ask whence this comes, if we seek to pry into the soul that

causes, all philosophy is at fault. Its presence or its absence is all we can

affirm. Every man discriminates between the voluntary acts of his mind, and

his involuntary perceptions, and knows that to his involuntary perceptions a

perfect faith is due. He may err in the expression of them, but he knows that

these things are so, like day and night, not to be disputed. My wilful actions

and acquisitions are but roving; — the idlest reverie, the faintest native

emotion, command my curiosity and respect. Thoughtless people contradict

as readily the statement of perceptions as of opinions, or rather much more

readily; for, they do not distinguish between perception and notion. They

fancy that I choose to see this or that thing. But perception is not whimsical,

but fatal. If I see a trait, my children will see it after me, and in course of

time, all mankind, — although it may chance that no one has seen it before

me. For my perception of it is as much a fact as the sun.

The relations of the soul to the divine spirit are so pure, that it is profane

to seek to interpose helps. It must be that when God speaketh he should

communicate, not one thing, but all things; should fill the world with his

voice; should scatter forth light, nature, time, souls, from the centre of the

present thought; and new date and new create the whole. Whenever a mind

is simple, and receives a divine wisdom, old things pass away, — means,


teachers, texts, temples fall; it lives now, and absorbs past and future into

the present hour. All things are made sacred by relation to it, — one as much

as another. All things are dissolved to their centre by their cause, and, in

the universal miracle, petty and particular miracles disappear. If, therefore,

a man claims to know and speak of God, and carries you backward to the

phraseology of some old mouldered nation in another country, in another

world, believe him not. Is the acorn better than the oak which is its fulness

and completion? Is the parent better than the child into whom he has cast

his ripened being? Whence, then, this worship of the past? The centuries

are conspirators against the sanity and authority of the soul. Time and space

are but physiological colors which the eye makes, but the soul is light; where

it is, is day; where it was, is night; and history is an impertinence and an

injury, if it be any thing more than a cheerful apologue or parable of my

being and becoming.

Man is timid and apologetic; he is no longer upright; he dares not say

‘I think,’ ‘I am,’ but quotes some saint or sage. He is ashamed before the

blade of grass or the blowing rose. These roses under my window make no

reference to former roses or to better ones; they are for what they are; they

exist with God to-day. There is no time to them. There is simply the rose;

it is perfect in every moment of its existence. Before a leaf-bud has burst, its

whole life acts; in the full-blown flower there is no more; in the leafless root

there is no less. Its nature is satisfied, and it satisfies nature, in all moments

alike. But man postpones or remembers; he does not live in the present, but

with reverted eye laments the past, or, heedless of the riches that surround

him, stands on tiptoe to foresee the future. He cannot be happy and strong

until he too lives with nature in the present, above time.

This should be plain enough. Yet see what strong intellects dare not yet

hear God himself, unless he speak the phraseology of I know not what David,

or Jeremiah, or Paul. We shall not always set so great a price on a few texts,

on a few lives. We are like children who repeat by rote the sentences of

grandames and tutors, and, as they grow older, of the men of talents and

character they chance to see, — painfully recollecting the exact words they

spoke; afterwards, when they come into the point of view which those had

who uttered these sayings, they understand them, and are willing to let the

words go; for, at any time, they can use words as good when occasion comes.

If we live truly, we shall see truly. It is as easy for the strong man to be

strong, as it is for the weak to be weak. When we have new perception, we

shall gladly disburden the memory of its hoarded treasures as old rubbish.


When a man lives with God, his voice shall be as sweet as the murmur of

the brook and the rustle of the corn.

And now at last the highest truth on this subject remains unsaid; prob-

ably cannot be said; for all that we say is the far-off remembering of the

intuition. That thought, by what I can now nearest approach to say it, is

this. When good is near you, when you have life in yourself, it is not by

any known or accustomed way; you shall not discern the foot-prints of any

other; you shall not see the face of man; you shall not hear any name; —

the way, the thought, the good, shall be wholly strange and new. It shall ex-

clude example and experience. You take the way from man, not to man. All

persons that ever existed are its forgotten ministers. Fear and hope are alike

beneath it. There is somewhat low even in hope. In the hour of vision, there

is nothing that can be called gratitude, nor properly joy. The soul raised over

passion beholds identity and eternal causation, perceives the self-existence

of Truth and Right, and calms itself with knowing that all things go well.

Vast spaces of nature, the Atlantic Ocean, the South Sea, — long intervals

of time, years, centuries, — are of no account. This which I think and feel

underlay every former state of life and circumstances, as it does underlie my

present, and what is called life, and what is called death.

Life only avails, not the having lived. Power ceases in the instant of

repose; it resides in the moment of transition from a past to a new state, in

the shooting of the gulf, in the darting to an aim. This one fact the world

hates, that the soul becomes; for that for ever degrades the past, turns all

riches to poverty, all reputation to a shame, confounds the saint with the

rogue, shoves Jesus and Judas equally aside. Why, then, do we prate of self-

reliance? Inasmuch as the soul is present, there will be power not confident

but agent. To talk of reliance is a poor external way of speaking. Speak

rather of that which relies, because it works and is. Who has more obedience

than I masters me, though he should not raise his finger. Round him I must

revolve by the gravitation of spirits. We fancy it rhetoric, when we speak of

eminent virtue. We do not yet see that virtue is Height, and that a man or

a company of men, plastic and permeable to principles, by the law of nature

must overpower and ride all cities, nations, kings, rich men, poets, who are


This is the ultimate fact which we so quickly reach on this, as on every

topic, the resolution of all into the ever-blessed ONE. Self-existence is the

attribute of the Supreme Cause, and it constitutes the measure of good by

the degree in which it enters into all lower forms. All things real are so by


so much virtue as they contain. Commerce, husbandry, hunting, whaling,

war, eloquence, personal weight, are somewhat, and engage my respect as

examples of its presence and impure action. I see the same law working in

nature for conservation and growth. Power is in nature the essential measure

of right. Nature suffers nothing to remain in her kingdoms which cannot

help itself. The genesis and maturation of a planet, its poise and orbit, the

bended tree recovering itself from the strong wind, the vital resources of every

animal and vegetable, are demonstrations of the self-sufficing, and therefore

self-relying soul.

Thus all concentrates: let us not rove; let us sit at home with the cause.

Let us stun and astonish the intruding rabble of men and books and insti-

tutions, by a simple declaration of the divine fact. Bid the invaders take the

shoes from off their feet, for God is here within. Let our simplicity judge

them, and our docility to our own law demonstrate the poverty of nature

and fortune beside our native riches.

But now we are a mob. Man does not stand in awe of man, nor is his

genius admonished to stay at home, to put itself in communication with the

internal ocean, but it goes abroad to beg a cup of water of the urns of other

men. We must go alone. I like the silent church before the service begins,

better than any preaching. How far off, how cool, how chaste the persons

look, begirt each one with a precinct or sanctuary! So let us always sit.

Why should we assume the faults of our friend, or wife, or father, or child,

because they sit around our hearth, or are said to have the same blood?

All men have my blood, and I have all men’s. Not for that will I adopt

their petulance or folly, even to the extent of being ashamed of it. But your

isolation must not be mechanical, but spiritual, that is, must be elevation.

At times the whole world seems to be in conspiracy to importune you with

emphatic trifles. Friend, client, child, sickness, fear, want, charity, all knock

at once at thy closet door, and say, — ‘Come out unto us.’ But keep thy

state; come not into their confusion. The power men possess to annoy me, I

give them by a weak curiosity. No man can come near me but through my

act. “What we love that we have, but by desire we bereave ourselves of the


If we cannot at once rise to the sanctities of obedience and faith, let us

at least resist our temptations; let us enter into the state of war, and wake

Thor and Woden, courage and constancy, in our Saxon breasts. This is to be

done in our smooth times by speaking the truth. Check this lying hospitality

and lying affection. Live no longer to the expectation of these deceived and


deceiving people with whom we converse. Say to them, O father, O mother,

O wife, O brother, O friend, I have lived with you after appearances hitherto.

Henceforward I am the truth’s. Be it known unto you that henceforward I

obey no law less than the eternal law. I will have no covenants but proxim-

ities. I shall endeavour to nourish my parents, to support my family, to be

the chaste husband of one wife, — but these relations I must fill after a new

and unprecedented way. I appeal from your customs. I must be myself. I

cannot break myself any longer for you, or you. If you can love me for what

I am, we shall be the happier. If you cannot, I will still seek to deserve that

you should. I will not hide my tastes or aversions. I will so trust that what

is deep is holy, that I will do strongly before the sun and moon whatever inly

rejoices me, and the heart appoints. If you are noble, I will love you; if you

are not, I will not hurt you and myself by hypocritical attentions. If you are

true, but not in the same truth with me, cleave to your companions; I will

seek my own. I do this not selfishly, but humbly and truly. It is alike your

interest, and mine, and all men’s, however long we have dwelt in lies, to live

in truth. Does this sound harsh to-day? You will soon love what is dictated

by your nature as well as mine, and, if we follow the truth, it will bring us

out safe at last. — But so you may give these friends pain. Yes, but I cannot

sell my liberty and my power, to save their sensibility. Besides, all persons

have their moments of reason, when they look out into the region of absolute

truth; then will they justify me, and do the same thing.

