On our way towards foundational Ecology

Prof. Joseph Grange PhD

Joseph Grange: Prof. Grange was an American philosopher and Professor of Philosophy at the University of Maine at Portland-Gorham. He is currently in residence at the National Humanities Institute at the University of Chicago preparing interdisciplinary curriculum offerings on technology and culture. His previous publications have appeared in such journals as Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, The Bucknell Review, Religious Humanism and Cross Currents.  Grance was president of the Metaphysical Society of America (between 2007–2008). He passed away on July 20, 2014. This essay in a slightly altered form was presented as a lecture to The Center for The Study of Human Values at the University of Maine at Portland-Gorham, Fall, 1975. 

The thought we are to experience flows in two directions: first, towards a destruction of the obvious, and then, towards a refounding of the primordial experiences of earth, body and world.

Let us begin by hearing once again an ancient lament: 

Aztec Lamentation

I lift my voice in wailing. I am afflicted, as 1 remember that we must leave the beautiful flowers, the noble songs; let us enjoy our selves for a while, let us sing, for we must depart forever, we are to be destroyed in our dwelling place. Is it indeed known to our friends how it pains and angers me that never again can they be born, never again be young on this earth. Yet a little while with them here, then nevermore shall I be with them; nevermore enjoy them, nevermore know them. Where shall my soul dwell? Where is my home? Where shall be my house?I am miserable on the earth. We take, we unwind the jewels, the blue flowers are woven over the yellow ones, that we may give them to the children. Let my soul be draped in various flowers; let it be intoxicated by them; for soon must I weeping go before the face of our Mother. 

Aztec Lamentation [1]

There are two fundamentally opposed ways of understanding ecology. The first dominates our present relation with nature. | shall call it “dividend ecology” for it regards the interaction of humankind and nature solely from the perspective of investments and returns. The slogans of dividend ecology are familiar: “Don’t litter,” “Keep your Campsite clean,” “Pitch In,” and so on and so forth. Dividend ecology has a simple message: if we continue to destroy our environment, we will perish. Its motive force is fear, being largely a negative movement that seeks to restrain our greed and diminish the aggression with which we attack nature. This way of understanding ecology can do little in the long run, for it only serves to reinforce the basic mode of consciousness that brought on our environmental disaster. Perhaps dividend ecology can postpone for a while the oncoming crisis in our collective consciousness, but it lacks both the vision and resources to develop ecology as a discipline capable of renewing the human spirit and assisting in its growth. 

The second way of understanding ecology has yet to be structured, organised and given a name. Still: its birth pains as well as its first feeble steps can be recognized in a growing number of psychological, philosophic, scientific and poetic works. I shall call it “foundational ecology” since this discipline seeks the ground of our relation with nature as well as its corresponding depths in the human psyche. 

As foundational, ecology must penetrate below the surface of the obvious. What is the obvious? It is that which is taken for granted and never spoken of as such; yet, the obvious everywhere and always guides and supports our culture. The obvious is that with which we already agree—the base from which all action, individual and social, proceeds. Since it is never explicitly discussed nor articulated, the obvious is the most difficult to identify, even though in a disguised manner it lies all around us. To uncover the obvious we must take a step back from the assumptions and attitudes that entwine us. 

This step demands that we retrieve time, for our present way of relating to nature rests upon the thick sediment of the past. The following dialogue with four of our ancestors is not, therefore, an exercise in pedantic scholarship. We engage Plato and Aristotle, Galileo and Descartes not to demonstrate our historical knowledge but to let the obvious reveal itself. For the obvious is at least in part the outcome of the success of their thought. 

One can liken the present dominance of technological consciousness to a religion. It has its faith, ethics and scriptures. To comprehend the ethic of technological consciousness one must understand its faith and to do that requires that we re-read its ancient scriptures. 


