Ontic and Ontological Catastrophe

Gradually, the ontological catastrophe begins to manifest as an ontic catastrophe: the earth no longer allows for indefinite growth and ecological depletion. This is not because humans took the earth as “standing reserve” and set it up as energy to be put on hold for further ordering – but rather because they did not take it radically enough as standing reserve. The true, full grasp of the world sets up the earth’s ability to be depleted as one of the resources on hold, always to be accounted for. But capitalism, (which includes the various forms of state-capitalism of the Soviet Union and China), has nearly everywhere (or at least certainly – on the whole) failed to set up ecological depletion as a challenge to be overcome – as an energy which we can exploit but not too much.

On smaller scales, we sometimes do better. Take fisheries for example – individual fisheries have been closed due to fear of over-depletion, and re-opened only in harmony with the continued growth back to historical levels. Where the depletion of a resource is open and exposed, and can not be denied or obfuscated by the short term profit motive of capital, a resource can be saved. However, as is demonstrated by the possible effects of fish farms on fish runs, and the stark lack of regulation on those in-ocean fish farms – capital is unwilling to take precautionary steps to save a resource when the risks posed to it are not fully understood.

What is disclosed in this process is what, in a Nietzschean account, might be called the failure of man to receive his own destiny – current forms of life are not adequate to the truth of will to power (WTP). And, for that reason, WTP is actualizing itself primarily as greed and not as standing-reserve. The true actualization of thought as standing reserve would not be capitalism but a form of state socialism which neutralizes the contradictions of the market – i.e. chinese capitalism. But, this remains inadequately insatiable – because the chinese economic machine relies on precarious debtors (the US).

Perhaps the lesson in this is “standing reserve” is not something static – not something actualizable. It is, in a sense, always already actualized because it is a transcendental – but the world can never be made adequate to it (the world constantly refuses to be ordered according to our will for indefinite ordering).  The earth does not “jut through” world, but evades world. This is the lesson of infinite complexity, post modernism, etc.. – Not that the world is beyond us so we can’t know anything, but that knowledge is unjustifiable fidelity which has real effects.


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