When I wiki I tend to do it very quickly and everything comes out sketchy and drafty. Not putting much time into it, but maybe I should.

Yes, Zbigniew, I do talk about sustainability and think about happy, fair, satisfying life. I guess there are reasons to lump these things together, as Phil pointed out. To isolate sustainability (in the human case) from the quality of life one is getting is an exercise that would leave us with an idea of sustainability that is thoroughly disconnected from our social, cultural and emotional needs and values. Such disconnected idea of sustainability is what, I contend, Oli ends up appealing to. It is a dangerous idea because one can then feel tempted to override happiness (or emotional confort, or quality of life) on the grounds that it should be replaced by sustainability for it is more well-defined (do we really want to live our lives and judge our culture by a set of values just because it is well-defined?), more precise (how are we going to measure precision here?) or supposedly more objective (which is the most problematic property we would be ascribing to our concept of sustainability for, on the one hand, as I said, our culture tends to inform our judgements of sustainability and, on the other hand, in some respects, nothing clearly can be more present in our lives than our emotional confort, or our happiness. All this quite apart from the problem that taking some concepts to be more objective than others require arguments and I know of none that would do the trick.).

I do believe Darwinism could, if properly understood, be part of an argument against the idea of a fixed human nature informed by TheFourFs. I'll maybe write more about this later.

Oli, one very side issue to do with the sustainability of our culture(s). As I hinted, I believe that a culture that needs so much doping, so many weapons, so much wealth thrown in the garbage (both food and useful stuff in the rubbish bins and money circulating (almost) only to make money for few people), so much pornography and prostitution, so much eating disorder and so much poverty cannot be sustainable (in my lumping-together sense of being a culture worth preserving). But think only of the mechanization of industry. If in fact industry can produce the same goods with fewer and fewer people, there is a limit to be hit soon, either in terms of massive unemployment possibly postponed by more ecological disasters or in terms of changing our culture (maybe in Zibigniew's sense) somehow. The level and the quality of employment has been decreasing in most places - check out brilliant NickeledAndDimed by BarbaraEhrenreich talking about the working poor in the U.S. in the high days of ninety's propsperity.


When I wiki I tend to do it very quickly and everything comes out sketchy and drafty. Not putting much time into it, but maybe I should.

That's alright, just blast the first draft in. You can go back and edit / rephrase / ReFactor later.

I guess there are reasons to lump these things together, as Phil pointed out.

I didn't point that out! I said we should distinguish them. I think there can be societies which are sustainable and immoral, and societies which can be moral and unsustainable. What I pointed out was if you disagree and find there's some kind of necessary connection between morality and sustainability, that is itself likely to be a kind of Darwinist intuition. It's basically deriving TheOughtFromTheIs via a kind of selectionist semantics.

Oh, no. I see, you are proposing a different criteria. A culture isn't sustainable if it's so bad it isn't worth sustaining. I'll think about that a bit more.


I think at this stage this discussion is mostly word splitting. Do you really want to discuss about words? Are you that postmodernist?


I love this meta discussion - and I've realised something about the way in which I sometimes argue. Far too often I read what someone has said and then argue against what I think it implies !! I do this subconsciously, but slowly it becomes apparent that one reason for the big argument (often over small details) is because I'm partly arguing against something that hasn't actually been said by anyone !!

So here's a page trying to articulate TheAbsentPositionIWasArguingAgainst ;-)


By the way I think people en masse can't be made happy in any natural way (that is not using drugs), this is against Darwinism. I think I've seen this argument somewhere on Everything2 - natural selection is bound to eliminate any race that reaches happiness since such a race would not do anything anymore.



I never like arguing about the meaning of words for their own sake. Only if I think the difference in what people mean by them reveals important differences in world view (as I try to make clear on ChangingCulture.)

Possible you've also seen OnHappiness here :-) But, at the risk of arguing about words again, I don't think Hilan means "happiness" in the way I talk about on that page, or that drugs would bring. That notion of happiness is a kind of "utilitarian" one. And I'm pretty sure (from personal conversation) that Hilan has a conception closer to Greek philosophical notions of TheGoodLife.


Hi Phil,

To express my personal feeling I find it a bit unfair to push some agenda via changing the meaning of some word. I know that it does happen in many subtle ways - but I think the ideal would be to have the language independent. I think what Hilan does is something like - we agree that sustainability is a good thing, then I will pack some other meaning into the word sustainability and in the result you'll be persuaded that that other thing thing is good. This is a tricky tactics. What I propose instead is that he presented that other good thing separately and then we could talk about it. And observe that I've nowhere argumented against "happy, fair, satisfying life", I don't argue against "happy, fair, satisfying life" and sustainability.

English is not my first language so I have to resort to dictionaries for word splitting:

[sustainable: http://www.m-w.com/cgi-bin/dictionary?book=Dictionary&va=sustainable&x=0&y=0 sustainable]:]

1 : capable of being sustained

2 a : of, relating to, or being a method of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged b : of or relating to a lifestyle involving the use of sustainable methods


[sustain: http://www.m-w.com/cgi-bin/dictionary?book=Dictionary&va=sustained sustain]:]

1 : to give support or relief to

2 : to supply with sustenance : NOURISH


4 : to support the weight of : PROP; also : to carry or withstand (a weight or pressure)

5 : to buoy up

6 a : to bear up under b : SUFFER, UNDERGO

7 a : to support as true, legal, or just b : to allow or admit as valid

8 : to support by adequate proof : CONFIRM

From http://www.m-w.com.