The populace think that your rejection of popular standards is a rejection

of all standard, and mere antinomianism; and the bold sensualist will use the

name of philosophy to gild his crimes. But the law of consciousness abides.

There are two confessionals, in one or the other of which we must be shriven.

You may fulfil your round of duties by clearing yourself in the direct, or in

the reflex way. Consider whether you have satisfied your relations to father,

mother, cousin, neighbour, town, cat, and dog; whether any of these can

upbraid you. But I may also neglect this reflex standard, and absolve me to

myself. I have my own stern claims and perfect circle. It denies the name of

duty to many offices that are called duties. But if I can discharge its debts,

it enables me to dispense with the popular code. If any one imagines that

this law is lax, let him keep its commandment one day.

And truly it demands something godlike in him who has cast off the com-

mon motives of humanity, and has ventured to trust himself for a taskmaster.

High be his heart, faithful his will, clear his sight, that he may in good earnest

be doctrine, society, law, to himself, that a simple purpose may be to him as


strong as iron necessity is to others!

If any man consider the present aspects of what is called by distinction

society, he will see the need of these ethics. The sinew and heart of man seem

to be drawn out, and we are become timorous, desponding whimperers. We

are afraid of truth, afraid of fortune, afraid of death, and afraid of each

other. Our age yields no great and perfect persons. We want men and

women who shall renovate life and our social state, but we see that most

natures are insolvent, cannot satisfy their own wants, have an ambition out

of all proportion to their practical force, and do lean and beg day and night

continually. Our housekeeping is mendicant, our arts, our occupations, our

marriages, our religion, we have not chosen, but society has chosen for us.

We are parlour soldiers. We shun the rugged battle of fate, where strength

is born.

If our young men miscarry in their first enterprises, they lose all heart. If

the young merchant fails, men say he is ruined. If the finest genius studies at

one of our colleges, and is not installed in an office within one year afterwards

in the cities or suburbs of Boston or New York, it seems to his friends and to

himself that he is right in being disheartened, and in complaining the rest of

his life. A sturdy lad from New Hampshire or Vermont, who in turn tries all

the professions, who teams it, farms it, peddles, keeps a school, preaches, edits

a newspaper, goes to Congress, buys a township, and so forth, in successive

years, and always, like a cat, falls on his feet, is worth a hundred of these city

dolls. He walks abreast with his days, and feels no shame in not ‘studying a

profession,’ for he does not postpone his life, but lives already. He has not one

chance, but a hundred chances. Let a Stoic open the resources of man, and

tell men they are not leaning willows, but can and must detach themselves;

that with the exercise of self-trust, new powers shall appear; that a man is

the word made flesh, born to shed healing to the nations, that he should

be ashamed of our compassion, and that the moment he acts from himself,

tossing the laws, the books, idolatries, and customs out of the window, we

pity him no more, but thank and revere him, — and that teacher shall restore

the life of man to splendor, and make his name dear to all history.

It is easy to see that a greater self-reliance must work a revolution in all

the offices and relations of men; in their religion; in their education; in their

pursuits; their modes of living; their association; in their property; in their

speculative views.

1. In what prayers do men allow themselves! That which they call a holy

office is not so much as brave and manly. Prayer looks abroad and asks for


some foreign addition to come through some foreign virtue, and loses itself in

endless mazes of natural and supernatural, and mediatorial and miraculous.

Prayer that craves a particular commodity, — any thing less than all good,

— is vicious. Prayer is the contemplation of the facts of life from the highest

point of view. It is the soliloquy of a beholding and jubilant soul. It is the

spirit of God pronouncing his works good. But prayer as a means to effect

a private end is meanness and theft. It supposes dualism and not unity in

nature and consciousness. As soon as the man is at one with God, he will not

beg. He will then see prayer in all action. The prayer of the farmer kneeling

in his field to weed it, the prayer of the rower kneeling with the stroke of

his oar, are true prayers heard throughout nature, though for cheap ends.

Caratach, in Fletcher’s Bonduca, when admonished to inquire the mind of

the god Audate, replies, —

“His hidden meaning lies in our endeavours;

Our valors are our best gods.”

Another sort of false prayers are our regrets. Discontent is the want of

self-reliance: it is infirmity of will. Regret calamities, if you can thereby help

the sufferer; if not, attend your own work, and already the evil begins to be

repaired. Our sympathy is just as base. We come to them who weep foolishly,

and sit down and cry for company, instead of imparting to them truth and

health in rough electric shocks, putting them once more in communication

with their own reason. The secret of fortune is joy in our hands. Welcome

evermore to gods and men is the self-helping man. For him all doors are

flung wide: him all tongues greet, all honors crown, all eyes follow with

desire. Our love goes out to him and embraces him, because he did not need

it. We solicitously and apologetically caress and celebrate him, because he

held on his way and scorned our disapprobation. The gods love him because

men hated him. “To the persevering mortal,” said Zoroaster, “the blessed

Immortals are swift.”

As men’s prayers are a disease of the will, so are their creeds a disease

of the intellect. They say with those foolish Israelites, ‘Let not God speak

to us, lest we die. Speak thou, speak any man with us, and we will obey.’

Everywhere I am hindered of meeting God in my brother, because he has

shut his own temple doors, and recites fables merely of his brother’s, or his

brother’s brother’s God. Every new mind is a new classification. If it prove

a mind of uncommon activity and power, a Locke, a Lavoisier, a Hutton,


a Bentham, a Fourier, it imposes its classification on other men, and lo!

a new system. In proportion to the depth of the thought, and so to the

number of the objects it touches and brings within reach of the pupil, is his

complacency. But chiefly is this apparent in creeds and churches, which are

also classifications of some powerful mind acting on the elemental thought

of duty, and man’s relation to the Highest. Such is Calvinism, Quakerism,

Swedenborgism. The pupil takes the same delight in subordinating every

thing to the new terminology, as a girl who has just learned botany in seeing

a new earth and new seasons thereby. It will happen for a time, that the

pupil will find his intellectual power has grown by the study of his master’s

mind. But in all unbalanced minds, the classification is idolized, passes for

the end, and not for a speedily exhaustible means, so that the walls of the

system blend to their eye in the remote horizon with the walls of the universe;

the luminaries of heaven seem to them hung on the arch their master built.

They cannot imagine how you aliens have any right to see, — how you can

see; ‘It must be somehow that you stole the light from us.’ They do not yet

perceive, that light, unsystematic, indomitable, will break into any cabin,

even into theirs. Let them chirp awhile and call it their own. If they are

honest and do well, presently their neat new pinfold will be too strait and

low, will crack, will lean, will rot and vanish, and the immortal light, all

young and joyful, million-orbed, million-colored, will beam over the universe

as on the first morning.

2. It is for want of self-culture that the superstition of Travelling, whose

idols are Italy, England, Egypt, retains its fascination for all educated Ameri-

cans. They who made England, Italy, or Greece venerable in the imagination

did so by sticking fast where they were, like an axis of the earth. In manly

hours, we feel that duty is our place. The soul is no traveller; the wise man

stays at home, and when his necessities, his duties, on any occasion call him

from his house, or into foreign lands, he is at home still, and shall make men

sensible by the expression of his countenance, that he goes the missionary of

wisdom and virtue, and visits cities and men like a sovereign, and not like

an interloper or a valet.

I have no churlish objection to the circumnavigation of the globe, for the

purposes of art, of study, and benevolence, so that the man is first domesti-

cated, or does not go abroad with the hope of finding somewhat greater than

he knows. He who travels to be amused, or to get somewhat which he does

not carry, travels away from himself, and grows old even in youth among

old things. In Thebes, in Palmyra, his will and mind have become old and


dilapidated as they. He carries ruins to ruins.

Travelling is a fool’s paradise. Our first journeys discover to us the in-

difference of places. At home I dream that at Naples, at Rome, I can be

intoxicated with beauty, and lose my sadness. I pack my trunk, embrace my

friends, embark on the sea, and at last wake up in Naples, and there beside

me is the stern fact, the sad self, unrelenting, identical, that I fled from. I

seek the Vatican, and the palaces. I affect to be intoxicated with sights and

suggestions, but I am not intoxicated. My giant goes with me wherever I go.

3. But the rage of travelling is a symptom of a deeper unsoundness

affecting the whole intellectual action. The intellect is vagabond, and our

system of education fosters restlessness. Our minds travel when our bodies

are forced to stay at home. We imitate; and what is imitation but the

travelling of the mind? Our houses are built with foreign taste; our shelves

are garnished with foreign ornaments; our opinions, our tastes, our faculties,

lean, and follow the Past and the Distant. The soul created the arts wherever

they have flourished. It was in his own mind that the artist sought his model.

It was an application of his own thought to the thing to be done and the

conditions to be observed. And why need we copy the Doric or the Gothic

model? Beauty, convenience, grandeur of thought, and quaint expression are

as near to us as to any, and if the American artist will study with hope and

love the precise thing to be done by him, considering the climate, the soil,

the length of the day, the wants of the people, the habit and form of the

government, he will create a house in which all these will find themselves

fitted, and taste and sentiment will be satisfied also.

Insist on yourself; never imitate. Your own gift you can present every

moment with the cumulative force of a whole life’s cultivation; but of the

adopted talent of another, you have only an extemporaneous, half possession.