Whether the thinkers we are about to discuss actually held the views our culture now attributes to them is highly questionable. But what matters is that our world view is founded on our interpretation of their significance. There are two phases to this story. The first concerns the Greek eye and its focus; the second represents the transformation of that vision into the habitual and accepted patterns of modern thought. 

The Greek Eye: Plato and Aristotle 

Plato’s Allegory of the Cave

We all know that Plato is the father of Western civilisation, but have we thoughtfully concerned ourselves with the consequences of that beginning? Let us look again at a landmark of our culture, the allegory of The Cave. The story is a thrice-told tale and its contours are familiar. There exists a social group dwelling in an underground cave. Imprisoned since birth, the only reality the members of this group know are images cast by the light of a fire kindled by their captors. A mood of unreal darkness pervades the scene and that feeling is enhanced by the fact that the prisoners are so chained that they can only look in one direction. They are compelled to see only images of images of images. A ghostly repetition of changing shadows is their unending fate. Suddenly, one is released and forced to the surface where after a long struggle, he sees that his former life was an illusion and the true reality lies in the land of bright sunlight and clear vision. Returning to his former home, he is eventually destroyed by his friends when he attempts to correct their ignorance.

Now the key to this story is the fact that Plato conceives of the eye as analogous to the mind. Just as the eye requires a source of light to see clearly, so also the mind needs a source of “light” in order to think correctly. The source of light for the mind are the ideas, the abstract essences that reveal the essential nature of reality to those contemplating them. Listen to Plato: 

And the soul is like the eye: when resting upon that on which truth and being shine, the soul perceives and understands, and is radiant with intelligence; but when turned towards the twilight and to those things which come into being and perish, then she has opinion only, and goes blinking about, and is first of one opinion and then of another, and seems to have no intelligence. 

(Republic, ca. 508)

The norm of intelligibility is clarity of vision, and truth is the conformity between “ideas” and reality. To view the world correctly is the human vocation and correctness of vision is the meaning of truth. We must consider this emphasis on the eye, for it represents a prejudice that will continue to manifest itself. What happens to the sensory field of our body if such stress is laid upon the eye? The realm of the ear loses its distinct feature, for harmonic contrasts evade distinct audition. Smells that escape detection haunt us as unreal. The tongue that savours the multidimensional must become discriminating. The body with its panorama of touch must be trained to detect only distinct qualities like hardness and density. The entire environment and its polyphonic call to our being is shrunk and desiccated. The textures of touch, the echoes of sound, the dreaminess of scents, the zest of tastes—all these features of our actual, lived and concrete existence are subordinated to the stark criterion of abstract knowledge. Whether or not this result was Plato’s ultimate intention, it provides the conception of knowledge that claims the allegiance of modern humankind. If definitions and evident proof are not provided, we dismiss epistemological claims. We would be entirely mistaken if we attributed this prejudice solely to the need for public verification of hypotheses. Its animus lies in another direction: our preference for the visible results from a fact of anatomy. The human eye dominates our relationship with nature. This rather arbitrary consequence of human evolution grounds our acceptance of the obvious which, in turn, establishes the foundations of the true and false, the significant and the trivial. 

Plato & Aristotle

After Plato opened the Greek eye, Aristotle focused it. Training his eye upon nature, Aristotle discovered two abstract principles that govern all nature. Matter, which is the ground of all creativity, is the passive element that awaits concrete realisation. Form, the second principle, actualises the potentiality of matter, structuring it so as to give us the various types of existence encountered in nature. Aristotle refines Plato’s eye by transforming the ideas into universal and abstract principles that govern nature’s activity. Henceforth freed from the visible, the mind can inspect nature and find therein its architectonic. To interrogate nature is to ask after the structures and forms activating its vast and intricate self-manifestation, The impact of this shift from intuitive vision to intellectual abstraction is seen in the Aristotelian doctrine of causality. Reason demands that reality be intelligible. To seek after that intelligibility is to discover the causes underlying its activity. This new focus yields a double result. First, nature is “framed” through causes and is thereby rendered intelligible. Second, Intelligibility is gained by reformulating experience according to presuppositions and assumptions. The first result gives us nature focused through the lens of causality; the second removes human consciousness from direct contact with nature and substitutes an intellectual abstraction for the real thing. 

