Trash Talks


Trash Talks – Revelations In The Rubbish
By Elizabeth V. Spelman
Oxford University Press – £19.99

In products of intelligent design there is no waste.
The natural world is the product of intelligent design.
Therefore there is no waste in nature.

                                                             (‘Evolutionary Trash’)

Hmm, trash for thought?
Or utter cobblers?
Or in this instance, rubbish?

Throughout Elizabeth V. Spelman’s Trash Talks – Revelations In The Rubbish, there is a whole lot of worldly behaviour to ponder upon so far as the lasting trajectory of waste is concerned. A wide-open cornucopia that has turned some into criminals as a result of fly-tipping, some into thieves as a result of the direct salvaging of financial records, while others into a rife tittle-tattle of class-consciousness due to non-conforming re-cyclists.

Lest it be said that Swindon Borough Council recently took it upon themselves to do away with such hoi polloi ideology, by removing many re-cycling outlets altogether. Were this France, there would undoubtedly be an instantaneous storming of Swindon’s penny-pinching Bastille equivalent overnight. A Euro mode of behaviour which just goes to show that trash does indeed talk – in a variant of ways.

Many of which are more than interestingly addressed throughout these 222 pages.

As Professor of Philosophy at the University of Buffalo, Carolyn Korsmeyer, has noted: ”Far from being merely disposable, what we throw away illuminates both society and our existential selves, for human beings are not only wasteful but themselves become waste in the end. Drawing from sources as varied as Freud and Plato, Veblen, Darwin, and the Buddha, Spelman offers an elegant and original analysis of what trash means when it talks.”

The above opening quote from Chapter Four’s ‘Evolutionary Trash,’ is Charles Darwin, upon whom/which the authoress writes: ”Darwin not only found himself unable to ignore ways in which nature is ‘wasteful,’ ‘clumsy,’ ‘blundering,’ even ‘cruel;’ he quipped that such features would be of great interest and importance to an imagined ‘Devil’s chaplain’ because he recognised that they appeared to present a serious challenge to beliefs about the natural world and its creation shared by many influential scientists and divines active in Darwin’s time […]. Just as Darwin and some of his colleagues regarded the wastefulness found in nature to pose a problem for the hypothesis of intelligent design in the 19th century, many contemporary evolutionary theorists take such waste to be among the difficulties facing current versions of intelligent design: since an intelligent designer surely would not create waste, if there is waste there can’t be intelligent design; but there is waste, so intelligent design cannot be an adequate explanation of the natural world.”

Again, trash for thought or a thought process to be wholeheartedly grappled with?

Either way, Elizabeth Spelman – herself a Professor of Philosophy – has herein written a book a book that really does set the mind to thinking. Not only in relation to what we do actually do with our junk, but how we go about it with regards the big picture (and indeed, that of the wider world).

David Marx


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