That which each can do best, none but his Maker can teach him. No man

yet knows what it is, nor can, till that person has exhibited it. Where is the

master who could have taught Shakspeare? Where is the master who could

have instructed Franklin, or Washington, or Bacon, or Newton? Every great

man is a unique. The Scipionism of Scipio is precisely that part he could

not borrow. Shakspeare will never be made by the study of Shakspeare. Do

that which is assigned you, and you cannot hope too much or dare too much.

There is at this moment for you an utterance brave and grand as that of the

colossal chisel of Phidias, or trowel of the Egyptians, or the pen of Moses,

or Dante, but different from all these. Not possibly will the soul all rich,

all eloquent, with thousand-cloven tongue, deign to repeat itself; but if you


can hear what these patriarchs say, surely you can reply to them in the same

pitch of voice; for the ear and the tongue are two organs of one nature. Abide

in the simple and noble regions of thy life, obey thy heart, and thou shalt

reproduce the Foreworld again.

4. As our Religion, our Education, our Art look abroad, so does our spirit

of society. All men plume themselves on the improvement of society, and no

man improves.

Society never advances. It recedes as fast on one side as it gains on the

other. It undergoes continual changes; it is barbarous, it is civilized, it is

christianized, it is rich, it is scientific; but this change is not amelioration.

For every thing that is given, something is taken. Society acquires new arts,

and loses old instincts. What a contrast between the well-clad, reading,

writing, thinking American, with a watch, a pencil, and a bill of exchange in

his pocket, and the naked New Zealander, whose property is a club, a spear,

a mat, and an undivided twentieth of a shed to sleep under! But compare

the health of the two men, and you shall see that the white man has lost

his aboriginal strength. If the traveller tell us truly, strike the savage with a

broad axe, and in a day or two the flesh shall unite and heal as if you struck

the blow into soft pitch, and the same blow shall send the white to his grave.

The civilized man has built a coach, but has lost the use of his feet. He

is supported on crutches, but lacks so much support of muscle. He has a fine

Geneva watch, but he fails of the skill to tell the hour by the sun. A Green-

wich nautical almanac he has, and so being sure of the information when he

wants it, the man in the street does not know a star in the sky.

The solstice

he does not observe; the equinox he knows as little; and the whole bright

calendar of the year is without a dial in his mind. His note-books impair

his memory; his libraries overload his wit; the insurance-office increases the

number of accidents; and it may be a question whether machinery does not

encumber; whether we have not lost by refinement some energy, by a Chris-

tianity entrenched in establishments and forms, some vigor of wild virtue.

For every Stoic was a Stoic; but in Christendom where is the Christian?

There is no more deviation in the moral standard than in the standard of

height or bulk.

No greater men are now than ever were. A singular equality

may be observed between the great men of the first and of the last ages;

nor can all the science, art, religion, and philosophy of the nineteenth cen-

tury avail to educate greater men than Plutarch’s heroes, three or four and

twenty centuries ago. Not in time is the race progressive. Phocion, Socrates,

Anaxagoras, Diogenes, are great men, but they leave no class. He who is re-


ally of their class will not be called by their name, but will be his own man,

and, in his turn, the founder of a sect. The arts and inventions of each period

are only its costume, and do not invigorate men. The harm of the improved

machinery may compensate its good. Hudson and Behring accomplished so

much in their fishing-boats, as to astonish Parry and Franklin, whose equip-

ment exhausted the resources of science and art.

Galileo, with an opera-glass,

discovered a more splendid series of celestial phenomena than any one since.

Columbus found the New World in an undecked boat. It is curious to see the

periodical disuse and perishing of means and machinery, which were intro-

duced with loud laudation a few years or centuries before. The great genius

returns to essential man. We reckoned the improvements of the art of war

among the triumphs of science, and yet Napoleon conquered Europe by the

bivouac, which consisted of falling back on naked valor, and disencumbering

it of all aids.

The Emperor held it impossible to make a perfect army, says

Las Casas, “without abolishing our arms, magazines, commissaries, and car-

riages, until, in imitation of the Roman custom, the soldier should receive

his supply of corn, grind it in his hand-mill, and bake his bread himself.”

Society is a wave. The wave moves onward, but the water of which it

is composed does not. The same particle does not rise from the valley to

the ridge. Its unity is only phenomenal. The persons who make up a nation

to-day, next year die, and their experience with them.

And so the reliance on Property, including the reliance on governments

which protect it, is the want of self-reliance.

Men have looked away from

themselves and at things so long, that they have come to esteem the religious,

learned, and civil institutions as guards of property, and they deprecate as-

saults on these, because they feel them to be assaults on property. They

measure their esteem of each other by what each has, and not by what each

is. But a cultivated man becomes ashamed of his property, out of new respect

for his nature. Especially he hates what he has, if he see that it is accidental,

— came to him by inheritance, or gift, or crime; then he feels that it is not

having; it does not belong to him, has no root in him, and merely lies there,

because no revolution or no robber takes it away.

But that which a man is,

does always by necessity acquire, and what the man acquires is living prop-

erty, which does not wait the beck of rulers, or mobs, or revolutions, or fire,

or storm, or bankruptcies, but perpetually renews itself wherever the man

breathes. “Thy lot or portion of life,” said the Caliph Ali, “is seeking after

thee; therefore be at rest from seeking after it.” Our dependence on these

foreign goods leads us to our slavish respect for numbers. The political par-


ties meet in numerous conventions; the greater the concourse, and with each

new uproar of announcement, The delegation from Essex! The Democrats

from New Hampshire! The Whigs of Maine! the young patriot feels himself

stronger than before by a new thousand of eyes and arms. In like manner

the reformers summon conventions, and vote and resolve in multitude. Not

so, O friends! will the God deign to enter and inhabit you, but by a method

precisely the reverse.

It is only as a man puts off all foreign support, and

stands alone, that I see him to be strong and to prevail. He is weaker by

every recruit to his banner. Is not a man better than a town? Ask nothing

of men, and in the endless mutation, thou only firm column must presently

appear the upholder of all that surrounds thee. He who knows that power

is inborn, that he is weak because he has looked for good out of him and

elsewhere, and so perceiving, throws himself unhesitatingly on his thought,

instantly rights himself, stands in the erect position, commands his limbs,

works miracles; just as a man who stands on his feet is stronger than a man

who stands on his head.

So use all that is called Fortune. Most men gamble with her, and gain

all, and lose all, as her wheel rolls. But do thou leave as unlawful these

winnings, and deal with Cause and Effect, the chancellors of God. In the

Will work and acquire, and thou hast chained the wheel of Chance, and shalt

sit hereafter out of fear from her rotations. A political victory, a rise of rents,

the recovery of your sick, or the return of your absent friend, or some other

favorable event, raises your spirits, and you think good days are preparing for

you. Do not believe it. Nothing can bring you peace but yourself. Nothing

can bring you peace but the triumph of principles.


LEOPOLD – The Land Ethic p.124.pdf

Aldo Leopold (1887-1947) worked for the U.S. Forest Service before becoming the first professor of Wildlife Management at the University of Wisconsin. He is considered the father of “The Land Ethic.” His main work is Sand County Almanac (1947) from which our selection is taken .

Leopold was distressed at the degradation of the environment, and argued that we must begin to realize our symbiotic relationship to Earth so that we value “the land” or biotic community for its own sake . We must come to see ourselves, not as conquerors of the land but rather, as plain members and citizens of the biotic community.

When god-like Odysseus returned from the wars in Troy, he hanged all on one rope a dozen slave-girls of his household whom he suspected of misbehavior dur- ing his absence.

This hanging involved no question of propriety. The girls were property . The disposal of property was then, as now, a matter of expediency, not of right and wrong.

Concepts of right and wrong were not lacking from Odysseus’ Greece : witness the fidelity of his wife through the long years before at last his black-prowed galleys clove the wine-dark seas for home . The ethical structure of that day covered wives, but had not yet been extended to human chattels . During the three thousand years which have since elapsed, ethical criteria have been extended to many fields of conduct, with corresponding shrinkages in those judged by expediency only .

The Ethical Sequence This extension of ethics, so far studied only by philoso- phers, is actually a process in ecological evolution. Its sequences may be described in ecological as well as in philosophical terms. An ethic, ecologically, is a limitation on freedom of action in the struggle for existence.

An ethic, philosophically, is a differentiation of social from anti-social conduct. These are two definitions of one thing. The thing has its origin in the tendency of interde- pendent individuals or groups to evolve modes of co-

FROM:A Sand County Almanac : And Essays on Conservation from Round River, by Aldo Leopold. Copyright © 1949, 1953, 1966, renewed 1977, 1981 by Oxford University Press, Inc . Reprinted by permission .


18 Ecocentrism : The Land Ethic


operation. The ecologist calls these symbioses. Politics and economics are advanced symbioses in which the original free-for-all competition has been replaced, in part, by cooperative mechanisms with an ethical content.

The complexity of cooperative mechanisms has in- creased with population density, and with the efficiency of tools. It was simpler, for example, to define the anti-social uses of sticks and stones in the days of the mastodons than of bullets and billboards in the age of motors .

The first ethics dealt with the relation between indi- viduals; the Mosaic Decalogue is an example. Later accretions dealt with the relation between the individual and society. The Golden Rule tries to integrate the indi- vidual to society; democracy to integrate social organi- zation to the individual .