With the opening of the Greek eye, nature can be focused so as to frame only that light which is accessible to the abstract intellect. What was overwhelming is now manageable. What showed itself and hid itself now stands forth clearly in the eye of the mind. 

Galileo di Vincenzo Bonaiuti de’ Galilei

The obvious needed more than the Greek eye to become obvious. It has to be grounded in a vision even less tainted with somatic experience, for Plato and Aristotle retained dimensions of the body unsuited for intellectual activity. The making of the modern mind has a complex history; however, two thinkers stand out with a certain clarity, Galileo and Descartes. It is Galileo who provides us with a new language of nature and Descartes who establishes that language’s grammar. 

The Making of The Modern Mind 

We are familiar with Galileo’s place in the history of science, but his revolutionary concept of the meaning of nature tends to elude us, again, because it is so obvious. Most studies of cultural history emphasise Galileo’s astronomical discoveries, his struggles with the dogmatism of the Church, and his science of local motion. These aspects of his work, interesting as they might be, pale before his consummate description of the meaning of his discoveries: 

Philosophy is written in this grand book, the universe, which stands continually open to our gaze. But the book cannot be understood unless one first learns to comprehend the language in which it is composed, It is written in the language of mathematics, and its characters are triangles, circles and other geometric figures without which it is humanly impossible to understand a single word of it; without these, one wanders about in a dark labyrinth. 

(The Assayer

It is this new book of nature and its language that mark the birth of the modern mind. The real and concrete dimensions of nature are the mathematical components that make it up. Quantitative and abstract relations such as squares, triangles, parallelograms and rhomboids replace texture, colour, scents and all the other qualitative elements we directly encounter in nature. The step from the Greek eye to the modern mind was long in coming but short in reach. All that was required was the substitution of intellectual abstractions for natural objects; then, the mind could operate as an eye since it now was in its native element, the domain of thought. 

Galileo’s achievement remained innocent enough as long as it represented merely a “scientific” way of looking at nature. It took René Descartes to transform that insight into a metaphysics or theory of reality. “Cogito ergo Sum” (“I think, therefore, I am”) is now a cliché, What did Descartes achieve when he uttered those famous words? Nothing less than the foundations of our world view and its consequences. In the course of his Meditations Descartes defines human being this way: “I am a thing that thinks,” and the rest of the world this way: “extension.” Thus reality is divided into beings that think and beings that are extended, or measurable, or quantifiable. This split world requires something to span its division. How do we get from one side to the other? By thinking “ideas” that are adequate, which means clear and distinct. The mode of reasoning that fulfils this criterion is mathematics. So we see the settling of the foundations of the obvious where we now dwell. Nature is composed of extended things and the mind, thinking mathematically, can construct an adequate representation of it. 

We ought not to let this theory of re-presentative ideas escape us. From it springs our world-view as well as our ecological crisis. What Descartes is saying is this: for humankind to have a true account of nature, there must be constructed a re-picturing of its elements. Once this picture is achieved, then we can operate within it and produce those results that we consider desirable. Instead of living with nature, we live in an abstract design that replicates its workings. Our bodies are needed no longer since our “head” contains the blueprint. It is this mode of consciousness that creates our antiseptic, sterile and sanitised life style. We never touch nature nor do we feel it: we think about it in the most abstract and general patterns. 

Our culture rests upon the layers of the obvious—layers we have attempted to retrieve. Perhaps now we can begin to see why we act the way we do. Pollution, land abuse, urban blight and the hundred other clichés that could be summoned up are grounded in an agreed upon version of the meaning of nature. That version says Nature is “out there” and we are “in here.” There is no need to contact it nor for that matter can we, since it is our ideas that provide us with natural experience. Coordinate the ideas and you will prosper! 

