Philosophy Gone Wild: Environmental Ethics

By Holmes Rolston III | Go to book overview

11
Lake Solitude:
The Individual in Wildness

The lake is guarded round on every side save one by pathless wilderness, and isolated at this nearest point to community by a hard day afoot. Even that route has been abandoned beyond the North Inlet trail; the healing forces of nature, as though to redress an affront to her privacy, have been erasing the track, reducing the hike in to a scramble over blowdowns and brush. Grass grows in the few fire-pits scattered about, and nothing indicates that others have come earlier this season. The lake surface, calm and reflecting the curve of the valley, mirrors the skies--and evenings, the stars. When still and reflective, man too is a mirror of earth and heaven. If the Inlet current is deep, the flow is silent. Unless we are also quieted, our depth is seldom revealed. Loosed anciently from the Ptarmigan massif, a glacial boulder now rests on the valley floor. Let it symbolize this moment of release from the matrix of community. Let the lake offer place and permission to seek a lone ecstasy, an ek-stasis, a standing out from the common.


I

As those deprived of one sense have another heightened, to forgo human company frees us to engage the natural order. If another person were along, it would seem odd to address this environment; the human context would restrain such communion. A companion would convincingly banish the mute creatures to the realm of objects. But to the solitary traveler, they reassert a quality of presence; they become subjects. Chancing yesterday upon a purple ladyslipper, I hailed it by name, Cypripedium fasciculatum, and rejoiced unashamedly. Again I spoke, softly so as not to alarm, to greet a three-toed woodpecker. We need to voice such recognitions, though the response is a silent one. The stare of the deer

____________________
Reprinted by permission from Main Currents in Modern Thought 31( 1975):121-126. Lake Solitude is in Rocky Mountain National Park.

-223-

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Philosophy Gone Wild: Environmental Ethics
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents 7
  • Preface 9
  • I. Ethics and Nature 11
  • 1: Is There an Ecological Ethic? 12
  • Notes 28
  • 2: Can and Ought We to Follow Nature? 30
  • 3: Philosophical Aspects of the Environment 53
  • 4: The River of Life 61
  • Ii. Values in Nature 73
  • 5: Values in Nature 74
  • Notes 89
  • 6: Are Values in Nature Subjective or Objective? 91
  • 7: Values Gone Wild 118
  • Iii. Environmental Philosophy in Practice 143
  • 8: Just Environmental Business 144
  • Introduction 144
  • References 177
  • 9: Valuing Wildlands 180
  • Iv. Nature in Experience 221
  • 11: Lake Solitude 223
  • 12: Meditation at the Precambrian Contact 233
  • 13: Farewell, Washington County 241
  • 14: Nature and Human Emotions 248
  • Subject Index 263
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