There is as yet no ethic dealing with man’s relation to land and to the animals and plants which grow upon it. Land, like Odysseus’ slave-girls, is still property. The land-relation is still strictly economic, entailing privi- leges but not obligations .

The extension of ethics to this third element in human environment is, if I read the evidence correctly, an evolutionary possibility and an ecological necessity. It is the third step in a sequence . The first two have already been taken.

Individual thinkers since the days of Ezekiel and Isaiah have asserted that the despoliation of land is not only inexpedient but wrong. Society, how- ever, has not yet affirmed their belief. I regard the pres- ent conservation movement as the embryo of such an affirmation. An ethic may be regarded as a mode of guidance for

meeting ecological situations so new or intricate, or involving such deferred reactions, that the path of social expediency is not discernible to the average individual . Animal instincts are modes of guidance for the individ- ual in meeting such situations . Ethics are possibly a kind of community instinct in-the-making.

The Community Concept

All ethics so far evolved rest upon a single premise: that the individual is a member of a community of interde- pendent parts. His instincts prompt him to compete for his place in the community, but his ethics prompt him also to cooperate (perhaps in order that there may be a place to compete for) .

Leopold: Ecocentrism: The Land Ethic


The land ethic simply enlarges the boundaries of the community to include soils, waters, plants, and animals, or collectively: the land .

This sounds simple : do we not already sing our love for and obligation to the land of the free and the home of the brave? Yes, but just what and whom do we love? Certainly not the soil, which we are sending helter-skelter downriver. Certainly not the waters, which we assume have no function except to turn turbines, float barges, and carry off sewage . Certainly not the plants, of which we exterminate whole communities without batting an eye.

Certainly not the animals, of whichwe have already extir- pated many of the largest and most beautiful species. A land ethic of course cannot prevent the alteration, man- agement, and use of these “resources,” but it does affirm their right to continued existence, and, at least in spots, their continued existence in a natural state .

In short, a land ethic changes the role of Homo sapiens from conqueror of the land-community to plain member and citizen of it . It implies respect for his fellow-members, and also respect for the community as such .

In human history, we have learned (I hope) that the conqueror role is eventually self-defeating . Why? Because it is implicit in such a role that the conqueror knows, ex cathedra, just what makes the community clock tick, and just what and who is valuable, and what and who is worthless, in community life . It always turns out that he knows neither, and this is why his conquests eventually defeat themselves .

In the biotic community, a parallel situation exists . Abraham knew exactly what the Land was for: it was to drip milk andhoney into Abraham’s mouth. At the pres- ent moment, the assurance with which we regard this assumption is inverse to the degree of our education.

The ordinary citizen today assumes that science knows what makes the community clock tick ; the scien- tist is equally sure that he does not. He knows that the biotic mechanism is so complex that its workings may never be fully understood .

That man is, in fact, only a member of a biotic team is shown by an ecological interpretation of history . Many historical events, hitherto explained solely in terms of human enterprise, were actually biotic interac- tions between people and land . The characteristics of the land determined the facts quite as potently as the char- acteristics of the men who lived on it .

Consider, for example, the settlement of the Mississippi valley . In the years following the Revolution, three groups were contending for its control: the native Indian, the French and English traders, and the American settlers .

Historians wonder what would have happened if the English at Detroit had thrown a little more weight into the Indian side of those tipsy scales which decided the outcome of the colonial migration into the cane-lands of Kentucky . It is time now to pon- der the fact that the cane-lands, when subjected to the particular mixture of forces represented by the cow,

plow, fire, and ax of the pioneer, became bluegrass . What if the plant succession inherent in this dark and bloody ground had, under the impact of these forces, given us some worthless sedge, shrub, or weed? Would Boone and Kenton have held out? Would there have been any overflow into Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Missouri? Any Louisiana Purchase? Any transcontinen- tal union of new states? Any Civil War?

Kentucky was one sentence in the drama of history . We are commonly told what the human actors in this drama tried to do, but we are seldom told that their suc- cess, or the lack of it, hung in large degree on the reaction of particular soils to the impact of the particular forces exerted by their occupancy . In the case of Kentucky, we do not even know where the bluegrass came from- whether it is a native species, or a stowaway from Europe .

Contrast the cane-lands with what hindsight tells us about the Southwest, where the pioneers were equally brave, resourceful, and persevering. The impact of occu- pancy here brought no bluegrass, or other plant fitted to withstand the bumps and buffetings of hard use. This region, when grazed by livestock, reverted through a sense of more and more worthless grasses, shrubs, and weeds to a condition of unstable equilibrium.

Each recession of plant types bred erosion; each increment to erosion bred a further recession of plants . The result today is a progressive and mutual deterioration, not only of plants and soils, but of the animal community subsisting thereon. The early settlers did not expect this : on the cienegas of NewMexico some even cut ditches to hasten it.

So subtle has been its progress that few residents of the region are aware of it . It is quite invisible to the tourist who finds this wrecked landscape colorful and charming (as indeed it is, but it bears scant resemblance to what it was in 1848).

This same landscape was “developed” once before, but with quite different results. The Pueblo Indians set- tled the Southwest in pre-Columbian times, but they happened not to be equipped with range livestock . Their civilization expired, but not because their land expired.

In India, regions devoid of any sod-forming grass have been settled, apparently without wrecking the land, by the simple expedient of carrying the grass to the cow, rather than vice versa . (Was this the result of some deep wisdom, or was it just good luck? I do not know.)

In short, the plant succession steered the course of history; the pioneer simply demonstrated, for good or ill, what successions inhered in the land . Is history taught in this spirit? It will be, once the concept of land as a community really penetrates our intellectual life .

The Ecological Conscience

Conservation is a state of harmony between men and land . Despite nearly a century of propaganda, conser- vation still proceeds at a snail’s pace ; progress still con-


Chapter Three: Does Nature Have Intrinsic Value? Biocentric and Ecocentric Ethics and Deep Ecology

sists largely of letterhead pieties and convention ora- tory . On the back forty we still slip two steps backward for each forward stride .

The usual answer to this dilemma is “more conserva- tion education.” No one will debate this, but is it certain that only the volume of education needs stepping up? Is something lacking in the content as well?

It is difficult to give a fair summary of its content in brief form, but, as I understand it, the content is sub- stantially this : obey the law, vote right, join some orga- nizations, and practice what conservation is profitable on your own land ; the government will do the rest .

Is not this formula too easy to accomplish anything worthwhile? It defines no right or wrong, assigns no obligation, calls for no sacrifice, implies no change in the current philosophy of values . In respect of land-use, it urges only enlightened self-interest . Just how far will such education take us? An example will perhaps yield a partial answer .

By 1930 it had become clear to all except the eco- logically blind that southwestern Wisconsin’s topsoil was slipping seaward. In 1933 the farmers were told that if they would adopt certain remedial practices for five years, the public would donate CCC labor to install them, plus the necessary machinery and materi- als . The offer was widely accepted, but the practices were widely forgotten when the five-year contract period was up . The farmers continued only those prac- tices that yielded an immediate and visible economic gain for themselves .

This led to the idea that maybe farmers would learn more quickly if they themselves wrote the rules . Accordingly the Wisconsin Legislature in 1937 passed the Soil Conservation District Law. This said to farm- ers, in effect : We, the public, will furnish you free tech- nical service and loan you specialized machinery, ifyou will write your own rules for land-use . Each county may write its own rules, and these will have the force of law.

Nearly all the counties promptly organized to accept the proffered help, but after a decade of opera- tion, no county has yet written a single rule . There has been visible progress in such practices as strip- cropping, pasture renovation, and soil liming, but none in fencing woodlots against grazing, and none in excluding plow and cow from steep slopes . The farm- ers, in short, have selected those remedial practices which were profitable anyhow, and ignored those which were profitable to the community, but not clearly profitable to themselves. When one asks why no rules have been written, one

is told that the community is not yet ready to support them ; education must precede rules. But the education actually in progress makes no mention of obligations to land over and above those dictated by self-interest. The net result is that we have more education but less soil, fewer healthy woods, and as many floods as in 1937.

The puzzling aspect of such situations is that the

existence of obligations over and above self-interest is taken for granted in such rural community enterprises as the betterment of roads, schools, churches, and baseball teams. Their existence is not taken for granted, nor as yet seriously discussed, in bettering the behavior of the water that falls on the land, or in the preserving of the beauty or diversity of the farm land- scape. Land-use ethics are still governed wholly by eco- nomic self-interest, just as social ethics were a century ago.

To sum up: we asked the farmer to do what he con- veniently could to save his soil, and he has done just that, and only that. The farmer whoclears the woods off a 75 per cent slope, turns his cows into the clearing, and dumps its rainfall, rocks, and soil into the community creek, is still (if otherwise decent) a respected member of society.

If he puts lime on his fields and plants his crops on contour, he is still entitled to all the privileges and emoluments of his Soil Conservation District. The District is a beautiful piece of social machinery, but it is coughing along on two cylinders because we have been too timid, and too anxious for quick success, to tell the farmer the true magnitude of his obligations . Obligations have no meaning without conscience, and the problem we face is the extension of the social con- science from people to land . No important change in ethics was ever accomplished

without an internal change in our intellectual emphasis, loyalties, affections, and convictions. The proof that conservation has not yet touched these foundations of conduct lies in the fact that philosophy and religion have not yet heard of it. In our attempt to make conservation easy, we have made it trivial .