I likened our technology to a religion since it has its beliefs, ethics and scriptures. We have seen some of its scriptures. Let us conclude this part of our examination by identifying technology’s faith and ethics. There is but one belief for technology: that the mind, sufficiently objective and coordinated, can manipulate reality. Mental activity, verified and made exact through experimentation, can plumb nature to its depth and turn it to our advantage. Implicit in this faith is an arrogant assumption: that nature is there for our use. We stand above it and have the right to claim its bounty. Thus the ethics of technology are subjective and opportunistic. It is the human person who is lord over nature and decides its meaning. Despite the endless cry for “objectivity,” technological consciousness is at bottom arbitrary and subjective. Its ethic springs from a vision of nature that sees reality as a vast neutral display of opportunities. Technological consciousness is a self-assertive will to power that moulds nature to fit its needs. It is this faith and ethic that prompts dividend ecology. No amount of warnings about diminishing returns will, however, reverse technological consciousness. It is so well anchored in the obvious that human beings cannot for a moment think about alternate states of consciousness. In a phrase, the theoretical and the practical are now one; and their union precludes us from thinking in a foundational manner about the relationship between nature and being human. 

But in uncovering the layers of the obvious and laying out the foundations of our age, we have retrieved Time. Once Time was concealed in the obvious, it is now concretely our own. As such we reach the depths of Time as we become responsible for it in the present. This means that Time now shows itself to us as new and open to our care. Can we recast our understanding of being human and nature through this recovered sense of open time? History seems to say no; yet, if we can uncover a foundation deeper than that which we have just examined, then a new dwelling might be erected. 


Our previous discussion served to destroy the obvious. It did so by uncovering the false base of our present world-view: over reliance on abstract intellectual principles. What is required is the refounding of consciousness on the concrete bed of lived human experience. To achieve this end, we must let certain foundational experiences show themselves to us once more. We must, in other words, see our world exactly as we experience it rather than as we construct it through our rational presuppositions and socialised modes of consciousness. 

I intend to look again at three primordial regions of experience—earth, body, and world. These regions of experience will form the base of foundational ecology. In reference to this base we will conclude by re-examining the notion of human homecoming, for that is what foundational ecology is all about. 


What is the ancient of days? It is earth, the untiring ground of all birth. Earth is not the composite of minerals that make up the soil nor is it a mixture of atomic particles localised in space and time. These are abstractions that human beings do not experience. Let us struggle to experience earth as earth. Imagine a field strewn with rocks and studded with trees (any New England pasture will do). Let that earth be earth. What happens? We see immediately that the earth “earths.” A strange expression, to be sure. Let us go back to the word itself, for language bears in itself the original experiences of humankind. Earth is related to the German Erde, which means to linger, to stay, to set back into an abiding and sheltering realm. Earth, therefore, “earths” in this way: it continually hides itself and through this self-concealing process brings forth the things that grow as well as the things that stay and endure. Earth is the resting place which through its silent sway allows the self-manifestation of all beings. Earth is dark, without fathom, impenetrable, mysterious and hidden. But its yielding character is not merely a retreat from inspection: it also actively yields life in all its forms. It is not by accident that we call earth, “Mother.” She is in fact “the Great Mother” in whose silent face and burden-bearing body we experience the deep recesses of mystery as it unfolds through patient time. Like Michelangelo’s Pièta, silence is the voice of earth, but a silence that calls and speaks to those who would listen. Earth’s silence is not empty and dumb, for from the self-seclusion of earth comes forth the inexhaustible display of simple shapes that enrich our consciousness. Martin Heidegger captures the feel and tone of earth for us: 

Earth, self-dependent, is effortless and untiring. The earth appears openly cleared as itself only when it is perceived and preserved as that which is by nature undisclosable, that which shrinks from every disclosure and constantly keeps itself closed up… The earth is essentially self-secluding. To set forth the earth means to bring it into the Open as the self-secluding.[2]

Earth, as experienced by human beings, is foundationally hidden; wrapped in its own mysterious activity—an activity that unyieldingly yields a resting place for the coming-to-be of presences. 

