Tag Archives: inhumanism

Double Ice Axe


In recent days, we have been rediscovering the poetry and philosophy of Robinson Jeffers. In his remarkable preface to The Double Axe (1948), Jeffers writes:

By “inhumanism”, Jeffers is not proposing a standard of interpersonal conduct but rather a way of experiencing the world that breaks loose from the solipsistic assumption that the human species alone embodies meaning in the universe.

Meanwhile a DP associate, knowing of our interest in the arctic ice sheet and its potential chilling impact on the solipsistic worldview, alerted us to updated data regarding the arctic ice melt, as monitored by the National Snow & Ice Data Center. On the graph below, the left hand unit of measurement is millions of square kilometers. The blue line for 2012 is on track for a dramatically new record low, which appears to be in excess of six standard deviations from the norm. Statisticians will comprehend the implications of such extreme data:A second graphic provides a bird’s eye view, with the orange outline representing the median melt; keep in mind that as of this posting, we are still three weeks away from the normal September data point for the minimum extent.

A perspective of “inhumanism” may not be one that we freely choose, but rather one that is forced upon us, as mother earth harshly reminds us of our pathetic insignificance. It may be timely to meditate upon Jeffers’ poem, Vulture:



The Bloody Sire


John Gray’s aphoristic compendium of thoughts on humans and other animals derives its title Straw Dogs from an oft-quoted passage in Lao Tzu’s Dao De Jing:

The passage in Chinese, with a translation courtesy of Richard Garner, reads as follows:

As Garner points out in his helpful commentary, the meaning of the passage depends very much on the philosophical baggage one brings to the sacrificial altar. With the turn of a new millennium (Straw Dogs dates from 2002) Gray – who had once carried rather heavy baggage – appears anxious to travel light. In his chapter The Vices of Morality, passage fourteen, he writes:

From Gray’s anti-humanist perspective, purpose suggests delusions of progress, delusions that are always destructive and often lethal. Happy to go with the flow no matter how vicious the maelstrom, Gray takes any notion of homo rapiens  “salvation” as a desperate form of solipsism.

The full context for the citation from the epic poem by Robinson Jeffers crafts a vision of the opposite coast rather more subtle and complicated than that of the soggy Taoist swimmer Mr. Gray, and the entire stanza is worth a careful reading:

John Gray owes a good deal more than a footnote to Jeffers’ philosophy of poetic “Inhumanism”; Jeffers, long the poet laureate of Deep Ecology. It has been fifty years since Jeffers’ death; meanwhile, the Bloody Sire {Jeffers, 1940} begets fresh carnage, and from the carnage flows fresh value, of a sort.