Substitutes for a Land Ethic

When the logic of history hungers for bread and we hand out a stone, we are at pains to explain how much the stone resembles bread. I now describe some of the stones which serve in lieu of a land ethic. One basic weakness in a conservation system based

wholly on economic motives is that most members of the land community have no economic value. Wildflowers and songbirds are examples. Of the 22,000 higher plants and animals native to Wisconsin, it is doubtful whether more than 5 per cent can be sold, fed, eaten, or otherwise put to economic use. Yet these crea- tures are members of the biotic community, and if (as I believe) its stability depends on its integrity, they are entitled to continuance. When one of these non-economic categories is threat-

ened, and if we happen to love it, we invent subterfuges to give it economic importance . At the beginning of the century songbirds were supposed to be disappearing. Ornithologists jumped to the rescue with some distinctly shaky evidence to the effectthat insects would eat us up

Leopold: Ecocentrism : The Land Ethic


if birds failed to control them . The evidence had to be economic in order to be valid .

It is painful to read these circumlocutions today. We have no land ethic yet, but we have at least drawn nearer the point of admitting that birds should continue as a matter of biotic right, regardless of the presence or absence of economic advantage to us . A parallel situation exists in respect of predatory

mammals, raptorial birds, and fish-eating birds . Time was when biologists somewhat overworked the evidence that these creatures preserve the health of game by killing weaklings, or that they control rodents for the farmer, or that they prey only on “worthless” species. Here again, the evidence had to be economic in order to be valid.

It is only in recent years that we hear the more honest argument that predators are members of the community, and that no special interest has the right to exterminate them for the sake of a benefit, real or fan- cied, to itself . Unfortunately this enlightened view is still in the talk stage. In the field the extermination of preda- tors goes merrily on : witness the impending erasure of the timber wolf by fiat of Congress, the Conservation Bureaus, and many state legislatures .

Some species of trees have been “read out of the party” by economics-minded foresters because they grow too slowly, or have too low a sale value to pay as timber crops: white cedar, tamarack, cypress, beech, and hemlock are examples .

In Europe, where forestry is eco- logically more advanced, the non-commercial tree species are recognized as members of the native forest community, to be preserved as such, within reason . Moreover some (like beech) have been found to have a valuable function in building up soil fertility. The inter- dependence of the forest and its constituent tree species, ground flora, and fauna is taken for granted.

Lack of economic value is sometimes a character not only of species or groups, but of entire biotic communi- ties : marshes, bogs, dunes, and “deserts” are examples . Our formula in such cases is to relegate their conservation to government as refuges, monuments, or parks. The dif- ficulty is that these communities are usually interspersed with more valuable private lands; the government cannot possibly own or control such scattered parcels.

The net effect is that we have relegated some of them to ultimate extinction over large areas. If the private owner were eco- logically minded, he would be proud to be the custodian of a reasonable proportion of such areas, which add diversity and beauty to his farm and to his community .

In some instances, the assumed lack of profit in these “waste” areas has proved to be wrong, but only after most of them had been done away with. The present scramble to reflood muskrat marshes is a case in point.

There is a clear tendency in American conservation to relegate to government all necessary jobs that private landowners fail to perform. Government ownership, operation, subsidy, or regulation is now widely preva- lent in forestry, range management, soil and watershed

management, park and wilderness conservation, fish- eries management, and migratory bird management, with more to come . Most of this growth in governmen- tal conservation is proper and logical, some of it is inevitable . That I imply no disapproval of it is implicit in the fact that I have spent most of my life working for it.

Nevertheless the question arises : What is the ultimate magnitude of the enterprise? Will the tax base carry its eventual ramifications? At what point will governmental conservation, like the mastodon, become handicapped by its own dimensions? The answer, if there is any, seems to be in a land ethic, or some other force which assigns more obligation to the private landowner.

Industrial landowners and users, especially lumber- men and stockmen, are inclined to wail long and loudly about the extension of government ownership and regu- lation to land, but (with notable exceptions) they show little disposition to develop the only visible alternative : the voluntary practice of conservation on their own lands. When the private landowner is asked to perform

some unprofitable act for the good of the community, he today assents only with outstretched palm. If the act costs him cash this is fair and proper, but when it costs only forethought, open-mindedness, or time, the issue is at least debatable. The overwhelming growth of land-uses subsidies in recent years must be ascribed, in large part, to the government’s own agencies for con- servation education : the land bureaus, the agricultural colleges, and the extension services . As far as I can detect, no ethical obligation toward land is taught in these institutions .

To sum up: a system of conservation based solely on economic self-interest is hopelessly lopsided . It tends to ignore, and thus eventually to eliminate, many elements in the land community that lack commercial value, but that are (as far as we know) essential to its healthy func- tioning. It assumes, falsely, I think, that the economic parts of the biotic clock will function without the uneco- nomic parts. It tends to relegate to government many functions eventually too large, too complex, or too widely dispersed to be performed by government .

An ethical obligation on the part of the private owner is the only visible remedy for these situations .

The Land Pyramid An ethic to supplement and guide the economic relation to land presupposes the existence of some mental image of land as a biotic mechanism. We can be ethical only in relation to something we can see, feel, understand, love, or otherwise have faith in .

The image commonly employed in conservation edu- cation is “the balance of nature .” For reasons too lengthy to detail here, this figure of speech fails to describe accurately what little we know about the land


Chapter Three : Does Nature Have Intrinsic Value? Biocentric and Ecocentric Ethics and Deep Ecology

mechanism . A much truer image is the one employed in ecology: the biotic pyramid. I shall first sketch the pyra- mid as a symbol of land, and later develop some of its implications in terms of land-use .

Plants absorb energy from the sun. This energy flows through a circuit called the biota, which may be repre- sented by a pyramid consisting of layers . The bottom layer is the soil . A plant layer rests on the soil, an insect layer on the plants, a bird and rodent layer on the insects, and so on up through various animal groups to the apex layer, which consists of the larger carnivores . The species of a layer are alike not in where they

came from, or in what they look like, but rather in what they eat. Each successive layer depends on those below it for food and often for other services, and each in turn furnishes food and services to those above. Proceeding upward, each successive layer decreases in numerical abundance.

Thus, for every carnivore there are hundreds of his prey, thousands of their prey, mil- lions of insects, uncountable plants . The pyramidal form of the system reflects this numerical progression from apex to base . Man shares an intermediate layer with the bears, raccoons, and squirrels which eat both meat and vegetables .

The lines of dependency for food and other services are called food chains. Thus soil-oak-deer-Indian is a chain that has now been largely converted to soil-corn- cow-farmer . Each species, including ourselves, is a link in many chains . The deer eats a hundred plants other than oak, and the cow a hundred plants other than corn .

Both, then, are links in a hundred chains . The pyramid is a tangle of chains so complex as to seem disorderly, yet the stability of the system proves it to be a highly organized structure . Its functioning depends on the cooperation and competition of its diverse parts.

In the beginning, the pyramid of life was low and squat; the food chains short and simple . Evolution has added layer after layer, link after link . Man is one of thousands of accretions to the height and complexity of the pyramid. Science has given us many doubts, but it has given us at least one certainty : the trend of evolution is to elaborate and diversify the biota.

Land, then, is not merely soil ; it is a fountain of energy flowing through a circuit of soils, plants, and ani- mals . Food chains are the living channels which conduct energy upward; death and decay return it to the soil .

The circuit is not closed; some energy is dissipated in decay, some is added by absorption from the air, some is stored in soils, peats, and long-lived forests; but it is a sustained circuit, like a slowly augmented revolving fund of life . There is always a net loss by downhill wash, but this is normally small and offset by the decay of rocks. It is deposited in the ocean and, in the course of geological time, raised to form new lands and new pyramids .

The velocity and character of the upward flow of energy depend on the complex structure of the plant and animal community, much as the upward flow of sap in a

tree depends on its complex cellular organization . Without this complexity, normal circulation would pre- sumably not occur. Structure means the characteristic numbers, as well as the characteristic kinds and func- tions, of the component species . This interdependence between the complex structure of the land and its smooth functioning as an energy unit is one of its basic attributes . When a change occurs in one part ofthe circuit, many

other parts must adjust themselves to it. Change does not necessarily obstruct or divert the flow of energy; evolution is a longseries of self-induced changes, the net result of which has been to elaborate the flow mecha- nism and to lengthen the circuit. Evolutionary changes, however, are usually slow and local. Man’s invention of tools has enabled him to make changes of unprece- dented violence, rapidity, and scope. One change is in the composition of floras and fau-

nas . The larger predators are lopped off the apex of the pyramid; food chains, for the first time in history, become shorter rather than longer. Domesticated species from other lands are substituted for wild ones, and wild ones are moved to new habitats .

In this world-wide pooling of faunas and floras, some species get out of bounds as pests and diseases, others are extinguished . Such effects are seldom intended or foreseen ; they repre- sent unpredicted and often untraceable readjustments in the structure. Agricultural science is largely a race between the emergence of new pests and the emergence of new techniques for their control.

Another change touches the flow of energy through plants and animals and its return to the soil . Fertility is the ability of soil to receive, store, and release energy. Agriculture, by overdrafts on the soil, or by too radical a substitution of domestic for native species in the super- structure, may derange the channels of flow or deplete storage. Soils depleted of their storage, or of the organic matter which anchors it, wash away faster than they form. This is erosion.