Earth is the foundational ground that allows clearing to take place by reason of the recesses of its self-concealing reticence. Earth is the creative mystery that withdraws even as it supports the varied expressions of being. 

Body is of the earth. It shares in the fundamental feature of earth, for it too forgets itself. The paradoxical fact of the human body is that it is “the great forgotten fact.” The body works when it draws no attention to itself. We are for the most part cognisant of our body only when it does not function in its customary silent and effective way. Illness disrupts our cerebral or “head” consciousness and reminds us all too clearly that we have a body. 

How, then, do we bring ourselves to a re-found experience of the body? I suggest that we abandon for a moment the acculturated concept of the body as a machine or an objective structure. Instead, let us be here and now as embodied beings. Let us reinsert ourselves into our body and let our body speak for us and to us. 

First, we experience embodiment when a region of concern for my body lets me be attentive to things or indifferent to them. I look this way but turn my back on that way. Thus my body, first of all and for the most part, lets me be “in place.” Body is situation and situation is for a human being the varying zones of involvement and feeling that I choose and that I undergo. 

This account tells us that the human body is essentially deployable. I literally deploy my body so as to experience my concerns. Human space is, therefore, always and everywhere mobile space. To be human is to be an itinerant being, and it is also to have a moving centre. My body grounds my experiencing self so that I am always and everywhere at the centre. Body orients-human being, and the body’s massive density, its weight, like the earth, is a yielding mystery that refuses ultimate, abstract analysis even as it grants value and meaning to my activity. 

Let body body. What do we first of all experience? Is it not nearness and distance? “Near” and “far” is the primordial, even archaic language of the body. Let us use more concrete language: home-ground and foreign-ground. Immediately, the concreteness of foundational ecology reveals itself. Ecology is literally the “structure” (Logos) of the Home (Oikos). When we strip our consciousness of its rational presuppositions, we begin to see the interrelations that span and connect human being and nature. We are not “outsiders” looking in, nor are we intellectual voyeurs “peeping” at nature through our analytic tools. We are first of all being human—an activity that involves intimacy with nature since we, too, are natural. 

What is the ecology (home-structure) of human being? One more foundational experience must be re-experienced before we bring together this new vision. We must attempt to see world. Again, a familiar word, for it is obvious what the world is. But is world so obvious? So far we have seen how earth and body provide the experience of distance and nearness. But the over-arching significance of earth was self-seclusion, the hidden, that which maintains its being at a distance. So also body, though it gave us the orientation towards nearness, remained preeminently a forgotten and recessive fact. Both experiential regions—earth and body—may be termed the realm of darkness and the closed-off. But human being wants nearness, craves intimacy, seeks to be within nature. How do we in-habit nature? How do we dwell within? How do we come into the proximity of nearness if earth and body withdraw by reason of their mode of being? We experience nearness by being-in-a-world. Where earth signified darkness, world signifies light. Where earth closes itself over, world constitutes an open clearing within which human being uncovers meaning. 

What is world? If we let world world what happens? Let the world of this room world! There is furniture, there are bodies, there are writing instruments, there is a visual perspective (you towards me; I towards you); there is language; there is meaning; there is activity, individual as well as group. But none of these entities in and of themselves is the world of this room. Where is that world? It is here, to be sure; otherwise we would be nowhere. But where? It us everywhere and nowhere

Is this a pseudo-mystical chant, a fake arcane phrase meant to bewilder and impress? Is world “hocus-pocus,” or “abracadabra?” No: world is the existential dimension wherein human beings reside. By reason of world the matrix of relations which constitute total meaningfulness is disclosed. This matrix, which is always assumed by us in every situation, makes available to us entities under the guise of purposeful instruments. 

Look at it this way: without the world of this room (which you assumed when you entered it), pens, chairs, tables, and your bodies too would have no clearing within which you could locate and use them for meaningful purposes. There would be no sense to our activity here without world. There would only be the dense impacting of objects and bodies within a meaningless space. 


World, therefore, opens the closeness of earth so that meaningful activity can take place. Who creates world? We do. How do we create world? By our modes of consciousness, by our attitudes, by our comportment. In other words, we create a world through the work of our embodied consciousness. We establish openness and the clearing for meaning by the way in which we, through the deployment of our body, establish a world within which our consciousness can dwell.

Earth and world stand opposed. One rests back in darkness; the other strives to establish the light of openness. Our embodied consciousness works to achieve this task. Does this mean that there is a never-ending struggle between man and nature? Is, in other words, dividend ecology right after all? Let us listen to Heidegger’s interpretation of this relationship between earth and world, a relationship he terms “a striving” rather than a mortal struggle: 

The world is the self-disclosing openness of the broad paths of the simple and essential decisions of an historical people. The earth is the spontaneous forthcoming of that which is continually self-secluding and to that extent sheltering and concealing. World and earth are essentially different from one another and yet are never separated. The world grounds itself on the earth, and earth juts through the world. But the relation between world and earth does not wither away into the empty unity of opposites unconcerned with one another. The world, in resting upon the earth, strives to surmount it. As self-opening it cannot endure anything closed. The earth, however, as sheltering and concealing, tends always to draw the world into itself and keep it there. 

The opposition of world and earth is a striving. But we would surely all too easily falsify its nature if we were to confound striving with discord and dispute, and thus see it only as disorder and destruction. In essential striving, rather, the opponents raise each other into the self-assertion of their natures. Self-assertion of nature, however, is never a rigid insistence upon some contingent state, but surrender to the concealed originality of the source of one’s own being. In the struggle, each opponent carries the other beyond itself. The more the struggle overdoes itself on its own part, the more inflexibly do the opponents let themselves go into the intimacy of simple belonging to one another. The earth cannot dispense with the Open of the world if it itself is to appear as earth in the liberated upsurge of its self-seclusion. The world, again, cannot soar out of the earth’s sight if, as the governing breadth and path of all essential destiny, it is to ground itself on a resolute foundation. [3]

Can we summarise these intricate relations of earth-body-world within the meaning of foundational ecology? What is most concrete in all our investigations thus far is this: that in our human being we want nearness to that which distances itself from us. We seek to be the neighbour of that which withdraws from the light of openness. Yet that neighbour, the earth, and even our body, gives itself without cost and without price, freely of itself to us—if we but respect it and let it be what it is. Ecology is therefore learning anew to-be-at-home in the region of our concern. This means that human homecoming is a matter of learning how to dwell intimately with that which resists our attempts to control, shape, manipulate and exploit it. 

But does this refounding of ecology mean that we step back from nature and leave it unspoiled? Does Heidegger suggest that we abandon technology and return to the wilderness? Not at all. As a matter of fact in both his earlier and his later work, Heidegger insists that human being is always “in-the-world” and that this way of being involves action, production and work. What is of significance is the attitude or posture we adopt when we undertake the task of building and constituting the world. 

The required attitude is “care,” by which Heidegger means the abandonment of the subjective stance of modern consciousness—a way of relating to nature that sees it only as neutral stuff ready for any and every human purpose. On its positive side, care is that attitude which moves beyond its own preoccupations towards the beings of this world. It represents a future-oriented mode of being that stresses non-egoistic effort and involvement with the true being of others.[4] It is far removed from dividend ecology. 