Waters, like soil, are part of the energy circuit . Industry, by polluting waters or obstructing them with dams, may exclude the plants and animals necessary to keep energy in circulation .

Transportation brings about another basic change: the plants or animals grown in one region are now con- sumed and returned to the soil in another. Transpor- tation taps the energy stored in rocks, and in the air, and uses it elsewhere; thus we fertilize the garden with nitro- gen gleaned by the guano birds from the fishes of seas on the other side of the Equator. Thus the formerly local- ized and self-contained circuits are pooled on a world-wide scale.

The process of altering the pyramid for human occu- pation releases stored energy, and this often gives rise, during the pioneering period, to a deceptive exuberance of plant and animal life, both wild and tame . These releases of biotic capital tend to becloud or postpone the penalties of violence.

Leopold: Ecocentrism : The Land Ethic


This thumbnail sketch of land as an energy circuit conveys three basic ideas: 1 . That land is not merely soil . 2. That the native plants and animals kept the energy

circuit open ; others may or may not. 3. That man-made changes are of a different order than

evolutionary changes, and have effects more com- prehensive than is intended or foreseen .

These ideas, collectively, raise two basic issues :

Can the land adjust itself to the new order? Can the desired alterations be accomplished with less violence?

Biotas seem to differ in their capacity to sustain vio- lent conversion . Western Europe, for example, carries a far different pyramid than Caesar found there. Some large animals are lost ; swampy forests have become meadows or plowland; many new plants and animals are introduced, some of which escape as pests; the remaining natives are greatly changed in distribution and abundance .

Yet the soil is still there and, with the help of imported nutrients, still fertile; and waters flow normally ; the new structure seems to function and to persist. There is no visible stoppage or derangement of the circuit.

Western Europe, then, has a resistant biota . Its inner processes are tough, elastic, resistant to strain . No mat- ter how violent the alterations, the pyramid, so far, has developed some new modus vivendi which preserves its habitability for man, and for most of the other natives.

Japan seems to present another instance of radical conversion without disorganization.

Most other civilized regions, and some as yet barely touched by civilization, display various stages of disor- ganization, varying from initial symptoms to advanced wastage. In Asia Minor and North Africa diagnosis is confused by climatic changes, which may have been either the cause or the effect of advanced wastage.

In the United States the degree of disorganization varies locally; it is worst in the Southwest, the Ozarks, and parts of the South, and least in New England and the Northwest . Better land-uses may still arrest it in the less advanced regions. In parts of Mexico, South America, South Africa, and Australia a violent and accelerating wastage is in progress, but I cannot assess the prospects.

This almost world-wide display of disorganization in the land seems to be similar to disease in an animal, except that it never culminates in complete disorganiza- tion or death. The land recovers, but at some reduced level of complexity, and with a reduced carrying capac- ity for people, plants, and animals. Many biotas cur- rently regarded as “lands of opportunity” are in fact already subsisting on exploitative agriculture, i.e . they have already exceeded their sustained carrying capacity . Most of South America is overpopulated in this sense.

In arid regions we attempt to offset the process of wastage by reclamation, but it is only too evident that the prospective longevity of reclamation projects is often

short. In our own West, the best of them may not last a century.

The combined evidence of history and ecology seems to support one general deduction: the less violent the man-made changes, the greater the probability of suc- cessful readjustment in the pyramid. Violence, in turn, varies with human population density; a dense popula- tion requires a more violent conversion . In this respect, North America has a better chance for permanence than Europe, if she can contrive to limit her density .

This deduction runs counter to our current philoso- phy, which assumes that because a small increase in den- sity enriched human life, that an indefinite increase will enrich it indefinitely. Ecology knows of no density rela- tionship that holds for indefinitely wide limits . All gains from density are subject to a law of diminishing returns.

Whatever may be the equation for men and land, it is improbable that we as yet know all its terms. Recent dis- coveries in mineral and vitamin nutrition reveal unsus- pected dependencies in the up-circuit : incredibly minute quantities of certain substances determine the value of soils to plants, of plants to animals . What of the down-circuit?

What of the vanishing species, the preser- vation of which we now regard as an esthetic luxury? They helped build the soil ; in what unsuspected ways may they be essential to its maintenance? Professor Weaver proposes that we use prairie flowers to reflocu- late the wasting soils of the dust bowl; who knows for what purpose cranes and condors, otters and grizzlies may some day be used?

Land Health and the A-B Cleavage

A land ethic, then, reflects the existence of an ecologi- cal conscience, and this in turn reflects a conviction of individual responsibility for the health of the land . Health is the capacity of the land for self-renewal . Conservation is our effort to understand and preserve this capacity .

Conservationists are notorious for their dissensions . Superficially these seem to add up to mere confusion, but a more careful scrutiny reveals a single plane of cleavage common to many specialized fields . In each field one group (A) regards the land as soil, and its func- tion as commodity-production ; another group (B) regards the land as a biota, and its function as something broader. How much broader is admittedly in a state of doubt and confusion.

In my own field, forestry, group A is quite content to grow trees like cabbages, with cellulose as the basic for- est commodity . It feels no inhibition against violence ; its ideology is agronomic. Group B, on the other hand, sees forestry as fundamentally different from agronomy because it employs natural species, and manages a nat- ural environment rather than creating an artificial one.


Chapter Three : Does Nature Have Intrinsic Value? Biocentric and Ecocentric Ethics and Deep EcologykaitogamingHighlight

Group B prefers natural reproduction on principle. It worries on biotic as well as economic grounds about the loss of species like chestnut, and the threatened loss of the white pines. It worries about a whole series of sec- ondary forest functions : wildlife, recreation, watersheds, wilderness areas. To my mind, Group B feels the stir- rings of an ecological conscience .

In the wildlife field, a parallel cleavage exists . For Group A the basic commodities are sport and meat; the yardsticks of production are ciphers of take in pheasants and trout. Artificial propagation is acceptable as a per- manent as well as a temporary recourse-if its unit costs permit. Group B, on the other hand, worries about a whole series of biotic side-issues .

What is the cost in predators of producing a game crop? Should we have further recourse to exotics? How can management restore the shrinking species, like prairie grouse, already hopeless as shootable game? How can management restore the threatened rarities, like trumpeter swan and whooping crane? Can management principles be extended to wildflowers? Here again it is clear to me that we have the same A-B cleavage as in forestry.

In the larger field of agriculture I am less competent to speak, but there seem to be somewhat parallel cleav- ages . Scientific agriculture was actively developing before ecology was born, hence a slower penetration of ecological concepts might be expected . Moreover the farmer, by the very nature of his techniques, must mod- ify the biota more radically than the forester or the wildlife manager. Nevertheless, there are many discon- tents in agriculture which seem to add up to a newvision of “biotic farming.”

Perhaps the most important of these is the new evi- dence that poundage or tonnage is no measure of the food-value of farm crops; the products of fertile soil may be qualitatively as well as quantitatively superior . We can bolster poundage from depleted soils by pouring on imported fertility, but we are not necessarily bolstering food-value . The possible ultimate ramifications of this idea are so immense that I must leave their exposition to abler pens .

The discontent that labels itself “organic farming,” while bearing some of the earmarks of a cult, is never- theless biotic in its direction, particularly in its insistence on the importance of soil flora and fauna.

The ecological fundamentals of agriculture are just as poorly knownto the public as in other fields of land-use . For example, few educated people realize that the mar- velous advances in technique made during recent decades are improvements in the pump, rather than the well. Acre for acre, they have barely sufficed to offset the sinking level of fertility.

In all of these cleavages, we see repeated the same basic paradoxes: man the conqueror versus man the biotic citizen; science the sharpener of his sword versus science the searchlight on his universe; land the slave and servant versus land the collective organism . Robinson’s

injunction to Tristram may well be applied, at this junc- ture, to Homo sapiens as a species in geological time :

Whether you will or not You are a King, Tristram, for you are one Of the time-tested few that leave the world, When they are gone, not the same place it was. Mark what you leave.

The Outlook It is inconceivable to me that an ethical relation to land can exist without love, respect, and admiration for land, and a high regard for its value. By value, I of course mean something far broader than mere eco- nomic value; I mean value in the philosophical sense.

Perhaps the most serious obstacle impeding the evolu- tion of a land ethic is the fact that our educational and economic system is headed away from, rather than toward, an intense consciousness of land. Your true modern is separated from the land by many middlemen, and by innumerable physical gadgets.

He has no vital relation to it ; to him it is the space between cities on which crops grow. Turn him loose for a day on the land, and if the spot does not happen to be a golf links or a “scenic” area, he is bored stiff. If crops could be raised by hydroponics instead of farming, it would suit him very well. Synthetic substitutes for wood, leather, wool, and other natural land products suit him better than the orig- inals. In short, land is something he has “outgrown.”

Almost equally serious as an obstacle to a land ethic is the attitude of the farmer for whom the land is still an adversary, or a taskmaster that keeps him in slavery. Theoretically, the mechanization of farming ought to cut the farmer’s chains, but whether it really does is debatable. One of the requisites for an ecological comprehension

of land is an understanding of ecology, and this is by no means co-extensive with “education”; in fact, much higher education seems deliberately to avoid ecological concepts . An understanding of ecology does not neces- sarily originate in courses bearing ecological labels ; it is quite as likely to be labeled geography, botany, agron- omy, history, or economics. This is as it should be, but whatever the label, ecological training is scarce.