The clearest statement of how this attitude turns around the thrust of contemporary technological thinking is found in these words of the Discourse on Thinking

We can affirm the unavoidable use of technical devices, and also deny them the right to dominate us, and so to warp, confuse, and lay waste our nature. … [thus] we let technical devices enter our daily life, and at the same time leave them outside, that is, let them alone, as things which are nothing absolute but remain dependent upon something higher. I would call this comportment toward technology which expresses “yes” and at the same time “no,” by an old word, releasement toward things.[5]

Thus technology, rightly understood, is no threat. It represents a freeing of our being towards the being of nature. It casts upon us an ultimate responsibility for how we shall live. Through care and releasement we begin to undertake the way back towards being-at-home. 

Human Homecoming

What is the essence of being-at-home? Homecoming is not merely the act of returning to a specific place that we call “home.” Home is not a spatial location. Home is the region of nearness within which our relationship to nature is characterised by sparing and preserving. Again, let us listen to Heidegger: 

To dwell… means to remain at place within the free, the preserve, the free sphere that safeguards each thing in its nature. The fundamental character of dwelling is this sparing and preserving. It pervades dwelling in its whole range. That range reveals itself to us as soon as we reflect that human being consists in dwelling and, indeed, dwelling in the sense of the stay of mortals on the earth. [6]

Ecology is therefore the effort to structure our modes of dwelling so that they reflect an essential and authentic way of being human. That way is an existence that opens itself to nature rather than aggressively reconstructing it according to personal ends. And the purpose of this way of dwelling is not to preserve “wilderness” for our children or any of the hundred other reasons given by dividend ecology. Rather we seek to dwell so that we can move nearer to that which resides hidden at the centre of our selves: being itself which speaks to us through the hiddenness of earth and the openness of world

To come home is therefore to undertake a way of relating to nature that allows nature to show itself to us and that encourages us to abide and take up residence in that meaning. Home is the concernful region where earth, body and world work to gather into nearness that which requires our preserving care. 

This is the journey unto care that every human being must undertake. This journey is no joyless drudgery nor a heroic shouldering of world-historical tasks. It is rather a release unto things, an active waiting that transforms thinking from its present aggressive attack on nature to a mode of thanking. Thinking that thanks lets beings be so that we may come into openness towards the mystery that resides at the heart of all being and ourselves. 

We began with a lamentation, let us conclude with an expression of joy that is a thinking that thanks: 

The lands around my dwelling | Are more beautiful | From the day | When it is given me to see | Faces I have never seen before, | All is more beautiful, | All is more beautiful, | And life is thankfulness. | These guests of mine | Make my house grand 

Improvised Song of Joy, Iglulik Eskimo [7] 


[1] “Lamentation” (Aztec) in American Indian Prose and Poetry, ed. by Margot Astrov (New York: Capricorn, 1962), pp. 310-11. 

[2] Martin Heidegger, Poetry, Language, Thought (New York: Harper, 1971), pp. 46, 47. Much of what is expressed in this paper is the result of a sustained dialogue with this extraordinary thinker. Those wishing to enter such an experience could do no better than to read the following essays contained in the above work: “The Origin of The Work of Art”; “Building, Dwelling, Thinking”; “The Thing”; and “Poetically Man Dwells.” 

[3] Ibid., pp. 48-49. 

[4] Cf. Martin Heidegger, Being and Time, tr. by John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson (New York: Harper & Row, 1962), pp. 225-73, fora discussion of the early Heidegger’s definition of human being as foundational care. Also useful for understanding his attitude toward instrumentality is his analysis of the ready-to-hand and material for use. Cf. ibid., pp. 91-148. Taken together with the concept of care, this analysis shows that Heidegger is no mere “primitive” seeking a simpler mode of existence. 

[5] Discourse on Thinking, tr. by Anderson and Freund (New York: Harper & Row, 1966), p. 54. 

[6] Poetry, Language, Thought, p. 149.
[7] “Improvised Song of Joy,” American Indian Prose and Poetry, p. 295. The editor attaches the following explanatory note: “The old woman Takomagq, who was about to serve a meal she had prepared for Knud Rasmussen and his companion, was so pleased at the sight of the tea Rasmussen contributed that she at once joyfully improvised this song.”