The case for a land ethic would appear hopeless but for the minority which is in obvious revolt against these “modern” trends . The “key-log” which must be moved to release the

evolutionary process for an ethic is simply this : quit thinking about decent land-use as solely an economic problem. Examine each question in terms of what is eth- ically and esthetically right, as well as what is economi- cally expedient. A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic commu- nity . It is wrong when it tends otherwise .

Leopold: Ecocentrism : The Land Ethic


It of course goes without saying that economic feasi- bility limits the tether of what can or cannot be done for land . It always has and it always will . The fallacy the economic determinists have tied around our collective neck, and which we now need to cast off, is the belief that economics determines all land-use . This is simply not true .

An innumerable host of actions and attitudes, comprising perhaps the bulk of all land relations, is determined by the land-users’ tastes and predilections, rather than by his purse . The bulk of all land relations hinges on investments of time, forethought, skill, and faith rather than on investments of cash . As a land-user thinketh, so is he .

I have purposely presented the land ethic as a product of social evolution because nothing so important as an ethic is ever “written.” Only the most superficial student of history supposes that Moses “wrote” the Decalogue; it evolved in the minds of a thinking community, and Moses wrote a tentative summary of it for a “seminar.” I say tentative because evolution never stops .

The evolution of a land ethic is an intellectual as well as emotional process . Conservation is paved with good intentions which prove to be futile, or even dangerous, because they are devoid of critical understanding either of the land, or of economic land-use . I think it is a truism

J. Baird Callicott (b . 1941) is professor of philosophy and natural resources at the University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point, and the author of several works in envi- ronmental philosophy, including In Defense of the Land Ethic (1989) from which this essay is taken .

Callicott develops the philosophical implications of Leopold’s land ethic . He shows how it is rooted in the eighteenth-century Scottish Sentimentalist School of David Hume and Adam Smith, who said that ethics is based in natural sympathy or sentiments .

Leopold, adding a Darwinian dimension to these thoughts, extended the notion of natural sentiments to ecosystems as the locus of value . Calicos argues that Leopold is not claiming that we should sacrifice basic human needs to the environment, but rather that we should see our- selves as members of a wider ecological community.

The two great cultural advances of the past century were the Darwinian theory and the development of geology. . . .

Reprinted from Companion to a Sand County Almanac (Madison : WI : University of Wisconsin Press, 1987) by permission . Footnotes deleted. Page numbers in this selection refer to Aldo Leopold’s Sand County Almanac (Oxford University Press, 1949).



that as the ethical frontier advances from the individual to the community, its intellectual content increases.

The mechanism of operation is the same for any ethic : social approbation for right actions, social disap- proval for wrong actions .

By and large, our present problem is one of attitudes and implements. We are remodeling the Alhambra with a steamshovel, and we are proud of our yardage . We shall hardly relinquish the shovel, which after all has many good points, but we are in need of gentler and more objective criteria for its successful use .

Study Questions 1 .

Does Leopold make a case for the intrinsic value of the biotic community, or does he only assume this?

2 .

Analyze Leopold’s view of humans and of biotic com- munities. How do we resolve conflicts between their claims and needs? Which are more important, ecosys- tems or individuals?

3 .

Critically discuss the strengths and weaknesses of Leopold’s position.

4 .

Leopold makes two fundamental claims of the American conservation movement . What are they? Has American environmentalism moved in the direction that Leopold advocated?

The Conceptual Foundations of the Land Ethic

Just as important, however, as the origin of plants, ani- mals, and soil is the question of how they operate as a community. That task has fallen to the new science of ecology, which is daily uncovering a web of interdepen- dencies so intricate as to amaze-were he here-even Darwin himself, who, of all men, should have least cause to tremble before the veil .





As Wallace Stegner observes, A Sand County Almanac is considered “almost a holy book in conservation cir- cles,” and Aldo Leopold a prophet, “an American Isaiah .” And as Curt Meine points out, “The Land Ethic” is the climactic essay of Sand County, “the upshot of `The Upshot.”‘ One might, therefore, fairly say that the recommendation and justification of moral


Chapter Three : Does Nature Have Intrinsic Value? Biocentric and Ecocentric Ethics and Deep Ecology

5. Of Our Spiritual Strivings. Du Bois, W. E. B. 1903.pdf

5/12/2017 I. Of Our Spiritual Strivings. Du Bois, W. E. B. 1903. The Souls of Black Folk 1/5

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W.E.B. Du Bois (1868–1963).  The Souls of Black Folk.  1903.

Chapter I. Of Our Spiritual Strivings

O water, voice of my heart, crying in the sand. All night long crying with a mournful cry. As I lie and listen, and cannot understand. The voice of my heart in my side or the voice of the sea, O water, crying for rest, is it I, is it I? All night long the water is crying to me. Unresting water, there shall never be rest Till the last moon droop and the last tide fail, And the fire of the end begin to burn in the west; And the heart shall be weary and wonder and cry like the sea,All life long crying without avail, As the water all night long is crying to me.                 


BETWEEN me and the other world there is ever an unasked question: unasked by some through feelings of delicacy; by others through the difficulty of rightly framing it. All, nevertheless, flutter round it. They approach me in a half-hesitant sort of way, eye me curiously or compassionately, and then, instead of saying directly, How does it feel to be a problem? they say, I know an excellent colored man in my town; or, I fought at Mechanicsville; or, Do not these Southern outrages make your blood boil? At these I smile, or am interested, or reduce the boiling to a simmer, as the occasion may require. To the real question, How does it feel to be a problem? I answer seldom a word.


  And yet, being a problem is a strange experience,—peculiar even for one who has never been anything else, save perhaps in babyhood and in Europe. It is in the early days of rollicking boyhood that the revelation first bursts upon one, all in a day, as it were. I remember well when the shadow swept across me. I was a little thing, away up in the hills of New England, where the dark Housatonic winds between Hoosac and Taghkanic to the sea. In a wee wooden schoolhouse, something put it into the boys’ and girls’ heads to buy gorgeous visiting-cards—ten cents a package—and exchange.

The exchange was merry, till one girl, a tall newcomer, refused my card,—refused it peremptorily, with a glance. Then it dawned upon me with a certain suddenness that I was different from the others; or like, mayhap, in heart and life and longing, but shut out from their world by a vast veil.

I had thereafter no desire to tear down that veil, to creep through; I held all beyond it in common contempt, and lived above it in a region of blue sky and great wandering shadows. That sky was bluest when I could beat my mates at examination-time, or beat them at a foot-race, or even beat their stringy heads. Alas, with the years all this fine


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contempt began to fade; for the worlds I longed for, and all their dazzling opportunities, were theirs, not mine. But they should not keep these prizes, I said; some, all, I would wrest from them. Just how I would do it I could never decide: by reading law, by healing the sick, by telling the wonderful tales that swam in my head,—some way. With other black boys the strife was not so fiercely sunny:

their youth shrunk into tasteless sycophancy, or into silent hatred of the pale world about them and mocking distrust of everything white; or wasted itself in a bitter cry, Why did God make me an outcast and a stranger in mine own house?

The shades of the prison-house closed round about us all: walls strait and stubborn to the whitest, but relentlessly narrow, tall, and unscalable to sons of night who must plod darkly on in resignation, or beat unavailing palms against the stone, or steadily, half hopelessly, watch the streak of blue above.   

After the Egyptian and Indian, the Greek and Roman, the Teuton and Mongolian, the Negro is a sort of seventh son, born with a veil, and gifted with second-sight in this American world,—a world which yields him no true self-consciousness, but only lets him see himself through the revelation of the other world.

It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his two-ness,—an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.


  The history of the American Negro is the history of this strife,—this longing to attain self-conscious manhood, to merge his double self into a better and truer self. In this merging he wishes neither of the older selves to be lost. He would not Africanize America, for America has too much to teach the world and Africa. He would not bleach his Negro soul in a flood of white Americanism, for he knows that Negro blood has a message for the world. He simply wishes to make it possible for a man to be both a Negro and an American, without being cursed and spit upon by his fellows, without having the doors of Opportunity closed roughly in his face.


  This, then, is the end of his striving: to be a co-worker in the kingdom of culture, to escape both death and isolation, to husband and use his best powers and his latent genius. These powers of body and mind have in the past been strangely wasted, dispersed, or forgotten. The shadow of a mighty Negro past flits through the tale of Ethiopia the Shadowy and of Egypt the Sphinx. Throughout history, the powers of single black men flash here and there like falling stars, and die sometimes before the world has rightly gauged their brightness.

Here in America, in the few days since Emancipation, the black man’s turning hither and thither in hesitant and doubtful striving has often made his very strength to lose effectiveness, to seem like absence of power, like weakness. And yet it is not weakness,—it is the contradiction of double aims.

The double-aimed struggle of the black artisan—on the one hand to escape white contempt for a nation of mere hewers of wood and drawers of water, and on the other hand to plough and nail and dig for a poverty-stricken horde—could only result in making him a poor craftsman, for he had but half a heart in either cause.

By the poverty and ignorance of his people, the Negro minister or doctor was tempted toward quackery and demagogy; and by the criticism of the other world, toward ideals that made him ashamed of his lowly tasks. The would-be black savant was confronted by the paradox that the knowledge his people needed was a twice-told tale to his white neighbors, while the knowledge which would teach the white world was Greek to his own flesh and blood.

The innate love of harmony and beauty that set the ruder souls of his people a-dancing and a-singing raised but confusion and doubt in the soul of the black artist; for the beauty revealed to him was the soul-beauty of a race which his larger audience despised, and he could not articulate the message of another people.

This waste of double aims, this seeking to satisfy two unreconciled ideals, has wrought sad havoc with the courage and faith and deeds of ten thousand thousand people, —has sent them often wooing false gods and invoking false means of salvation, and at times has even seemed about to make them ashamed of themselves.


  Away back in the days of bondage they thought to see in one divine event the end of all doubt and disappointment; few men ever worshipped Freedom with half such


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unquestioning faith as did the American Negro for two centuries. To him, so far as he thought and dreamed, slavery was indeed the sum of all villainies, the cause of all sorrow, the root of all prejudice; Emancipation was the key to a promised land of sweeter beauty than ever stretched before the eyes of wearied Israelites. In song and exhortation swelled one refrain—Liberty; in his tears and curses the God he implored had Freedom in his right hand.

At last it came,—suddenly, fearfully, like a dream. With one wild carnival of blood and passion came the message in his own plaintive cadences:—         “Shout, O children!         Shout, you’re free!         For God has bought your liberty!”   Years have passed away since then,—ten, twenty, forty; forty years of national life, forty years of renewal and development, and yet the swarthy spectre sits in its accustomed seat at the Nation’s feast. In vain do we cry to this our vastest social problem:—         “Take any shape but that, and my firm nerves         Shall never tremble!”


  The Nation has not yet found peace from its sins; the freedman has not yet found in freedom his promised land. Whatever of good may have come in these years of change, the shadow of a deep disappointment rests upon the Negro people,—a disappointment all the more bitter because the unattained ideal was unbounded save by the simple ignorance of a lowly people.


  The first decade was merely a prolongation of the vain search for freedom, the boon that seemed ever barely to elude their grasp,—like a tantalizing will-o’-the-wisp, maddening and misleading the headless host. The holocaust of war, the terrors of the Ku-Klux Klan, the lies of carpet-baggers, the disorganization of industry, and the contradictory advice of friends and foes, left the bewildered serf with no new watchword beyond the old cry for freedom. As the time flew, however, he began to grasp a new idea. The ideal of liberty demanded for its attainment powerful means, and these the Fifteenth Amendment gave him. T

he ballot, which before he had looked upon as a visible sign of freedom, he now regarded as the chief means of gaining and perfecting the liberty with which war had partially endowed him. And why not? Had not votes made war and emancipated millions?

Had not votes enfranchised the freedmen? Was anything impossible to a power that had done all this? A million black men started with renewed zeal to vote themselves into the kingdom. So the decade flew away, the revolution of 1876 came, and left the half-free serf weary, wondering, but still inspired.

Slowly but steadily, in the following years, a new vision began gradually to replace the dream of political power,—a powerful movement, the rise of another ideal to guide the unguided, another pillar of fire by night after a clouded day. It was the ideal of “book-learning”; the curiosity, born of compulsory ignorance, to know and test the power of the cabalistic letters of the white man, the longing to know. Here at last seemed to have been discovered the mountain path to Canaan; longer than the highway of Emancipation and law, steep and rugged, but straight, leading to heights high enough to overlook life.


  Up the new path the advance guard toiled, slowly, heavily, doggedly; only those who have watched and guided the faltering feet, the misty minds, the dull understandings, of the dark pupils of these schools know how faithfully, how piteously, this people strove to learn. It was weary work. The cold statistician wrote down the inches of progress here and there, noted also where here and there a foot had slipped or some one had fallen.

To the tired climbers, the horizon was ever dark, the mists were often cold, the Canaan was always dim and far away. If, however, the vistas disclosed as yet no goal, no resting-place, little but flattery and criticism, the journey at least gave leisure for reflection and self- examination; it changed the child of Emancipation to the youth with dawning self- consciousness, self-realization, self-respect.

In those sombre forests of his striving his own soul rose before him, and he saw himself,—darkly as through a veil; and yet he saw in himself some faint revelation of his power, of his mission.

He began to have a dim feeling that, to attain his place in the world, he must be himself, and not another. For the first time he sought to analyze the burden he bore upon his back, that dead-weight of social degradation partially masked behind a half-named Negro problem. He felt his


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poverty; without a cent, without a home, without land, tools, or savings, he had entered into competition with rich, landed, skilled neighbors. To be a poor man is hard, but to be a poor race in a land of dollars is the very bottom of hardships. He felt the weight of his ignorance,—not simply of letters, but of life, of business, of the humanities; the accumulated sloth and shirking and awkwardness of decades and centuries shackled his hands and feet.

Nor was his burden all poverty and ignorance. The red stain of bastardy, which two centuries of systematic legal defilement of Negro women had stamped upon his race, meant not only the loss of ancient African chastity, but also the hereditary weight of a mass of corruption from white adulterers, threatening almost the obliteration of the Negro home.   A people thus handicapped ought not to be asked to race with the world, but rather allowed to give all its time and thought to its own social problems. But alas! while sociologists gleefully count his bastards and his prostitutes, the very soul of the toiling, sweating black man is darkened by the shadow of a vast despair.

Men call the shadow prejudice, and learnedly explain it as the natural defence of culture against barbarism, learning against ignorance, purity against crime, the “higher” against the “lower” races. To which the Negro cries Amen! and swears that to so much of this strange prejudice as is founded on just homage to civilization, culture, righteousness, and progress, he humbly bows and meekly does obeisance.

But before that nameless prejudice that leaps beyond all this he stands helpless, dismayed, and well-nigh speechless; before that personal disrespect and mockery, the ridicule and systematic humiliation, the distortion of fact and wanton license of fancy, the cynical ignoring of the better and the boisterous welcoming of the worse, the all-pervading desire to inculcate disdain for everything black, from Toussaint to the devil,—before this there rises a sickening despair that would disarm and discourage any nation save that black host to whom “discouragement” is an unwritten word.


  But the facing of so vast a prejudice could not but bring the inevitable self-questioning, self-disparagement, and lowering of ideals which ever accompany repression and breed in an atmosphere of contempt and hate. Whisperings and portents came borne upon the four winds: Lo! we are diseased and dying, cried the dark hosts; we cannot write, our voting is vain; what need of education, since we must always cook and serve?

And the Nation echoed and enforced this self-criticism, saying: Be content to be servants, and nothing more; what need of higher culture for half-men? Away with the black man’s ballot, by force or fraud,—and behold the suicide of a race! Nevertheless, out of the evil came something of good,—the more careful adjustment of education to real life, the clearer perception of the Negroes’ social responsibilities, and the sobering realization of the meaning of progress.


  So dawned the time of Sturm und Drang: storm and stress to-day rocks our little boat on the mad waters of the world-sea; there is within and without the sound of conflict, the burning of body and rending of soul; inspiration strives with doubt, and faith with vain questionings. The bright ideals of the past,—physical freedom, political power, the training of brains and the training of hands,—all these in turn have waxed and waned, until even the last grows dim and overcast. Are they all wrong,—all false?

No, not that, but each alone was over-simple and incomplete,—the dreams of a credulous race- childhood, or the fond imaginings of the other world which does not know and does not want to know our power. To be really true, all these ideals must be melted and welded into one.

The training of the schools we need to-day more than ever,—the training of deft hands, quick eyes and ears, and above all the broader, deeper, higher culture of gifted minds and pure hearts. The power of the ballot we need in sheer self-defence,—else what shall save us from a second slavery?

Freedom, too, the long-sought, we still seek,—the freedom of life and limb, the freedom to work and think, the freedom to love and aspire. Work, culture, liberty,—all these we need, not singly but together, not successively but together, each growing and aiding each, and all striving toward that vaster ideal that swims before the Negro people, the ideal of human brotherhood, gained through the unifying ideal of Race; the ideal of fostering and developing the traits and talents of the Negro, not in opposition to or contempt for other races, but rather in large conformity to


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the greater ideals of the American Republic, in order that some day on American soil two world-races may give each to each those characteristics both so sadly lack. We the darker ones come even now not altogether empty-handed: there are to-day no truer exponents of the pure human spirit of the Declaration of Independence than the American Negroes; there is no true American music but the wild sweet melodies of the Negro slave; the American fairy tales and folk-lore are Indian and African; and, all in all, we black men seem the sole oasis of simple faith and reverence in a dusty desert of dollars and smartness.

Will America be poorer if she replace her brutal dyspeptic blundering with light-hearted but determined Negro humility? or her coarse and cruel wit with loving jovial good-humor? or her vulgar music with the soul of the Sorrow Songs?   Merely a concrete test of the underlying principles of the great republic is the Negro Problem, and the spiritual striving of the freedmen’s sons is the travail of souls whose burden is almost beyond the measure of their strength, but who bear it in the name of an historic race, in the name of this the land of their fathers’ fathers, and in the name of human opportunity.

*    *    *


  And now what I have briefly sketched in large outline let me on coming pages tell again in many ways, with loving emphasis and deeper detail, that men may listen to the striving in the souls of black folk.




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